Monday, September 18, 2023

Counting the words, an Open Book blog hop post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you keep track of your word count on a daily basis? What's your record for most and least words? (Not including those days when you don't write anything)  

I am a word count gal, but I change that up a little depending on my needs--trying not to get so hung up on meeting a particular word count that I ignore real progress that consisted of deleting words or revising them, for example. 

More important than the number of words is just the habit of writing every day, for my practice. I know some folks can write on a more variable schedule, but for me, it's every day. 

image source

After lots of floundering around with systems that didn't work for me, I started fresh with a gamification tool called The Magic Spreadsheet in 2013 (I think). 

It was literally a group-edited spreadsheet with complex formulas that awarded you points based on making your goal (the lowest goal you could set was 250 words a day), and number of days in a row written. There was a vibrant and supportive community surrounding the document and the Facebook group, and it really helped me build a daily writing habit. I'm still in touch with some writing friends I made through that group. 

I'm coming up on nine years of writing every day on September 28 this year, and that daily writing habit has been key to my ability to move forward with a writing life alongside a busy day job and family life. Developing discipline to finish things and see them out into the world was my biggest hurdle in early days, but now I can't imagine breaking that chain for anything less than a complete disaster. 

These days, I track using Jamie Raintree's Writing & Revision tracker. I love it because it lets me set goals in different categories, and track both revision and the writing of new words. In September, I have writing goals for the novel WIP, short stories, blogs, book reviews, social media, and business (by business I mean organizational stuff and emails and the like). 

As to today's question, I don't know offhand what my largest word count ever was, but I can tell you that it happened when was hurrying to prepare a submission when I got one of my first requests for "a full" from a potential publisher. I scrambled to clean up what was then a rather messy manuscript, cursing myself for having submitted without having the full completely ready. 

That day about broke my brain, and made it hard to do any writing work for several days afterward, so I now try to plan ahead better than that and not force myself into a corner where I have to scramble to meet a deadline. It wasn't fun, and I don't really want to do that again. A good writing day for me at this stage is 800 words on a day where I worked the day job and 2,000 words on a day that I didn't. 

My lowest word count was 250 words, because I never go to bed without having written at least that much. I'm just glad that writing 250 words isn't the strain it was back in 2013. Even on a bad day, I can do that in pretty short order now, another benefit of practice. 

How about you? Do you track your creative work in numbers? In time? Or not at all? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 

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Monday, September 11, 2023

Picking favorites: an open book blog hop post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

What's your favorite book (not your own)? Has it changed in the last few years?  

Oooh, boy. I hate trying to pick a favorite. In almost any category! I'm too changeable in my tastes--and what feels like a favorite today may not please me that much tomorrow. So, anytime I answer "What's your favorite?" I feel like it needs a caveat of "This is my favorite, today." You may get an entirely different answer if you check back tomorrow. 

When it comes to books though, the first one to spring to mind when someone asks this one is usually We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. 

book cover variations

Like many of my lasting favorites, I found this book when I was young, around age twelve or thirteen. My middle school librarian suggested it to me when I showed an appetite for the eerie and strange in my reading. There's something about loves I discovered at that age that imprints them deeply, at a soul level, and they became a part of me in a way that other things I've loved have not. 

I've read this one several times since that first time, and it delights me every time, sending shivers down my spine in whole new ways. 

If you've not read Shirley Jackson's work before, she is best known for this book and another work of psychological horror: The Haunting of Hill House (another favorite for me). Jackson had a way of making ordinary, domestic moments into something tense and fraught with possibilities. A lot of the time, the narrators are not completely reliable and the reader doesn't know what it is true and what is interpretation. 

Merricat, the main character and narrator of Castle fascinated me because she was such an atypical girl-in-a-book. She didn't care about the same things as other female characters I'd been presented with. She felt more real to me, edgy and judgmental, and fierce. 

One of my own works-in-progress (back burnered until I meet my current deadline on the final Menopausal Superhero novel) is a Gothic romance/family drama (working title: The Architect and the Heir) and I think my taste for that kind of story can be traced back to Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier, both of whom I read around the same time. 

I've loved a lot of books since. I still read as voraciously as my life allows, somewhere between fifty and one hundred books a year. But there's something special about this one. 

How about you? What's one of the books of your heart? I'd love to hear about in the comments. 

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Happy birthday, IWSG!

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. This month's co-hosts are:And the question-of-the-day: 

The IWSG celebrates 12 years today! When did you discover the IWSG, how do you connect, and how has it helped you?

Monday, September 4, 2023

Writing Problems, an Open Book blog hop post

  Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

What's the biggest problem you have in your writing right now?  

I'm taking on a first in my writing life right now: writing a series-ender. I've been writing the Menopausal Superheroes since 2013, with the first book, Going Through the Change, coming onto the scene in 2015, and the other books following in 2016, 2017 (with a re-release with a new publisher for the first three in 2019), and 2020 for the novellas and short stories, and 2021 for the fourth novel. 

The Menopausal Superhero series, as of 2021

It's the first time I've written a series, but I didn't struggle that much book-to-book. Each one took me roughly a year to write. Even the third one, which required a revise-and-resbumit to the publisher only took 14 months. I feel good about that rate of progress, especially alongside a full time day job, kids to raise, and a household to take care of. 

But writing the fifth and final novel in the series is a different beast altogether. I'm two years in on this one already and I'm not done yet. And I'm so lucky I have a patient publisher. 

My publisher (John Hartness of Falstaff Books), looking patient by his truck

I really want to stick the landing and leave readers feeling satisfied with how it all wraps up. I need to make sure I tie up the most important loose ends without getting wrapped up in trying to settle every story gambit that I ever through out in previous four novels, two novellas, and collection of shorts. 

Did I mention I'm a pantser? (For those unfamiliar with the term: this means I make it up as a I go. I don't sit down with an outline or a fully fleshed out plan, but just start writing and see where it goes). That doesn't make this easier, but it's a process that works for me. That feeling of exploration and discovery while I'm writing often serves the story and characters well. 

So, yeah, that's my writing problem of the moment: finishing it right. 

I've had a good couple of months of steady progress, so right now it feels possible that I'll finish soon. Send all your good vibes my way! I'll need them. 

In the meantime, check out the other posts in this week's blog hop and see what's giving everyone else trouble and, as always, leave me a comment letting me know what you think!

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