Tag Archives: success

The Slow Accumulation of Words

Notebook

There are many times I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my writing. Or, to be more specific, that I’m not getting anywhere fast enough. Like writing a novel is some kind of race, and I’m forever having to stop to tie my shoe.

This feeling came over me a couple of days ago. I’ve been struggling lately. Three and a half weeks of school holidays meant I was exhausted by the end of the day, falling into bed with a grateful thought to the teachers who somehow manage to entertain and teach 21 six-year-olds every single day without, apparently, resorting to alcohol.

Then school started and I fell sick. For eight days.

Then six-year-old Big Brother developed a crazy high fever and was sick for four days.

And through all this, my writing suffered. I’d sit down at night, for my hour of creative time, and I’d have nothing. I was too drained to think, let alone create interesting and comical scenes for an increasingly complex story.

At the end of July, I missed my monthly writing goal by almost 10,000 words. And all those feelings of insecurity and guilt and why-do-I-do-this-anyway-ness crept over me like a thick, woolly blanket. Comfortable and familiar and stifling.

So I took a deep breath, and looked back over the my writing calendar.

You see, at the end of every day I feel in a calendar with how many words I wrote for the day, how many words I’ve written for the month so far, and my updated daily word count goal. It looks something like this:

Calendar

At first glance, it looks pretty dismal. The green highlights are the days I hit my target. There’s not a lot of them some months. 

But then I got to thinking. And to adding. And to working out some stats.

And suddenly, the world didn’t seem quite so bleak.

In the last six months, from the 1st of January to the 31st of July, I have written a total of 103,000 new words.

Over a hundred thousand words.

That astounds me.

And some more stats:

  • On average, I’ve written 5 out of every 7 days.
  • I’ve written an average of 670 words per writing day.
  • Those words have been written on a combination of two novel manuscripts (one finished, one >< close to being finished), and a short story.

Over the last six months, I’ve really developed my style and my voice, and I’ve turned writing from something I want to do, into something I do do. Plus, I’ve discovered a secret love of outlines. (Shhh!)

And do you know what the most amazing thing about all that is?

I’ve done it all in one hour a day.

 

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One Hour a Day

Hourglass

It’s just after 7:00pm, and I’m in a hurry.

“Mummy, can you read me a story before bed?” six-year-old Big Brother asks.

“Of course,” I say. Then I amend, “As long as you’re in bed before I count to twenty.”

A mad dash ensues, with Big Brother racing to the bathroom, into his bedroom, and finding his current favourite book.

“Nineteen and a half,” I call. I’ve spent the closer-to-two-minutes stacking dishes and wiping down benches. I won’t have time to wash the dishes until later, but I like the kitchen to be neat and tidy.

“I’m already in bed!” Big Brother calls. “I beat you!”

“So you did,” I call back. “Have you got your book?”

I pick up a couple of stray toys and drop them in their appropriate toy boxes.

“Yes! Are you coming?”

“Coming!”

I make it into his room and look at the book he’s chosen. It’s a long one. I consider. “I can read this one, but we’ll have to be quick,” I say. “We’re running a bit late tonight.”

“Okay,” Big Brother says.

I read the book. Quickly. (But not so quickly I can’t do the voices and get him to chime in with the parts he knows.) Then I say goodnight.

Big Brother grabs me arm. “Now you’re trapped and you have to stay!”

I look at the time, look at him, and give him another kiss. “It’s time for sleep,” I say. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

He nods and releases my hand. “Is it nearly Creative Time?”

“Yep.”

“Okay,” he says. He gives me a beautiful big smile, another kiss and cuddle, and then grabs a book to read on his own.

I head out and check on Little Brother. I give him a kiss, make sure he’s comfy, and move on.

It’s 7:25. I have five minutes left.

“Are you nearly ready?” I ask my husband.

“Just getting set up.”

Great. I do a quick check of the house, make sure all toys are away, all dishes are stacked, and all children are still where they’re supposed to be. Then I head into the office. It’s 7:29. I’m a minute early.

“Let’s do this thing,” I say.

And we do. My husband draws, either on a sketch pad or on the tablet connected to his computer, and I sit at the purposefully-not-internet-capable laptop and write.

For one hour, we focus on our creative pursuits.

For one hour, we lock the rest of the world out of our minds, and we focus on our creative passions.

For one hour, we are artists first.

The clock ticks over to 8:30. My husband stands up and stretches, and I finish the word I’m typing (the word, not the sentence, and certainly not the paragraph) and hit CTRL+S. Then we talk. He shows me what he’s working on, and talks about the process he’s using. I tell him how many words I wrote, and how I’m feeling about my story and characters. We’re relaxed — more relaxed than at any other time in the day.

And then we step back to the real world. We check on the children, fire up Facebook, and wash the dishes. But the world looks different; brighter. Our conversation is more lively. We smile more readily. We feel fulfilled. Connected. Alive.

This is not something we do every now and then. This is something we do every night.*

Every.

Night.

Every night, we spend an hour being creative. And it’s amazing how productive that hour is.

When I’m working on a first draft, I average around 900 words a day. My record is 1700 words in an hour of Creative Time.

To put that in perspective, consider that I’m writing an 80,000 word novel. At 900 words a day, that’s 89 days of writing. Just less than three months.

The idea of writing the first draft of a novel in three months, while investing a mere hour a day, is ludicrous to me. Ludicrous. I mean, it took me 18 months to write the first 35,000 words of my last manuscript.

But I finished the last 55,000 words in two months after we started our daily Creative Time habit.

Not so ludicrous after all, it would seem.

( After all, I’ve written 8500 words over the last 7 days.)

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “Yeah, it may work for you, but I can’t do that.”

I don’t work that way.”

I can’t write in short blocks of time.”

I’m too busy.”

I don’t have a spare hour every day.”

I have to be in the mood to write. I can’t just switch my creativity on and off at will.”

The thing is, I said every one of those things at one time or another. Every single one of them. But I tried this system because… well, what did I have to lose? It’s not like I was getting any real writing done anyway. I mean, 2000 words a month isn’t exactly something to write home about. (Assuming I found the time to write home.) “Besides,” I said to myself. “When it doesn’t work, I’ll just stop.”

But it did work.

The first few days were hard. It felt alien and unnatural to be sitting down to write at the end of the day, and I picked away at the keys like I’d never seen a keyboard before. I wrote maybe 100 words. I wasn’t in a routine. My creative mind wasn’t ready. It was all over the place. It was out of practice.

It took until day four for my creativity to really kick in.

On day four, I wrote 1100 words in an hour. And I was hooked.

Now, six months down the track, I’m still busy. Busier. Not only am I writing every day, I’ve also taken on a paying part-time job that I do from home, and extra volunteer work. I drive two hours every weekday getting Big Brother to and from school. I bake and organise birthday parties and do housework and raise children. I’m busy. I have no spare time.

But, you know what?

I have no idea what I used to do in the one hour time-slot that became Creative Time.

Whatever it was, it can’t have been that important.

Certainly not as important as this.

*     *     *     *     *

If you’re struggling to find time to write and want to organise your own Creative Time, here’s a few tips that might help:

  • Talk to your family and get their support. Even better, get them to pick a project and join in.
  • Tell people what you’re doing. Let people know you’ll be unavailable for phone calls, internet chats, and other things during that one hour — and stick by your guns.
  • Choose a time that suits you and your family. An evening time-slot works for us, but maybe an early morning or an afternoon time-slot would work for you.
  • Set up your work area before your Creative Time starts. Turn on your computer, load your file, get out your notes, whatever you need to do.
  • Stick to it, with no excuses, for at least two weeks. Even when you don’t feel like it or you’re not inspired. Your creative mind needs to get into a routine.
  • Record how you go. Track word count, or pages written, or whatever progress you’ve made on your creative project. Being able to look back at a diary and see written proof of your success is an amazing motivator.
  • Once you’re in a routine, and you’re confident with it, give yourself a break when you need it. But not for more than one night at a time. You don’t want to get out of routine.

Good luck!

*     *     *     *     *

* Yes, including the mad rush to be ready on time.

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Achievement Unlocked: Complete First Draft

First Draft!Remember last week when I wrote a post about how I was almost finished the first draft of my WIP?

Well, the seemingly impossible has happened.

I’ve FINISHED.

(Yes, that did deserve all capitals.)

I typed the last word of my novel last night. (For the curious, that word was “do”.)

In total, the first draft is 88,760 words. That works out to 326 pages. If you’re like many non-writers, that doesn’t mean much to you. So if you’d like an idea of what that means in real terms, grab a handy paperback book and open it to page 326.

That’s how big my novel is.

Before you ask…

No, you can’t read it.

Not yet.

I still have a LOT of work to do before my novel is finished, and even a lot of work to do before I’ll willingly hand it over to beta readers. So, what happens now?

My plan goes something like this:

  1. Take a break for a few days. Because wine. And chocolate. And the accolades of my friends and family.
  2. Because I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, a lot of story elements actually changed during the writing process. I significantly changed the backstory of my protagonist at about 35,000 words. I significantly changed the motivations of the antagonist at about 40,000 words. I changed the setting at 50,000 words and the season at 65,000 words. So a lot of the early part of the story is, shall we say, inconsistent with the last half. So my second step is to address this.
    • I’ll read through the first half, making notes about structural and character changes that need to happen.
    • I’m not going to pay any attention to word usage, spelling, grammar, etc during this.
    • Then I’ll step into the story and make the changes I’ve highlighted.
    • Finally, I’ll make the relevant changes to setting and season where necessary for the continuity of the story. (But without getting bogged down in adding description.)
  3. Then it will be time to hand it over to my alpha readers and ask for feedback on the story, structure, and characters.

I don’t know how long it will take for my alpha readers to give me their feedback, but I don’t plan on touching this novel again until 2-3 months has passed from the time I hand it over. Then there’s a round of edits, beta reading, more edits, and possibly more beta reading. But I’ll think about all that later.

So what am I going to do during the upcoming 2-3 months?

I’m glad you asked.

You see, I have this great idea for a novel…

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The Value of Regret

Regret has a bad name these days.

Sometimes it feels like you can’t go five minutes without seeing a motivational meme decrying regret as the greatest of all possible mistakes.

Live with no regrets!

Never regret your past, it made you who you are in the present!

Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted!

Somehow, we’ve got the idea that regret is a bad thing. There’s a strange idea out there that a regret is something you would change, if given the chance. That by regretting something, you’re admitting that you wish you (and your life) were different.

But, hang on. Is that what regret is really about? Let me grab my handy Macquarie Dictionary and have a look.

Regret: -gretted, -gretting.

  1. to feel sorry about (anything disappointing, unpleasant, etc.)
  2. to think of with a sense of loss; to regret one’s vanished youth
  3. a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.
  4. the feeling of being sorry for some fault, act, omission, etc. of one’s own.
  5. (plural) feelings of sorrow over what is lost, gone, done, etc.
  6. a polite and formal expression of regretful feelings

In that defiintion, there is absolutely no indication that regret is based on the desire to change your past actions. Rather, regret is a feeling associated with sadness, sorrow, disappointment, and loss. It’s a feeling engendered by taking responsibility for doing or saying something about which you later feel sorry.

Saying that you want to live life with no regrets is like saying you never want to feel sorry for anything; that you’ll never look back on a situation with a sense of loss or disappointment.

We all have regrets. Some are big and some are small. Some are things we wish we could change. Some are things we wouldn’t change for the world — although we feel sorry for the effect they had on other people. Having regrets is normal. Having regrets is good.

Do you know the value of regret?

Regret teaches us what not to do. If we didn’t feel regret — if we never felt sorry for our actions — then we’d keep doing the same things, and making the same mistakes, over and over again.

Regrets teach us how to be the person we want to be.

break by Anonymous -

When I was ten years old, I had a fling with a boy named Stephen. It was pretty hardcore.

  • On Wednesday, I told my friends to ask his friends to ask him if he wanted to go out with me.
  • On Thursday, he told his friends to tell my friends to tell me that the answer was yes.
  • On Friday, we smiled at each other across the classroom.
  • On Saturday and Sunday I doodled our names together inside love hearts, and practiced signing my name with his surname.
  • On Monday, we sat across from each other at lunch and avoided making eye contact.
  • On Tuesday, he told me I was dumped.

Like I said, hardcore.

A week later, I found out Stephen was seeing one of my friends. They were spotted holding hands after school. I was furious. Clearly, he needed to be taught a lesson.

Twice a year, the school held a variety concert. Anyone could nominate themselves and their friends to do a performance in front of the school. And every concert, Stephen sang Summer Holiday to public acclaim. It was very much his song. He was famous for it. (Within the school, anyway.) So, I decided, that should be the means to get public revenge on him for breaking my ten-year-old heart.

I signed up to sing in the concert as well. But not just any song. Oh, no. I signed up to sing Summer Holiday. First. Ha! That would teach him!

It didn’t take me long to regret that decision. In fact, I regretted it the moment I walked on stage, in front of hundreds of students, teachers and parents, and realised one important thing.

I didn’t know the words.

break by Anonymous -

Would I go back and change what I did? Maybe. Or maybe not. Because I learned a couple of valuable things from that experience.

  1. Revenge is a fool’s game, much more likely to make an idiot out of me than you. Don’t do it.
  2. At the very least, don’t try to get revenge on by competing with someone in the arena where they’re strongest!

That’s a true story. Although it’s clearly not the biggest regret of my life, it illustrates my point: Don’t be afraid of regret.

Regret is not a bad thing. Sure, dwelling on your regrets will get you nowhere. But neither will dwelling on your successes. So stop dwelling and start living. Accept your regrets, embrace them, and learn from them. Just don’t expect them to disappear.

And now I’ll leave you with a quote from Katherine Hepburn:

I have many regrets, and I’m sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret… if you have any sense, and if you don’t regret them, maybe you’re stupid.

How do you feel about regret? Do you have a funny regret you’d like to share?

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Monday’s Top 5

Jess Haines is one of my favourite authors. She writes of the H&W Investigations series, the first one of which I reviewed here. I’ve been following her blog for some time now, and always find her to be funny, a little snarky, and very open about her writing and her views. This week she posted about The Taste of Success — it’s a very personal and honest look at the realities of money, writing, publishing, and making it all happen. In her own words: “Well, you know what, self-doubt? Fuck you.”

Dan Thompson talked about an interesting sci-fi phenomena this week: the danger of missing the call. When you’re projecting your story into the future, it will quickly become dated if you miss an important element of future technology. As he says: “A story written in the 1930’s with flying cars can still feel like the future, but one that leaves out computers is fatally dated.” This article, titled What Are We Missing? is a must-read for any sci-fi writers out there.

Abigail of Oh My Words! revealed this week that she is in awe of a friend of hers who knows all the words to R.E.M.’s It’s the End of the World As We Know It. And fair enough, too. I’m pretty impressed that I know about 70% of them — and that’s more than enough to impress my lyric-challenged husband. In the spirit of this song, Abigail looks at a few other songs with lyrics that are just as tricky to Sing Along With All the Right (Oh My) Words when you know them as when you don’t.

It’s the same old story: Boy likes Girl, Boy pulls Girl’s hair, Girl goes home crying and is told, “It’s okay, it’s just because he likes you.” But have you ever stopped to consider why we think that’s okay? What makes it okay for a schoolboy to be hit, kick, taunt, or otherwise hurt a girl to show his affection? What would you think if he was an adult? And if society says it’s okay when he’s six years old, how can we turn around and tell him it’s not okay when he’s sixteen? I’d never considered any of these questions until reading this great article from the Queen of the Couch: You Didn’t Thank Me For Punching You In The Face.

And on a less serious note, Renegade Mama brings some of her trademark snarkiness to Valentine’s Day with her post: Yo, Hallmark, I got some Valentine’s for ya. After all, who hasn’t at some point wanted to give their partner a Valentine’s card that reads, “If you leave your boots on the living room floor one more time I’ll fucking cut you.”

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