Monthly Archives: January 2011
Exceeded goal for Week 4!

All I can say is, “Yay!”

I set my goal for the week at 3,500 words, as you’ll remember, and as of bedtime Saturday night (which was technically Sunday AM because I’m such a night owl), I was at just over 4,200 words for the week. Overall, EMBER currently stands at 24,311 words… about a third of the way done, I’m guessing. So while I didn’t quite pass 25K in week four, I’m within 700 words of it, and that’s mighty fine, considering I passed my goal for the week by about the same margin… 700 words.

So what will I do for an encore? Try to keep the momentum rolling, I suppose.

This will be a week where I have to do more blogging. I could reduce my word count goal on the week, but instead I think I’ll keep it steady at 3,500 words. That’ll get me past 25K and about half-way to 30K. If I can do that in a blog-writing-heavy week, I’ll be doing well!

What I’m especially proud of is that, this past week, I wrote my main character into a corner, stopped for the night, and wasn’t sure how I was going to resolve it. And the next night I started writing and came up with a perfect solution! You know your mojo is working when things like that happen!

Ahead of schedule for a change

Week four is off to a great start for me!

So far, in two nights of work, I’ve produced over 1,000 words of new progress each night. In fact, my total for the week so far is 2,256 words. That puts me at over two-thirds of the way to my goal and hump-day just started a couple hours ago for me. My goal, as mentioned in my previous post, was to write 3,500 words this week. One more night like this, and I’ll have already met that goal.

Not that I’m going to stop once I reach it. I know enough about my own creative rhythms to know that at times like this, it’s best to enjoy it while it lasts and ride it for all it’s worth, because eventually it’ll be harder to crank it out again, and forward progress will slow down a bit.

I was hoping that within ten days, I’d pass the 25,000 word mark. Now I’m thinking I’ll pass it a few days ahead of that schedule; either on Thursday night or over the weekend.

Fun times, when the words come this easily!

I’ve passed the 20K mark!

OK, I fell about 600 words short of my three-thousand word goal for the week; that’s about twenty-percent short of goal, right? So that means by writing 2,415 words of new progress, I made eighty percent of my goal. That’s a low “B” grade in most systems, so I’ll take it.

What is more important during this stage is moving forward and reaching benchmarks, and I reached an important one this week. When I started EMBER during NaNoWriMo, I made about 30K words of progress before losing momentum and giving up due to the swift pace. In preparation for ROW80, I cut a huge chunk off that I hated, then went through and tightened things up, and my manuscript shrank down to about 16,500 words, or just a little more than half of what I’d written for NaNoWriMo.

With this week’s progress, however, I have a much more solid draft going, and I just passed an important benchmark; I’m now up over 20,000 words again! That’s a solid feeling, especially since I don’t feel like I’ll need to completely trash any of my new progress this time.

I’m finding that writing a novel at the age of 44 is a different task now than it was when I was 15 and full of enthusiasm, or 22 and full of importance and ego. I write in shorter bursts and perhaps less often, but I’m more pleased with what comes out on the page when I do write, generally speaking. I plan more out ahead of time than I used to, but the trade-off is that I have a better idea where I’m going with things.

I will say that nothing’s perfect about my process even now. For example, I often have relied on notebooks for character notes and such, eschewing modern gimmick writing software that lets you put all your notes in a separate file. Programs like Scrivener for Windows, Liquid Story Binder or FocusWriter. But I’m beginning to think I may need to revise my approach to this, once Ember’s done. This week, I lost a printout of my EMBER series bible. That would be OK, as I have it in a Word document as well; but I had notes written in the margins of the printout that I’d never entered into the Word document, so losing this printout is a bit more frustrating than it out to be. I lost the last names of three characters, as a result. Fortunately, I think I used them already, so I just have to track them down, but…

…yeah, having all those notes in an easily accessible file might not be the worst idea in the world. Maybe I do have use in my life for Scrivener, Liquid Story Binder or FocusWriter, at some point.

Anyway, that’s it for this check-in. I missed the mid-week check-in this, but for good reason: I was too busy writing. Yay!

Writing goal for this week: real simple… I want to reach no less than 3,500 words written. It can be in Ember, or in a side-project like a short story, but 3,500 words is the goal. I can do that. I’m moving the bar up for me this week, even though I fell short of goal this past week, because I won’t have as much paid blogging to do this week. There will be more time.

Met most of my Week Two goals

OK, I’m a little late on my Sunday check-in, but I actually had a pretty decent time meeting my goals for last week. I completed the review of my progress so far, tightening some things up along the way. Right now I’m near 91 manuscript pages, so that was no small task.

The weekend was a bit busier than I expected, but I did manage to make 1,200 words of new progress on my manuscript before the buzzer sounded. That’s a big improvement from Week One, even though I fell short of my goal by 800 words.

So, in all, I’d grade myself about a B-minus on Week Two goals. Not great, but not an epic fail. Just an average week.

I was put to a bit of shame this past week as I read an entry by one of my eights that said he’d written about 15K words one weekend and was about 18K away from a complete first draft. Writers who can do that impress me deeply, but I highly suspect they’re not married, caring for their elderly father or in possession of a full-time day job. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe I just need to saddle up and get to writing.

On to Week Three Goals: I have a lot of paid blogging to to this week, so I don’t want to set the bar sky-high. So I’m going to set the bar for acceptable progress at three thousand words. That’s a little bit behind my ideal pace of four thousand words a week, but given all the blogging I have to do to get “living money” this week, I’d be quite pleased with a 3K week.

That’s all I’m shooting for in Week Three. Let’s see how it goes!

Top 10 Johnny Cash songs … at the moment

I don’t always listen to music when I write.

I know a lot of authors enjoy doing that and publishing playlists that “go to” their novels and such. Sometimes I wonder if they really do listen to that stuff or if it’s just that they like those songs and they put up a list once and now they fell obligated every time and … well.. you get the drift.

Now, a lot of stuff I like, most people will never have heard of. Because I listen to a lot of Messianic worship music, and that’s a really tiny movement, folks.

But it’s not all I listen to. And when I listen to popular music or classics or whatnot, one of my all-time favorite artists is the Man In Black himself, Johnny Cash.

And I was into Cash way before WALK THE LINE made it the trendy Hollywood thing to do. In fact, one of my earliest “favorite albums” growing up was a vinyl album from Columbia Records called, Johnny Cash’s Greatest Hits. Vol. 2. He had some of his mid-career classics on it, like “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsum Prison Blues,” “Long-Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man” and “Daddy Sang Bass.”

It’s one of those rare albums that hasn’t made the leap to iTunes yet, but because of those early memories singing along to it, it holds a sentimental value, even if some of those “Greatest Hits” aren’t exactly his “greatest hits.”

But I thought I’d put together a Top 10 list of my favorite Johnny Cash songs … at least they’re my favorites right now. It changes. You’ll notice some of these are Cash covering tunes made famous by others. He always did this; “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was originally a Glen Campbell tune, back in the day.

But I’ve been listening nonstop to all five volumes of UNEARTHED and all six of his American Recordings discs, and so this list will obviously show that listening trend. But this is a list for real Cash aficionados… not merely a collection of his top-selling stuff.

And because I’m a David Letterman generation type of guy, it’s a countdown.

10. Why Me, Lord? (Lord Help Me, Jesus)
09. Bird On a Wire
08. Solitary Man
07. God’s Gonna Cut You Down
06. Jackson (duet with June)
05. I’ve Been Everywhere
04. Mercy Seat
03. Far Side Banks of Jordan (duet with June) (later recording, 1990s era, not the early version when they were young)
02. The Man Comes Around
01. Hurt

Of course, ask me next week, and I may give you a completely different list.

Even if I don’t listen while I’m actually writing, I often listen to Cash before I write. Sets me in a nice frame of mind.

On track so far for Week Two goals

Well, here we are at hump-day… midweek… and guess what? This week, I’m actually on pace to reach my goals, realistically, before Week Two is done.

I have over 16K of EMBER previously written, and my first goal of the week was to go over that 16K, get familiar with it, and “brush the hair out of its eyes,” so to speak. That is about 80 percent done as I write this; but the time I hit the sack, it’ll be completely done.

After I do that, the next step it to plow ahead on the first draft. That will probably start tomorrow night.

Why not tonight? Well, it’s already late… and I got a horrible night’s sleep last night.

I have a nice but cheap air bed that I use because I prefer it to a standard mattress… but once or twice a year, it springs a leak and needs to be replaced. That happened last night, at about 6:30 AM. How long I spent sleeping in V formation, I don’t know, but my back and neck aren’t happy with me, and I shortchanged myself on sleep, rising about 50 minutes ahead of schedule.

So it’ll be an early bedtime tonight for sure. Relatively speaking, anyway.

But tomorrow, Chapter 10 will continue in earnest! Time to start racking up a word count!

01-09-11 Check-In… Epic Fail

So here I am, folks. It’s past midnight on a Monday turning into a Tuesday, so I’m two days late for my check-in. Almost.

What an example I’m setting, eh?

So here’s the skinny.

My main goal for the week was this: write 4,000 words. Nope!

Here’s what I did do, though:

I wrote a 2,000-word pep talk for ROW80, which will appear eventually during Round 1. I’m quite proud of the piece I came up with, even though it was longer than most.

I also spent several hours today (Monday) going over my 16K words from NaNoWriMo progress and tightening them up a bit. I kind of needed this to re-orient myself to everything I’ve already written, so I can roll on ahead.

And I spent some time looking into reversion rights on an old story of mine I wanted to ePublish, only to find out… it’s already ePublished! (Links coming soon!)

I also had some distractions to deal with. Chief among these over the weekend was concern for a KindleBoard member whose well-being I became concerned about. Before I am a writer, I am a person of faith, and I felt called to pray for this person. So I did. I’m not saying it took up my entire weekend, by any means… but it was a distraction.

The good news is that now there is a diagnosis and treatment path for her, so it’s no longer quite as distracting.

Also, I had a back molar crumble on me this weekend and today I took some time off going through EMBER to go get my molar drilled-n-filled. That’s done now, although tomorrow (Tuesday) I have to go back to get a second tooth drilled-and-filled… the filling they did for me about sixteen months ago is already failing, and needs to be redone. So there’s that.

Now, my overall goals for ROW80 remain the same. I would like to get through Parts 2 and 3 of EMBER, at minimum. My weekly goal for Week 1, to help achieve that, was to write 4,000 words.

My grade for myself, considering I wrote no new words over the first week of ROW 80? Epic fail!

The good thing is, this isn’t NaNoWriMo, and I can revise my weekly goals to fit what I think I can reasonably accomplish, so that I can get some positive momentum going.

That’s what’s going to keep me motivated as we go through ROW80. If you fell behind in NaNoWriMo, it just kept building and building and becoming harder and harder to make up.

With ROW80, I can admit Week One was an epic fail, but then reshuffle the deck and say, “Today’s a new day, this week’s a new week, and here’s what I want to accomplish this week.”

In other words, I don’t have to write 8,000 words in week two to make up for week one!

Here’s what I want to accomplish by the end of Week Two:

1) Finish going through the first 16K of EMBER, the project I started today.

2) Once that is done, write at least 2,000 words… either on EMBER, or on some side-project. But probably on EMBER.

And that’s all I’m going to expect of myself this week. I figure really going through the 16,000 or so words I’ve already written is a worthwhile pursuit and will take about half of my available time this week, if I’m going to not rush and really do it right.

Therefore, I’ll only ask of myself to do about a half-week’s worth of fresh forward progress.

That’s reasonable. That’s achievable. We’ll see how I do.

Oh, and due to concerns that go beyond simple socialization, I’m not kicking myself off KB this week; but I am going to limit my time to “after I’ve made reasonable daily efforts on my ROW 80 goals for the week.”

In other words, KB is the reward at the end of the day for making good progress toward my goals, not something I get to do before I even start them each day.

So it’s a semi-punishment. If I don’t reach my week two goals, then even if everyone I know on KB has personal crises, I will still banish myself… but this week, I’m giving myself a half-punishment.

No need to adjust yet…

Well, so far, so fair-to-middling.

I don’t need to adjust my goals yet, so that’s the good news on the ROW80 side. I had one unwritten goal this week, that I never put up. Because I’m a ROW80 sponsor, I needed to write a pep talk for the event. Which is something I enjoyed.

I got all enthusiastic and went into overkill; I wrote about two thousand words, or, as Kait told me, about four times more than what most folks were doing. What can I say? I’m a blabbermou– er, a novelist! I’m long-winded, is the point.

Hopefully folks will like it when it appears; now I can get down to business with my novel, EMBER. So far, I haven’t done anything with it, but the week’s not over. But I’d better light a fire under myself, for sure, because otherwise I’ll be off Kindleboards for a week!

And no, I’m not gong the cheap route and counting my pep talk essay in my weekly goal. Other writing is other writing… it doesn’t help me make progress on EMBER.

My ROW80 Goals

OK, truth time.

When I took part in NaNoWriMo, I buckled under the pressure. The goals were too ambitious for me, and although I reported writing over 30K words in November, the truth is that of that total, I only really liked about 16.5K of that total, and once NaNoWriMo was over, I stripped my word count back to around that spot.

So, with EMBER, that’s where I realistically am. I’m at 16,500 words.

I don’t want to put a ton of pressure on myself so that I have to start writing stuff I’m only going to discard later on. ROW80 is all about setting your own goals – realistic goals – and sticking to them.

Here’s where being at 16.5K words puts me.

EMBER is divided up into five parts or acts. Act One is complete in first draft form. I’m going to be starting Act Two as ROW80 begins.

EMBER is going to be longer than 50,000 words. I’m guesstimating about 70,000 at this point, based on Act One taking 16,000 or so words all by itself. It could go longer.

That means that I probably won’t finish the first draft of Ember during this first round of ROW80. And I’m OK with that.

But I’d like to at least get through the next two acts.

Just by instinct, I can say that I expect Act Two to consist of at least 20,000 words, with Act 3 consisting of closer to 25,000 words. It’s where the bulk of the suspense is built. (The payoff action comes in the final two acts, both of which will be shorter.)

So, to reach the end of Act 3, I’d need to write about 45,000 words. That’s about 563 words a day for the duration of this first session of ROW 80, or 3,941 words a week.

That’s doable. That’s my goal. I’ll even round it up to 4,000 words a week.

I don’t want to hold myself to a minimum daily goal, as desperately as I want to hold myself to the weekly goal. Because some days are better days than others for writing. So that’s what I’ll be tracking here on my blog.

Each week, I’ll post about how close I came to falling short, meeting, or exceeding my 4,000 words a week goal.

For now, since EMBER is my only WIP, I’m just going to focus on my first-draft goals. Right now, I have no other goals to meet.

But here are my commitments for the duration of ROW 80, Session 1:

First, I will stay off Kindleboards for a week, if I’ve failed to reach my goal the previous week. I love the community there, but I have to draw limits on my community time if I’m ever going to finish EMBER.

Second, I will attempt to spend some time writing every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes on days when I’m busy, overwhelmed and overtired.

And third, I will not let myself get over-committed to other activities during the duration of ROW80.

Sounds reasonable and achievable to me.