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Fridays are backwards

Every day my first priority is to get some fiction words done, except Fridays when I do it backwards and write in the afternoon.

So today I did freelance stuff first. I’m still feeling crappy, stuffed up with a head cold, but I grabbed some coffee and got to it straight away.

That went good for a couple hours. Quick break to walk the dogs, then another three hours of work. Ended with a phone call around 2pm.

Next, I drove to a coffee shop where I met two other writers to work for a few more hours, this time on the novel in progress. That’s why Fridays are backwards—writing with company.

It’s worth going out of my way for. One of the guys that shows up to the Friday meetings is a good friend and we act as accountability partners for each other. It’s good to have someone to talk to about story problems and hang ups, and share progress with to motivate each other.

He and I also happen to write similar genres and have a similar writing process, which is rare enough to worth pointing out. No two writers are the same. It’s lucky to be able to talk to someone who writes like you. They just get it.

I like my backwards Fridays. Makes the last day of the week different enough to be interesting. Keeps my on my toes. And writers may work alone, but they’re better together.

Now I’m back at home, clearing my stuffy head with theraflu. My tolerant fiancé has made lasagna for dinner (smells delicious).

An otherwise uneventful but productive Friday. I’m going to fire up the most recent episode The Orville as my reward.

Here’s a photo of Elsa pup for you. Enjoy your weekend!

First words on Translocator 3

I’m finally making some visible headway on Translocator 3. Spent the first half of the month planning/outlining the book using a combination of the 9 point outline from Larry Brooks and 4 act plot structure (see Lester Dent’s Master Fiction Plot), journaling madly, and then blowing it all out into a chapter by chapter synopsis.

Some people think I’m crazy for doing that kind of legwork up front—they’re either afraid of the work or it bores them, or they call themselves pantsers and just don’t believe in planning. For me it’s thrilling, architecting the whole diabolical scheme and making sure all the pieces fit. The plot of a good science fiction thriller like these books is complex. Multiple points of view! Ancient mysteries! Secret alliances! Betrayals… It’s the only way I can keep it straight.

There’s another advantage, too. Once I figure out how the book goes at a high level, I can let go of the plot and focus on the scenes and the characters, and on the rhythm of the sentences. I think it makes the book better, and it certainly makes the writing easier. And planning well also cuts down on the amount of rewriting I have to do. Ye gods, I hate rewriting.

And so, with my blueprint in hand, last week I finally started typing. I got off  to a slow start, and then got sick over the weekend, but I kept dripping out words the whole time.

Right now I’m at 2500 words with a deadline of December 15th and a target of 80,000 words.

No idea if the 80k target is going to turn out to be accurate, or if I can hit the deadline. I guess we’ll see 😀 The challenge is half the fun of it.

t3-just-starting.png

July-August writing challenge finished

Did anyone else notice it was nearly the end of September? Good grief.

Despite the late date, I wanted to return to the subject of the July-August challenge briefly and review the results. I always get mad at myself when I don’t close the box on goal-setting exercises like this, so here we go.

My goal was to write four short stories in July. This got bumped by other project back to August, hence “July-August Challenge.”

I managed to write only 2 of the four stories—a 2k word story and a 8k word story…

  • The Road Is Three (2k) – Read it here.
  • Make Like The Roaches And Survive (8k) – Still in editing

Would I rather have gotten 4 complete stories out of the challenge? Of course. But sometimes you’ve got to be flexible. Life intervenes, like the vacation I took in June. Then finishing a cowriting project took priority through July and into early August. And after I finished two stories in August, I had to switch gears in order to get through the Translocator 3 outline on time.

The way I look at it, I got 2 new stories out of the challenge and a nice break between novel projects.

So that’s a win in my book.

Have you done any writing challenges this summer? I invite you to share your own experiences with writing challenges in the comments section.

Deep in writing mode

I'm deep in writing mode now, so my mind is a million miles away.

Spent this week outlining two novels, including Translocator 3, and brainstorming ideas and writing backstory for the post-apocalyptic short stories.

The two novel outlines are coming together nicely. And I got 500 words today on a brand new story. Nothing is done, but all my projects are once again in motion.

I'll admit, the novels are more exciting to me, and I know they'll perform better in the stores. But the short stories are good practice and I like doing them. So I'm having my cake and eating it, too. I'll write short stories for the rest of August while I plot the novels.

*grins*

This is the important work, the writing. Everything follows. More books is what I need. Many, many more books.

I'd like to have one or two more books out before the year is through. The guaranteed one of those is the post-apoc short story collection I've had on my project board for months. The longshot is Translocator 3.

You never know. I'll try to stay focused on work and stay motivated. Holler at me if you find me in the local coffee shop, staring intently into the bright rectangle.

Don't be offended if I don't answer. Chances are my mind is a million miles away.

Words complete on the sci-fi mystery project

Yesterday I finished my part of the sci-fi mystery cowriting novel.

*Fist pump*

The title is undecided (different than what you see here) and I can’t share much of the concept yet, but we reached 50k and the book is currently being revised by my industrious co-author.

All told I’ve probably written 30k manuscript words and 5k plotting/planning words so far on this novel. Feels awesome. And goes to show that steady work, even slow, adds up over time.

I had planned to be done this by August 1st, so I’m running a little bit behind on my original schedule. The schedule says I’ve got 4 post-apoc stories to write in August, so be on the lookout for those. I’ve also got some anthology stories to publish individually, Centurion and Low Desert, High Mountain, Big LizardI’ve already got covers for them. Will share those when the stories are publishing.

More soon!

Writing is a muscle

Deliberate writing practice, writing sprints

Now that I’m finally bearing down on this July-August challenge, determined to finish the cowriting novel, I’ve been doing word sprints again — that’s 20 or 25 minute sessions where I’m allowed to do nothing but work on the book.

If you’re sprinting, you’re only allowed to work on the story. The goal is number of words, as many as you can do. Nothing else—no internet, no talking, no disrtractions. At the end of the sprint, you check and report your word count (to yourself or a friend, but keep track somehow).

What I’ve noticed after a few weeks focusing on marketing/publishing stuff (not to mention client work for my day job), is that my fiction writing muscle has weakened.

I get tired faster. My average word count per hour is down. My stamina for writing is lower overall. And that’s after just a few slow weeks!

This just goes to further prove my theory that writing is a muscle. Like a muscle, you have to use it or it atrophies.

And fast.

I know I can get back to where I was. There are certain things you can do to write at your peak, like sprints. I simply haven’t been very diligent about doing those things in July.

Part of it is because it’s summer and I’ve been spending a lot of time doing other things, too. It’s The Time of Great Forgetting as Dean Wesley Smith calls it. The other part is that I just haven’t been pushing myself.

I’m getting back into it. I bought Freedom to help me block out distractions. And I have a word count goal to finish this novel by July, my old reliable 1k a day.

1k a day may not be as fast as some people write, but it works for me.

Treating writing like a muscle, doing sprints, recording my progress, and focusing on 1k a day has give me 3 novels so far.

About to be 4. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

Photo by Evan Clark on Unsplash

Halftime huddle on my 2017 writing goals

It’s halfway through the year, so I thought it would be useful to take a step back and get some perspective on the writing goals I set myself in January. Especially after the setback of the July-August challenge.

2017 writing goals

The 2017 writing goals document I wrote in January is ten pages long. I decided not to blog about it at the time, which I regret. But I can’t go back in time so I’ll summarize it for you.

I had two main goals:

  1. Publish new fiction every month in 2017
  2. Write a lot of new material

Let’s dive into these one at a time.

1. Publish new fiction every month in 2017

I actually started the streak in December 2016 with a short story. Here’s everything I’ve published since the streak began.

As you can see, I’m doing great on this one! Even exceeding my goals due to the serial release of TOTR and the anthology in April.

August is locked down with release of The Alien Element, and I have specific plans for September-December. Got some work to do, but this goal is well within reach—as long as I stay focused.

2. Write a lot of new material

What new material did I want to write in January 2017? I had these projects listed on my original doc. Here’s the list and status of each.

  • Finish Tales of the Republic – Done
  • Write Translocator 2 – Now called The Alien Element, the book went out to ARC readers today.
  • Write 30 short stories – Heh. Oops. Not doing so great here. I think I’ve written 2 new short stories this year. I have more planned, but 30 seems unlikely. That’s okay. Not as good as I’d hoped but them’s the breaks.
  • Write a nonfiction project – I ditched this sometime in March. My goals changed when I realized I was trying to do too much with too broad a focus. Changing goals with new information is a good thing, and I have no regrets cutting this project. If it’s important, it will come back on my radar in the future.
  • Write a blog every week – Doing better lately on this one. I feel like I’ve found a groove here this month. I’m publishing several blogs a week with ease, because I’m writing about topics with a clear focus (on books and new releases, with fiction samples thrown in when possible). Only seems to be a hand full of people reading the blog regularly (if you are, hello!) but the more I put into it the more it will grow.

Time for a gut check

At the start of the year, I had an unfinished novel, vague ideas for Translocator 2, and a handful of finished short stories.

I’ve made a whole hell of a lot out of that meagre start. The unfinished novel came together and became Tales of the Republic, which is fast on its way to selling its first thousand copies. The shorts I had already written got produced and went live in in January, February, April and July.

And I’m dancing a jig over how fast The Alien Element came together. I’ve hit ALL my deadlines so far. The journey to write that book was grueling at times, but rewarding. I know the kind of writer I want to be, and this project has shown me a glimpse of him.

Something unexpected is that I also started a cowriting project I mentioned the other day, a sci-fi mystery novel. That’s what I’m working on in July between marketing/new book production tasks. I didn’t foresee this project when I made my writing goals at the start of the year, but I’m glad it happened. We’ve agreed to keep the book name and partnership under wraps for now, but I’ll share more about this when it’s ready.

The second half of 2017

For the second half of this year, I’ve got the cowriting project to finish, 4 post-apoc stories (and the subsequent collection) to put together, and Translocator 3 to draft. That last one won’t make it through edits in 2017, so I am targeting early 2018 for its release.

I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to fit T3 in this year, but it’s looking like I might, so that’s incredibly inspiring.

Wow, that’s a lot

It’s a lot. I know. It is.

If you can believe it, I’ve got bigger plans for next year. For instance, I haven’t touched audiobooks with a yardstick, and people have been asking for them.

Mostly, this post is a reminder for myself to keep my eye on the ball. The most important thing for me at this stage in my writing career is to produce new work. The challenge to publish new fiction each month has shown me that I can make it happen.

There’s always room for improvement, but I’m getting better all the time. A little more practice, a few more books, a little bit of luck… who knows.

I’d be curious to know which projects sound most interesting to you, and if you do a check-in like this on your goals. Leave it in the comments.

Good music for writing

An impromptu collection of some of my favorite albums to write to.

I’m never at a coffee shop without headphones. Music helps me focus. It’s a reliable way to block out distractions when needed, which is most of the time.

My choices of tracks for writing are instrumental or electronic. Almost none of the songs on these albums have lyrics.

The moods range from rhythmic rock jams to brooding melodic vocals with crooning guitars. Lots of Jazz thrown in and scrambled up the way it should be.

I’ve been listening to these albums for years—they don’t go stale for me.

In no particular order…

Ratatat – Magnifique

Absolutely anything from Ratatat’s playlist makes for good writing music.

Mogwai – Atomic

Mogwai is hit or miss on writing music but I like this one

Chequerboard – The Unfolding

I listened to this album for a month straight.

Jazztronic Playlist on Spotify

This playlist helped me find a bunch of new stuff.

Amon Tobin – Bricolage

Stoney Street. Easy Muffin. Chomp samba! Even the names sound like jazz. Love the names, love Amon Tobin.

July…er, July-August challenge

Checking in on the July challenge, in which I planned to finish a cowriting project (a sci-fi mystery novel), write 4 post apocalyptic stories, and publish a bunch of new stuff all by the end of July.

How am I doing? Haha, well, I could be doing better. But all is not lost!

I’m firmly on track with all the publishing and marketing stuff. Not Alone went live a few days ago, The Auriga Project is getting updated to the official “second edition” at this very moment. The Alien Element is still with my editor, but coming back soon.

On the writing side, I wrote 1000 words today on the cowriting project to finish a difficult section. I’m about halfway through what I wanted to get through by now, although I expect smoother sailing from here. After I get to the end of the current manuscript, there’s about 20k more words that need to be written to finish the story.

Given my schedule, I know at this point that I’m going to need more time.

Both the writing and the publishing side of things have taken longer than I expected this month. It didn’t help that I had a week long vacation smack dab in the middle of the challenge. I am REALLY slow at writing book descriptions.

Very probably, I’m not going to get to the short stories this month. Or if I do, it will only be one or two of them toward the end. I need the rest of this month to finish the cowriting project novel. The short stories can be written in August, and I can still get the collection published by the end of the year.

How about we start calling it the July-August challenge, instead? 😀

A setback, but not a loss. Still on track to publish something new every month this year. I just signed a contract for new sci-fi anthology. And The Alien Element is coming in August.

Strike while the iron is hot

My story board reminds me to strike while the iron is hot. It helps me keep published stories from this year, works in progress, and ideas at eye level. If I have a new one, I throw it up. The squares are sticky notes so they’re easy to fix and replace. Old ideas dry up and fall off. Placeholder titles grow stale and get replaced. 

The five on the right are new this year. Let’s see how many make it all the way over before 2017 cools off.