Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Recovering Writing Slob: Habit Five… Overload.

Okay, so continuing on with last weeks post: I'm listing off the things that I have learned about myself in the last year of writing/editing. Mainly the things that I do in first draft, that make things difficult in the editing phase. (I’m pretty much in the ‘trial & error’ phase of this little self-improvement project, so I will be posting changes and tweaks to these as I figure out what does and doesn’t work for me.)

My goal with this Writing Slob series, is to draft more efficiently, making edits less painful. My over all goal is to make all parts of the writing process as enjoyable as the shiny new idea phase! *how friggin awesome would that be?!*  I’m strengthening my writing and editing muscles here. 

I’ll start were I left off last week:

  I already covered the Writing Schedule, and Writing Log, and admitted to procrastination with the Progress Bar… but I only covered the Personal Writing Journal I started, briefly in the comments.  I had just added it that day, in fact.  I was sitting in my office, toiling away for hours, at a very low productivity rate.  I knew something was bothering me, nagging at the edges of my subconscious… but I could not figure out what-  now, up until this year, I have avoided journals and logs and all that blah-blah stuff as time wasters. I mean, we’re here to write, so just write already!  But sometimes, when you sit at your computer, or notebook, and just can’t concentrate… it is sooo much faster to take five minutes and work through the actual problem, then it is to try and force yourself to do work when your mind is someplace else.  It’s not a journal I keep every day.  Most days I just dive in.. but if there is something holding me back… I have found recently, that it is often helpful to just type what ever is in my head… get it out, work through it… clear the canvas… and get back to work!

writing log file scrivener clc

So, that said, I have a little folder at the top of my Scrivener file for my WIP that contains all of these little productivity tools… takes only once to set up, and then they help you stay on point… easy-peasy. ;)


Now, on to the next bad habit: Overload. 

FIX FIVE: Slow down. (a.k.a. ‘Why all this pressure, Casey?’)

I have a tendency to set myself up to fail.  I will give myself these huge goals, all excited and amped up to get to work, then if I have one bad day… or just a really busy day… I get too far behind to catch up, leaving me feeling like a slacker. Then I try to play catch up, which for some reason always backfires… usually in writing quality, but sometimes in other areas of my life. And when I do get to writing from this pov, I’m writing from a negative place… all stressy and pissy. Anyway, long story short, I have found that I need to slow things down.  Like a marathon runner… you have to pace yourself, or you’ll burn out before the finish line.

There are two ways that I have slowed down. 

The first, goes back to when I make up that handy schedule.  I look at my other schedules first.  My husband and I keep a family calendar.  It lists his activities and work plans in one color, and my activities and work plans in another color.  This is the Master Calendar that I look at before I schedule my writing time.   In the past, I would just schedule my writing time based off of my days off or time I could squeeze here or there at work.  But more often than not… I would completely blow off my writing on the days that hubby was off work.  I would rather see him. (no offense to my characters…but hey… he’s cuter. ;)  Also, I know that some of my day-job work days are busier than others… they can’t all be expected to allow the same amount of writing time (I mean, it is a full time job, and sometimes, a rather stressful one).  Ignoring these factors, always led to that negative catch up I was telling you about… never failed.

So, when I’m making up that writing schedule, I am looking at both our schedules and planning my writing time in a way that I still get to play hooky with my fella when we have days off… and I can breath a little at my day-job, while still keeping a daily writing schedule.  It was as simple as giving up TV here and there, and not expecting 5k-10k everyday… rather be happy with the usual 1k or 2k, now and then. Just because I’m not at work, or actually busy, doesn’t mean I have to pound out a novel a day. *who am I, James Patterson? Why the rush?*

I save my 5k- and 10k days for those days when I’m wide open… special days where I can order a pizza, brew some coffee, and hole up in my office. They are treats, and not work, this way. Just because I can write 10k in a day, doesn’t mean I should try to do it every day. (That said, I admire the hell out of people who can.)

The second way I slowed down is, I recognized the difference between writing actual scenes, and writing notes, or plotting,(credit to 2k->10k, yet again).  I can easily write out plot, character, or setting notes at a rate of 3-5k per day… this is no problem.  BUT- when I am sitting down to write actual scenes and chapters… I’m a lot slower. (getting faster with The Writing Metric used in “2k –> 10k", but still… I’m slower in draft than in notes.)  So, when I make my schedule… I keep in mind, am I world building? or am I drafting?  It matters to me. 

I posted my writing schedule last week, well here is how it has actually worked out so far:

jan writing schedule clip 2 clc

I did make a few changes… but mostly, I recognized the difference between nailing down the story I was going for, and actually writing the manuscript. (while I have several key scenes written, the word count for these days is not as important as the type of work I was doing.) Hopefully, this solid groundwork for my story will make the actual drafting a bit smoother, and the editing of this WIP won’t need to be the total overhaul that my last WIP needed! *time will tell*

At the pace I’m going, and with the changes I’ve made, my goal for the finished first draft of this WIP is March 8, 2013.  That is 16 days of prep, and 39 days of drafting. (at the end of which, the color coded draft, should make first pass edits less intimidating.) Wish me luck!

Writing is hard.  Balancing all the things we want to do in a day is hard.  But in the end, so worth it. 

Happy writing, friends!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Name is Casey, and I’m a Writing Slob…


It is finally time to start that new book.

I’m both excited, and nervous.

In my past WIP’s, I have plowed through the draft as fast as I could, with little planning save a day or so in advance per scene, and a vague Idea about where I was going.  I may know what I want my ending to achieve.  In my last WIP, I did have my ending early, and it made the book go faster.  But in most of my early WIP’s I never made it out of the editing phase. The story crumbled.

My last WIP made it farther than any of my others… and let me tell you… it got bloody.  I was in over my head with my own careless bad habits. 

I may be a tidy person at home… but as a writer, I have learned that I am a slob on the page.  So I made a list of the things I do in draft, that piss me off in edit.

Fingers crossed this helps, I am going grey here!

I would also like to note that, while most of these ideas pertain to issues I struggle with, several of the ideas here are discussed/adapted from Rachel Aaron’s 2k->10k that I mentioned in an earlier post. (to read that post, click here.) That book came to me in a time when I was disgusted with my writing habits, as my days were spent cleaning up my lazy writing. So, you can tell, I’m a fan-girl.

I’m not going to talk about ALL of my bad writing habits in this one post, it would make you cringe… but here are a few changes I have already made:


I am my own boss.  I am my own employee.  To that end, I make my own schedule.  (I file this above my manuscript in the Scrivener file.)

It is a lot easier to hold yourself to a schedule if you actually make it. I’ve done it both ways, and trust me…HUGE difference!

(below is an example of my writing schedule)

jan writing schedule clip clc

SECOND: The writing log

this is straight out of 2k10k… but dude… I love looking at the numbers climb… this is feeding off of that NaNoWriMo energy of momentum.  You see your most productive times of day and places and can modify your schedule accordingly, or just see how far you’ve come. (I file this below the schedule in the Scrivener file.)

This weeks progress 1_14_13 clc

THREE: WIP progress meter

Okay, I was just procrastinating here.

wip progress meter 1_16_13 clc

FOUR: Editing Legend.

Totally customizable legend that I place in the “project notes” section on my Scrivener file.  (this is one of mine. and my personal favorite.)

In the WIP I just edited, I would constantly jump into a sort of ‘note to self’ narration mode that left HUGE chunks of text unusable in manuscript, and need total rewrites, not to save time, but because it was a bad habit I picked up from NaNo-ing… just hit that word count… go,go,go… well… no. I always forgot about it, and had to re-read my manuscript over and over to find them all.

This helps me see how much I’m setting up for edit, and helps keep me honest… no needless laziness… no hours of hunting for these passages.

Edit highlights during roughdraft

If I’m brainstorming fast in first draft, and on a roll with a plot or character point, I don’t take the time to write the detailed descriptions or dialogue that I want in the end, and I HATE re reading the entire piece just to find one little thing… (I value efficiency. I know, I say that a lot, but it is so true.) So I just look at my legend and highlight the entire section the appropriate color for the edit it will need. Scrivener has pretty much an infinite number of colors you can use, but I kept it simple.


It is not editing as you go, but it is a major tool when editing time comes to help blow that first pass edit right out of the way.  Cuts down on some of the manuscript scouring.

Plus it only takes two seconds.  Faster than even a note. :)

This is just a few of the things I’m doing to help boost my productivity this year.

As far as learning from my mistakes… I’m probably always going to struggle with the editing process, but I hope that I can get out in front of it with a little more preparation.  In the past I’ve never fully outlined my books, but after going through editing hell in this last year (and being thoroughly disgusted with my writing habits on the page), I’m willing to concede that to change the outcome, you must change the approach.

What are some of your bad writing habits?  How have you been working to improve them?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Shiny New Year!

Happy New Year (a little late) Friends!!!

I had a rocky start, but now things seem to be smoothing themselves out. *thank goodness!*

My goals for this year:

  1. Write everyday.
  3. Find an Agent.

  4. Sell finished book.

  5. Finish sequel.   *4 and 5 may be out of order...not sure*

  6. Start that other book I've been dying to write. :D

  7. Do all of the above list items while maintaining a clean house, a healthy workout schedule, and  a full time job.

Big goals, but I am going to work hard everyday to make them come to pass.  I am learning that if I give up 90% of my television time... the days seem longer. ;)

(I had a cute picture of my dog on top of a huge hill smiling down on all he'd climbed... but alas... google wouldn't let me load it.)

What are some of your goals for 2013?

Grounding the reader using "The Pyramid of Abstraction"

In my geekery on writing education, I have stumbled upon a concept introduced in both of these sources by Brandon Sanderson (whom I have ...