Tag Archives: word count

Ups and Downs

I’ve posted about my word count tracker and daily / monthly / yearly goals in the past, but I haven’t provided an update on that in quite some time… probably because I’m disappointed at the low numbers and slow progress. 

Life has been an airplane in severe turbulence for the last two weeks – rapid descents, attempts to climb out of the bumpy ride, moments of radiance above the storm before another cluster of dark clouds obscure everything else.

I know, everyone has results, or excuses–one or the other, rarely both.

My 18-year-old daughter, our oldest child, just got married a week ago. I’m a jumble of equal parts happy celebration and hopeful concern. The Bee heard all our warnings and listened to all our worries. But she remained determined to move forward, and we decided it would be better to stay supportive and connected than to resist and watch her do whatever she pleases without us being a part of her life.

She and her husband just left the island yesterday to head back to the States, where he will probably enlist in the Air Force soon after their return. That’s awesome and provides some certainty of security. 

Our first of four leaving the nest is, naturally, a painful but necessary process. Wifey and I are working through the emotions and adapting to a new normal.

As I typed this, I was sitting at the base exchange getting ready to sign a bunch of copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Military Families Edition, in which I am a contributing author. I asked for permission to sign and place an origami bookmark in the two or four copies I expected them to put on the shelves–instead, they decided to order 40 and prepare a display. It’s a cool thought that something of my work will be out there for others to see. 

On top of that, they’re crafting plans for a book signing or at least a meet-and-greet with interested customers. As the manager put it, there’s a community connection and an increased value in “I shook this guy’s hand, I talked with the lady who wrote this story.” (There’s another person on Kadena who contributed, so we’re trying to get both of us into the same place at the same time.)

Signing books at the Base Exchange 

The salespeople in charge of books provided enthusiastic help, placing bookmarks, lining up copies for signatures, and snapping pictures for some eventual publicity. They might even work out a radio spot.

Going from celebrating a wedding, to saying farewell to my daughter and her husband, to experiencing a form of success and publicity as a writer–it’s more chaos than a kindergarten class high on candy and Kool-Aid.

A couple days ago, I drove the newlyweds out to a shopping area so they could get some Indian take-out (my daughter’s last chance to eat at her favorite restaurant on Okinawa) and Japanese candy for relatives in the States. “I’ll just hang out at Starbucks while you do your shopping,” I told them. After all, that writing word count was still looking pretty bleak.

“You could come with us to the candy store when we’re waiting for the food,” she suggested. 

It hit me that pretty soon I’ll have all kinds of time to sit in coffee shops, alone with my writing. I wouldn’t get another such opportunity to have time with my daughter for… well, we’ll see how long it ends up being.

Stickerpics with me third-wheeling
Word counts are a tool, a motivational aid meant to track progress toward the overall goal of completed writing projects. But the word count isn’t the be-all/end-all of writing, and writing isn’t everything there is to life. (It hurts a little to type that.) 

What matters more is the conscious choice about what I’m doing with my time. Word counts can help reveal when my efforts are slipping or when I’m succeeding, but sometimes it’s okay to see that string of zeros. Other things are more important. 

The Chase

I see, from afar,

Fleeting glimpse of her fleeing

Playing hard to get 
This game that we play

Chase sensations and passions

Always reach for more

And she knows that I

I can’t just let her go, no

She knows I’ll chase her

This dance that we do

Cat and mouse meets the tango

She’s at it again

My inspiration

Curls a finger and beckons

Sighing, I follow

– 

I wrote this at a lovely Creative Writing workshop I attended this past weekend. The facilitator sang a series of haiku he had written years ago, accompanied on his acoustic guitar with something like a Spanish sound. I pictured a carousing and carefree pursuit during a fiesta through dusty, packed-earth streets in a Mexican town. He invited us to write our own haiku to show the variety of meanings and thoughts that could still fit the same rhythm and song.

I debated whether to go in the first place. My dance with my writing muse has been far from a cat-and-mouse, let alone something so intimate as a tango. More like “go sleep on the couch while I make an appointment with the divorce lawyer to draft the necessary paperwork.”

About a month’s worth of word count entries read ‘0’ and the status of my current projects remains unchanged. Scheduling a writers’ group has been problematic, and the pace of work only seems likely to increase. 

But the Muse crooks that painted nail at me and flashes that smile, and like it or not, here I go again. 

I’ve been listening to Brandon Sanderson’s recorded lectures on YouTube during down-time, and Stephen King’s On Writing audiobook in my car. Though the base library version is scratched up a bit–“theme is what unifies a novel into a plea- plea- plea- plea- pleasing whole”–there’s still so much down-to-earth insight that I can’t help but enjoy it.

He talks a lot about writer’s block while at the same time talking about–in his own life–putting his nose to the grindstone and pumping out several pages a day, every day, seven days a week, all year ’round, Christmas and the 4th of July included. 

He and his muse must get along a lot better than mine. (Actually he also talks about that, and his muse sounds like quite a jerk.)

The end result of the weekend is my little group of three or four writers can connect with a larger community in the initial forming stages on island. And I wrote a snippet of dialogue for Fantasy Series Book 3 (when book 2 is barely started). And there’s that poem.

But the word count didn’t show zero that day, so I’ll take it.

On the Record

My writing word count spreadsheet mocks me. So many zero entries in the last week! I just finished a 6-week Mandarin Chinese refresher course, which might explain some of the lack of effort–except there was hardly any homework to occupy my off-duty time.

No problem, I told myself. I’ll do amazing writing things over the 4-day weekend for Memorial Day. 

Yeah, not so much.

Problem-but-not-really 1) Overwatch is amazing and I want to play it just about every waking moment even though it’s basically run into battle, use whichever character’s amazing powers, then die and do it again. 

Seriously, it’s fun. Evil fun. Like “lock up the PlayStation 4 so I will maybe write a word in the near future” fun.

Problem-but-not-really 2) I did some other creative things instead. A couple weeks ago, I picked up the handy talnts app (which I keep reading as ‘taints’ and I really don’t like that mental image but there you have it). It’s basically LinkedIn for creative people. The app has an option to share YouTube videos of which I had none. But a family friend asked me to record a worship song for her, and I marked “pianist” as one of my talents in the app… kill two birds with one stone? Sure why not!

Indescribable
While my Christian friends might appreciate the rendition of Indescribable, I have a lot of other friends who won’t care. But I know there’s a special fondness in the heart of many gamers for the music of Final Fantasy VI, particularly the Opera Song. So here’s that one too.

Final Fantasy VI Opera Song
All in all, my word count is shameful to behold over the last week, but it was a nice break. I’d already written more words in May than in any previous month this year, so I don’t feel too bad. 

Early May Diffusion Update

May is off to a good start on the ol’ word count tracker.

In January to April, I only had one other week where I reached >7K words.

Roughly a thousand words a day, on various projects, for the first half of May. I can live with this.

Additionally, I enjoyed some opportunities to hone my craft and improve my understanding of all things writing. I picked up Sol Stein’s much-lauded classic, Stein on Writing, and I attended a workshop on story structure led by an award winning sci-fi author who for various reasons retired and decided to teach on Okinawa, Japan.

Not only that, but my local writer friends and I finally held the first full-fledged, in-person critique group that we’ve been talking about off and on for over a year. Getting fresh eyes on a segment of Diffusion chapter 1 helped me identify what’s working well and what I should clarify.

Also I discovered–to my chagrin–as far as readers are concerned, I named a character “G-Mail.” One of the things I love to do in crit groups is read portions of everyone’s submissions out loud. Your ear catches things your eye glosses over when reading silently… like the fact that Gemail (pronounced in my head as guh-mail) turned into Gmail.com for everyone else.

This morning, I’ve been working on the overall outline. I’m a planner with sci-fi and fantasy… and pretty much everything I write, now that I think about it. Planning means I need to know Point A and Point Z, along with several landmarks and stops in between. There’s room for some creativity between these points, so characters can still surprise me as I write. But conflicts and character developments have to lead to certain key events–especially if I want the reader to get to the end and look back, thinking, “Oh, there it was all along, how did I miss that?”

I’m definitely not doing the “seat of the pants” method of “write whatever comes to you.”  My multiple Grant & Teagan posts for BlogBattle entries are the closest I can get to that, since it starts with a word prompt that gives me an idea for a scene.

So one of the unrealistic things about fantasy and YA fiction is how the main character just so happens to be the linchpin of the entire world, connected to and holding everything together. And there’s room for that in the genre–it’s kind of expected. 

Sure, you have stuff like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones), where riveting, beloved characters are killed with extreme prejudice. And as a result, certain fans look down on books that don’t have a double-digit death count of potential fan-favorite characters. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Still, even if the hero/heroine is the center of that novel’s universe, there has to be a reason for all this attention. And in fantasy, one favorite way to get there is prophecy–partly because it fits the genre, partly because it ties current events to the past, and partly because the myriad ways characters misinterpret it can lead to wonderful conflicts (spoilers for my book 2 and beyond, haha).

Also you get to dabble in poetry, because as The Lego Movie taught us, “all this is true, because it rhymes.”


So, in first draft form, here’s a part of the “Daughters” prophecy that helps explain the motivations of and manipulations by characters in positions of power. It also plays a big part in the growing conflict between Lyllithe and Josephine:

In centuries yet far beyond I see four years of blight

When ev’ry soul is shaken and their hateful foes delight

As all the pow’r of Hell breaks forth with endless appetite

For blood and death and chaos plunging nations into night 

In centuries yet far beyond, behold the Naurchoth’s rise

Whose rifts shall tear asunder and darkness blot the skies

Whose wrath—though slowly kindled—shall break forth as a flood

Let mankind’s candle dwindle, drowned in a sea of blood
Daughter of Puremight, hold back no more

Daughter of Twilight, fulfill what you swore

For the Daughter of Midnight stands at the door

With an army of Shadewrought ready for war.

Daughter of Puremight to break and restore

Daughter of Twilight, to bind up the core

Of the Daughter of Midnight whom all abhor

As she shatters and scars Avatars we yearn for

Daughter of Puremight, do not stand alone

Daughter of Twilight, move past what you’ve known

Lest the Daughter of Midnight come into her own 

And annihilate all that remains of the Throne 

April Update

So I wrote over 21,000 words this month. 

On the one hand, that’s more than any of the previous months since I’ve started tracking my effort. 

On the other hand, it feels like so little progress being made on any of the various projects outlined in my head or my OneDrive files. Plus I totally failed at my Camp NaNoWriMo goal of 30K on a particular project. (I think I got about 9K done on that draft.)

Positives: 

I thoroughly enjoy the little games we play to get ourselves writing. My NaNo writers’ group tried doing word sprints a few times this month, and I enjoyed the camaraderie. The weekly (now bi-weekly) Blog Battle is another such activity, especially since the misadventures of Grant and Teagan is like a brief vacation for my writing brain. 

Great interpersonal interaction helped out this month. I had the privilege of meeting a Japan NaNoWriMo member who lives on the northern part of the nation–she came down to Okinawa for a vacation and was able to attend a write-in. I caught up with an old friend who happens to be in town–a guy who read my fantasy novel back when it was a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in story form. We chatted about character arcs and came up with some better ideas for where all the threads are headed and how they interact with each other. Then I sold a couple books and created a personalized art version of a signed copy.

And it looks like we might get a local critique group going finally.

Negatives:

I left my WattPad novella Echoes pretty much dead all month. I’ve got the last third of it outlined, just need to sit down and write it. I also have the last bits of PERDITION outlined (my NaNo sci-fi project about psychic reconnaissance). Same thing, I need to sit down and write. And I haven’t touched Diffusion (the fantasy sequel to Diffraction), since this month was supposed to be all about finishing off the NaNo draft.

Lots of ups and downs, “coulda, woulda, shoulda” moments, and a general sense of I could have done more.

But April is over and done, no changing that word count. I guess I have to go with my Mom’s old suggestion of “Why don’t you make this activity into a game? See how many (fill in the blank) you can do in an hour, then try to beat it!”

Alright, May. I raise my tasty Jack and Coke Zero to greet you. Challenge accepted. Out of sheer fairness, May, since you have an extra day, I wrote nothing on the 1st of the month. 30 days to do better than 21K. Let’s do this!

What’s your goal this month? Do you have one? If not, why not? Let me know in a comment.

Most Words in a Week

I started logging my daily word count this year in an effort to 1) see how much I am or am not accomplishing, and 2) push myself to do more. 

Camp NaNoWriMo kicked off in April and I thought I had a good guesstimate of how many words I could knock out on my April project. And last week I logged the most words of any week this year. 

  
7,442? That’s my best effort this year?!

I got a few word sprints in with my virtual cabin-mates. I spent a couple hours at Starbucks on Sunday, cranking out words. And Thursday I took it easy to spend some time off with my kids and to get over a headache.

Still, it feels like a weaksauce effort. I can only guess how much time I spend browsing Facebook (then closing it, then reopening it a minute later as if everyone may have just updated). I don’t know how many YouTube videos I watched of Gordon Ramsay swearing at people (it’s a terrible but addictive vice). And when I “need to veg” for a bit, I make time to level up yet another toon on World of Warcraft. 

I’m sure I did better in November during the actual NaNoWriMo event, or December when I finished up my book revisions and got Diffraction onto Amazon and Kindle Unlimited (hint hint).

But I’m nowhere near the goal I set for the month on my Camp NaNo novel… not even if I count all the words written on other projects.

I know these things take time and effort. And I’m happy that I have 7400+ words more than I had the week before.

But good Lord this is not an easy discipline to master. 

Maybe I should take up cooking. Gordon has some great “how to” videos…

Muddling Through March

Since the start of this year, in an effort to spur myself toward action, I’ve been updating a word count tracking all my writing.

A bunch of coworkers and friends bought my fantasy novel and gave me generally positive feedback in person (as polite people are likely to do), and several asked, “When is the next book going to be out?”

I set a goal of Christmas–a lofty goal that I don’t think I can make. 

March didn’t help. I didn’t even hit 10K, and far too many days (or streaks of days) had the total of 0.

Sure, I had a heap of work and flying, followed by a bout of flu that lasted over a week and had me pretty wiped out. I slept about 16 hours on the worst day, and then the next day, the military docs ordered me to 48 hours of bed rest. 

It worked as a nice, short-term diet at least. I lost 7 pounds in 3 days, and had to tighten my belt another notch–a good problem for a pudgy guy like me.

Excuses, excuses. I managed to watch Daredevil season 2 during bed rest, so I could have managed to fit in more words.

So what does April hold in store?

Well, it’s Camp NaNoWriMo time, and I set a reasonable (I think) goal of 30K words.

I aim to finish the draft of PERDITION, my NaNo project from the 50K novel challenge in November. It needs several scenes, followed by extensive review and revision. 

(For example, EMPs don’t work the way I originally thought they did. Oops. Yay for research and science! Boo for not doing it before creating several plot problems.)

I also have my WattPad project Echoes going, or more accurately, being frequently ignored by me. I plotted out how many scenes or chapters I need to close it out, and it’s in the single digits. I’d like to mark that one completed.

And there’s always the weekly Blog Battle, submissions for which comprise the majority of my recent posts. I really enjoy writing silly with Grant and Teagan, and my oldest son is a huge fan of those two. So I expect I’ll fit that in.

So where does that leave the sequel to Diffraction? On the back burner for this month. And that’s okay, because honestly I haven’t been connecting with it when I tried the last few times. There are some character and plot questions I need to get clear in my head before I can write what I hope is something compelling and entertaining with Lyllithe, Josephine, and the rest.

I plan to hit it hard when Camp NaNo is done, but I think April is a great month to re-focus and get a fresh perspective.

Onward and upward, in any event. Thanks for joining me on the journey.

Sick Sucks

One of my goals for writing is to reach 20K words / month, preferably on the sequel to Diffraction. Between that, finishing my NaNoWriMo book, continuing Echoes on WattPad, participating in occasional Blog Battles, and maintaining a somewhat frequent blog, I have plenty of writing options. 

Brandon Sanderson posts his word counts and percentages complete for various projects. That struck me as a great way to inject a little discipline or intentionality into my own writing–something I lack. I’m used to winging it, writing when I feel like it, for however long the mood strikes. But like many disciplines (dieting, exercise, learning an instrument, studying for school), a little organization and tracking can show you how much (or little) you’ve done.

I finished 50K in a month for NaNo. I chose 20K a month as a sustainable pace (given I have a full time job). And I thought, “This will be easy.”

Yet my word count tracker tells me otherwise:

 

It hurts to insert so many 0s.
 
I flew twice for work over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). I spent Monday thinking “I’ll write some in a bit.” Then I spent pretty much all of Tuesday confined to bed with a terrible nauseating headache sinus combination of death. Still, the excuses don’t make me feel much better when I have to hit ‘0’ for that field. 
Looks like I have some catching up to do.

Quality Vs Quantity – Thoughts about writing and practice.

Here’s a short question and thought for my writer friends and readers out there…

On one hand you have experts saying, “Write, write, write. Write 500 words a day. Forget writer’s block, just put pen to paper and write something, even if you know it’s rubbish.”

On the other hand, you have a sort of Pauline approach that says write only what is genuine, what is truly moving to you. “I would rather write 4 or 5 words of meaning and truth than 10,000 words that don’t matter to the reader.” (my paraphrase from Corinthians)

Which side of this do you fall on in theory, and in practice (if there’s a difference)?