Karate Seminars and Writing

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So, having decided at the next to last second that I’d be attending a major martial arts seminar in Ottawa this past Saturday, I came to the realization that I’d probably have about 4 hours by myself in the car for dictation purposes. Historically speaking, that should get me somewhere between eight and twelve thousand very raw words to add to the total. Not a bad way to start the month when I’d planned to be home doing housework.

I actually got about 8500 words in but kept getting distracted by martial arts thoughts when I was trying to work on fiction. I’m still satisfied with the total but I felt like I struggled too much through the fiction, especially when I should have been focused on the climax of the novel I’ve been working on.

That said, the novel (Fallen Heroes) got an extra 3066 words in, but every one of the last four scenes was shorter than I’d planned it to be by a few hundred words. That was equal parts distraction and deciding that I’d really like to get it done during the trip if I could. I did, but every one of those last scenes is even more bare bones than my usual first draft. Which is okay, because there’s still lots of time for successive drafts.

And it was a day for finishing things.

One short story (“Old Japanese Spirit” a working title that doesn’t mean at all what you think, whatever you’re thinking) got an extra 411 words to be complete at 1618 for the first draft.

And another (“Emerald Storm”) got an extra 2552 to be complete at 4625 words.

Plus about 2500 words of martial arts thoughts across three separate bits I’m going to call journal entries for tracking purposes, but that mostly need to go in the training log I’ve been horrible at keeping for several years now.

Pretty happy with the result and gives the month a kickstart towards my goals.

Now, lots of editing to do.

Be well, everyone.

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Writing Report for May 2019

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So my word count for May is closer to what I’ve been expecting the “average” month to be: 62.8k. May was a tough month for the day job, with a lot of stuff sucking my energy and time away and our family situation altering a bit as my oldest settles back in to living at home, albeit mostly in his own space in the basement. Average monthly word count for the year is now about 72.7k, and I’m still pretty happy with how the year is shaping up.

Accomplishments in May:

  1. Plotting: finished the detailed outline level of what might be the first shorter novel (50-ish thousand words) in a series of pulp-y SF adventure stories. I have rough ideas for more stories, but I’m going to see how writing the first one goes before I dive too far down the rabbit hole.
  2. Plotting: finished the detailed outline level of a story partially set on Curaçao where we vacationed this year, involving a stranded alien and human trafficking.
  3. Big Hair Day completed at 50,112 words in the first draft, but lots of dictation clean up still to be done. Finished up on the 2nd of May.
  4. Fallen Heroes: switched to being the primary projected and, if a couple of spots have been a struggle, I’m finishing the month with this at 48k with about 5k left in primary plot. Shortest of the trilogy, but a complete story, I think, and it will be longer when it’s done the final draft.
  5. Short fiction: three short stories, all SF. “Stranded on the Moon” (not a final title) at 2997 words, “It’s All Downhill From Here” at 3307 words, and “Johnny and the Dread” at 5207 words. Two more in progress, both about half done. Might be finding my short fiction groove again.
  6. Editing: Forest. Finished the notes-making pass on this, with fewer things to fix than in Shrine. As these were originally one book, I’m not sure if that means it’s in better shape or not.
  7. Editing: Palace. Haven’t gotten too far into revision notes of what is now Book 4 of Troll World, so this will likely stretch a big part of June as well.
  8. 14 blog posts.
  9. 16 journal entries.

Total word count for the month of 62,803 and that’s a solid number, especially considering the interventions from life in the last 31 days.

On the publishing side of my goals:

  1. Turn the World Around technically published on the first of May. I mentioned that last month, so it’s possible I’m taking double credit here. The serial started on Wattpad, as well.
  2. Heroes Inc. launchedas both e-book and paperback on May 31st.
  3. “Babysitting the Taran-Saurus” dropped as an ebook on May 15th.
  4. Graceland complete and programmed to drop on June 12th.
  5. Also on Wattpad, Skip to My Luu continues as a serial. It will be going there for most of the year.
  6. Fanfic, Fractured Unity is scheduled for June 16th launch on Wattpad and file availability.
  7. Short Story Submissions: 10. Hey, made the goal for once. Should I mention I did these all in one day?

Next up, primary writing goals for June. Not as light as the original May goals, but closer to the revised ones, with some increased daily targets on primary projects. The May resets basically had me hitting the primary goals all on the last day of the month, and that’s a bit tighter than I’d like, but is in the ballpark to make me feel like I’m actually working for those goals to be successful.

  1. Fallen Heroes first draft should be done not too far into June. I’m actually projecting June 5th at the moment, but there’s room for adjustment there.
  2. Which means it will be time to launch into the sequel to Universal Destiny, creatively titled Converging Destiny, fully plotted and fairly fresh in my head.
  3. Secondary Novel project: the Curaçao project. Looking for about 5k words, just enough to scratch the itch while still getting some short fiction done.
  4. Short Fiction: at least 10k in short fiction. Actually, between numbers 3 and 4, I’m looking for 15.5k for the month.
  5. Plotting: Strewn Across the Stars. Sequel to Scattered on the Wind.
  6. Editing: Palace, finishing revision notes.
  7. Editing: starting on Battlefield. If I can get all the way through Palace.
  8. Editing: “Trollsign”. I need to get this one to final draft because it’s on my list of things I want to turn into ebooks this year. Yeah, I was supposed to do that last month. It’s only 3rd and Final to go. Should be easy, right?
  9. Non-fiction word count goal for the month: 12500 words. Blog and journal, mainly, but we’ll see what happens.

Switching over to publishing:

  1. The standard target of 10 short story submissions.
  2. Keeping working on finding a home for Ancient Runes. Traditional publishing, so this goal is going to get repeated a lot, I think.
  3. Serialization continues for Skip to My Luu, “Turn the World Around”, and starts for Fractured Unity.
  4. Indie release for Graceland, and “Mummy Powder”.
  5. Pub prep for the haiku collection as well as “Design for Conspiracy” (ST:TOS fanfic).
  6. Design prep for Universal Destiny and “OCS Bound”. These are for August publication and will keep me two months ahead.
  7. Design prep for “Trollsign” and “Sub-Solar Whispers” (ST:TOS fanfic). These are for September publication, so this will get me to where I’m working three months ahead and that’s my target.

Remembering that post about goal revision {link here}, I have set the dailies a bit higher than they were previously for June, similar to the revised versions for May. With that in mind, the total word goal for the month is actually 60k, which includes the assumption that the novel I want to do the detailed plotting on will be worth 5k. I haven’t included words from plotting goals in the past, but that’s a rough average for detailed plot documents on novel-length stories in the past year for me, so it seems fair.

Be well, everyone.

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Finishing the Week Farther Behind

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Have you ever had one of those weeks where, no matter how much you get done, you finish the week further behind than you started?

That’s what this week felt like. And last week, for that matter. Every individual day was productive as hell. I answered things, submitted things to the right agencies, wrote things, did things, talked to people, completed projects, checked things off the list.

But, at the end of the day on Friday (which was actually Saturday), there is more email in the inbox it still has to be dealt with, more tasks on the task list, more documents that have to be submitted, more of everything than when I started working.

And next week is a short week, theoretically, because there was a holiday I haven’t caught up to yet.

There are moments, of course, that I wonder if I’ve done this to myself. Have I agreed to too many secondary hats at work? Am I trying to accomplish too much in my primary job? Is my primary job not actually doable within a reasonably close to standard workweek?

The person who is in this job right before me work to 70 to 80-hour week, or more, but was wearing two hats, doing two jobs for most of that time, and still waiting for their spouse to finish up their previous job in another province. I don’t know how much of their time was spent in my role. It probably didn’t help that we’d gone several months without a department head before they came on board and there were a lot of things left undone, plenty of which were still ongoing by the time I got to it. The person who had the job before them had a completely different methodology and outlook and I honestly have no idea how much time they spent on the actual job itself. I wasn’t in a position to have any idea.

So is it doable? I don’t know at this point, even almost a year in, if that question is answerable.

Actually, it would probably be entirely honest to say that I don’t know if any of those questions are answerable. I may just not know enough yet. I try to keep that as comforting thought, because it probably is true that at some point in the future, I will know enough, that I will get everything done the course of an approximately normal week, and then I can actually start getting good at the job instead of merely getting enough things done to keep the business moving.

But that’s probably going to take me a while to figure out.

In the meantime, a lot of my weeks have more on the list at the end of them there was when they started. I don’t know how long that’s maintainable.

Be well, everyone.

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This is Zesty Mike

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For non-herpers, she’s a Blue-Tongued skink.

She’s also a rescue (coming from the far side of Toronto) and part of my son’s burgeoning menagerie, currently at seven species of mostly reptiles. More on that another day. All you need to know right now is that menagerie is currently living with him in the basement apartment of our house. (He’s home for the summer this year and the menagerie had to come with him, obviously).

Lots of personality in this beautiful lizard, though she’s a messy eater sometimes. Fond of quail eggs, I understand, and almost as puppy-like as people keep telling me Bearded Dragons are.

Someday, she may have a mate. Which may mean that someday there will be the pitter patter of tiny skink feet. Currently, there are space limitations.

Wishing I could catch a photo of her with her eyes sort of half open. To me, her head takes on an even more draconic cast.

Be well, everyone.

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Heroes Inc

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So, the first time I try to set something to pre-order and give it a release date, and it looks like things worked.

Heroes Inc. is both an e-book and a paperback.

Amazon.com = https://www.amazon.com/Heroes-Inc-Citizen-Trilogy-1-ebook/dp/B07RXMRGMB/

Amazon.ca = https://www.amazon.ca/Heroes-Inc-Citizen-Trilogy-1-ebook/dp/B07RXMRGMB/

I tried to give the paperback cover a slightly different look while using the same image, and I’m happy with the result, but it still looks weird to me. I think that’s mostly because I’m used to the first one.

Be well, everyone.

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Cover Reveal Time!

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Graceland is a collection of short stories, one inspired by each of the songs on the Graceland album by Paul Simon. Science Fiction stories, to explain the cover image.

We all have that one album (or two or three or more), discovered in our teenage years that seems to stay with us for life. Graceland is one of a tiny handful for me, a single (“Call Me Al”) heard on the radio leading to an album purchase leading to music that I can still pop in and listen to the whole album 30+ years later.

I’m a Science Fiction (and Fantasy) writer, so when one day, listening to the album, I had an idea for a story that pulled a few phrases from “The Boy in the Bubble”, I scribbled the notes and started drafting. Not the first time I’d been inspired to write by listening to music. But then it happened again six months later with “Graceland” and near the end of the same year with “I Know What I Know”. At that point, I figured I had a trend, and over the next year found something I could call Science Fiction in the basic substance of every song.

The idea of putting them together into a collection came later, but not too much later.

But the cover, beautiful, no?

And yet, no Elvis, no guitar, no picture of the gates of Graceland. Believe me, I thought about all of these things. While Elvis makes a sort-of-appearance in one story (and he’s guitar-less), and music figures prominently more than once, the collection isn’t about Elvis or Graceland any more than the original album was. It’s a collection of SF stories inspired by the music, so the cover image, courtesy of Stefan Keller on Pixabay serves to underscore the Science Fiction nature of the collection, at least in my mind.

Scheduled publication date is currently 12 June 2019 and is the last of the planned spring e-books I’m going to launch.

Stay tuned for the summer list.

Be well, everyone.

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18

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Holy crap, my oldest daughter is 18 years old.

My little Squeaker, my independent toddler who nonetheless always had know I was watching, my in so very many ways incredible oldest daughter.

I’m going to forgo the usual sentimental dread where I remember first steps and first teeth, where I’m shocked and amazed at how long it’s been since I held her for the first time and how old she is. She’s 18 today, and that’s huge. She is tremendously politically and socially aware and I’m pretty sure she has a vision of a world that’s far better than the one we live in. Now, a legal adult, according to the norms our society she is legally able to express those views and hopes and dreams in all the ways. She’s intelligent and articulate and passionate, and she has a spark that tells me that maybe, just maybe, she wants to change the world.

Happy birthday, Little One. Take that intelligence and passion and run with it as far as fast as you can.

Be well, everyone.

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Babysitting the Taran-Saurus, the E-book

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So while no one was looking, I turned “Babysitting the Taran-Saurus” into an actual e-book and put it up on Amazon.

Amazon.com = https://www.amazon.com/Babysitting-Taran-Saurus-Vyrian-Incursion-Story-ebook/dp/B07S3Y3M7S/

Amazon.ca = https://www.amazon.ca/Babysitting-Taran-Saurus-Vyrian-Incursion-Story-ebook/dp/B07S3Y3M7S/

It is still available completely free on Wattpad in a serialized version, where it’s had a few reads, but more certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings. https://www.wattpad.com/story/24301842-babysitting-the-taran-saurus

Be well, everyone.

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Some Thoughts On Writing Speed

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I recently read a really interesting article on writing speed on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. It’s a few years old now, but still relevant.

Without going into a lot of detail (because that would spoil the article for you), he talks about how people made really good livings writing in the Pulp era and how much of that came to output speed, about the history of the pulps, about differences in word lengths, and about how the fiction market as a whole has changed, evolved, and is leading us into a new Pulp era.

An era where your earning potential is going to be heavily affected by your writing speed.

And edits and rewriting kill speed.

The basic theory goes that, assuming 1000 words per hour finished production, Pulp Speed One is 1,000,000 finished words per year.

Holy smoking keyboard, Batman!

Finished words.

Mr. Smith makes the argument that none of the great Pulp writers and most of the great literary writers never rewrote anything. Period. Rewriting wasn’t a big thing until the 1970s.

Pulp Speeds Two through Six add another 200,000 finished words per year. If you’re counting, that means that at PS6, you’re producing 2 Million finished words per year. 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, 50 days per year. 2 Million words.

Now, I don’t work that way. I’m not sure I can.

My basic writing process (which I know I’ve discussed a number of times) has six steps:

0th Draft = Plotting and Outlining

1st Draft = Story Dump

Revision Notes = read through the story and identify issues

2nd Draft = fix issues

3rd Draft = make it pretty

4th Draft = read it aloud to make sure I’ve caught everything

Now, from practice I know my drafting speed is about 1800 words per hour (thirty words per minute) most of the time when I know the story I’m trying to tell. Doing some measurements at the various points, and making word count comparisons to figure out how much, on average, word counts change from draft to draft, I come up with 600 finished words per hour, on average, when I’m working on fiction.

I spend, on average, around 20 hours per week on writing activities.

If I wrote, edited, polished, only fiction during those 20 hours, I should, at the end of the year, manage about 624,000 words worth of finished fiction.

However, knowing my historical average length in the various length classifications used by SFWA, one year of writing, if I hit those weekly numbers, should compute to:

6 Novels

2 Novellas

4 Novelettes

12 Short Stories

12 Flash Pieces

And leave room for about 70,000 words of polished non-fiction left over. Since my non-fiction is mainly blog posts and journal entries, that 70 is probably more like 100 as I don’t edit as heavily, especially the journals.

But by Mr. Smith’s counting, I haven’t come near Pulp Speed One yet. It would take me 32 hours of dedicated writing per week, at that same hourly production level to get there, and 64 hours per week to reach Pulp Six.

Interestingly, if I count my current commuting time, I spend about 50 hours per week out of the house. That would get me to within spitting distance of Pulp 4 and three cents per word might let me not have a day job. You know, if I sold every word.

Why?

Because rewriting kills speed.

I’m not sure it’s in my nature to write one-draft fiction, and not just because I dictate a lot of my first drafts. Although, there have been times where I’ve let dictation cleanup and second draft be the same thing. When that happens, I’m usually fixing enough that the third draft doesn’t require nearly as much effort – if I’m cleaning up that much, it makes sense to make things pretty at the same time. But it requires a lot of willpower during the Revision Notes phase.

Still, maybe that’s a way to boost my production.

I keep fairly detailed track of how much I’m writing, so I’m well aware of production levels at any given moment. The math is always fun. I’m in my 10th straight month of solid production, although there was a break that lasted about three weeks in late October and early November last year.

But I’m a touch over 600,000 words of total production since I started back into things on the 30th of July last year.

And that makes me happy.

Getting paid for some of those words would be cool, too, but quantity lends itself to the eventual production of quality when it comes to creative endeavours. My time will come.

And I’ve got a lot of stories I want to tell.

Be well, everyone.

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Goal Revisions

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Sometimes the problem with having goals for something is not so much when you set them too high but when you, accidentally or on purpose, set them too low.

Since I committed myself to writing at the end of last July, I’ve completely blown away my goals almost every month. Even when I essentially took three whole weeks off from writing anything in the middle of fall, I missed the 51.5k October goal by less than 600 words and while I barely wrote for half of November, I still pulled in 26,000 words.

Taking a look at things, I now have 9 full months of data. If I go back month by month, simplifying a bit so I’m just looking at the basic drafting fiction and nonfiction goals, it looks like this:

(There are a couple of cell references here and there that don’t seem quite right, but I haven’t dug into all of them. Totals might be slightly different than previously reported, in either direction.)

Editing, plotting, and such have targets that aren’t word count dependent, though I do track how word counts are affected. In December, I actually dropped the drafting targets a lot to try to focus more on editing, and while I managed the editing focus on days off, I continued to produce a lot on the drafting side anyway. Mostly, I hit the basic targets, and sometimes a lot more, and while some things took longer than I actually wanted to, they didn’t take more than the actual background goals I’ve set on the writing calendar. (For the Undead stories, for example, editing looked like it was spread across large timeframe, but there are 40 of them that I wanted at it for eventual inclusion in a collection I don’t intend to release until late this year.) I’ve done plotting on stuff I can’t write until next year, even assuming I maintain the quite impressive, in my mind, pace I’ve been working at in 2019 so far.

The targets I go after are set daily based on what data I have and what I expect to be working. Days off are modified by anticipated events but tend to focus more on things that have already had their first draft, whether it’s editing, polishing, or prepping for publication. But, five days a week, I am looking for 2000 drafted words each day: 1000 on the primary project which is usually a novel, 500 on the secondary fiction project, which has often been a different novel in recent months but is really supposed to be short fiction most of the time, and 500 words of nonfiction, normally a journal entry or a blog post. 2000 words per day, 10,000 words per week. My two days off each week from the job that pays the bills, I try to spend several hours on creative pursuits each day, but the nature of those, mostly editing, suggests a much, much lower word count.

All that said, at a high level, not distinguishing weekdays from weekends, I’m averaging 2500 words per writing day so far this year, with only one missed writing day since the calendar turned over. That should mean a 30-day month, in theory, averages about 75,000 words considering all sources.

But going back to the dailies, if the average commuting month has 22 days in it, that means I’m only setting my actual goal at 44,000 words on. Meaning, all things being equal, I’m exceeding the overall targets I set by more than 70%.

Transition: I am making things too easy myself.

The question I find myself asking is if it’s more intellectually and emotionally satisfying to totally destroy a goal you know was a cakewalk, or to just make, or even just miss, a goal you know you had to work hard for?

The more I consider it, the more I think the second option is likely to get me to work harder. It’s nice to smash those daily word counts and it’s beautiful to look back in the month and see the overalls being so much higher than my plan, but I think I’m past the point where the goals I’m setting are particularly meaningful. I’m setting those monthly goals, and accumulation of the lease, just for the sake of setting them. From where I’m drafting this post, I can already see, based on current trends, just about exactly where I’m going to hit all the targets remaining for May, and it’s well before the end of the month. Even with a very light counts from the first five days, by the 8th my average was already 2000 WPD.

I think, for June, I’m going to try an experiment. The goals for June are going to push into the upper territory of what I’ve been consistently doing. In fact, I think I’m going to revise the daily goals for May from this point forward (and only forward, because retconning is a horrible practice), and by the time this posts, because things already slotted, those revisions will probably already have been in effect for a few days.

Be well, everyone.

Addendum: the original draft of this post was dictated very early in the morning on May 9th. I did decide to revise these goals fairly heavily right after writing the post. The revised goals, and they’re entirely on the drafting side of things, because it’s very, very hard to predict the word count change in editing session will produce on any given thing, are as follows:

Primary novel project: 25,750 words.

Secondary fiction projects, taken as a whole: 15,750 words

Non-fiction writing of all sorts: 14,050 words.

Total drafting targets for May now set at 55,550 words, up from the original 40,000. Remembering that these kicked in on May 9th and that there was a vacation involved the beginning of the month, this is still a 39% increase. It goes there by taking my daily goals to the basic average for what I’ve been doing on commuting days (1250 primary fiction, 750 secondary fiction, 650 non-fiction) and adding some small goals for non commuting days.

I will possibly make further adjustments for June. We’ll see where things wind up and if this will push me a little bit harder.

Be well, everyone.

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