Update – May 2015 – Crunching Numbers, Another New Project, New Blurb

So, how about another monthly update?

As I’ve mentioned lots of times, one of my biggest hurdles is just staying motivated and keeping my productivity up. I’ve also mentioned that my goal for this year has been to average 500 words per day. That’s not a lot, really, but it adds up in the end. For someone not writing as a full-time job, I think it’s a passable goal.

I just crunched some numbers… Taking how many days have already passed this year (145), and considering my goal of averaging 500 words per day this year, my current total word count for the year (79,610) puts me only about two weeks ahead of schedule.

Writing a novel really sounds so reasonable when you look at the raw numbers. If you crank out 2,000 words per day (which I do on good days, but usually I’m closer to 1,300 or so) then you hit 80,000 words in only 40 days. 80,000 words is a reasonable length for a novel and, in fact, both of the novels I’ve written so far have been in that neighborhood. So, if you’re motivated enough, you can write the first draft of a novel in the time it takes to wipe out all life on earth in a biblical flood. Easy peasy.

If I run the numbers with my usual output of 1,300 words per day, it’s still only about 62 days to hit the 80k mark. Two months. Prison sentences for major crimes have run less.

But, let me tell ya, doing that every day for two months takes a lot out of you – especially if you’ve got other things on your plate as well, such as a day job, a small business to run, family, etc.

Still, that’s what you do. If you want to be a writer, you have to, well, WRITE. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

For those keeping score at home, my goal of 500/day average word count means 182,500 by the end of the year. I have 102,890 remaining to hit that mark and between now and December 31st to do it. IF I only write 500 words in a day, I have 206 days of writing ahead of me and 220 days left in this year. Most days that I write, I do well over 500. But it’s those damned zero-days that get ya.

So, how do I get there? Well, that brings me to my next point: I’ve started yet another new project. Last month I mentioned that I’d started something new, and that I got 12,000 words into it before I hit the wall. That project is still “live”, but until my muse is ready to feed out a little more of that one, I’ve got something else to work on. I’m only about 3,000 words into this new one, and no idea if it will be a novel or what, but I’ve only had two sessions to beat on it so far.

It’s a good idea to have multiple projects, and for just that reason. If the well dries up on one, you switch off for a while. I don’t care where my 500 words per day come from, so long as I’m getting 500 words of new fiction written every day.

There is always the possibility that these projects will fizzle entirely and never come to see the light of day. That sort of thing happens. I’ve got a 40,000 word manuscript from some years ago that will likely never be finished. But, it’s all part of the process. It’s all writing experience, it’s all work spent sharpening the tools of my trade, and who knows, maybe that idea will come around again?

Anyway, this new project is a post-apocalyptic thing that’s been bouncing around my head for a few months. Not zombies – not yet anyway – but definitely post-apocalyptic. We’ll see where it goes.

Lastly, I was very happy to get a new blurb for Frostwalker from none other than Armand Rosamilia. I added his blurb to the Frostwalker page here at the site, but for your enjoyment, I’ll copy and paste it here.

“Ancient curses, zombies, a bleak wintry setting you can feel in your bones, and a fast-paced story that keeps you guessing. This is a debut novel? I’m impressed.”Armand Rosamilia, author of the Dying Days zombie series

Armand knows survival horror, so such comments from him mean a lot to me!

That’s mostly it for now. Beta reading continues on A Man With A Gun, and interested parties still have time to give it a go if you’re so inclined. Drop me a line if you’d like to beta read that, or if you’re interested in joining the beta reading Facebook group I created.

Until next time…

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An Update – A Man With A Gun Finished And More

Hi folks! This is just a quick post to get you up to date on what I’ve been up to lately.

First and foremost, if you follow me over at Facebook, you probably have heard that A Man With A Gun is finished! The last words of the first draft were done during Sunday, February 8th’s writing session, although it was after midnight and technically Monday, the 9th by the time I finished. Begun as a short story back on July 12th of 2012 according to the title page in my manuscript, the story took on a life of its own. In the end, the short story became a novel of 87,500 words. By comparison, Frostwalker was around 81,000 when it was a first draft and the finished release version of Frostwalker is about 80,000 words after the cuts and additions made during revision and editing.

A Man With A Gun is a good illustration of the difficulties I had staying on task over the past couple of years. There are some good reasons for that and some not good ones, as I discussed in my New Years post last month. Despite taking two and a half years, according to my records there were only about 50 actual writing days involved in the creation of that book. Some of those days not spent on A Man With A Gun were spent on other projects. For example, The Card was begun in March of 2012 and, after editing and going through six revisions, it was released in January of the following year. But, far too many days were spent not writing at all. I won’t go over all of that again, as it’s covered pretty well in my post from earlier this year.

Speaking of that earlier post, how have I been doing with regards to my productivity? Well, up until finishing work on A Man With A Gun, I had gone every day this year without taking a single zero word count day. January 1st I only had 359 words and every day since then has been at least 1,000 word days. There have been several 2,000 word days, and the highest was 3,374 on February 5th. My goal is still to average 500 words per day, and up until I began my break on the 8th of this month my average was 1,656 per day. Total word count for the year is 64,589, passing the pitiful 48,000 words of last year on January 30th. Yes, I wrote more in the first month of this year than in all of 2014.

So what’s next? Facing burnout, I decided that when I finished A Man With A Gun, I would be taking two weeks off (possibly four). I don’t plan to do any writing during that time period. Instead, I plan to do other things that a writer needs to do. I still haven’t really finished the media kit for Frostwalker, so I need to do that. I also need to line up beta readers for A Man With A Gun. I’d like to get my mailing list sorted out and start making proper use of that, but I don’t have a lot to say that isn’t going to be posted here first, so I’m not sure if that’s a priority. Also, there is another project that I won’t be releasing myself but which I have worked on with someone else and that needs beta reads and revision as well. I’m also thinking about the next project(s). In fact, I woke up from a dream this morning that may end up being the inspiration for a new horror short!

Revision and editing on these two finished first drafts will take up a lot of time. Since those things can’t be measured in word count, I’m not sure how best to track productivity there. Just setting a goal for writing a certain number of words has turned out to be flawed. I want and need to get the next book out there to my readers, and now that the first draft is done, that needs to be a focus.

I do still think that shooting for an average of 500 words per day is a good target for the year. If I don’t write another word, my average output just from so far this year won’t drop below 500 per day until May 10th! At least, if my understanding of what my spreadsheet is telling me is correct. I should be eyeball-deep in the next project long before then! But, I still don’t know of a good way to measure productivity on those other tasks that don’t produce words. All I can do is try to make each day a day in which I did something to move things forward and hope for the best!

Next up: The long road to publication for A Man With A Gun. That means beta reads, revision, editing, revision, cover art, promotional materials, and all the rest! Stay tuned!

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A quick reminder: The Card is still free and will likely remain that way. If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, go grab it!

New Year, Same Me!

It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be making new year resolutions – and then posting about it. So, what are my resolutions?

Honestly, I don’t generally do that whole resolution thing. Not since I was a kid anyway. I quickly learned that making a promise to myself that I wasn’t sure I could keep was a good way to do nothing but end up feeling bad about myself and adding stress to my life that I just don’t need.

The saying “New Year, New Me” sounds inspirational on the surface of it. However, for myself, that just doesn’t work. I know myself well enough to know that changing what year I (forget to) write on checks doesn’t change who I am. Besides, I kinda like the person I was in 2013. I think I’ll keep him around for a while.

However, a new year is a new beginning of a sort. It’s a good time to think about what we can do better. I think the new year resolution thing has gotten a little out of hand for some folks. When we look back on the year just ended, we should look at what we did right as well as what we could have done better. We should certainly note those areas we were lacking in, and try to improve ourselves, as we should always try to do throughout the year.

In other words, don’t resolve to scrap the person you have been. Resolve to improve that person. You don’t need a new you, you just need to be honest with yourself (about both the good and the bad) and continually work to be a better person today than you were yesterday.

For myself, one of the shortcomings I have often discussed, particularly on Facebook and Twitter, is my difficulty with staying motivated. With the new year, I’ve taken a new look at how I set goals, and how I manage my writing time.

To begin with, I had suspected that I might be a morning writer. That’s weird, I know, because who wants to do anything in the morning? However, I’ve experimented with writing first thing in the morning and so far it seems to be paying off! In fact, I’ve been using my wife’s laptop, which she keeps by the bed. I’ve done a lot of writing in the past few days simply by waking up, grabbing her laptop, and cranking out a thousand words before I ever get out from beneath the blankets. Whatever works, right?

Another thing I’m doing is trying to be realistic with my writing goals. In the past, I have had some truly epic days. The first night I worked on the first draft of Frostwalker, I cranked out over 12,000 words in one sitting. But that isn’t what’s normal for me. I have to be honest with myself about how much time I can realistically devote to writing on any given day, and how much energy and enthusiasm I can maintain.

I know that I can’t write every day. Between running a business, having a part time job, family life, and all the other things that make demands on my time, there are simply going to be days when I can’t (or won’t) write. Beyond that, when I do write, I know that I can’t consistently do 1,000 words every day. Some days are just going to be less productive than others.

So, I’ve decided not to have a daily goal. Instead, my goal is for a daily average. If I can average 500 words per day, that’s good for me. So, if I write 3,500 words on Monday, I’m good for a week. Of course, writing 3,500 on Monday doesn’t mean I don’t try to write on Tuesday. But, if I can’t write on Tuesday, either due to work commitments or just sheer lack of energy or motivation, I’m covered. This gives me some wiggle room. At the end of the year, if I meet my goal, I’ll have written a total of 182,500 words, which is a couple of average novels worth of content.

Of course, 500 words per day isn’t great. However, that’s not a limit (I can and do write more), it’s just a realistic (for me) goal. It is very important in any endeavor to set goals. Without goals, you can’t have direction for your energy and you end up wasting energy for little or no gain. But, you’ll find nothing but frustration and despair if your goals aren’t realistic. I have to be honest with myself, and that means that 500 words per day on average is a reasonable, reachable goal. Setting a goal of 1,000 words per day, and then getting 800 per day, means I’m failing. Setting a goal of 500 words per day, and writing 800 per day, means I’m meeting my goal and then some.

One interesting side effect of this has been that I’ve actually done much better than expected. I have, in fact, written over 1,000 words per day since putting this goal in place January 1st. However, today I took a day off to get caught up on work that had to be taken care of. I could have written this morning, but I knew that doing so would have made it that much harder to do the work that pays the bills tonight. Counting today’s zero word count, my average output per day since January 1st (inclusive) is 1,004 words per day – twice what I’ve set out to achieve.

I don’t know if I’ll keep up that pace, but that’s what I have so far. If I don’t keep up that pace, it doesn’t matter. My goal isn’t to average 1,000 words per day, but to average 500. I’m ok with this. I have accepted that I’m not going to be that guy who writes 2,000 words per day. Not at this point in my life, and quite possibly not even if I end up writing full time. I’m me, and I’m ok with who I am. I work to make the most of that person, not to frustrate myself.

For the record, what I’ve been working on is A Man With A Gun. I’m still not sure where this story is going, or what it might end up as. It’s a departure from my usual work, but nothing truly worthwhile comes out of staying in your comfort zone. It may be that the project will be a full length novel, or maybe a novella. It’s getting a bit lengthy to be a short story, having passed 15,000 words. It may also be that it will fizzle and die. That happens too, sometimes. But, wherever it goes, I intend to follow it to the end.

In any case, here’s to a productive and successful 2014!