A little break

Punakaiki Cottage – a pretty good place to get some writing done

So I know there is a way to write a whole bunch of posts and have them roll out automatically, even if I’m, say, away on holiday. And holiday for me usually means little or no internet. Let me tell you, that’s really refreshing.

Also, no internet is really good for the writing. So, while on holiday over Christmas and New Year I still got a whole lot of writing done. Keeping up the streak of writing every single day. I started that practice on January 1st 2012. So, seven years. 2,557 days (if my calculations of the number of days in a year, including a couple of leap years, are correct). (also, another twenty-two days as I come to post this).

One place had no electricity (some solar for lighting and the shower pump, but nothing for recharging batteries). An old schoolhouse. That just took some smart battery management on the laptop for a couple of days.

Anyway, writing while on holiday is a blast. We stayed in some awesome spots around New Zealand’s South Island, including this one near Punakaiki. Now, if you’ve got to be somewhere other than your usual writing nook to get some writing done, this one is pretty good.

Five years of writing every day.

keys.jpgFor a moment, I thought I’d wait until I hit 2000 consecutive days of writing every day, but I still feel like five years (1826 days) is a good round figure.

So, last December 31st, 2016 I made it through five years of writing every day. I counted the words written each day as I went (heading for annual targets). Some days I wrote a little (156 words for my lowest count), some days a whole lot more (over 8000 on my best day), most days around 1500.

Each year my total wordcount has crept up. From just over a half million in 2012 to well over 600,000 last year.

What did I learn?

Well, I hope I learned to be a better storyteller. Raymond Chandler is supposed to have said that every writer has “a million words of crap” in them before they start writing readable fiction. My five years has produced over 2.5 million. With the years before, I suspect I’m up well over three million words. I’m not convinced that I’m not still writing crap.

Dean Wesley Smith would say that a writer is the worst judge of his or her own writing. I’d agree there. Some of my stories I think are duds sell, and some I think are wonderful circulate and circulate without finding a home.

(Chandler also said “A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled” – I like that one).

Along with learning about writing, I’m learning about the business of writing. How to manage my time more effectively and how to worry less often. I guess another thing I’m learning is patience. Whether that be waiting for the response from a publisher, or waiting for my readership to grow. Getting there.

100 Submissions

Last great time house.png So, as well as tracking my word count this year, I’ve also tracked my number of submissions. Now, I do keep close track of where and when I’m submitting (it would be kind of silly not to), but this is the first time I’ve ever recorded the actual number as well.

So far this year I’ve made 100 submissions. That’s submissions of short-stories/ novelettes/ novellas to various markets. It doesn’t count items I’ve sent to indie/ self-publishing.

To be clear, though, I have completed a total of fourteen new pieces. All of those submitted. There have been some novels that have gone directly to indie, so I’m not counting those.

Getting to one hundred submissions means some of those fourteen, and some of last year’s stories (and a couple from the year before) are finding themselves resubmitted. This is pretty standard practice. One market rejects a story, off it goes to another. Repeat. Heinlein would say ‘repeat until sold’.

Of those fourteen, I’ve so far sold six. Not a huge number for me, but I’ll take it (of course). Pretty low ratio in terms of submissions: six percent, but not too bad in terms of stories completed.

Cover illustration for The Last Great Time House of Muldemar Ridge © Ateliersommerland | Dreamstime.com

Measuring the challenge – daily word counts

In my last post I talked about my plans to write a novel in June. One of my Karnish River Navigations series (which only has one book out so far, but more coming soon).

My novels usually come in around 60,000 words (a couple of exceptions there – The Cly is The Cly front cover thumbaround 90,000, but I got a bit carried away with that one. A theme for another post). With 30 days in June, that means hitting 2000 words a day. Through May I managed over 1900 a day, but I had a few days off work for focused writing. Usually I’m aiming for a 1500 word daily average through any given month.

I thought I’d update quickly with my last few days. I had Sunday at Au Contraire, the New Zealand Science Fiction Conference (again, a post for another time), so was busy on Sunday, but had Monday morning at the hotel, simply writing with few distractions.

Friday June 3rd – 2015 words
Saturday June 4th – 2150 words
Sunday June 5th – 2073 words (squeaked in there – up late writing after the SJV awards)
Monday June 6th – 3110 words -yay!

Cumulative total: 13980 (including 2478 and 2154 words from the 1st and 2nd). Feel like I’m on track. Some of those words are bound to end up deleted, I’m sure, so it’s good to be ahead.

My June challenge: write a novel

Arlchip Burnout cover 10 small

Well, at the risk of making a fool of myself, I’m going to attempt writing a novel in June. And update with my word count as I go.

Now, I’ve written novels fast before – as little as forty days. But thirty days? That’ll be something new.

I know about NaNoWriMo. I know plenty of people take that challenge successfully. Right now I figure why wait until November?

Also, my plan is to write good copy. No sloppy writing to be fixed-up later. I want it as clean as possible so there’ll be minimal revision needed.

The novel I’m attempting is another in my Karnish River Navigations series. There’s just one book, Arlchip Burnout, available at the moment. I have the second and third written already and in the process of first readers and copyediting and so on at the moment. I hope to have the second book, Canal Days, available in a couple of months, followed by the as-yet-untitled third book a month or so after. The fourth, Guest House Izarra (working title), upon which I’m now embarking perhaps soon after that. If I can get it written and knocked into shape those might be October, November and December releases (notice how I let myself off the hook a bit there?).

As I work on this new novel, I’ll update periodically (weekly?) here with wordcounts.

Writing Guest House Izarra:
Wednesday June 1st: 2478 words
Thursday June 2nd: 2154 words

10,000 words and counting for April


As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere in my mutterings, I make sure to write every day. I also have a word-count target every day. The target gets flexible: I’m aiming for a half million words of fiction for the year, which spreads out to around 1373 words per day (it’s a leap year, that spreads it even thinner).

So far I’m ahead of my target. Well ahead, in fact (169,000 completed, averaging around 1725 words a day). I did have some days with no other commitments and wrote over 5000 words on each of those, so that’s helped bolster the tally. Fewest words on a day was February 10th with just 503 words. Don’t recall what got in the way that day.

It’s great having my momentum up – I recommend it, in fact. Already in April I’ve gone over 1500 words each day, with a high of 1815. That high was the day I finished a novella and started in on a new novel. 10,000 words for the first six days of April. Pretty good for me. Best of all I’m having fun.

Year end review, with a late rally

Close to the end of the year, close to completing some goals, distant from others.
My word-count goal went well: from 300,000 for the year (completed in August), upped then to 450,000 for the year (completed in November) and upped again to 500,000, and right now sitting at 497,065. Catastrophes aside, it looks like a slam dunk on that one. Yay.
Publishing 300,000 words didn’t go so great. It went pretty good – right now it’s around 203,000. Mostly self-published under my Triple V Publishing banner through Smashwords, Kindle, and CreateSpace/Amazon. It was gratifying to have several acceptances by publishers in there – about 26,000 words of that total were published in online and print magaziens such as MicroHorror, The Colored Lens and Takahe.
What about the other 97,000 words? Well, I sure wrote them. Part of it was procrastination: sitting on a 60,000 word New Zealand Literary novel instead of sending it out to some publishers (and then self-publishing it if it came back as noes). I’ll remedy that in the new year, with my new goals. Part of it was a pig-headed determination to keep things on the market – that is, numerous stories, novelettes and novellas that get rejected and go out again, rather than self-pubbing. I’ll fix that too: with some of the pieces that have been to the seven or eight main markets: the next time they come back I’ll pull them out of circulation and publish them through Triple V.
I felt like I spent much of the year feeling out in the wilderness: I’ve had more than a hundred rejection slips since January. Mostly form rejections, but there have been a few personal notes which has been cheering. The acceptances have helped out too – early in the year my sci-fi novella The Wreck of the Emerald Sky appeared in The Colored Lens. I had a few flash-fiction acceptances through the year, which was nice, but most of the longer works seemed to keep cycling. Then, a late rally. An acceptance for Takahe (a New Zealand literary mag), a third-placing in a regional short story contest, and an acceptance for Aurealis – one of Australia’s leading science fiction magazines. Coming just a couple of weeks before the end of the year, that acceptance has buoyed me no end: I am on the right track, and persistence pays (real money in this case, too).

Next year, I’m aiming at 500,000 words from the git-go. And aiming at publishing 600,000 (whether self- or traditional) – and have a plan in place to make the possible.

See you next year, with more goal updates.

450,000 and counting

Back in July I hit my word-count goal for the year: 300,000 words written. Five months ahead of my timeline. The writing was made up of two novels, a couple of novellas and a bunch of short stories. Being so busy with tutoring, I hadn’t expected to hit the goal so early. It left me with the question of what to do for the rest of the year. So I re-drew the goal, adding on another 150,000 words, figuring that actually tutoring through the second part of the year is bigger than through the first part so didn’t want to push too hard.

Partway through November I hit that second goal, even with tutoring. Another novel written, another bunch of short stories. Another novella. 450,000 words for the year. So far.

I’ve written every day this year. October 6th was my best writing day – 6781 words. This might well be my highest daily word count ever. At least my highest ever with being sane and able the following day. Back in my younger years I might have tried for something higher, but turned into a gibbering mess the following day. June 18th was my lowest count at 152, though I did mark four assignments that day, as well a work my 8-5 job. I’d always planned for and accounted for tutoring to knock the daily word count down: what was important was to at least get some words written.

So I’m tacking on another 50,000 words to make it an even half million for the year. As I write this, it means another 1300ish words a day. Do-able, though I will have to push. No tutoring, but I am studying – taking Dean Wesley Smith’s Essentials Workshop which runs for six weeks from December 5th and that’s going to keep me busy. In a good way.

Moving the goalposts

So I crossed the finish line. 300,000 words so far this year. Publishable? I hope. Some have been published already – some self, some with small presses, some have been accepted for upcoming publication and others are out with editors. As I wrote during my evening block of writing time I knew I would cross the line – I had 586 words to go. (This is how I’ve kept track of that – click to see the whole thing – a bunch of numbers I fill in each day and let Excel calculate to get totals and percentages. The bottom right corner gives me the total):

but I kind of lost track as I became more engaged with the current story. I ended up writing over 1100 words for the session – a reasonable day. In some ways I was pleased to see that I continued on without even realising… for a few days I’d been wondering if I would kick back and just congratulate myself and fall into the habit of watching bad TV. As I wrote a few days ago, I’ve reset the goal, and I think that will help keep me on track and motivated.

The spreadsheet above might seem a little OCD (I don’t scrub my hands, though I see elements of needing to know numbers in me), but it’s helped me have my eyes on the target. That percentage figure in the bottom corner ticking over has helped me focus. I’m keeping that – it’s at 100.20% now, and I’ll let it go on up to 150%, but I’ve added in another little ticker beside it for the August to December goal in the bottom corner:

That’s going to challenge me. I’ll have to stay at around an average of 1000 words a day. While December is clear, there are four tutoring deadlines between now and the end of November and two of those will be full-on: six weeks of pretty intense reading and feedback. I don’t expect to get through a lot of writing during those weeks. Still, I might play catch-up through December. The plan is to write The Deluge, the second part of The Hidden Dome trilogy, between the last day of tutoring and the last day of the year. That’ll be more like 2000 words a day.

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.