Monday, March 19, 2012

Challenges in Writing, and Keeping Score

Hello, everyone. It's been a long couple of weeks, and I apologize for my absence. My life took an upset (which in this case, is a good thing) but it disrupted my rhythm.

There are several common challenges which face writers, some of which I struggle with, and of those, two of them have hit me pretty hard over the last couple weeks. 1) Morale. 2) Time Management. Morale, to be perfectly honest, is something I'm usually pretty good at. Time management, to be perfectly honest, is not.

I'm not sure what happened morale-wise. I was going along fine and then--bam: I'm not good enough! To be fair, I don't exactly have a lot of accomplishments under my belt to be proud of--yet. But I have more conviction, motivation and momentum toward accomplishing my goals than I ever have before, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this train takes me. I think this was just a hiccup of old self-doubts. It happens. Don't worry about it, and it will pass.

More complicated is time management. This is like that clown that you punch and punch and he just keeps rolling back up. You can try and try and try, but old habits have a way of re-asserting themselves. You keep fucking up and being late, or slacking off, or whatever, no matter how many times you insist to yourself that next time, it really will be different.

Quite frustrating really. I don't have a solution, except that sometimes, if you try hard enough for long enough, it just seems to stop.

I won't say I've solved this problem. But I've gotten a hell of a lot better than I used to be. For example, I can actually write stuff now! Like, complete stories! Yay, me! That used to be just outside the scope of my attention span. Not sure what happened, but it seems to have changed, and I'm grateful for it. (This may be tied to morale... maybe more self-confidence helped? Not sure.)

Anyway, because time management is still something I struggle with, I've come to the following program to help me stay on track with my novel.

Oh yeah, I'm writing a novel. Angry Robot Open Door Submissions, Apr 16-Apr30. I found out about it at the end of February, decided I would go for it. Had a goal of an outline by March 16, got that. Now I have a new goal: 5000 words per day. At that rate, I should be able to write a 100,000 word novel in 20 days. That allows me up to 10 days for bad days, traveling days, gaming days, etc.

So, next question: how am I going to keep score? Well, I'm a game designer by hobby (of not by profession--yet) so I built a little game for myself.

Here it is:

each 1000 words = 1 point
each 1000 words written before 2:00 pm = 2 points, instead (Habit building, trying to write in the mornings.)
meeting my 5000 word goal in a day = 3 points

People tend to ask things like, "what are the point for?" They're for keeping score :) Beyond that, nothing really. If I come up with something more interesting later, I'll let you know.

So, if you see me posting on twitter, "13 points today!" that means it was a good day!

Okay, hell, for the sake of not ignoring the blog, I'll put in another measurement: 1 bonus point if I do a blog post :)

Last, but not least, for the sake of not ignoring the rest of my life, one last measurement: a gold star if I also take care of real-life shit that day.

So, the final score-keeping rules:

1000 words written after 2:00 pm = 1 point
1000 words written before 2:00 pm = 2 points
Meeting my 5000 word goal in a day = 3 points
If I happen to make it to 10,000 words = 5 points (instead of 3, so, another 2 points.)
If I also write a blog post = 1 point
And if I also take care of real life shit = Gold Star

Credit is only given for full thousand-word chunks. 999 words is worth 0 points. 1000 is worth 1 (or 2, if I finish it before 2:00 pm.) However, an exception for up to 300 words can be given, if I stopped at a natural stopping point, such as the end of a chapter. So 4,720 words could count for 5000 if I stopped at a natural break point.

Points are not given for text which I discard. If I write three drafts of a passage, only the final draft counts for  points.

I acknowledge mixed feelings about how to handle this. Writing and re-writing is an important part of the creative proces. The only reason I want to do it this way for now is because I want to encourage, at this stage, doing a brain-dump kind of writing. It's a hell of a lot easier to edit than it is to get that first draft down on paper (metaphorical paper--where are we, the dark ages?) so it's important to me to rush through my first draft as quickly as possible.

At that point, I'm sure, I will see many glaring errors and go back and re-write 99% of it. But that first draft, I just want to pump out as quickly as possible.

The goal, of course, being to have a draft between 95,000 and 140,000 words prepared by April 16. Then I can take one or two weeks for revisions and submit!

Wish me luck :)

P.S. My new Kinesis Contoured Ergonomic Keyboard came today. Awesome! Now I can (hopefully) manage keeping up this word count with less exhaustion of the hands and fingers!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck! Let me know if the ergonomic keyboard makes a difference.