Category: Writing


100000_wordsRecently week Bifrost has finally tipped over 100,000 words (um…yay?), so in typical self-assessor style I decided to have a look at how many words I’d written the last time I decided to “take my writing seriously”. You know…just for comparison.

I remember it clearly, I didn’t have a writers group or critique partner (still don’t actually…um…anyone?), I didn’t have Twitter (it didn’t exist), I didn’t have Evernote (also didn’t exist), I didn’t have Scrivener or a tablet PC or even a smartphone and I reached a point where I just didn’t know what to do or where to take the novel, so I just kind of stopped.

So this morning I had a look at my wordcount spreadsheet from way-back-when…and there it was: 140,943 words.

140,943 words…AND I STOPPED!?! I need a time machine so I can go and kick past-me’s butt really, really hard. What a dope! Another 10,000 words and I have TWO ACTUAL NOVELS!!! AAAARRRRGH!!!

Now I feel like “why is it taking me so long to get to that point now?”* I had a full-time job back then, though one other thing I didn’t have back then was kids, so my level of distraction and household work was a LOT lower. Still…it kind of feels deflating after the initial excitement of reaching 100,000.

I suppose on the bright side, every word of that 140,943 is set before Bifrost starts, so when I get done with this one, a couple of prequels are going to take no time at all! (You hear that, potential publishers?)

Looking forward to the revisions on that one.

— IEK

 

*And why does it take me 150,000 words to reach an ending I’m happy with!?!

greenscreenHave you ever been in the middle of writing something, then suddenly had the need to type a symbol like ™, € or º?

If you’re like me (or most other people), you will have cursed, gone to the menubar, opened up Insert => Symbol, then scrolled through until you found the right symbol.

BLOODY. TEDIOUS.

Now in my current WIP (Bifrost), I have need of the ° symbol ALL THE TIME. It started to become frustrating having to go to the menubar every time until I remembered a time at highschool, back when I was first learning how to actually USE computers* instead of just re-coding them so I could win** and I remembered the fun I used to have with the ASCII character codes***.

A quick Google and I had a number of reference guides in how to shortcut-key the symbols I needed.

Even if you have a ref guide open in your browser, then glance at it every now and then it’s certainly faster than constantly going to “Insert => Symbol” and faffing about for 5 minutes every time, plus I’ve found if you use one of the symbols enough times, it becomes second nature to just ° (oh…I mean hit ALT+0176).

Here’s the site I open most often for NumPad shortcuts (because it gives both IBM as well as Windows standards and sometimes one or the other doesn’t work): http://www.irongeek.com/alt-numpad-ascii-key-combos-and-chart.html

As you can see from the Google link, though, there are a LOT of other sites if you find IronGeek unsuitable.

Happy NumPad shortcutting!

— IEK

 

*Yes, I am old

**Like really old

***Yes, look I also am a MASSIVE nerd & this was how I had fun in highscool OK?

i_feel_sickFor a writer, concentration is extremely important. No matter what you’re writing, if you find your mind wondering from the topic or scene, either your writing gets loose and less engaging or it stops altogether.

This is a serious conundrum for me because I do get VERY easily distracted, but also I tend to work best when I have multiple things going on at once – focus is something I rarely have.

For this reason, I have historically had multiple writing projects on the go at the same time, but of course – none of them have ever actually been completed!

It has only been in the last year that I have finally forced myself to focus on a single WIP and try to write only on either that or this blog – any other ideas or inspiration I get is written down quickly in Evernote and left at that. Sure, I now have whole scenes and passages of dialogue for other WIPs in Evernote, but I’m not returning to it, working on it, revising it or trying to plug it into a coherent story UNLESS it’s from Bifrost.

Yes, I used to get BADLY distracted by my own non-current WIPs, not to mention computer games, reading books, reading comics, building Lego, chatting on Twitter, doing my actual full-time job & all of the other things which go along with being part of a family and co-running a household. No wonder I never finished anything!

These days, though I still struggle finding time to write (see my post about Writing Tips for People with No Time), the time I do get is now dedicated to finishing Bifrost (OK or writing for this blog) and I have started to employ some tricks which either stop me getting distracted or (because I can’t avoid it) get me UNdistracted.

So…my top-5 tips for avoiding distractions or getting undistracted (in no particular order):

  • Routine – get into one. If you can schedule the same time every day to write, the world has more of a tendency to leave you alone (note that children do not count under the banner of “the world”, so schedule that time for when they’re asleep or at school/daycare)
  • When it’s time to write, leave your phone in another room where you can’t hear it vibrate & do not open social media!!
    • If you DO open social media (bad writer!) make it a rule that the first thing you tweet or post is from the scene or section you’re writing (if it’s not written yet, at least that’s social media working FOR you)
  • If you do lose focus, try to write the next part of your scene or section incorporating something from whatever is distracting you. Sure, you may have to delete everything after you got distracted, but it will force you to keep writing and might even help move you forward (it’s not like not-writing was getting you any closer)!
  • DO NOT wait until you are “inspired” to write. This is the #1 killer of WIPs. Inspiration happens at 3am, it happens in the shower, on the toilet, when you are supposed to be doing chores or doing your day-job or (occasionally) after you’ve had a particularly strong coffee – inspiration rarely happens when you’re sitting conveniently in front of a computer. Inspiration is not something which gets books finished, writing when it’s the last thing you want to do is what gets books finished.
  • Don’t quit until you absolutely have to. You may think the scene you just completed is rubbish, you may be really stuck for ideas, you may have noticed that you have ended up with a character in two places at once* (or some other massive plot hole) – DON’T STOP. Keep writing, finish the chapter ANY WAY YOU CAN – it doesn’t matter if its tripe, just finish it. Then finish the next one, then the next one until you’ve finished the book. The only thing which can’t be fixed in revisions is a first draft that isn’t finished.

Happy writing!

— IEK

*Bifrost still has this exact problem in Chapters 16-18 and I’ll be fixing it in revisions.

Well, I’ve finally broken Chapter 18.

It’s been a horrid slog through 17 and 18, but I’ve finally broken its back thanks to some stellar work from alcohol and #5amWriteClub I have CONQUERED THIS SHIT.

I say shit and hey, it probably is because it’s a first draft, but at least it’s done. Our good friend (whom I have probably never mentioned before) the Witch has met the love of her life (so far) and has discovered something quite unique about herself.

It’s all downhill skiing from here, right? … RIGHT!?! Well sod it – bring on Chapter 14!!!

— IEK

It SOUNDS good, doesn’t it? All those wasted hours on the plane and in hotel rooms – now upgraded with WRITING! W00t! I’m gonna finish this book in a WEEK!

…and then reality sets in: we do not go overseas to get our books finished (well…those of us who aren’t filthy rich or full-time writers don’t anyway). Alas, no. We go overseas either to travel and enjoy the experience of another country and culture or to work in another country’s office which looks probably not a hell of a lot different from the one at home and where did all that free time go again?

This trip (almost 7 days) I managed to write exactly 1,221 words. A little more than I’ll get done during a single 5am Write Club.

Even now I’m shocked and more than a little disappointed. I thought I’d written a lot more before I’d synced the additions with my manuscript. It would be so much easier if we didn’t have to content with the social aspects of overseas travel – meeting and greeting, having dinners and lunches with your colleagues, family or travel partners and if you didn’t feel so exhausted at the end of the day that it’s all you can do to brush your teeth and get into your pyjamas.

And perhaps this is what sets writers who get their work done fast from the rest of us. I once heard a very famous and popular author say (I’m paraphrasing here from memory, but…): writing is not a social job. It is a very solitary and quite necessarily anti-social thing to do. I agree totally with this and if I wasn’t such a social animal, I might be able to tell my work colleagues “No, I’m sorry, I’m staying in” and write the hell out of a chapter or two…but unfortunately I am a social animal, so when they say “do you want to come to dinner?” I’m the “Of course – where are we going?” kind of person.

So…as I creep further and further past the other side of my self-imposed “deadline” (let us never speak of it again), I find myself buoyed by the fact that I am past half-way on the book, but somewhat defeated by the fact that it’s taken me THIS LONG.

— IEK

Just sketched my first drawing on a tablet PC with my finger. Not easy (especially in a bus).

Had to be done, though because the scene I’m writing is set in a small town and has a lot of different people moving around (and shooting at each other).

First I found a neat little town in the USA which fit the description of this particular town on my planet, looked at it on Google Maps and suddenly had the whole layout in my head.

Next it was on to the sketch app.

Some say I spend too much time on this level of detail and yet I don’t know of any other way to get my details right. I mean if I didn’t make a drawing, I could have people spilling out of an alley beside the law court, then running across the road to the alley beside the law courts. Seriously, this happens (it’s why you’ll never read my first draft…I hope).

Some may say “fix it in the revisions”, but I’m of the opinion that I’m going to have enough to fix in the revisions without not knowing the layout of my cities and towns!

— IEK

I have written that many pages of Bifrost at the pub that my scenes set in a pub are probably my best.

My standard pub-writing pattern is: I’m walking somewhere with no urgency, I feel inspired to write a scene, I walk past a pub, I walk into said pub, order a beer and start writing.

This does not happen often given that having 3 kids does not leave a lot of room for “no urgency”, but the thing is that once you’re in the pub and in the zone, the word just flow.

I STRONGLY recommend the pub to any (particularly single) writers looking for a secluded haven to write (and have a delightful drink).

I’ve written on the bar, on a table, on a couch & have always managed to get good quality words down. Sure, some of those words toward to bottom-end of my 6th or so beer may have needed…um…polishing, but what you really get from a pub is solitude in the midst of action and if that’s not the definition of a 3rd person POV book, I don’t know what is.

— IEK

Writing anything longer than a shopping list is hard. Writing it when you have an utterly unrelated full-time job and any number of young kids is even harder.

There is actually NO time during just about any average day in which I can write – there is work, drop-offs (Co-Consul does all the pickups because she is awesome), kids sports, housework, house renovations, repairs, shopping, family, friends and even frivilous things like eating and sleeping! In order to actually get anywhere, I have to steal time where I can.

Here are a few ideas for people like me with NO time in their lives and a desire to write (in no particular order):

  • 5am Write Club (Twitter: #5amWriteClub) : Yes – 5am. As many mornings a week as I can, I wake up at 5am, sit down and write as much as I can. I have to set a vibrate-only alarm so I don’t wake the house and yes, I do sleep through it sometimes (surely that means I was too tired to write?). Words of warning, though – if you have kids and they sleep close to the computer, make sure you gently close their door so you don’t wake them with the keyboard. There’s nothing worse than being interrupted in the middle of an intense scene by tired, hungry kids (well OK, perhaps the house catching fire or being eaten by bears would classify as worse, but there’s not much ELSE worse). Some keener folk even hit 4am, but I barely function at 5am, so 4am is beyond my capabilities.

 

  • Public transport : Oh how I love public transport. Most of my book has been written on a bus to or from work. Find your seat (you have to get on early in the route or avoid peak-hour), open up the laptop or tablet and get writing! I found typing on a tablet screen to be very easy after a little practice, but even easier on a bluetooth keyboard (Mine is an earlier model of these: Kensington Android Bluetooth Keyboards)..

 

  • Getting someone else to drive while you write : Not always possible, but AMAZING if you can do it. Imagine a couple of hours during which you can listen to music, write hard and actually TALK ABOUT what you’re writing to someone you trust. They may even pretend to be interested! If you can arrange this as part of a driving turn thing or whatever – do it. Wonderful things will happen. Oh yeah – you just need to get a bit of practice on public transport first or you may throw up from car sickness. I trained myself at Uni (College).

 

  • Voice -to-text apps : These have really matured in recent times and, though they do spell things almost exclusively using US spelling and often write the wrong things – if you drive a lot, this can be your chance to write even as your hands are otherwise occupied! I ONLY use this when I have a sudden need to record an idea, but given a little structure and patience, I’m certain I could use it for longer, more focussed writing.

 

  • Cloud applications such as Evernote : Wherever I am – I have my novel. Whichever device I have – I can write a note or scene for my novel. The other day, my tablet ran out of battery whilst Co-consul was being wonderful and driving so I could write, so I got out my phone and wrote on that instead. Don’t let anything minor like a small keyboard stop you getting those words written! Just remember that your work being in the cloud doesn’t prevent it being lost or corrupted, so always make sure you still back up your work locally and regularly.

 

  • Novlr : Being a large-scale computer nerd, I have also just recently engaged with the Novlr beta. Novlr is a cloud-based application specifically for writing novels.For me this is a bit of a writing holy grail, so I was VERY excited when I heard about it. So far the verdict is: it works. I think the Novlr team are still working on features and though I haven’t played with it too much, the interface is so clean it’s almost not there. Please be aware, though, that “it works” is a very important and sadly not entirely common thing to say about beta software. I already have a 1,000-word feedback review/feature request list for them.

 

  • Writing meta material when you’re not alone or doing other things (like watching bad TV) : By meta material I mean research stuff: “How far is it from this city to that city?”; “What kind of trucks do they use in this place?”; “How many people live in this area?”; “Goddammit, what was that character’s name again, I need a list of characters in each story arc!” The details which enhance your writing, but don’t really require you to focus fully should be left to times when you can’t focus fully.

 

  • Friday Night Writes (Twitter: @FriNightWrites / #WriteClub) : Run by a group of WONDERFUL people, the Write Club is a global Twitter community of writers who get online some time between early Friday night in Australia and late Friday night in the UK & western USA and write their arses off in sprints. GET ON BOARD. I find it hard to attend due to Friday night being a particularly busy one in my life, but you’ll see me there at least for a couple of sprints most weeks.

Well that’s about all I have for now. HAPPY WRITING!

 

— IEK

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