Record Keeping

Ever have one of those days? You’re especially tired, or a deadline creeps up on you? Maybe you have another in what seems like a long line of headaches? Or your pants won’t stay up, and you realize you’ve dropped five pounds? (Me neither, but I hear it happens to some lucky people.)

I’m not naturally gifted when it comes to record keeping. I tend to overthink things and gravitate toward the complicated systems that will be a pain to keep up. And really, what’s the point?

Easy. Accumulation of empirical data.

Case in point: My family jokes that I’m solar powered. When it gets dark early in the winter, I’m ready to go to bed shortly after dinner and sometimes fall asleep on the couch. In the summer, when it’s light 16 hours a day, I can’t sleep unless I go to great lengths to darken my bedroom. Until recently it was a theory. Last February, I got a new Fitbit and it tracks my sleep. The amount of sleep I get has dropped steadily since May, so now I have definitive proof. To say I’m looking forward to the shorter days of fall is an understatement.

I’ve amped up my writing records, too. I used to track just word count. That’s the important number, really, but not the only number. I think it was Tim Grahl who gave me the idea to track word count and time as well as the location, project, and applicable notes. Since then I’ve discovered I do my best writing in my office, but sometimes I need a change of scenery. I plot better in coffee shops. Hotels are also productive as long as I’m not in a place where I want to go forth and see things. That’s why Vegas works for me. I’m looking forward to finding out how the new back yard affects productivity. (More on that next week, I hope. For now, I’ll just say I’ve renamed it The Piazza.)

The real beauty is when you take empirical data from multiple sources to reach a conclusion. If you look at my word counts over the last few summers, they’re lower than the rest of the year on average. I thought it was because summers are full of distractions, and they can be, but now I realize a lot of it has to do with the lack of sleep. If I can’t sleep, I can’t think, and therefore can’t write. Now that I have a concrete reason and I know it’s not just me being crazy or lazy, I can take steps to fix it. Or try to, anyway.

Like maybe by buying a hammock for The Piazza.

Record keeping. It’s your friend.

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End of July Report

We got back from Vegas last night. My beloved had to go for a work conference, and he doesn’t fly without me, so I had a writer’s retreat. Nope, I didn’t gamble, didn’t see any shows, shoot, I only went outside twice, and the second time it was so hot we got about 100 feet and retreated to the air conditioning. I did a lot of writing, shopped some, and ate some really good (and some really not good) food. It’s not the traditional Vegas experience, but it worked for me.

The month didn’t have a great start. Early July never does since we always have company about that time. Mid-month it picked up a bit since I knew I had my retreat coming up. I got back on the wagon with some world building rather than jumping right back into the WIP, and it paid off. By the time we were settled into the Mandalay Bay Resort And Hotel, I had a clear picture of what I needed to do.

It wasn’t without drama. My laptop died last year, and since I only work remotely a few weeks a year, I write on my iPad with a wireless keyboard. It’s bare bones, but it travels light. This time, I arrived not realizing that while the Word and Excel apps are free, you need a subscription to actually use them. Not only that, but I didn’t have the current version of  my WIP, even though I specifically remember saving it in the right place.

Whatever.

I busted out a new Google Doc and worked from memory. Amazingly, it only required the sacrifice of 38 words when I got home. I’d started with basically what I ended with in Scrivener, but I wrote it better, so the old words got cut. I’m not heartbroken.

Here are the numbers for those of you keeping score:

July time: 32.4 hours

YTD time: 199.67 hours

July words: 12,981

YTD words: 101,227

Yes, that’s right! I broke 100k! Today, as a matter of fact. I haven’t gone back through my old spreadsheets to see if and when the last time was, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t in July. I have a lofty plan to average 25,000 words a month for the rest of the year so I can break another 100k. I know, the numbers don’t match, but I’ve got a good month’s worth of activities (excluding Christmas, because I don’t know what we’re doing yet) that will keep me away from Balphrahn, so that will carry me right up to the new year. If I plan 25,000 and only hit 20,000 I might not end up too much behind.

In the meantime, the book 1 draft is done, and the book 2 draft is started. I call that a win.

That Time of Year

Late June and July have historically been dry times for me creatively. It starts slowly. Word counts decrease as distractions creep in. We always have friends come to visit around the 4th of July, and it takes a fair amount of prep to get ready for them. Then there are garden chores, weeds to pull, grass to cut. There are Scottish festivals we attend to represent Clan Campbell. Let’s not forget the Bristol Ren Faire–we have to do that a few times in the short summer months. It’s hard to think past the activity and prep work long enough to concentrate on whatever book I’m working on.

I actually didn’t put it together until yesterday. I was stomping around, irritated because the trash hadn’t taken itself out. I felt generally put out and started thinking about what I need to do to get ready for our friends, and resentment started to creep in. That was the moment I realized I was cranky because I haven’t been getting words like I want to. I’ve been in and out of the garret for a couple weeks, and it’s starting to wear on me, but it seems futile to try to get back into the rhythm when I’m going to have someone sleeping in my office soon.

I’m not sure about the solution, but I know there needs to be one. In the future, I need to try to finish the draft du jour by mid-June so I can pick up after the summer dry spell with a fresh project. I might also need to find another creative outlet for a little while. The best part is guilt about not getting any writing done is conspicuously missing. Well, okay, not entirely. It bugs me a little, but I’m not beating myself up over it. I’m not going to meet my word count goal. There might not be a month-end report this month.

The world will still turn.

Busman’s holiday

After looking over the May numbers, I took a look at June. I started the month over 80,000 words for the year. Sooooo close to 100k! Getting there is possible–I have to average a mere 691 words every day this month.

There’s just one problem. We have stuff going on, and people coming to hang out with. While I love my visitors, every day I don’t write piles goal words onto the heap. Add to that the fact that I’m in what CE Murphy calls the Novelist’s Event Horizon on book 1 and you begin to see my dilemma.

I was thinking about a solution, and I remembered reading on Holly Lisle’s blog several years ago about taking busman’s holidays. If that’s a new term for you, don’t worry; it was for me, too. It’s when you take a break from your job by doing something similar to your job, like a bus driver taking a long drive to unwind. Since I’m counting all the words and not just the WIP words, I think I might try something like that. Maybe I’ll pick a prompt once or twice a week and see what happens. I might even come up with a short story I can shop around. At this point I’ll try just about anything that increases productivity.

April Wrap Up

It wasn’t pretty, y’all. In fact, after March, it’s almost depressing. Granted, I’ve been juggling two day jobs, had kids in town over Easter, and was gone for a week. Not making excuses. Just trying to give myself a little grace so maybe I’ll stop beating myself up.

For disclosure and accountability purposes, I wrote 7,840 words and logged 16.25 hours in the office. I did manage to keep up on the blog schedule. Also, it’s the best April I’ve had since 2014. Last year I didn’t write at all in April.

Silver linings. April is over, so it’s time to look ahead.

The Warrior Reawakens

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post about telling the universe game on when it threw a monkey wrench into my carefully laid plans. Things have changed quite a bit since then. In fact, it’s a little mind boggling.

I fell off the wagon for a few days. April hasn’t been a great writing month so far. Transitioning from one day job to the other has taken a fair amount of time, and my word count totals dwindled little by little until I broke my streak when my kids were here Easter weekend. It was 65 days, if you’re keeping score at home.

It’s not that I’m broken up about it. Family is the best reason to take a day off, but I didn’t go back immediately. I let old habits kick in and let circumstances get in my way. Luckily, I recognized it much faster this time.

There is a possibility that life isn’t going to get easier this year. It might get harder. I realize there might be circumstances under which I won’t be able to write for a season, but the warrior is awake. The story wants to be birthed. I’m focused like I haven’t been before.

Game on. Again.

Moving right along

It’s been a little stressful the last couple of weeks. I’m changing day jobs, which is exciting, but it hasn’t been without challenges. There is training to do at the old job, although the crew is finally stable again. The new job is still developing and needs flexibility more than anything at this point. Since my personal motto is Sempre Gumby, I’m fine with that. With a little luck, in a couple weeks this will all be a thing of the past, and it’s fun to build it from the ground up. Plus it’s admin, close to home, comes with paid vacation, and I get to work with grown-ups!

The biggest downside of all of this is the impact it’s had on my writing. I’m very behind for the month and there isn’t a chance of catching up this week. Next week might be better. I suspect it’s going to be baby steps as I walk away from the old job and into the new.

I’d like to think this will be a blip, that I’ll be able to catch up and power through the first draft of the first book. Right now, it’s little drips here and there, like Chinese Water Torture. I’ve kept up the writing every day streak. Most days it’s only a couple hundred words. It’s hard to focus and figure out what comes next when I have all the other details begging for attention. Don’t even get me started on the size of my laundry pile. I’m going to have to pay attention to that just so I have something to wear to work next week.

Stay tuned for updates!