New Word Count Record! (Also, Why I’ve Been Quiet)

weekly word count recordLook at that! Yes, that’s my weekly wordcount graph for this last week, where I blew my previous record out of the water. I’m just ever so pleased with myself.

I mentioned earlier this week that I wanted to re-jigger my writing schedule to maximize my productivity, now that I’m writing full time. I figured I should be able to up my output, but so far hadn’t done so by as much as I’d hoped. In the past, I worked pretty intensely for several hours, usually getting 2,000 to 3,000 words before switching over to the day job. (Which I did from home, so no commute or like considerations.) I thought I should be able to get up to 5,000 words and still have more day to do Other Things (like reading, house projects, etc.).

But I wasn’t getting there. Even with the Jeffe Training for a Marathon Method (TM) of increasing wordcount production, I was punking out well before 5K. As in, I got tired and couldn’t focus enough to keep going.

So I looked at ways to change things up.

First, I stopped the video watching, as I discussed before.

Then I did the major trick I always resort to when I’m not getting the focus and flow I need. I often fall into the pattern of turning on my computer, opening email and my browser, then checking all the social media and various messages. This often takes my brain in the wrong direction. Now that I’ve been waking up naturally and not setting my alarm, I’ve been indulging in my favorite waking up ritual, which is to lie there for a good half hour before getting up. I rarely sleep later than 7 and most of the time I’m out of bed by 6. But I start waking up before that and love to lie there in a lovely relaxed alpha-wave state, thinking about the book I’m writing, something I call the Dreamthink. If I pour a bunch of other information into my head in between that Dreamthink time and actually writing, I lose a lot.

So, first step was to write first. That would prime the pump and get things going. My first 500 words of the day are always the slowest. I speed up as I go. However, I didn’t want to go too long without checking for messages from overnight, so I decided I’d try for 500 words before anything else, then break to check the rest.

Then something entirely new occurred to me.

I’d been in a pattern of writing intensely for condensed periods of time, but why keep doing that if I didn’t need to? A lot of writers use the #1K1Hr hashtag and benchmark – writing 1,000 words or for 1 hour, whichever it came out to. Instead, I tried a schedule of 30 minutes and 500 words, with breaks in between.

And boy howdy, how it worked!

This is the schedule I set up:

get up/workout

6:00 AM

7:30 AM

1:30

   

write

7:30 AM

8:15 AM

0:45

     500

 

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

8:15 AM

8:45 AM

0:30

   

write

8:45 AM

9:15 AM

0:30

     500

    1,000

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

9:15 AM

9:30 AM

0:15

   

write

9:30 AM

10:00 AM

0:30

     500

    1,500

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

10:00 AM

10:15 AM

0:15

   

write

10:15 AM

10:45 AM

0:30

     500

    2,000

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

10:45 AM

11:00 AM

0:15

   

write

11:00 AM

11:30 AM

0:30

     500

    2,500

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

11:30 AM

11:45 AM

0:15

   

write

11:45 AM

12:15 PM

0:30

     500

    3,000

lunch/read

12:15 PM

1:15 PM

1:00

   

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

1:15 PM

1:30 PM

0:15

   

write

1:30 PM

2:00 PM

0:30

     500

    3,500

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

2:00 PM

2:15 PM

0:15

   

write

2:15 PM

2:45 PM

0:30

     500

    4,000

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

2:45 PM

3:00 PM

0:15

   

write

3:00 PM

3:30 PM

0:30

     500

    4,500

check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/chat

3:30 PM

3:45 PM

0:15

   

write

3:45 PM

4:15 PM

0:30

     500

    5,000

reading/gifts/decs

4:15 PM

5:30 PM

1:15

   

finances/business/blog post

5:30 PM

6:00 PM

0:30

   

yoga/weights

6:00 PM

6:30 PM

0:30

   

movie

6:30 PM

9:00 PM

2:30

   

read

9:00 PM

10:00 PM

1:00

   

I was going to post that as a jpg image, so it would be prettier and more compact, but then I heard Sassy Outwater in my head, chastising me about accessibility, so…

At any rate, the first week was a runaway success! I went from 14K on THE EDGE OF THE BLADE to 35K. I’m ever so pleased with how I felt, too. I tend to be a concentrated, focused worker, so the idea of taking regular breaks is new to me, but it worked out great for my endurance! I set up all the times as formulas, so my daily schedule hinges around when I do get up (which I wanted to keep organic) and can be adjusted if stuff comes up. If I get ahead of schedule with especially good writing runs, I finish earlier in the afternoon.

We’ll see how week two goes.

Dread, Procrastination and Bad Hair Days

You, my faithful blog-gobblers, know I’m all about the “write every day” thing.

I know. I’m militant. I stand by this.

But.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the days when this doesn’t work out so well. Jami Gold wrote an interesting post today about giving yourself permission as a writer, on a number of levels. One of the things she touched on was the off-day and letting that go.

Everyone has off days.

You know what I mean. The Bad Hair Day. Those days that, for whatever reason, things just don’t flow right. If we weren’t committed to dealing with careers and families and things like keeping fed, we’d likely just crawl back into bed on those days and hide under the covers.

Few of us have that luxury though. We are committed to things that must get done every day, so we forge ahead, painful and unproductive as it may be.

That’s my point with the write every day thing.

For some reason, writing – maybe any creative endeavor, I don’t know – brings with it Dread and Procrastination. These evil twins perch on a writers shoulders and whisper of other things that need doing. Dread worries that the the plot line is muddied, that everyone will hate the book anyway, that maybe this is all a Terrible Mistake. Procrastination wonders what people are saying on Twitter, if any email has arrived and, oh, there are dishes in the sink! The twins have a common goal: to keep you from writing. I don’t know where they come from, but every writer seems to have some form of these nasty buggers.

The reason you sit down to write every day is to shake Dread and Procrastination from your shoulders.

Wherever they draw their power, it’s thwarted by habit. By ritual and sacred space. They fade away in the face of it until their little voices can’t be heard. That gives you the space to write. Whether that goes well is something else entirely.

Sorry.

But, I offer this. Those days when the words don’t flow and you stare at the screen? They totally count.

That’s writing, too.

If writing was only tippy-tapping words onto the page, then monkeys *could* do it. What we do is story-telling. We fit words to the story, yes, but that’s only one piece of an enormous subterranean process.

Hence the staring at the screen.

And the gazing off blindly into the distance.

The dreamthink.

So, I totally agree, Jami. Sit down to write every day, if only to shut up Dread and Procrastination, but I like your idea of Permission. What happens once you engage is all good.

No matter how your hair looks.

Strangeness and Dreamthink

A quietly intense sunset last night. A storm is coming our way that’s meant to last several days. No more clear skies for a while.

Because it’s to get snowy and blustery, David and I went out to dinner last night. On New Year’s Eve we’ll stay home. That probably makes us sound like fuddy-duddies. But I really wanted some time to walk around the Santa Fe Plaza to see the lights. This is not nearly so much fun in bad weather. We had drinks at one of our favorite bars and then dinner at Luminaria. This way we got to indulge in their really wonderful menu and not be limited to the New Year’s Eve prix fixe menus everyone does, which never seem to be as good. And we didn’t have to worry about road stops or drunk drivers. Friday night we’ll do our little tradition of lots of hors d’oeuvres and non-stop movies.

We’re simple souls, I suppose.

Yesterday I mentioned that I hadn’t even thought about any of my now-several works in progress. Marcella (who I see hasn’t posted to her own blog since November 9, but her first book just came out, so she can be forgiven) asked me what it was like for me, getting back into it.

Specifically, she asked me if it looked a bit strange at first. Which was funny to me because it really did.

I opened up Sapphire, read the first line, which I’d last read – and edited – just a week before, and it was like I’d never seen it before in my life.

I went back and read the revise and resubmit email from the editor who’d read it, to reground myself in the changes she’s looking for. I don’t know that I needed to, because a big piece of me was nodding, saying “yeah yeah yeah.” Okay, I’d read it a bunch of times before and had already started the revision.

Still I didn’t quite have my head where it had been.

So I started reading. I figured the edits would come, which they did.

The advantage of having that time away is it does create a very useful distance. I could read the story more like a reader would, which helps me see what information I’m giving or withholding. When I write the story, it’s playing out in my head. I’m seeing through the characters’ eyes and describing what’s happening to them. This kind of thing makes it easy to leave out important information. Sure, I feel what they do, but do I describe it so someone else understands?

The downside is I miss the dreamthink (which I’ve talked about before here and here). The dreamthink allows me to swim in the story and not have to, well, work at it so hard. I dream at night about my characters. I wake up in the morning with the story spinning in my head. Ideas for it pop into my head throughout my work day. It’s kind of like part of me is running a subroutine.

Unfortunately, to extend the analogy, that subroutine absorbs a lot of disk space. I find that when I’m heavy into dreamthink, I don’t have a lot of brain power for much else. Sometimes I think that I’m so weighted in right-brain, hey-we-got-no-rules, wow-man, everything-is-beautiful activity that the left brain stuff gets rusty. Pulling out my logic and math feels more difficult. Also employing those extrovert skills.

I can’t really be in dreamthink and be around people. Not counting David, of course. Though he’ll occasionally point out I haven’t spoken aloud in hours. That’s why, when on a family visit, I don’t even try.

So yes, Sapphire did look strange. But, like picking up a book you started a while ago and set down, after a few pages the story drew me in again. I’m about 10% through the revision now.

It feels good to get in the swim again.

Breathing Water

This is from Valentine’s Day. Love this dramatic window of sunset. There’s probably better ways of photographing the sun dead on like this, but clearly that knowledge is not mine.

Alas. Still on my list to take a photography class.

Not more important than writing my novel at this time, however.

So, after two days of being full-time writer girl, I haven’t written more than I would on a normal day. I figure if I write about 1,000 words in two hours on a normal day when I also work the day job eight hours, then with six hours of writing time, I should be able to write 5,000 words.

Yes, yes — I know the math comes out to 3,000 words, but I have this dream that the block time will make the word count expand in this glorious exponential way. See, if I could write 5,000 words a day, then a five-day work week would give me 25,000 words, which means I could draft a 100K novel in a month. Give me another month to revise and that would be excellent productivity.

What? You already knew I was a dreamer!

Anyway, I’m not coming close to 3K words, much less 5K. But I am finding that the New Novel is coming together in my head in this most marvelous way.

See, I’ve been bemoaning (mostly to myself) that I haven’t yet written the truly complex novel I want to write. I want to have written Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Avatar (which means I would have written Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Chosen, too, then brilliantly capped the trilogy with Avatar). I want to have written A.S. Byatt’s Possession or Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye or Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game & Speaker for the Dead.

And I have this idea that, in order to write books like that, you have to be able to dreamthink them for long periods of time. Like diving into the lake and living underwater in the mermaid city until you learn to breathe there.

At any rate, that’s what’s happening for me now. Though I spend a fair amount of time staring at the screen and not typing, I am learning to breathe. And this novel is taking shape.

Deep breath.

Dreamthink


I like this, when the sun is rising opposite the Sandias and first hits the peaks, highlighting them with gold on snow.

Lately I’ve been doing a new thing in the mornings. Not on purpose. In the last few years, since we started getting up early to exercise, and since we haven’t been exhausted and sleep-deprived, I sometimes awake before the alarm.

This is unusual for me. I mentioned before that I’m not a morning person and really had to train myself to wake up early to write. When I was younger, I’d sleep through the alarm clock. I’d sleep through phone calls. I had to be dragged from sleep and it took forever for my brain to engage.

So, for me to awake before the alarm – sometimes as much as 45 minutes before – is a new experience for me. I lie there in bed savoring the warmth, the comfort, David’s sleeping form next to me, and dreamthink.

This is how I’m thinking of it. My mind wanders through the story I’m working on and I kind of dream about it, kind of fantasize. It’s probably Stage 1 or 2 sleep. I’m betting if we hooked me up to an EEG then, it would show spindle waves. Which is appropos of nothing.

What is neat for me, is this has become plotting time, in a lovely, effortless way.

When I wrote Obsidian, I started kind of from this state. It was a rainy Saturday morning in April. David had gotten up early to attend a seminar I blissfully did not have go to. I slept a long time after he left, as this was back in the exhausted & sleep-deprived days. When I finally awoke, maybe around 10:30, I laid there and thought about the long, vivid dream I had. Then I went upstairs and wrote it down. I wrote for hours while the rain fell on the skylights.

Some think creativity comes from the subconscious, welling up from deep within. And the subconscious can only really be heard when the conscious mind, with all her lists and timetables, is quieted.

Dreamthink.