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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March Wrap Up

Wow, that month went fast. It’s been a ‘head down and gitter done’ kind of month. It wasn’t without disappointment, though. I realized yesterday if I pushed a little bit more, I could double my word count for the year. I tried. I stared at the screen, turned on some music, and pestered Walter The Muse, but there were no words. I finally saved everything I’d already done and walked away, planning to hit it again after dinner. It didn’t happen. I missed my goal by 895 words.

I’m actually not too broken up about it. It was a really good month despite the day job challenges. I continued my streak of writing every day, and put in nearly 57 hours. Total word count for the month was 27,443, bringing year to date to 55,781.

I also read quite a bit. Currently I’m reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield (I read it often and highly recommend it), and “The Story Equation” by Susan May Warren. I also read all of Susan May Warren’s Heiress Trilogy (“Heiress,” “Baroness,” and “Duchess”) again.

Based on my progress this month, I’m awfully glad I went to Deep Thinkers last month. It seems to be just what I needed to get things rolling. Here’s to April!

Balance

My day job hours are increasing a lot in the next two weeks. I have a coworker on vacation, and another who changed shifts suddenly, so the morning shifts were decimated. I’m training a new person this week, so it’s temporary, but it will eat a lot of my time short term.

As we walked into church on Sunday, I told Eric it seems like the two jobs never go well at the same time. If I have a lot of time to write, I freeze up and stare at the screen. When I’m on a roll, the day job explodes and eats my time.

As usual, that was me preaching to myself: It’s about balance. It’s about art and pay. If the art doesn’t pay, something else has to until it does. In the meantime, all you can to is the best you can do.

I wrote a few thousand extra words last week. It’s possible, although not probable, I could break 30k for the month. I’d be happy with 25k, which is entirely probable. The goal is to write every day. I’m not worried about word count right now. I have a streak going–I’ve worked every day since Feb. 7. I just need to keep the streak going, and the book will get done. The stubborn is still going strong.

Progress

So far, so good.

Last week I beat my word count goal by 369 words despite not making the minimum goal any day except Saturday. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was certain I wouldn’t make it, but I hit the right combination of coffee and music, and pushed it through the goal.

This week is shaping up to be similar, although I’m getting my butt kicking days in earlier. In a perfect world, I’ll get this week’s words in early and get about half of next week done, too. My day job hours spike next week, but part of them will be spent training the opener I just hired. The downside of that is I will likely not have time to write at work, hence my plan to start early. I’ll have the words done at the end of the month even if, on paper, I don’t make the goal next week.

As of this writing, the WIP is over 22,000 words. I’m to the point where I thought I would cut and paste from a short story, but it’s in the POV of the wrong character, so it will take heavy editing. Still, that should go faster than creating from whole cloth.

So it looks like I really do want this. Just don’t tell the universe. I don’t know if I can take any more surprises.

Game On

It’s been an interesting few days. Interesting in the Chinese curse sense.

I came home from Deep Thinkers with a writing and marketing plan for the first three Balphrahn books. I sat down and looked at what I have written and decided it was feasible to have the series done this year, and that I needed to aim for 780 words a day. Every day. That’s 780 book words and doesn’t include blogs. I did build in a month of time off for illness and/or travel.

It’s doable, if everyone cooperates.

They haven’t.

Last week, one of my openers sent out a group text that she needed to take care of her grandmother in the mornings and couldn’t open any more starting the next day. She had four open shifts a week. Of my other openers, one has another job, one can only work weekends, and one is in school. That leaves me.

My boss set up some interviews for Saturday so we could get some help on day shift. As I was getting ready for bed Friday night, I told Eric even though I had to work on Saturday, at least I didn’t have to be in uniform.

Saturday morning, I got up, poured my first cup of coffee, and turned on my iPad. I had a text message from my weekend opener that she couldn’t go to work and no one else could cover, so would I mind?

Yes. Yes, I did mind. She pulls double shifts on the weekends, and I had evening plans. In the end, I put on my uniform, my boss came in early to help me, and I got someone else to cover the night shift. (I still missed my evening plans.)

By the time I got to work, I felt very put out. I told my boss I felt like the universe looked over my shoulder at my lofty plans and said, “OK, kid, let’s see how bad you want this.” And if that’s how it wants to play, game on.

As soon as I said it, my whole attitude changed. I shifted from victim to warrior.

Long story short, the other girls have stepped up and I only have to cover 2 of the extra shifts. If it works out, I’ll go back to only doing paperwork on Monday, and have two mid-week shifts. It’s not as bad as it could be, or as bad as it has been.

The series is going to get done. I’m going to move hell and high water to finish it this year. I might have to make adjustments, but even if I miss the mark, I’ll still have more done this year than I did last year.

How bad do I want it? Game on.

There’s No Place Like Rainy England

 

Life has been busier than I’d like lately. One of my coworkers at the day job has had family issues, which means more shifts for some of us. It wouldn’t be as big a deal except I’m at a place in the story where I have to figure out logistics. I’ve never ridden a dragon. It’s been a couple decades since I last rode a horse. But Charlie needs to learn to ride dragons, so I have to figure out how they do that. There really isn’t a lot of research available on the topic.

I’ve found, when I come to a prickly spot I need to think through, it’s best to go someplace away from the house (and my needy cats) and work it out on paper. There’s a new coffee shop in town, and they make better coffee that the national chains we have around here, so I put on clothes and make-up and ventured forth. I snagged the last parking spot on the block and paid for an hour of parking.

The coffee shop was packed. And I’d paid for a whole hour of parking. You might think my luck ran out, but it didn’t! I had ear buds and Rain In England on my white noise generator phone app. My phone battery was even charged.

I cranked it up because the guy sitting two seats from me was nattering on about his invalid mother-in-law. Goodness, so much talking!

In the end, it was productive. I got three pages of notes and, as I was thinking of going home, Eric invited me to come have lunch with him. I was half a mile from the train station with enough time to catch in inbound train, so of course I went to lunch. Now I’m finally settling in to get started on the scenes I brainstormed in the rain at the coffee shop that (sadly) was not in England.

Gearing up

For the last few years, I’ve been on hiatus from writing conferences. I love going to them and being with kindred spirits. Individually, writers can be awkward and a little odd, but at a conference, we all get to be rock stars! There does come a point, though, when conferences and retreats and even local writers’ group meetings become a distraction.

In my case, I needed to step away and apply what I learned, but also, life intervened. Eric got laid off and we moved to Chicago. Then we moved twice more. (I don’t recommend moving three times in two years to improve productivity.) About the time I had to step away, I got involved with some projects with other writing friends, and I’ve learned a lot from them, so I haven’t missed the conferences.

Now I’ve broken the hiatus. I’m on my way to sunny Florida for the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers Retreat. I’ve done it twice before and came home both times overloaded with info that took a few extra days to process. We’re doing things a little differently this time. There was homework to do ahead of time to get everyone on the same page (pun intended).

It officially starts tomorrow, so I’ll tell you all about it next week!