A Writing Mini-Marathon (Step To My Bones, Day Four)

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When I plan to write, sometimes I really plan to write. I am perfectly content with a daily word count of 2,000 words on a weekday. Those are school nights, and I feel the pressure more acutely to fit in activities with family and to give myself an appropriate amount of time to wind down from the day job. 2K = okay.

But on weekends, there is the potential to blow my word count up. Enter, the writing mini-marathon. When you get a bunch of writers together, inevitably someone will ask the question “How many words do you write per day?

I’d like to qualify my response in saying that, in my personal opinion, there is no wrong answer to that question. It’s a very personal question and varies by writer. So whether you write 500 words or 15,000 words, I will give you big props and tell you that you are awesome. Showing up and putting words down is hard, so if you get the job done and you feel good about it, then more power to you.

So I’ve already answered for you how many words I average on an ordinary ho-hum day. That number is slightly higher btw, than what writers do during National Novel Writing Month. In that challenge, if you write 1,667 words a day, you’ll find that you have a 50k word novel by the end of 30 days. (Pretty cool, huh?) I can write 2,000 words in about an hour, give or take a distraction or two, so I’m very comfortable with that number.

But when the ideas are really flowing and the facet is wide open, that number can grow exponentially if given enough time and space. I wrote the first draft of Shadows Deep in 9 days. That fell out about 58,000 words (and grew to 65,000 during the editing process). But still- send to end, I had a workable manuscript in a week and a half. I did that in April 2012, so since then, I’ve had a good sense of what I can accomplish when I set my mind to it.

For me, it all comes down to the writing mini-marathon. Essentially, I set a goal of 10,000 words in one day. I know that I can write 2,000 words in about an hour. That means that I need five solid hours of writing to reach my goal. Here’s how I do it:

  1. To make it feel less stressful, I break this down into five writing sessions spread throughout the day.
  2. The sessions are all about quantity, not quality. I’m not doing any kind of censoring or editing. It is just about getting new words down on the page.
  3. I start early. I know things are well on track when I’ve got my first session complete by 10am. The ideal schedule would be:
    • Working session #1 = 8am- 9am, 2,000 words
    • Working session #2 = 11am-12pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #3 = 2pm-3pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #4 = 4pm-5pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #5 = 7pm-8pm, 2,000 words
  1. You’ll notice that I give myself permission to take breaks that can range anywhere from 1-3 hours. This allows me plenty of time to do household chores, spend time with the family, run errands, go to the gym, walk the dog, or address any other activity that requires my attention.
  2. If things go awry during the day, I’ll adjust, but I don’t go to sleep until I have at least 10,000 words in the bag.

With this schedule, I’ve cracked 10,000 words multiple times and have written as many as 14,000 words in one day (adding additional sessions). It’s amazing how quickly stories come together utilizing this method.

I’m telling you this because I’m just coming off another writing mini-marathon today, and I’m planning another one for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted on how successful I am. ūüôā

Step To My Bones Progress

1 writing session (70 minutes) = 2,045 words = Chapter Four draft complete

*NEW* paranormal romance serial novella under other pen name

4 writing sessions = 8,030 words = Six chapters drafted

(Photo credit: Rachel James)

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Inspiration (Step To My Bones, Day Three)

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I can’t talk much yet about what Step To My Bones is about. I explained a bit about why in my Day One post. In addition to what I shared there, there’s also one other reason. There’s a little part of me that believes if I say too much, I’ll jinx the whole thing. I’m 8,000 words into this little story of mine, and I don’t want to risk things going completely sideways and having to stop the bus again.

At the same time, I really want to share my excitement around the story with you, so I’m going to have to get creative from time to time to temper that with giving too much away. So I figured I’d start out with an easy bit of info¬†for the time being, and answer a question that I get asked a lot when I tell people that I’m an author.

How do you come up with the ideas for your stories?

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places for me. For Edge of Shadows, it was two different mansions that were built in the same general area that came together in my mind and formed the Bradford mansion. That whole series sprung from the creation of that house in my mind.

In another burst of inspiration, I had a clear vision of a young woman who was a royal riding out to a secluded canyon where she is attacked by a bunch of thieves. That idea gave birth to the first (and later lost) draft of Heiress of Lies.

For another story, I saw this huge, ornate fountain set in the middle of a lush, green garden. Although the setting was serene at face value, it had a serious, threatening undertone. This, of course, was what become the Fountain of Souls in The Soul Garden (later renamed The Soul Ripper).

So what was the inspiration for Step to My Bones? It wasn’t a location or character like my other stories. Here, I can’t get Dean Koontz’s story, Intensity, out of my head.

I read this story probably fifteen years ago, and it still freaks me out. I have read a lot of books in my day, but rarely have I read one that had me on the edge of my seat in a frantic state of panic throughout the entire book. Although I might not remember each and every detail of the story, I remember the overall flow of it and the struggles and downright horrific events that the main character was forced to endure to survive. That story gripped me like few others ever have because the psychological aspect was far more frightening than the actual physical events depicted.

There is a serial killer in Intensity. There is¬†a serial killer in Step To My Bones. Both have young, female protagonists. But that’s where the similarities end in terms of characters or plot. But my intention is to create for my readers that same dark, intense, edge-of-your-seat psychological experience that I felt the first time I read Dean Koontz’s novel. (At least, that’s what I hope to do if I do it right.)

That’s no small order. That book was incredible, and just talking about it now makes me want to read it again. ūüôā

Step To My Bones Progress

90 somewhat distracted minutes = 2033 words = Chapter Three draft complete

(Photo credit: BK)

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Sleep is Overrated (Step To My Bones, Day Two)

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

It doesn’t take long before life attempts¬†to intervene with whatever schedule you’ve set out on to reach your goals. There are a multitude of things that compete for your time and attention at any given moment. Even with a time management strategy that works 90% of the time, you have those days where you feel underwater from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall back into bed.

When I add attainment of a daily word count into the mix, things seem to get really hectic really fast. So that’s when the to-do list comes out and things have to be prioritized down to a more granular level then before. And what moves to the bottom of that list?

Sleep.

There’s never enough time in the day, or enough time for sleep, in my humble opinion. I LOVE sleep. I enjoy taking a nap on a quiet weekend afternoon. I’ll sleep in late whenever I have the opportunity. It’s truly one of my favorite things.

Unfortunately for me, it’s also the one thing that takes up a big chunk of my precious time so, like my Netflix addiction, it goes out the window when I’m in the throes of writing a new book.

I was really hoping that I’d make it further in than Day Two before I had to sacrifice some Zzzzz’s, but yesterday got me. The day job, followed by a kid’s lacrosse game, followed by the lacrosse team pizza party meant that I didn’t sit down in front of my computer until 9:30pm. Then there’s the requisite “unwind” time that’s necessary before I could settle back into the story, so I didn’t start on my word count until almost 10:15pm. During the week for the last six months, that has been my bedtime. But- I can’t complain because I got ‘er done.

75 minutes of sacrificed sleep = 2183 words = Chapter Two draft complete

So long sleep. I’ll miss you.

(Photo credit: Moyan Brenn)

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Step To My Bones: Day One… Again

 

SONY DSCI promised in one of my posts a few days ago that I would give you guys a front row seat to my writing process as I draft, craft, and complete my next writing project. I wanted to do this for two reasons:

  1. It holds me accountable to getting it done in a timely manner.
  2. Hopefully you’ll get excited about what’s coming and want to read it when it’s done

I’m not going to be divulging too many details quite yet. My books usually clock in about 65,000 words. That was the case for the Shadows and Bloodtruth books. The Twisted Souls series fell out to be a novella series with the 2nd-4th books clocking in at just around 40,000 words. I tell you this because my original thought was that Step To My Bones was going to be another novella, but I’m not sure now, and I probably won’t know¬†until I cross the 15,000 word mark.

At that point, the story is going to be pretty well¬†baked in my mind, and I’ll have a good grasp of the major characters and the story’s main conflict. Being a pantster through and through, there is a certain amount of fluidity that I have to be comfortable with when I’m writing- so it’s one of those cases of I’ll share with you what I know when I know it.

I’ve started this story three times previously. For whatever reason, the front end just didn’t click which is why I kept going back to square one and eventually set it aside for another time. As you can tell by the title of this post, that time has finally arrived.

I travel for my day job, and I’ve found that being closeted on a plane for 2-3 hours without wifi is an ideal time to pound out the daily word count. So that’s exactly what I did last night on my flight home. I didn’t even bother with music. The hum of activity throughout the cabin was enough to provide the required level of noise I need to be productive. (I can’t stand trying to write in complete silence. It drives me batty.)

End result?

1 hour writing time = 2,040 words = Chapter One draft complete

The best part is, I feel good about it. The chalk outline of the guardrails for the story are there, and I’m ready to rock it.

(Photo credit: Dewey Beach)

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When You Want to Quit, Do This Instead

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There’s nothing quite like setting out to do something amazingly big and exciting, and then promptly falling on your butt. All of that enthusiasm you initially had evaporates in an instant, and you feel a myriad of emotions that range from chagrin to outright nausea.

Whether we want to admit it or not, failure at any level hurts. The idyllic shine of the unknown that we found so intoxicating gets a little bit tarnished. We grow a bit more jaded. Worse yet, we might swing toward taking the conservative approach the next time we face the same challenge. Nobody likes getting knocked down twice.

Although it’s hard to see in the heat (or despair) of the moment, making a rash decision and quitting is the exact opposite thing you should do in these types of situations.

The best way that I’ve found to work through the emotional rollercoaster of failure is to take swift and immediate action. Any action is better than no action at all, but hopefully the action is guided by what I learned in my spectacular fall.¬†I truly believe that it¬†takes a lot more guts to dust yourself off and start again, and I consider myself up to the challenge (most days anyway). The sooner I do it, the sooner¬†I find that my¬†focus¬†shifts back¬†in a¬†positive and productive direction.

In my writing, I’ve set deadlines and missed them. I’ve gotten less than favorable (and¬†sometimes brutal)¬†feedback about my books. I’ve been positive that certain stories would resonate with readers and then¬†released the work to the resounding sound of crickets. Nonetheless, I continue to write, and I continue to publish. That’s because the act of writing itself is cathartic to me, and adding to the growing bookshelf of work available to purchase is a unique and heady rush. I love it and hate it all at the same time, and I’ve learned that sometimes the story works for readers and sometimes it doesn’t. But those readers who love my books and my characters rave about them, and¬†hearing that¬†kind of feedback¬†never gets old for me, and I don’t take it for granted. Putting myself and my work out there¬†the way I do is a¬†risk, but the reward has a huge upside.

When it comes to my life and my day job, I’ve had some epic failures- some of them¬†painfully visible to family, friends, and colleagues. What I can’t do is crawl into bed and try to forget that life exists. Pity and self-loathing gets me nowhere. At some point, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself, pull my chin up, and face the world. And you know what I find? People are usually gracious, and second chances come easier when the other person sees that you aren’t willing to give up. In fact, moving forward and learning from a failure like that will often earn you respect that you couldn’t have found otherwise.

It’s hard to take action in the face of failure, no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, it’s easier to look at yourself in the mirror when you know that you’ve given it your all, and you’re still willing to get back in the ring and fight another day. With that kind of attitude in your life, you’ll be unstoppable.

(photo credit Krissy Venosdale)

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