Day 320: New and shiny

I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but instead of reading last night, I brainstormed a new fantasy series. I had actually come up with the story idea a long time ago, and I had also come up with a separate fantasy world, and so last night I merged the two.

The reason is because I had heard about the new Kindle Vella coming out, and it inspired me because I actually really like serial novels (well duh, considering I'm writing one). I don't really have time to be writing a new story, but at the same time I couldn't help thinking of new ideas. I suppose it's that whole thing about being attracted to whatever's new and shiny.

The fun thing is that this fantasy story idea perfectly lends itself to a serial novel, because it's actually quite episodic, although there is also an overarching plot. I wish I could write faster!

I think I'm crazy. I'm actually considering writing the story in small pieces, 300-500 words a day, and see how it goes. I could write it like a manga, in short episodes. That would be so fun! If only I could write faster!

***

I listened to the Dear Writer, You Need to Quit audiobook on my walk today and listened to the chapter on reality. Nothing was really new to me, because I know by now that I am not the type of writer whose books will sell like gangbusters, because I simply do not write to market. I know my books only appeal to a small percentage of the market, and I'm okay with that because I'm writing only for those specific people. I'm very fortunate in that I don't need to depend on my writing money to survive.

But she also talked about how the big publishing houses survive, and it's basically having a few authors who sell like crazy and make all the money for the house, and they basically pay the bills for all the other authors. The editors keep acquiring other authors to try to see if their books will sell well like their top tier, but if the new authors' books don't sell well, the house doesn't lose that much money (most of the time) because their big name authors are balancing the loss.

I had heard this many years ago from agents and editors I talked to at writing conferences, so this is not new to me. But it reminded me of the business model for the big publishers, and it also reminded me that the best thing for an author (or rather, for me) is to write different series to see which one might sell better than the others. I will likely have one series that will sell modestly well, but I need to try different series to find it.

I can't really rely on the sales data for the books I published with my publishers because their sales had been influenced by the marketing department's efforts and the reputation of the publishing house. So I have to look at the sales of my self-published books. Unfortunately, I have very few of them, so I just have to keep writing and collect more data.

Right now, I have the Lady Wynwood's Spies series in the Regency genre, and I have two Christian Romantic Suspense novellas in my Sonoma series, which was published by Love Inspired. I also have a Christian Contemporary Romance novella in my Sushi series, which was published by Zondervan. I also have a devotional and some writing worksheets, but I don't want to count them because I don't intend to write a lot of nonfiction.

So I will definitely continue my Lady Wynwood's Spies series. I have planned the storyline for the entire series, which will be a total of 10 books, 2 prequels, and at least one but possibly 2 side novels. 3 of the main books and the 2 prequels are already written.

However, since it's a serial novel, I won't know how well the series sells until after I've written all the books, since the storyline won't have an ending until book 10. For other series where the books are standalone, you can get away with stopping the series in the middle if it doesn't sell since the storyline hasn't been left on a cliffhanger, but if you stop a serial in the middle, it leaves readers bitterly disappointed. I've seen it happen with manga series (which are essentially comic serial novels)--manga publishers will sometimes let an author have 2 or 3 episodes to finish a series that has been canceled rather than just cutting it off.

Other books I have in the works is the Warubozu Spa Chronicles (a series set in Hawaii), which will be Christian Romantic Suspense. The current novella I'm working on is more Christian Contemporary Romance than Romantic Suspense, but that's mostly because of the requirements of the multi-author box set this novella will be included in. But since it's a novella and not a full length novel, I always intended to use this book as a Reader Magnet and not sell it separately as an ebook, so it doesn't matter if it's not exactly the same genre-feel as the other books will be.

The Warubozu series is not technically a serial novel, because each book will be standalone, but I have plotted it very much like a lot of the paranormal romance series I've read, with an overarching storyline that won't be resolved until the last book. So in a sense, it is rather like a serial novel. But I might know how well it's selling from a few books. However, I'm not sure if I'd be able to just cut it off or end it prematurely if it's not selling well.

I intend to continue my other Regency series, the Gentlemen Quartet, although I'd have to get the rights back from Zondervan for the first book in the series, Prelude for a Lord, and I'm not entirely sure they'd do it. The only way to guarantee I'd get the rights back would be to try to buy them, and I just don't have the money right now. Also, I don't want to start this series until after Lady Wynwood's Spies is completed.

And after that? I have vague ideas for a dystopian series that will actually continue my Protection for Hire series. And also the fantasy serial novel I mentioned above.

I woke up this morning and thought I was just being Crazy Camy like usual in even thinking about it, but after listening to the audiobook, I realized it wasn't quite as stupid an idea as I first thought. Just like how the big publishers buy lots of different authors to essentially "see what sticks" and hope for at least one big hit, I could also try yet another genre to see how that sells.

A new fantasy series is easier than my dystopian/Protection for Hire series because I'd have to get the rights back from Zondervan for Protection for Hire, and again, I might need to buy them back. Since it's a serial, I'd need to update it probably once a week, but each update wouldn't need to be super long.

But the bigger problem with this idea is that I am thinking of writing it while concurrently writing another series. I write slow enough as it is! Also I had issues before with switching headspace to work on a new story, so I'm not sure if I could do it.

The only other option would be to write it entirely and then post the entire thing, but that's not usually how a serial novel works. Many times authors will get feedback as they're writing it and adjust the story.

I'm probably excited about the fantasy story because it's cool and new and shiny. For now, I should finish the current novella (which is way overdue). Then I could try doing both the fantasy serial novel and my next Regency novel at the same time and see if it's even possible.

***

I discovered something interesting (to me, at least) when I started writing today. I was doing cycling (editing what I'd written previously before starting writing new stuff) without realizing it.

Before, with my faster writing style, I would do the cycling only after the scene had been finished. I would self-edit the scene I'd finished the day before, then start writing. If a scene took several days to finish, I found myself editing the beginning multiple times, which got tedious. So I changed it to where if I hadn't finished an entire scene, I wouldn't do cycling that day.

But now, for some reason I'm doing the cycling even when I haven't finished the scene. I hadn't noticed it until now and I'm not entirely sure why I'm doing it. Maybe it's because I'm writing slower but also I'm giving myself permission to polish as I'm writing, and cycling back to edit what I wrote is just an extension of that polishing.

Regardless, when I do this cycling on what I wrote yesterday, I feel like the writing is the best I can make it.

***

UGH! I set my Pomodoro timer and did well for 2 Pomodoros, but then I forgot to set it again and ended up wasting time when I got distracted by looking at my 4thewords.com quests. I don't know if I would have still been distracted even if I'd set the timer, but I think I still need to set the timer! It would have at least made a noise when it went off and shaken me out of the distraction.

***

Despite the distraction, I wrote almost 2000 words today, which is pretty good.

Also, the Pomodoros really do help me to focus (assuming I remember to set the timer). Sometimes the timer runs out before I finish a monster on 4thewords, though, so I will usually keep working until the monster is defeated, then take my break.

When I was writing during this last session, I also noticed a bad habit I do. I would often reach a pause in the rhythm of the prose, and I'd get stuck. This is nothing new--the same thing would happen when I was vomit-writing, but I'd usually just think of something--anything--and keep going, figuring I'd fix it later. Now that I'm being more thoughtful in my writing and I'm polishing as I go, I will often stop at those points for a long time to try to think about what to write next. Sometimes my mind would wander, which is not always a good thing.

I don't like that feeling of being stuck, and I wanted to avoid the temptation to let my mind be distracted, so I decided to slightly alter the way I was writing. I wasn't exactly vomit-writing, but I started writing down all the things I could think of to write at that point. Sometimes what I wrote was more like a list of different things I could say, sometimes it was a rough sketch of a dialogue. Then looked back over the writing, figured out what to keep, spent some time polishing it, and then I repeated the process.

It's not exactly writing quickly like I did before. I'm not rushing through the prose and intending to fix it later. I was consciously writing a bit faster, but when I had reached an arbitrary stopping point (usually a paragraph or two), I'd stop and then go back and polish the prose.

If I stopped my writing session to do something (like cook dinner) and came back to it later, I found myself doing the cycling mentioned earlier, in which case I did even more polishing of the writing before moving on.

This is still a slower writing speed than normal, but it's a little faster than what I'd been doing earlier because I'm not wasting quite as much time paused and wondering what to write next. At the same time, I'm still doing the very detailed polishing that I want to do on the writing.

I don't know if I explained that very well, but it's essentially a slightly different way of writing from yesterday, or even this morning. It's not quite vomit-writing, but it's still pushing me to come up with something to type rather than stalling, which seems to help keep me from getting too stuck. I guess it's like writing momentum--it's a little harder to get started moving, but it's easier to keep it moving once it's going.

At the same time, I'm still spending time carefully polishing the writing before moving on so that it's not a mess that needs to be fixed later. And if I continue the cycling I've been (unaware I've been) doing, the prose will be the absolute best I can make it. That makes me pretty happy.

I'm still not getting into the 1000 words per hour pace I used to have, but I think it's a little better than staring at the screen, because that's usually when my mind would wander. Sometimes it would wander back, but other times I've become distracted.

I will try this method again on Monday when I get back to the writing. I hope I can refine this method and maybe improve my writing speed (even though I just said I wouldn't focus on my writing speed! I can't help it, I am impatient and I want to write like the Indy 500.)

Outlining: time spent: 0

Blocking: time spent: 0

Editing: Time spent: 0

Writing: Time spent: 4 hours, 14 minutes

Writing: Total number of words: 1932 words

Writing: Overall writing speed: 451 words/hour

Time spent doing other writing-related business: 1 hour, 59 minutes

My takeaway for today: When I stall, instead of just stopping, I should try to force myself to write anything that comes to mind, then go back and polish it after the rush.

Day 319: I focus too much on writing speed. So what else is new.

I have to post in a Facebook group tomorrow, and since that kind of business stuff bothered me yesterday, I just went ahead and wrote the post today before I started writing. It disrupted my writing train of thought, and I'll have to make an effort to get into a writing mode, but it's better than having it nag at me while I'm writing. It's definitely better to do it before writing rather than right in the middle of my writing session.

I also made a recurring reminder for myself for Saturdays to write the following week's Facebook group post ahead of time. That way I can compartmentalize all my business-related things on weekends and not have to worry about it during the week.

Today I hope to improve my focus. I haven't been able to focus very well when I write--I only can focus in bursts, and then my attention wanders. So I'm going to try 25-minute Pomodoro sessions today to see if that will help my focus better.

I ate something yesterday that was supposed to be safe for my IBS, but I reacted badly to it, so I'm in a bit of pain right now. However I need to finish this book, so I'm going to try to work through it today. According to my outline, I'm almost halfway through the book.

***

So far, the 25-minute Pomodoros have been working well for me today. I was able to focus on the book for that 25 minutes without my mind wandering or becoming distracted like yesterday.

At first I was a bit unsure how to use the 5-minute breaks. I didn't want to keep working because I was afraid that working without a break might tire me out and make it difficult to stay focused. I fiddled with the internet a bit but decided not to do that for fear of becoming too distracted.

Then I realized I could read a book. I have my Regency nonfiction research books I could read, or a book with the type of humor I'm aiming for, to help me get the rhythm of the humor beats in the prose.

***

Despite being able to focus better, my writing speed is still not great. It's because I had to do some research while writing today, because I had neglected to look something up when I was doing the blocking for this scene, and this was important enough that I needed to do it rather than just leaving a note for myself. I probably should have recorded the research time as blocking rather than letting my writing timer continue. If I remember, I'll do that next time.

I shouldn't focus so much on writing speed. I guess I'm just too used to looking at it as a marker of how well I'm doing. Maybe I should also look at the overall time the book has taken so far and calculate a words per hour rate from that?

***

I'm such a nerd when it comes to data collection. I think I just like the measurability.

Out of curiosity, I recorded the total hours, total words, and calculated words per hour for three of my Regency novels--book 2, book 3, and the prequel novella. (I didn't bother with book 1, because I had spent an inordinately long time doing the brainstorming and outlining for the book.) The hours for books 2 and 3 might be less than they actually are because I did not include the time spent brainstorming the entire series, where some of that time was spent on outlining individual books.

The Gentleman Thief

Hours: 80 hours, 49 minutes

Words: 36,071 words

Writing speed: 446 words/hour

Lady Wynwood's Spies, volume 2: Berserker

Hours: 195 hours, 15 minutes

Words: 85,694 words

Writing speed: 439 words/hour

Lady Wynwood's Spies, volume 3: Aggressor

Hours: 172 hours, 33 minutes

Words: 83,865 words

Writing speed: 486 words/hour

In contrast, here are the numbers for the current book:

The Wedding Kimono

Hours so far: 62 hours, 20 minutes

Total words so far: 15,305

Writing speed: 246 words per hour

Even though the hours worked includes all the outlining time but not all the writing time, my writing speed is still pretty terrible. While my words per hour rate will increase the more I write this book, I think this novella will still take me longer than The Gentleman Thief.

Granted, it's a new series so I had to do more characterization for this book than The Gentleman Thief (since most of the characterization for that was already done when I brainstormed the series). Also, it's a different genre, and I have noticed that I'm writing slower because I'm paying more attention to the humorous rhythm of the prose.

I had been hopeful that the time I didn't have to spend doing so much self-editing would balance out the longer time it takes me to do the polishing as I write, but it doesn't look like that will happen. However, I won't know for sure until the book is done and I can see the final words per hour rate.

I made the decision that I prefer to spend more time polishing the prose as I write it, rather the the other method of vomiting words and then doing a slapdash pass of self-editing. So the time to write the other books might have been longer if I'd spent more time polishing the prose during my self-editing. I'm essentially doing now what I would otherwise do during a really thorough and detailed self-editing pass (which of course I didn't do for the Regencies since I hate self-editing so much).

I'm still recording my start and stop times for each writing session, and the number of words I've written during that time. I also start a new row on my spreadsheet whenever I start a new scene. This is so that I know about how much time I spend on each scene. It's a bit of a pain, but I never know if I'll need this data eventually, and from what I learned when doing biology research, it's better to record everything you can while you can, just in case you need the data later.

So I'll still list my Daily writing speed in the metrics I record at the end of each day.

I did about 4 hours of writing today, which isn't bad considering I also cooked dinner tonight. I probably wasted some time looking up and recording the hours, words, and calculating words/hour for the other books so that I could compare them. Still, it's useful information to have.

If my writing speed is going to be slower using this new writing style, then I need to know so that I can plan for how long the next book will take. According to my calculations, the next Regency might take 9 or 10 weeks rather than the 7 or 8 weeks that it would take using the other faster writing style. That's still not bad--it means I can release a book every 3 months, and I'm okay with a release schedule like that. My other books released every 2 months, so it's not that much different.

I'll probably write the next book with this writing style, and then re-evaluate and see how I like it. I might absolutely hate it by then and decide to go back to my old faster style. I guess I'm just trying to figure out what works for my personality and priorities.

I just wish I could stop focusing so much on writing speed. I just can't help it. It's because I want to write like a speed demon. I admit it.

Using the 25-minute Pomodoros really helped today. I felt that I had much better focus during each Pomodoro. I wish it could have translated into faster writing, but I might get better with practice.

Also, I felt like the 5-minute breaks were productive because if I didn't have to use the bathroom or get more water, I spent it reading books either for research or for inspiration.

And I still have time today to get some more reading done to refill the creative well, so I think I did okay today.

I had planned to check email and stuff on Saturdays, but I think tomorrow I will write instead and put that stuff off to Sunday.

Outlining: time spent: 0

Blocking: time spent: 0

Editing: Time spent: 0

Writing: Time spent: 4 hours, 7 minutes

Writing: Total number of words: 1753 words

Writing: Overall writing speed: 425 words/hour

Time spent doing other writing-related business: 1 hour, 59 minutes

My takeaway for today: 25-minute Pomodoros worked really well today to help me focus during my writing sessions.

My second takeaway for today: Stop focusing on the writing speed, you moron. You'll write however fast you have to write to write a good book.

Day 318: Writing business stuff on writing days

I listened to the Dear Writer, You Need to Quit audiobook during my walk today and it talked about setting expectations. If your expectations of yourself are too high, or can't be sustained at a certain level for long-term, you might burn yourself out.

The author had mentioned systems before in an earlier chapter, and she talked about how our systems are complex things composed of many different things. If you cause stress to your system, depending on the type and amount of stress, the system will not necessarily accommodate. Some parts of the system might fail, which will lead to burn out and/or mental distress and/or health problems.

So I guess the takeaway is to determine the type and amount of stress that your system can handle, and don't exceed it. I don't think the author was discouraging trying hard, but instead just saying that that kind of strenuous effort can't be sustained for too long or it will cause detriment to your overall health.

It made me recall the latter half of last year when I was just developing my current writing routine and trying to improve productivity. I was really excited that I could improve the speed at which I could produce a book, but I also wasn't refilling the creative well--I wasn't replenishing my energy. So I had a couple weeks of mental shut-down at the beginning of December last year.

I still would like to put out books quickly--and since I'm self-publishing, I'm putting out books much faster than I would with a traditional publisher. When I was with Zondervan, I was putting out a 90,000 word book every 9 months. I released the first three books of my Regency series (each an average of 90,000 words) every 2 months. Book 4 is going to be at least 3 months (maybe 4 months) after the release of the previous book because I my health was so poor in March and I got behind in writing the Contemporary novella I'm working on now. But even 4 months is much faster than my Zondervan schedule.

I started this slower writing pace because it results in more polished writing, since I'm editing-as-I-go and being more thoughtful about the editing, rather than self-editing a very rough first draft. I didn't magically increase the number of hours I have during the day to work since I still have home responsibilities, so I'll probably be drafting fewer words per day (although self-editing may be significantly less time, so this might not necessarily be true).

I don't know if I could still write a Regency every 2 months like I have been. I'd like to try, but I also want to see how much stress my system can reasonably take, and I also want to make sure I replenish my energy so I'm not burning more than I'm refilling.

So while I was walking I considered how I can make reading more of a priority in my day without impacting my writing time too much. When I don't give myself enough time to read, I tend to skip on my research reading, which can be really bad. There are a lot of nonfiction books I would like to read for my Regency series.

If I limit my writing to 4-5 hours (rather than aiming for 6 hours like before), I'll have about 3 hours for reading, and I can take an hour for research reading. I think this might be a better use of my time, because I won't be burning as much of my energy with writing each day, I'll be reading to replenish my energy, and I'll be doing the research I need to do.

So today, since I'm cooking dinner tonight, I'll aim for 4 hours of working, which will leave an hour for blogging and 3 hours for reading. I'll see how that works out.

***

Ugh I got a bit distracted. There were some writing-related business I had to do today, and I was intending to do them after I did my writing today, but I ended up doing some of it in the middle of my writing session! I don't know why I do that. I do know that the thought of those little things to be done was nagging at me, which might have been why I decided to do it, so that I wouldn't keep thinking about it. Even though I wanted to only think about my writing, maybe I should just get that stuff done and get it out of the way.

***

I went ahead and finished the business things I had to do today--mostly related to the re-launch of my devotional book with a new cover. One of the other authors suggested it and spearheaded it, so I haven't had much to do, but today I had to upload the new cover, .epub and interior .pdf to all the book distributors in anticipation of the re-launch next week Wednesday. Once that was done, I had to send some emails, and I ended up clearing my inbox while I was at it (which I probably shouldn't have done, but once I saw it, it was really hard to leave it full! I'm just that way.)

I'm glad it's out of the way, but doing all that stuff online really does cause me a certain amount of stress. I'm going to have to take a break and then hopefully get back to writing after that.

It's really frustrating because it takes me a while to get out of that business mindset into writing, so I wanted to write first and do the business stuff later. But while writing, the thought of those things that needed to be done nagged at me and distracted me, and eventually I just gave in and did that stuff to get it all off my plate. But whether doing it first before work, or doing it now in the middle of work, I still have to reset my mindset before I can start writing, and I lose the time and energy I have to spend to do that.

I wish I could have just ignored the nagging but I know by now that it's really difficult for me to do that. I think it's just my personality--I like getting stuff on my To Do list done first so that I can clear my desk, so to speak, before writing. It's easier for me to write when I don't have any small tasks that could distract me.

***

I took a break and did some house chores, which were essentially more stuff on the To Do list, but house chores tend not to nag at me quite as much as writing-business stuff. I think it's because the business stuff had to be done today and a part of me was worried I might forget to do it. In contrast, if I don't do house chores that day, it's not that big a deal. It's probably the greater importance and urgency of the business stuff that makes it distract me more than house chores.

I ended up started a really long word count/time limit monster on 4thewords.com, so I feel a bit more relaxed as I'm writing since I don't have to worry about a quick time limit (as in, an hour or less). The monster doesn't have too many words for the generous time limit, and I'm relatively confident I'll finish it in plenty of time and won't be scrambling later.

***

Before I knew it, it was time to eat dinner and I'd only done another hour of writing. I had forgotten that the extra time spent doing writing-related business would cut into my writing time.

It didn't occur to me yesterday, but if it's possible, I should do these types of business-things the day before, after I do my writing. Sometimes it's not possible--sometimes there are time-sensitive things I need to do on a certain day and I can't do it the day before.

But if there are things I could do after writing, I should try to set alarms and reminders for me to do it after writing (so I don't forget, because I can totally see myself forgetting to do this stuff after I've finished writing for the day).

Or maybe I should try to schedule these things for weekends. I didn't do that for this, because the re-launch date is next week Wednesday and Saturday might have been cutting it a little close. Maybe I could have done it last week Saturday? It would have been up five or six days extra, but I don't think that would have been too bad.

I hadn't thought of that option before, but now that's sounding like a really good idea. That way I won't have to even think about these kinds of business-related things on writing days. I think I will make revisions on the notes I have for my book launches so that I do that from now on.

It doesn't excuse the fact that I did get distracted while writing. I had forgotten to set a Pomodoro timer again, so I need to remember to do that tomorrow. That might help me stay focused during the Pomodoro and not let my mind wander so much.

Outlining: time spent: 0

Blocking: time spent: 0

Editing: Time spent: 0

Writing: Time spent: 3 hours, 27 minutes

Writing: Total number of words: 1055 words

Writing: Overall writing speed: 306 words/hour

Time spent doing other writing-related business: 2 hours, 28 minutes

My takeaway for today: If it's possible, I should do writing-related business things the day before they're due, after I do my writing, or deliberately schedule them for Saturdays.

My second takeaway for today: Remember to set your Pomodoro timer!

Day 317: Distracted so went offline

I managed to get up a little bit earlier today, so after doing house chores and clearing the decks, I'm starting work a little bit earlier. I hope this enables me to work more hours today than I did yesterday. I think so--I don't have as much to blog about today since I analyzed my writing productivity and writing style yesterday, and I'll just be continuing this slower writing pace.

I'm rather pleased that my writing speed actually increased a little bit yesterday compared to the day before. I hope that even though I'm being more thoughtful and essentially self-editing as I write, that I'll still start improving my writing speed a little bit.

I also want to start doing a bit of reading before I start writing. I discovered that if I read a certain type of humorous book, it helps with my pacing and rhythm when I write. So I'm going to try to do about 15 minutes of reading before writing today. I'll have to set a timer or else I might not stop.

***

Ugh, I'm so easily distracted today! I made the mistake of starting my writing on my computer and I kept going online to check up on random things. I really need to get offline! Why do I always forget that the internet can be such a distraction? Just because I can sometimes work on my computer and not be distracted by the internet doesn't mean it's still not there like a lion lurking in the grass, waiting to pounce! I've noticed that I'm more easily distracted by the internet than I used to be, so I think I need to make sure I adjust my writing routine to account for that.

***

I finished the third scene! And I'm really happy with it!

It definitely helped to move away from my computer. I instead used my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard (I got a really nice one from Redragon that has brown switches so typing on it is super nice, although not quite as nice as blue switches). It's harder for me to be distracted by the internet on my iPad because it's just a bit more of a pain to go to websites. I also had to set my phone across the room so I wouldn't be tempted to check it for weird things.

I was also motivated by trying to finish a couple monsters on 4thewords.com. I want to finish some quests for a special event going on now.

Probably because I wasn't distracted as much, my writing speed was much faster (almost 800 words per hour), even though I still did self-editing as I was writing. However, when combined with the dismal writing speed before when I was distracted (354 words per hour), it evened out (450 words per hour).

I don't want to write fast just to write fast--if I did, I'd just vomit the words out and not worry about making them exactly how I want them--but I do want to improve my efficiency. If I can do 600 or 750 words an hour, I can get about 3000 words done a day in about 4 or 5 hours.

For my last few books, I was aiming for 3000-4000 words a day (but ideally hoping for 5000 words a day if I could), but that included the time for cycling (editing the scene I'd written the previous day before I started writing that day). Sometimes cycling took only 30 minutes, but often it took at least an hour, sometimes two. With my more self-edited writing style, my cycling might take less time, and I might still be able to do 3000 words a day even if my writing pace is slower.

I will do a little more writing before dinner, and then hopefully get a little more done after dinner.

***

We ended up having a late dinner, so I worked longer than I had expected. However, I didn't get as much done as I had wanted. It was a difficult opening to the scene, so I spent a lot of time thinking about how the character was feeling and how to express it.

I'm actually rather happy with this new writing style. Before, I'd have written what I originally thought of, which was kind of lame. I might have just left a note to fix it later, or I might have been writing so fast that I wouldn't have thought that it was lame and I'd have just kept going. And then later in self-editing, I might realized it was lame and fixed it, or I might have been tired of self-editing and not realized what a piece of crap that line was.

Today, after writing the terrible line, I took time to read it and critique it, and realized it was lame. Then I took time to really think about a much better line, until I had written something I was happy with. And I did this several times, for several bad lines. That's really satisfying.

When it was time for dinner, I realized I'd already put in 5 hours of work, and since I still want to get some reading done before bed, I think I'm going to stop here.

My writing pace was much slower for that last writing session, but since I ended up being pleased by my writing, I'm okay with it. I got more writing done today than yesterday, at least.

Outlining: time spent: 0

Blocking: time spent: 0

Editing: Time spent: 0

Writing: Time spent: 5 hours, 1 minute

Writing: Total number of words: 2163 words

Writing: Overall writing speed: 431 words/hour

Time spent doing other writing-related business: 57 minutes

My takeaway for today: Remember that the internet can be a distraction, even if it's not always a distraction all the time!

Day 316: Finally made a decision about my writing style

I had a good walk today. At first I was listening to the Dear Writer, You Need to Quit audiobook, but then the book made some good points so I shut it off so that I could think about it.

I realized that the reason I've been rambling and worrying about my slower writing style the past few days is because I have a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on the creativity supposedly generated by flow state. I don't doubt that a writer enters into a more uninhibited creative state in flow state, although I haven't positively seen the results in my own writing since I haven't done a real experiment with it--I haven't deliberately generated writing while in flow state and then compared it to writing not done in flow state.

So because I don't have any solid data, I've been wondering if my writing during flow state is superior to my writing when doing this current slow, but more polished writing style.

But I also know writers don't necessarily have to write in flow state to be great writers. Some writers' personalities ensure that they write better when they write slowly and deliberately. But does mine?

(It also occurred to me that I might only need to use this slower writing style for my Contemporary Romance novels, since they're a different genre and style of writing. I don't remember how I wrote and how long it took me to write my Protection for Hire novels, which is similar in style to the Hawaii novels.)

I thought more about when I write as fast as I can to try to get into flow state, and also about the process I go through to edit that writing. When writing fast, I have to rely on self-editing to clean up the writing because it's usually very messy. After all, the whole point of writing fast is to get stuff down and then fix it later, so I always have lots of stuff to fix.

The self-editing process is my problem. Not only do I dislike it (or maybe because I dislike it), I'm terrible at it. It takes me a really long time, especially if there's a lot that I have to fix in the writing (like when I use dictation).

When doing self-editing, there are two modes or mindsets I have to be in. The first mode involves patching holes up or rearranging writing around, and it's very difficult for my brain to be able to do this. I know other writers don't have this kind of problem--I know several who are amazing at self-editing and can easily do all the things that I find difficult.

The second mode or mindset is detailed polishing of the prose--making sure each word has the right meaning and impact, making sure the sentence structure has the right rhythm, making sure the paragraphs flow well. This isn't as difficult for me to do, but it does require more time and usually a second pass of the writing.

I have been realizing that when I do self-editing, I am actually doing two passes on each paragraph, one after the other--once to rearrange and patch things up, and a second to more finely polish the prose. I think this is why self-editing is so hard for me and why it also takes so much time. It requires a lot of energy for me to switch mindsets, and I am doing that for each paragraph.

This also made me start to worry that I didn't spend as much time as I should have to polish the prose for my 3 Regency books as much as I could have (which really isn't a great thing to realize after the books have already been released).

So if I depend upon flow state for my writing, I would have to improve my self-editing skills, but I already know that there's only so much I can improve on. I would have to work really hard to increase the amount of time and focus when I do self-editing, which is already a very difficult process for my brain. I don't know if I could do that. I know my limitations.

Conversely, when I use this slower writing style, while I may not be in flow state, I am either skipping or incorporating the self-editing process of patching and rearranging stuff, because I am correcting that as I write. I am also polishing as I write, and the polishing is much more thorough than when I do a self-editing pass. I think this is because I have so many things to fix while self-editing, so I just don't take as much time for polishing as I do now, with this slower writing style.

Since I am not confident in my ability to improve my self-editing, I realized that my choices are to continue with my not-as-polished prose but faster writing speed, or my slower speed and more polished writing. And I realized that I would rather put out higher quality writing than write faster. I would feel better knowing I released writing that was the best that I could write at the time.

Right now I am writing about 450 words per hour, which isn't far off from what I recall my writing speed was before I started doing sprints and consistently recording my words per hour rate. So I think I'm essentially back to my old writing style when I was writing for my publishers.

So now hopefully I'm done worrying and waffling about this writing style. I feel a bit better now that I've analyzed the pros and cons more logically. A lot of my worry was because of my impatience to write faster in general, but I do think that the more I write, I might get faster at writing even using this slower, more deliberate writing style.

I finished the second scene of my book yesterday, so today I'll start on scene 3.

***

On a side note, I was concerned about the number of hours I'd been working lately and wondering where my time during the day goes, so I also took another look at my daily schedule. I estimated times for non-writing tasks like chores and personal hygiene, and also for family time.

I realized that non-writing time actually takes up more time during the day than I had thought. Sleep, chores, exercise, and family time takes up about 15 hours a day, and it extends to 16 hours if I cook dinner (which I don't do every day, only every other day since I usually make a lot and we eat leftovers or else we eat take-out food). That leaves 8-9 hours for writing-related stuff.

I admit I take up too much time blogging during the week, but lately the blogging has been good for me to organize my thoughts and analyze my productivity, so I consider it useful. But even if I give myself 1-2 hours for blogging, I still need to divide the remaining time between writing and reading.

I don't want to neglect my reading like I did before, because I had that terrible 2 weeks of utter creative burnout in December last year where I got nothing done. So assuming I don't cook, and I am able to limit my blogging to 1 hour (which is difficult if I'm working through a problem like lately with my writing style), that still leaves only 8 hours for writing and reading. 6 hours of writing only leaves 2 hours of reading, which I've discovered isn't always enough time to refill the creative well. So my writing time is probably more like 4 or 5 hours. That means my writing time of 4-5 hours the past few days is actually average.

In order to increase my writing time, I'd have to decrease blogging (which naturally decreases if I'm not in the midst of some productivity experiment) and reading time. However, I don't want to decrease reading too much on a consistent basis. So I could probably spend 5-6 hours writing on an average day.

So, all this to say, I have to stop beating myself up over not getting 6 hours of writing done a day, because that would be the mark of an exceptionally good day.

***

I had been hoping to get 4 hours of writing done today at least, but 1) blogging took longer than I had anticipated (although it's all good for helping me understand my writing process), 2) I started getting a slight sinus headache, and 3) I want to get to bed early tonight anyway. I've been going to bed too late lately, and I feel like I get more done when I get up earlier.

I'm disappointed I couldn't improve the number of writing hours I worked today, but my writing speed improved today, so that made me happy. I'm hopeful I can get up earlier tomorrow and then get more work done.

Outlining: time spent: 0

Blocking: time spent: 0

Editing: Time spent: 0

Writing: Time spent: 2 hours, 37 minutes

Writing: Total number of words: 1512 words

Writing: Overall writing speed: 578 words/hour

Time spent doing other writing-related business: 2 hours

My takeaway for today: I made the decision to focus on more polished prose than writing fast. I will work on writing carefully and thoughtfully rather than vomiting my words out.

My second takeaway for today: I have to stop beating myself up over not getting 6 hours of writing done a day, because that would be the mark of an exceptionally good day.

Day 315: Freewriting; waffling over this writing style

Wow I got a lot of business stuff done yesterday. I checked my email and Facebook, and then I put together drafts of my newsletters for both Camy Tang and Camille Elliot for May. I also set up several blog posts for my Camy’s Loft blog, which took a lot more time than I had expected.

However, I’m glad I got all that stuff done ahead of time. It was helpful that I had a To Do list with everything that needed to be done, so I just had to check things off.

I also feel better that now I don't have to check email or Facebook until Saturday. I can focus on just my writing. I even turned off the email notifications on my phone. I had been using the notifications in order to do a quick look at the senders and subject lines of the emails I received to see if I needed to go into my email program to answer anything that was urgent. But as my husband mentioned, if anything was really urgent, the person would text me or call me, so I think it'll be okay if I don't answer emails until Saturday.

Of course, the flip side of not checking email or Facebook is that I should be able to write more and get more done on my book, right? If I'm not spending time marketing then I should be able to write more books in exchange, shouldn't I? I would actually love it if I could write more books.

I hope I can get lots of words done today. I'll be continuing my experiment with writing more slowly and deliberately rather than vomiting my words out. I'm better prepared today with larger word count and longer time limit monsters on 4thewords.com so I won't be scrambling to try to get words down just to defeat the monster.

I'm wondering if I want to set my Pomodoro timer even though I'm not really doing sprints (in that I'm not writing as fast as I can for a set time limit). I remember that it was easier to think about my work day by thinking that I needed to do X number of Pomodoro sprints as opposed to writing X number of hours.

I'm not aware if this actually happened on Saturday, but I also wonder if I might possibly let my mind wander since I'm not writing as fast as I can. A Pomodoro might help me keep my mind focused.

So I think I'll try doing 25-minute Pomodoros today, too, but I won't be vomit-writing like usual. I'll see how things go.

***

On a side note, I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook of The Shadow of What Was Lost on my run today. Aside from the fact that the narrator is really good, the unfolding story was just so engaging and interesting. It was good for me to use it to analyze for compelling writing.

The character started out witnessing something that he intensely feared. Showing his normal life in the school was a little boring, but then the conflict with the boys who were about to beat him up was interesting, as was how he was rescued. And then the explanation of the war and the Augers was very interesting because hints about that had already been dropped earlier, so I wanted to know.

Most of the interesting parts were not action Scenes but Sequels, with the tension being the emotions evoked due to the information that was being presented.

It made me look at my opening scenes. I don't have a lot of conflict or tension since it takes a little while from the Call to Adventure to Crossing the Threshold, which is what starts the antagonist's actions. Until the Threshold, the antagonist is out of the picture.

But maybe I can add some tension and conflict in relation to the overarching conflict of the series. That has already been set in motion even before the book starts, and it's similar to the conflict with the war mentioned in the audiobook.

I will have to see how I can adjust my first scene to include the major character of the series, maybe, and her issues with the major antagonist of the series. I will perhaps do the editing after my writing for today, since I have to do the editing in Scrivener and not 4thewords.

I'm so glad I was listening to that audiobook today! I had been listening to the beginnings of several audiobooks (included free with my Audible Premium membership) but nothing had really been all that compelling. I had felt a little guilty in dropping some of those books before I finished them, but I also feel like I'd rather spend time listening to a really good book rather than one that just didn't fit me. And I've been noticing more and more that there are certain books that hook me within a couple chapters.

It's fascinating to me to analyze those books, when I find them, to try to figure out why they are so interesting to me. I'm glad now that I had moved on to the current audiobook, because it's been good for me to use to analyze my own writing.

***

I don't know how this more thoughtful, deliberate writing style affects my creativity, but I have noticed that I'm spending a great deal of time editing the words in my head or on the page. In fact, I'm spending much more time self-editing now than I would if I were doing a self-editing pass on a page of words I'd just vomited. So overall, my self-editing might be much more thoughtful and thorough than it might otherwise have been if I'd been writing fast.

I think it makes the prose more exact, and I also think the rhythm of the scene is a little better paced.

I guess a key question to ask is if my original prose is creative enough if I'm not in flow state. I would like to think so, since I don't think most writers write in flow state ALL the time. There certainly would be segments in their books that are not written in flow state.

Regardless of flow state, I'm actually rather pleased to find that my self-editing is more thorough this way. Since I hate self-editing so much, those previous self-editing passes tended to be kind of quick and lazy. I feel like this way, I'm polishing the prose more than I would have otherwise. I'm not sure if it really makes for a better story, though.

***
I had forgotten how doing a monster in 4thewords also encourages me to freewrite to brainstorm when I get stuck, because then I type words to help defeat the monster. And the freewriting is always really helpful whenever I do it. I feel like I can organize my thoughts better if I freewrite them in a stream-of-consciousness ramble. It helps me to try to come up with ideas for what I want to happen next or to see how exactly I want to phrase something.

The freewriting today was really helpful. I had a few places where I hadn't blocked in enough detail and I wasn't exactly sure where to take the scene. For example, while I had thought about the event to end the scene, I hadn't really thought about the words and sentiments to end the scene. I suppose I could have had it peter out, but I like having a nice solid ending that matches the rhythm of the scene. So I did some freewriting and came up with a good ending line.

The writing pace was slow again today, and again I felt a little uneasy at how low my words per hour rate was. I don't know if it's because I'm used to a higher words per hour pace or because I'm worried that I'm wasting too much time thinking while writing. But I have to admit that that thoughtful time resulted in words I'm actually pretty happy with. I feel like I'm looking at words I've polished more than normal, which I think will result in quicker self-editing later.

I didn't go online while writing--any research questions or word choices I had to look up, I instead left a note for myself. I followed my blocking notes, which helped move the writing along, and paid more attention to rhythm because of the comedic tone of the writing.

I worked a little bit longer than yesterday and my writing pace was a little bit higher than yesterday. Maybe eventually I really can improve my writing speed.

I'm still a bit disappointed at my number of hours worked, though. It's still a bit less than when I wrote my Regency novels. At first, it was because I was having a hard time with the writing and also spending a lot of time rewriting the first scene, then doing extra blocking to fix the second scene. But I'm still not up to 6 hours, which is where I'd like to be, at minimum. Since my writing pace is slower than when I wrote my Regencies, I probably need to work more hours than that to make up for it; although since my editing time will likely be shorter, will that make up the difference?

The fact I've been so impatient with myself makes me also wonder if this writing style fits my personality. The Dear Writer, You Need to Quit book mentioned that alignment is magic. Is this writing style aligned with my personality? I guess I've always been rather an impatient person, so maybe that's why I've been questioning myself so much since starting this experiment.

But I also have to remember that my old writing style of vomit writing absolutely did NOT work when I started writing this book. So obviously something was wrong. While I still question this new writing style a lot, at least it lets me continue working and moving forward on this book without being dissatisfied with the writing.

So, ultimately, I guess I need to continue trying this out.

I tried doing Pomodoros today, and while it worked for a little while, I found myself unsure what to do during the 5 minute breaks aside from going to the bathroom or getting another bottle of water. A few times I just skipped the rest of the break in order to keep working. Ridiculously, I think it's because I felt like I didn't do all that much work in 25 minutes and didn't feel like I deserved a break yet.

I guess I'll continue to try it tomorrow, but I think I'll try a longer Pomodoro period, like maybe 45 minutes or 60 minutes. Maybe then I'll feel like I need a break when they come around. I also still want to try to keep the breaks to a minimum since I worry about wasting too much time, but I think if I have a monster running in 4thewords, it tends to keep my breaks shorter and makes me focus back on writing.

Outlining: time spent: 0
Blocking: time spent: 0
Editing: Time spent: 0
Writing: Time spent: 4 hours, 29 minutes
Writing: Total number of words: 2143 words
Writing: Overall writing speed: 478 words/hour
Time spent doing other writing-related business: 44 minutes
My takeaway for today: I had forgotten how doing a monster in 4thewords also encourages me to freewrite to brainstorm when I get stuck.

Day 313: Remembering that writing is hard work

I woke up feeling good (praise God!) and I did my home chores and cleared the decks. Since I just checked email and Facebook yesterday, I decided to skip that today, even though I had planned to do them on Saturdays, and I'll instead check my online and social media things tomorrow.

I also had a great run before starting work. I listened to the Dear Writer, You Need to Quit audiobook again and was really inspired.

I listened to the chapters on not being like everyone else (alignment is magic), questioning your defaults, and I was especially impacted by the chapter on how it's not going to be easy. That should be obvious, but I guess I needed to have her spell it out for me.

It occurred to me that I assumed writing in a different genre (Christian Contemporary Romantic Suspense) would be the same level of effort as writing in Christian Regency Romantic Suspense, which I've been working on for almost 2 years now. I assumed that writing Christian Contemporary Romantic Suspense would be the same as when I wrote it several years ago for my publishers (Zondervan and Love Inspired Suspense).

But it's not. The genre is hard for me now, for whatever reason. I realized that maybe I just need to accept the fact that this is going to be hard and stop looking for why it's hard and trying to fix it to make it easy.

I know writing is not easy. I've been writing full time since 2006 and published over 20 books (I actually don't know the exact number because I haven't counted recently, but last I checked it was 21 or 22 books and that was several years ago, just before the 4-ish years of writer’s block). I know that writing takes sweat and tears and often it's not fun at all, but it can be really hard work.

So why was I assuming that writing this book would be easy? Maybe because the Christian Regency Romantic Suspense books were relatively easy, compared to other books I've written.

It occurred to me that maybe I just need to accept the challenge of this book, which is a different writing style than my Regency novels, and which, right now, takes more effort to write. I need to accept that the difficulty is going to make my writing speed slower. And if I still want to put out books in a timely fashion, then that means I need to commit to writing more hours in a day in order to make my daily word count goals and finish this book sooner rather than later.

I also listened to the Dear Writer chapter on focusing on your strengths. My obvious strength is outlining, but another strength is pacing. I can look at my blocking notes and know if the pacing will go quickly or slowly, if it drags or if it's too fast. It's a sense of rhythm for me, probably because of my music hobby.

Since listening to that chapter, I've been asking myself, is my pacing better when I vomit the words out or when I'm more deliberate with my writing and think carefully before typing anything? I actually don't know the answer because I haven't compared the two very closely. I've been mostly focusing on vomiting my words for the last dozen books or so, and I realize it's because most writing articles and books told me to.

My instinct says that a more deliberate writing style will give me better prose and better pacing, but I don't have any proof for that. Also, this will make my writing a lot harder, because I'll need to work more hours during the day than before, since my words per hour speed will be diminished.

But, as the book mentioned, why do I think writing has to be easy?

Maybe I should try a more deliberate writing style and see how it goes? Also, the chapter in Dear Writer mentioned that when we work hard to develop our strengths, we get better at it. So practicing a more deliberate writing style might eventually result in a faster writing pace, too.

Also, I don't actually think I've been writing badly for the past several books just because I've been writing them fast. I spend a lot of time on self-editing in order to make the prose the way I want it. The fact I'm not very good at self-editing probably contributes to how long it takes me and how difficult it is for me, but it doesn't mean the end product was poor quality. When I look at the 3 books in the Lady Wynwood's Spies series that I've released in the past few months, aside from a few word choices here and there, there isn't a lot I would change about it. I don't see anything glaringly wrong about it and I think the story and characters are fun.

But this Hawaii book is more humorous and takes itself less seriously than the Lady Wynwood's Spies series, and the rhythm of the prose is different, I'm noticing. So maybe that's why I need a more deliberate writing style and why it's been harder to write. I'm not sure.

I guess, for the sake of experimentation and data collection, I'll write this book more slowly and deliberately than I have the last several books and see how it goes. It could also be that the editing time will be shortened enough that the actual time required to write the book will still match the average time for other books I've done. However, maybe I should still try to skip research and word look-ups, unless they seem important to the story? I guess it will at least keep me off the internet if I don't do those things, so that might be a reason not to.

I'm also kind of thinking I might stop measuring my sprint times and word counts and words per hour rates, and instead just calculate my overall words per hour rate at the end of the day by looking at my total writing time and word count. The sprinting was to help me focus when vomiting words, and if I don't have as many breaks, it might help me be more productive since I'm going to need to spend more hours writing than normal in order to get my word count goal completed.

Also, since I will need to spend more time working, I think I'll also keep better track of my energy levels. Even if I want a high word count for the day, if my brain fizzles, I'll call it a day.

So, in sum: I'll be writing more slowly and deliberately today, but I'll stay off the internet as much as possible and won't do research or look up words if I can help it. I won't record my sprinting (since, well, what's the point?). I'll aim for more hours of writing today, with few breaks. I'll embrace the challenge of the writing and remember that writing is hard work.

***

Kind of a trivial problem: While adopting this slower writing pace, I'm finding it a little difficult to write in 4thewords.com and run a monster battle if it's a short time limit monster, since there are times I'll just be thinking while the time runs down. I think I'll need to either switch up my monster or write in Scrivener and copy and paste the writing in 4thewords instead. But I kind of feel like copying and pasting is cheating a little since I'm not adhering to the time limit for the monster. 

I also find I don't like the time pressure of writing just because the time is running down, especially if I'm trying to figure out exactly what to say. It makes me feel tempted to write crap words just so I don't lose to the monster. If I were in vomit-words mode, it would be really great to make me keep writing. But the point of this experiment is to write thoughtfully, rather than just writing crap words.

So I think I've figured out a compromise solution. I had a sentence I was trying to figure out but the time limit was running down, so I skipped that sentence and instead wrote the sentence afterward, which I knew what I wanted to write, just to be able to type the words to defeat the monster and start a new one, with a refreshed time limit. I think in future, I need to try to focus on monsters with longer time limits.

***

The writing was not as difficult today as I was yesterday, but my writing speed was still glacial. I actually feel a bit impatient that I can't write as fast as I used to, but I also feel like the extra time I spent thinking about it enabled me to make each phrase have just a little bit extra impact, or have just a bit better rhythm.

However, I started writing a bit faster later in the day, so maybe I'll improve my writing speed even though I'm being more deliberate and thoughtful about my writing than when I vomit-write.

A part of me is still wondering if I actually do write more creatively or come up with more creative ways to say things when I vomit-write, as most writing articles say happens when you get into flow state. Does that really happen to me? Am I limiting myself and hindering my writing by writing slower?

Well, I can't say that the vomit-writing was helping when I started this book, because I was writing crap that bothered me so much that I had to rewrite it and fix it before I could continue with the scene, and that revision process took a lot of time. So maybe the answer is that for this book, at least, I need to think more before typing. I just really hope that my writing speed picks up or I'll never finish this book!

I actually did not get to write as many hours as I wanted today because I had Bible study, and now it's getting late. I wrote more hours today than I have on other days, so maybe I'll write even more on Monday.

Outlining: time spent: 0

Blocking: time spent: 0

Editing: Time spent: 0

Writing: Time spent: 3 hours, 51 minutes

Writing: Total number of words: 1505 words

Writing: Overall writing speed: 390 words/hour

Time spent doing other writing-related business: 1 hour, 2 minutes

My takeaway for today: I have to remember that writing is hard work and I can't expect it to always be easy, especially when I switch genres.