Ten Years of Writing Every Day

On January 1st 2012 I gave myself the challenge to write every day. I’m a writer, after all, so that seems like nothing too challenging.

Over the years, though, despite writing lots, I would still miss some days, perhaps even some weeks. I doubt I missed a month, but maybe somewhere I did.

Still, I didn’t have that regular habit. Today, as I write this, December 31st 2021, marks the ten year milestone. 3653 days (by my calculations – I think there were three leap years in there, 2012, 2016 and 2020) of writing every day.

As part of the challenge, I recorded my word count. Some days I wrote not very much (156 words was, I think my lowest number), some days a little more (one day was over 8000 words), but most days sat somewhere north of 1000. Most years were somewhere over 500,000 words. This last year I set myself the additional goal of writing a minimum of 1600 words a day – and I hit that, for a total of 652,682 words (which is actually over 1700 words/day average – kind of what happens when you set the bar higher, I guess). Not bad. Still not quite up to real pulp speed.

One thing that kept it engaging was the thought that ‘it’s all practice’. Just practising getting better. Practising openings, practising characterization, practising the rule of threes (see what I did there?). With practice, I would hope to get better.

Along the way I’ve published a lot of my works indie – links to a lot of them are here on the website – and gone wide, so you can find me on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Smashwords and Apple.

The big sense that the practising was working, though, came when I started selling to the professional magazines – Asimov’s, Analog, Landfall, etc. Maybe I was getting better. Some writers get there real fast, but for me it’s been more of a matter staying the course. Submitting. Learning to write better. Submitting again. I still want to get better, of course. I have a bunch of courses lined up and a bunch of new goals.

The challenge continues. Writing every day. Aiming now to make it to 10,000 consecutive days. That would be something. But still, 3653 is something in itself.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year.



Midway through the month, midway through the novel

Somehow I’ve managed to maintain momentum with my target of writing a novel in June. As I mentioned earlier my novels seem to come in at around 60,000 words. So far through June, with 15 of 30 writing days completed Guest House Izarra stands at 33,194 words. So I’m running about ten percent ahead.
Guest House Izarra draft thumbnail borderHow’s the writing itself?  Well, I’m happy with progress. Feel like I’m going in the right direction. Don’t feel like there’s much that will need to be cut. So far.

We’ll see. I feel like I have a few thousand words ‘in the bank’, so to speak. With the last couple of days writing, cycling back through the previous days’ work, I wonder if this will be a shorter book anyway.

Either that or much longer. It might have to continue to July if that’s where the story goes. I don’t want to arbitrarily force it shorter just to finish within the month.

I’m glad to have a draft mock-up draft of the cover in place. Nice similar look to Arlchip Burnout. It still needs a tagline or something else at the top I think. I’ll have to track down art that’ll work for the other books too. With this one, the background is by Antaltiberiualexandru, and the figure by Algol. Kind of shows the book just about perfectly.

Glitches? Well, I had hoped to get finished with formatting my earlier novel Athena Setting for release already. Somehow though, when I imported the original document into the formatting software I dropped out all the italics. And it wasn’t until I’d just about completed formatting-page breaks, chapter headings, bookmarks and so on-that I realized. So now I’m in the process of working through to put all the italics back in. Sheesh. Starting to think it might have been easier to re-import and do all that other formatting over again.

Anyway, that’s slowing other aspects down. Still focusing on getting a couple of thousand words down every day.

I’ll see how the rest of the month goes.

One finish line in sight, another beckons

My writing goal for the year is 300,000 words. Accounting for other activities (mostly the time commitment of tutoring), that seemed like a reasonable goal. Right now I’ve completed just over 290,000. Whoops. It looks like I’m about hit my year end goal around the last day in July. Now I need some new goals, or milestones.

Part of the idea of the goal came from Jeff Ambrose. Jeff redraws his approach as he goes too – pretty inspiring.

Here’s how this year’s writing comes out so far:

Two novels written. One (The Tunnel) edited and published as a POD book, and as an ebook, and the other (working title Steel Wagon), currently being proofed. That one’s a literary novel, so I’m sending to a New Zealand agent to see what kind of response it gets. If it doesn’t filter through that system, I’ll similarly self-publish it as a POD and ebook.

Sixteen stories written. These range in length from flash (two) to novellas (two), with most sitting between 6000 and 12,000 words. Five of these have been published, along with another three stories from last year. Four of the stories have been published by magazines/ezines (MicroHorror, Flashes in the Dark and The Colored Lens), the rest have been self-published through Smashwords, mostly under pen names. I’ve also re-published numerous short stories through Smashwords, but as reprints they don’t count towards first publication goals (I’m aiming for publishing 300,000 words as well, in addition to any reprints – sitting at 120,000 so far). I have one story in updating (ie, it’s been edited and proofed and just needs those corrections made), one in proofing, and one in progress. I am still proofing the second novel, but have the first 5000 words about ready to go to an agent.

New goal: 300,000 words by the end of July. Steel Wagon 5000 word sample and synopsis with an agent by August 11th. New literary story completed by 15th August (specifically for the Sunday Star contest). And set a new word-count target for the rest of the year.

I already know that I’ll be writing the second book in The Hidden Dome trilogy (working title – The Deluge) later this year (probably after tutoring finishes in late November), so that’s 60,000 words, more or less. But what to do for August through November?

Well, there is tutoring, so that cuts into time a little. During the last main block my daily writing, usually over 1000 words, slipped down like an eel in a pipe. 132 words on my lowest day. Still, four months is around 120 days, so perhaps 100,000 words is realistic. Combined with the novel, that will put me over 450,000 words for the year. Sounds about right.

Bridesmaid once again

With good cheer I can say that I missed the cut for a top three placing in the Writers of the Future. While I would love to have won, it still feels like I’m on the way and writing at a level that I’ve been striving for over many years. And there will be other competitions. I have an entry in for the third quarter and am in the process of writing the next one for the fourth quarter (WotF is a quarterly contest).

Congratulations to the winners and other participants. I hope to be on the podium, so to speak, one day.

Nice to see another New Zealander there in the list. Well done Stacey. I’ve never met her (NZ isn’t that tiny), but she’s a pretty good writer – check out some of her stories: Waiting for the Apocalypse at Eschatology and; Back in My Day at Daily Science Fiction. (There are other New Zealanders on the list from time to time – John Harper a couple of times, Samuel Mae and, I’m guessing, others. Yay for us).

As for that story of mine that didn’t place? I’ve submitted it to a magazine. It can take its chances in the big wide world.

On writing “pulp” and tutoring “literature”

This year my writing is progressing a little faster than in previous years. I’m writing with a pulp kind of attitude. Proof-reading, correcting grammar, but very little in the way of revision (I did switch around two clauses in a sentence because they were simply clunky, but that’s about it). My stories seem stronger for it, and I’m learning much more about getting things right as I go, rather than thinking about fixing things later in editing. My stories, I’ll admit, are raw and unwashed, but I’m writing from a creative bent rather than letting my inner critic take over. Are they perfect? Unlikely. Are they fun? Well they’re fun to write, so I hope they’re as much fun to read.

It has taken an effort of will to let spontanaity and energy rise over searching out every little thorn. I guess this is overcoming years of workshops and courses where I’ve critiqued and been critiqued.

If you want a more articulate explanation of this approach, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an excellent article on perfection on her website. The comments following give a lot of credence to what she has to say.

With this approach to writing, how can I then presume to tutor in a course that espouses “writing is revision”? It sounds a bit two-faced. Well, part of it is that the course is an introductory paper where students are learning elements of the craft such as voice, detail, character, structure and so on. Another part is that students have the option to revise their story or to write a complete new story if they feel they can use the feedback more effectively that way. Overall it’s more about story craft than it is about endless revision.

I remember my early days of writing when I would enthusiastically write a half a story, with nowhere to go. Or have characters who went through the motions, rather than seeming to live beyond the page. I would revise and revise, change and cut, add new sections, remove characters, move commas, change “OK” to “Okay” and what-have-you.

I’m not against revision. I’m a fan of John Irving, who writes his novels from finish to start, and then works through polishing them and working on the language. His books are a delight to read and I can see all the work that has gone into them.

These days I tend to write with the ending in sight. Sometimes in the course of the story it might veer off toward a new ending, but by the time I’m veering, a new ending is well-within sight. In many ways it all suits the kind of adventure fiction I’m interested in writing anyway.

In all likelihood I’ll never truly master all the techniques – lifelong learning and all – but my writing efforts are focused on working on the next story out of what I’ve learned from the last. There is a place for subtle, nuanced literature, and I hope that I come close on some occasions, but for now I’m not heading back to polish the energy out of pieces. I’m not likely to hit perfection, but I will continue to aim for writing good stories that will engage and entertain readers.

Finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest

I’m a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. There’s a press release about the current finalists, and that’s my name right there amongst them. Me. Wow. I’m feeling stunned by the news. There is still that next big hurdle – to actually win one of the prizes (and I’m not holding my breath; so often I have been “the bridesmaid and never the bride”) – but it feels very encouraging. It’s as if I’m on the right track. Kind of like how excited I was to get a personal rejection from Asimov’s. It wasn’t an acceptance, but I got a sense of having jumped up a notch.

If I don’t win one of the top prizes, I’ll enter again, and keep entering until I’m no longer eligible* Writing fiction at this level has been a long time goal and it’s good to see that I’m going in the right direction.

In other news, my current total word count for the year is just about to hit the quarter million mark. 249,224. I’m coming to the end of this round of tutoring, which does slow the writing a little. My regular daily goal is 1000 words (you can see I average more), but during tutoring that’s slowed to an average of just under 300 (lowest day: 132, but I did get through a bunch of marking). You know what, though? Today, even with tutoring, I’m going to do at least 776 words and hit that quarter million word milestone.

Best of luck to the other finalists. (and thanks for your message, Martin).

*From the rules: the Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits. Despite my string of publications, I only have one at that professional level – a children’s radio story broadcast in New Zealand many years ago. Believe me, I’m working hard at getting more and, while I’d love to win Writers of the Future, I’d love to become ineligible too.

On writing less than 1000 words a day.

For the last five and a bit months (that is, since January 1st) I’ve written at least 1000 words a day. Some days have been just over that target – 1015, 1085 – other days have been up in the multiple thousands (two days of 5500 words). I’ve written two novels, two novellas and numerous short stories. (The total word count is 244,000). It’s been a revelation to me to be able to work so intensely and so focused for this period.

And now it will hit it’s first speed bump. My target for the year is 300,000 words and it seems that now I’ll likely reach and exceed that. Why just 300,000? Well, I still earn a living at a full-time job. And I moonlight too, tutoring in a creative writing course. Fitting the writing in around the course was always part of the plan, though the structure of the course altered since I first set the 300K goal. Today is the first major deadline and I’m about to plunge into three weeks of concentrated effort in giving feedback to dozens of students.

Writing my own stuff will take a sideline. Today will be my first day this year of writing under 1000 words. I feel like I’m a little in mourning.

Still, I have two stories open at the moment, and I know where they’re both going. I’m itching to get to them, so that’s going to help me feel intentional with my marking. And I learn so much from the marking process too that it’s all only going to be good for my writing.

On hitting the mark

May turned into my slowest month for the year – just creeping over the 40,000 word mark. A pretty busy time with tutoring kind of kept the lid on a little – in a good way: it’s useful to other things to focus on. I’ve sent off three contest entries, and some new magazine submissions, as well as resubmitting some stories that had been rejected elsewhere. My novella “The Wreck of the Emerald Sky” comes out in June in The Colored Lens, so that’s good news. June is going to be a much slower month, though, as tutoring really ramps up. I’m hoping to hit 15,000 words, which, while many fewer than any other month this year, will take me neatly to a quarter million words. I’ll post soon about some lessons I think I’m learning here as I aim for 300,000 words for the year (yes, I’m ahead of target – that’s one of the lessons).