Writing Progress: Week Ending February 23, 2013

What made last week a poor week for wordcount wasn’t dome with me this week…

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 100ish words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 240ish words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 340ish words

Granted, that’s still better than last week. I’m grateful for that, as I was just this side of having a zero-wordcount week. I expect writing time will continue to be slim pickings for a few more weeks at least, so weeks like the prior week will be more common than not in the near-term future.

That’s just life right now. You’ve got to live it. I really want to be writing more – I want to dive deep into “Book of M” – but it’s just not an option. Other priorities take precedence. I’m being evasive, of course, but hey: Privacy. It matters.

What I did write last week I don’t have an exact count on. I’ll update this post after I’ve been able to confirm the actual total. But it was roughly in this neighborhood. (ETA: Finally had a chance to look up the actual numbers: 131 words of background, 205 in new draft.)

The background stuff was a few short notes about the “Book of M” short stories I mentioned last week. The rest was new material. It could’ve been more, but I actually spent most of what little writing time I had available last week reading. As in reading what I’d already written. Hey, it’s been something like over three months since I’d written anything new for “Book of M”, and I had to re-familiarize myself with the characters and situations they’d found themselves in. The downside? Since I’m likely to spend the next few weeks not writing – or at least not writing much – I’ll probably have to do all that re-familiarizing again. Which slows me down even more. Sigh.

Well… as I said last week… that’s why I gave myself fourteen weeks off.  (Which, incidentally, I’ve already burned through five of those fourteen weeks – and if this week goes as expected, I’ll soon be at six.  I’m really counting on the middle-stretch of the  year being a little more friendly to me, writing-time wise.  I know the holidays will be here again before I know it, and with them yet another highly probable dearth of writing activity.)

So, how about you, this week?  How are things going?  For you writers out there (which is most of my readers here), how do you handle those times when life and its necessities and priorities literally leave you no time for writing?

Writing Progress: Week Ending February 16, 2013

They say one good turn deserves another…

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

Last week was a good writing week, so of course this week was not. But actually this was not unexpected. In fact, I’d anticipated being busy this week. That’s why I gave myself 14 weeks off this year, more than I had expected to use last year (though less than what I actually used). What’s more, thus is the same reason I haven’t been able to reply to comments on last week’s post. Don’t worry, I’ll get to those soon.

I’m very eager to be writing right now. As I mentioned last week I’m itching to dive back into “Book of M”. Plus there’s the 3 “Book of M” short stories I’ve been thinking about. I’d like to write a little explore the ideas I have for those, even if I don’t dive into writing the stories themselves. But life has other immediate plans for me, and it’s a doozy.

So, while a part of me wants to be writing I don’t really mind the break. I’ve got enough to keep me occupied for now. Still, I do hope I can get back into it soon enough.

In other completely unrelated-to-writing news, I’ve joined the twenty-first century… I recently got a new smart phone. I have to say I love my new phone. Most of this post was composed on it, parts of it even taken by dictation. It’s like something out of classic sci-fi.

The future is awesome.  I’m glad I live there, now.

So, how about you? How was your week, in writing, in life, or whatever?

Writing Progress: Week Ending February 9, 2013

I didn’t reach my goal this week.  But despite that, it was a pretty darn good week:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 1,297 words

Grand Total: 1,297 words

First of all… nearly 1,300 words isn’t nothing.  It’s not my goal, but compared to my productivity lately, it’s a very respectable amount.  But, more importantly, what made last week a good week is what those 1,300-ish words represent.

For those of you who benefit from the live twitter feed (or who happened to glance to the right sidebar where my recent tweets are syndicated), you’ll know the additional significance of these words: they’re last words of this story.  As in, they include the two contiguous words “The End” followed by whitespace.  So “Story of V” is done.

Well… not really, of course.  The first draft of Story of V is done.  After that, there’s alpha readers and editing and beta readers and more editing and then proofreading and polishing and… whew… there’s a lot of work left to do.  Let’s not think about that right now, shall we?

So, “Story of V” – which in the real world, by-the-way, is Officially Untitled – is in cool-down mode right now, and for the next few weeks, at least.  Dear Wife has read it, but that’s it.  For the next few weeks I’m just going to let it sit.  Then, I’ll actively solicit feedback of an alpha-read nature from willing volunteers.  After another month or so I expect I’ll have some of that feedback in hand, and I can start doing some triage and develop a plan for what I need to do next to improve this story and make it the best it can be.  I figure that in another month I’ll have gotten enough space from the story that I can be objective about it.

As for now… well… as if I had free time.  If i did, I might be up for a little self-reward for my accomplishment (i.e. play some Zelda), but I don’t expect to have actual free time, like that.

Instead… my mind is already back churning away at “Book of M”.  I’ve been on hiatus from writing that for several months, now… and I’m ready to get back in the saddle.

Hi ho, Silver!

I’ve also figured out, as of yesterday, what the next three short stories I’m going to write will be.  They’re all “Book of M”-related story ideas.  It’s something I’ve been seeing some pro-authors do: writing short stories in the same world as a novel.  It serves multiple purposes – for pros, it serves to build interest for the novel, for example – but for me, the primary reason is that the story is large enough to contain ideas and viewpoints (and time periods) that won’t make it into the novel itself.  I still have to spend some time ruminating on these ideas to make sure I can flesh them out with full beginnings, middles, and ends, but I feel pretty good about them.

So tell me, how was your writing week?  Anything new or exciting?  Any progress on projects?  Anything you want to share?

Writing Progress: Week Ending February 2, 2013

Yes.  The fact that this is the first Writing Progress post of the New Year means roughly what you might think it means:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 436 words

Grand Total: 436 words

I haven’t updated you on my writing progress since mid-December, and since that time until this week I’d written exactly… nothing.

The long and short of it?  This means that until the very end of January, I hadn’t written a word since November of last year… I just went through a two-month long writing slump.  If you’re a writer, you can probably imagine how anxious I was feeling after two months without a word of new fiction written.

What happened?  The early part of December went down thanks to any number of little things here and there.  The latter half, on the other hand, was dominated by the Holidays (about which I’ve already spoken here).  After the Holidays came and passed, I might’ve expected that I’d be able to get back on the writing horse.  But… other things took precedence throughout the entire month of January.  The Casa Chez Watkins has been very busy, and there have been a lot of necessary things that have come up that needed to be taken care of.

Only toward the end of January did that flurry of activity begin to abate somewhat.

But, I expect in the next few months will bring a lot of busy times as well.  Hopefully not so much that I’ll go through an extended dry-spell like that again… but I expect that more often than not in the next several weeks I’ll fail to meet my new weekly writing goal for 2013.  I’m hoping, again, that things will settle down more and I’ll be able to meet or exceed that goal for most of the remainder of the year.

Well, that’s all the new I have that’s fit to print.  Tell me, then… how was your past week in writing – or your past month for that matter?

2013: Goals, Plans, Dreams

I’m more than a few weeks late, at this point, in getting to talking about my goals and plans for the new year.  I’ve already lost five out of the fifty-two weeks this year.  But that still leaves forty-seven weeks, which is still plenty of time to plan ahead for.

I wanted to follow along in the same vein as my goals post from last year.  Give a list of specific, actionable and measureable goals by which I can check myself throughout the year.  (I defined “SMART” goals in my post last year.)

But before I get to those, I wanted to take a moment to muse about my long-term goals and dreams.  What is it, exactly, that I want to achieve?

Thinking About Long-term Goals

I haven’t made much of a secret about it my long-term goals and dreams.  I talked about them in last year’s goal post, for instance.  And it’s implicit in my blog’s tagline: “A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Fantasy Author”.  By “aspiring fantasy author” I mean not that I aspire to write (however slow I am at writing, I am writing), but that I aspire for my writing to be published.  Of course, now we live in a day and age when the definition of the word “published” is in flux. 

Of course, when I say I want to be “published” part of what I mean is that I want to be read – that is to say, that I think others will like what I write, and that it’s worth their time to read it.  (A pretty audacious thing to say, I know.)  And, once upon a time, the most sure-fire way to get your words in front of people who might be interested in reading them was to go the “traditional” publishing route: get your book picked up by a big-name publisher, or your story printed in a big-name magazine.  Sure, you could self-publish your book, but save for a few exceptions, that way lay madness (and, too frequently, financial ruin, especially if you went the way of the Vanity Press).  Without the distribution muscle of an established publisher, it was nearly impossible to get your work into bookstores.

We all know now that the world has changed.  Thanks to technological disintermediation, we have a viable alternative to the old traditional way of doing things with Digital Self-Publishing.  Today we have concrete examples of authors who’ve made it big bucking the old system and taking their books directly (and digitally) to the people: illustrious success stories like those of Amanda Hocking and E. L. James and Hugh Howey and so on.  It’s a new golden age, a publishing bonanza!  But then, when you dig right down into it, you find that the bloom is already off the rose, and amazing success (or even modest, work-a-day living success) is harder to achieve than many initially thought.

On my blog I’ve been critical, and thought critically about, both the new Digital Self-publishing paradigm and the old traditional publishing model.  I’ve pointed out some of the systemic problems with each, and  how those problems negatively impact authors.  So, for me, it seems I could go either way.  There are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with either road. 

But when I say my long-term goal is to be a published author, I’m really talking about traditional publishing.  (This probably comes as no surprise to regular readers… although I have been fairly critical of both roads to publication, I think on balance I’ve been slightly more critical of the Digital Self-publishing reovolution.)  However, inspired by a recent post from Jo Eberhardt’s Happy Logophile, I find myself asking… why?

Why?

I’ve spent some time thinking, and it’s a question that I’ve found harder to answer than it should be.  The answer – the honest answer – seems, at first, to be a shallow response.

A first pass: As a child, I never dreamed of getting my book digitally published; I dreamed of having real, physical copies of my books available on bookstore shelves.  Riposte: So what? Times, and the world, have changed.   If you want a career as a writer, you’ve got to go where the money is.  Counterclaim: But there’s still too much money on the table in the Physicl Print world… why would I voluntarily give up as many as half of my potential sales.  Besides, going-it-alone is essentially a crapshoot: there’s no sure-fire way of rising above selling a small handful of e-books to achieving real success, and there’s no objective or consistently-reliable way of discerning or differentiating high-quality self-published e-books from uninspired pablum.  And besides again: I can’t afford the editing and cover-artwork and design and whatnot I’d need to make the thing at least marginally presentable, and I’m insufficiently skilled (and insufficiently endowed with the free time needed to gain the skills) to do it myself.

When you dig down into it, then, my reasoning is at least a little better than merely shallow.  As a practical matter, I’m focused on traditional publishing because that’s what my current resources best allow.  That’s not an insignificant matter.  I have all the (non-free) time in the world to wait on editorial response and the machinery of publishing to do its thing.  But I don’t have the free time needed to make self-publishing work. 

But the real reason is more than mere practicality, I think.  I want to be successful.  Given my resources, I can’t be successful at self-publishing.  But more than that, I suspect that even if I had the right resources, I still wouldn’t be as successful at self-publishing as I believe I would be in the traditional publishing world.  The fact is… I really want to get rich off of my writing.  And all things considered I still feel I have a better shot at getting rich in the traditional path.

I’m sounding shallow again.  But the reality is… it’s not about the money.  It’s about what the money buys.  As a husband and father, financial success in publishing gains me security for my family and a true legacy to pass on to my children.  And, as an author, it buys me artistic freedom to pursue the projects I want to work on without worrying about whether the next thing I do will be a home-run or just a modest base-hit (or, for that matter, a ball or even a strike, if I’m going to keep using this whole baseball metaphor thing that I’m really ill-equipped to use).

But why would I worry about being successful at writing if I’m decently capable of being successful at a more regular career – like what I’m doing in my day job?

Don’t get me wrong: I like my day job a lot.  But when it comes down to it… I never wanted to be an analytical genuis growing up.  I never really wanted to be a corporate executive.  And I surely didn’t want to be a mid-level manager.  I’m practical, and my idea of a practical and achievable career goal has changed over time.  But in my heart-of-hearts, deep down, the practical is a cage.  There’s only one thread that has been constant throughout my life.  Writing.  If you ask me not what I am or what I do for a living, but who I am, there is only one answer, and it is an answer that has not changed since my earliest childhood: I am a writer. 

As to why, then?  It all comes back around to this.  I am a writer.  And I want to be who I was born to be and do what I was born to do.  And I want to be able to do that and still be a good provider for my family and for the future.

2013 Goals

That’s the long and short of why, so now I’d like to get back to the more traditional version of a goal-setting post: the actual, concrete, measureable goals I’ve set for myself for the (not so) new (anymore) year.  I’ll start with the easy one.

1) Read at least 750,000 words worth of fiction in 2013:  I wanted to set a goal that was a stretch for me – compared to last year – but which was also firmly achievable.  My goal last year was to read 550,000 words of fiction, but I blew that goal away, reading over 950,000 words of novels and fiction.  Since last year was the first time I’ve ever tracked the volume of my reading, I don’t have a track record: I don’t know if that’s a lot or a little for me.  So I set my goal much higher than my 2012 goal, but lower than what I actually achieved.  That way, I know 750,000 is achievable, but it’s still a higher expectation.  I’m looking forward to

2) Write at least 1,750 words of new fiction per week* in 2013:  This one is a little more challenging.  In 2012 I’d set a goal of 2,000 words per week.  I didn’t even come close.  My average per week, when I wrote, was around 1,400 words… if you take my average for every week in 2012, the picture is even bleaker: only 940 words per week.  That’s because I only wrote anything at all on about two out of every three weeks.  I want to do better than that in 2013… but I also want to be realistic.  I’m not going to do 2,000 words per week in 2013.  Not gonna’ happen.  That’s just being honest.  2012 was a busy year with a lot of stuff going on.  2013 will be much the same: different things going on (the old “Home Project” that ate up significant chunks of 2012 is mostly complete now) but still just as busy with new, time-annihilating things (I’m sure you’ll hear more about V.R. in the coming months ahead). 

So, why 1,750?  I approached it from two directions.  I wanted to write more per week than I did in 2012.  More specifically… I wanted to write an average of, or close to, two chapters in “The Book of M” per month (except for months when I’ll be working on short stories and other writing projects).  So far, with 7 chapters in the bag, the chapters are averaging around 3,700 words.  At 1,750 words per week, I would be writing approximately 2 chapters’ worth per month.  Now, those words I’ve planned are project-agnostic: they may be from “Book of M” or from some short stories, or even from some SF&F-related non-fiction if such writing opportunities come avaialble.

You’ll note the asterisk up there in the statement of my goal.  That represents a caveat. Last year, I’d intended to write a certain number of words per week, but I had enough foresight to see that some weeks things would come up.  So I gave myself an escape clause, allowing me to write nothing in seven of the fifty-two weeks.  In reality I spent 18 weeks writing nothing.  I want to do better this year, but stay realistic.  So I’m giving myself 14** weeks off, this year.

My summary assessment: this will be a difficult stretch goal for me to achieve in 2013.  But I think it’s possible.

3) Complete first drafts for at least 2 short stories having less than 8,000 words apiece: This is a duplicate goal from last year.  I didn’t achieve it.  I got 2/3rds to 3/4ths of one short story written last year.  I’m going to try to finish it and write one more.

4) Submit at least 1 completed and revised work to a professional market: Because I’m never going to get anything published if I don’t submit anything to a publisher.  So this year, I want to try to do that.  Unlikely I’ll have anythign accepted for publication this year.  But I really ought to try if I really want to make a career out of  this.

So… those are my goals for the year.  They’re measureable and consistent with my overall goals and dreams for the future. 

Well, then.  Tell me about you.  Did you set some goals for yourself in 2013, related to writing, or reading, or anything else in your life?  Tell me about it in the comments, or link back to a blog post if you’ve already blogged it.  And good luck in 2013!  Good luck to us all!

 

________

**After some contemplation about the things I expect to take place through 2013, I had to change my expected “0-word weeks” caveat from 12 weeks to 14 weeks.  I think that will be, frankly, more realistic.