Friday, April 30, 2021

April Writing Report

Another month of writing is in the books, so here I am, back at the Tyrannosaurus Ranch to make my report. I'm pleased to say that I've continued my daily writing habit that I've been working on establishing since the first of February of this year. I'm now writing approximately an hour a day. I say approximately because I probably average slightly less. Some days I'm not able to hit my goal. This has less to do with writing stamina and more to do with external circumstances. I have found that I write best in the morning and so have been getting up early to get my writing in before the rest of the house wakes up . . . only sometimes they wake up early and sometimes I sleep in late. As a result, my hour of writing gets truncated on those days. But I had far fewer days this month in which I only did my five minutes minimum, so though I am not keeping detailed records, I think it's a safe bet to say that I wrote significantly more in April than I did in March--and certainly more than in February.

I did not, however, write every day. GASP!

I missed one day (the 28th) because things just got too busy and hectic. In the past, when this would happen, I'd make myself do the five minute minimum, often getting out of bed at night to get the time in because it had totally slipped my mind. This time, I got to thinking. That five minutes I'd squeeze in before bed just to say that I'd written that day rarely if ever resulted in quality writing. It was mostly busy work so that I could tick a box on my calendar. So I decided it just wasn't worth it and went to sleep. It actually feels to me more in keeping with the spirit of writing every day, if not the actual letter of the law.

I also decided on the seventeenth that from that point forward, I'd take Sundays off. It seemed like it was always a chore to write on Sundays. Often I'd do five minutes of filler and then call it good. So again, I decided it wasn't worth it. Also, it's been nice to give myself a day off and I think it might actually be beneficial to the writing. A day to let ideas percolate in the ol' subconscious. 

Another difference this month is that I've been focusing almost exclusively on writing a new novel. I think I spent a few days brainstorming a story idea, but by and large, this month has been dedicated to working on this new book. A friend told me about a new-ish "how-to" book and his rave reviews made me pick up a copy. Friends and neighbors, it is, frankly, mind-blowing. I can't recall a better book about story. If you wanted to be a writer and only wanted to read one book on how to do it, Story Genius by Lisa Cron is the book you should read. I may do a longer review of it somewhere down the line, once I've completed the process it lays out, but for now I'll just leave it at: It's the best damn book on writing I've ever read.

I've been working through Story Genius, doing the exercises (though exercises is not really the right word), and the novel looks to be shaping up nicely. I'm still in the early stages of brainstorming and outlining, but I'm feeling pretty confident that come the end of the year I should have a pretty decent manuscript to start shopping around.

To that end, I plan on keeping up the daily writing. I'll let you know how May goes here on Tyrannosaurus Ranch, so stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

March Writing Report

It's the final day of March as I write these words. Today marks the 59th consecutive day that I have sat down and written for a given period of time. I wrote about this project at the end of February; you can read about it here. But for the tl;dr version: basically, I am using Jerrold Mundis's method as outlined in his book Break Writer's Block Now in order to get into the habit of writing daily. And it's working! I don't think I've beaten my record for consecutive days of writing—I'd have to consult my notes—but I'm getting close, at any rate. And certainly 59 straight days of writing has not been the historical norm for me. 

I covered February already, so let's take a look at how March went. I started the month writing for 20 minutes per day and I'm ending it writing 45 minutes per day. I'm not keeping track of word count, but needless to say, I'm cranking out more words these days than I was at the beginning of the month, and certainly more than when I started this experiment, writing for a whopping five minutes per day. But my daily word count isn't the only thing that's changed this past month. For example . . .

In February, I wrote my prescribed amount each day. This varied from week to week as I slowly increased my writing times, but I never wrote less or more than the time allotted. For the most part I stuck with that in March, however . . . life. February was a pretty run-of-the-mill month insofar as my day-to-day life went, whereas March threw me a few curveballs. My oldest son was on spring break from kindergarten and this month also contains his birthday, and we had family down to celebrate. In addition, there were also a few random other situations that popped up that made it hard to hit my prescribed writing time. (Add to this the fact that the time itself was getting longer and therefore harder to squeeze in.) So, no. I didn't write the full time every day. But I did write every day. What happened on the days that I just felt too busy or overwhelmed or distracted by other things was that I dropped back down to 5 minutes. No matter what was going on, no matter how late it was, I made myself write for a minimum of 5 minutes to keep the streak going. I think I maybe did this three or four times during the month. 

Another change is that I allowed myself to use my writing time to brainstorm ideas. In February, I limited my writing time to writing words "for publication," that is to say, words that I had hope that someone might actually read. These types of words tend to be more fulfilling than outlining or brainstorming sessions, and that feeling was part of the carrot I was using to get through these writing times. But something happened. I realized I was writing aimlessly. Though I finished a few projects in March, I also started at least two stories that meandered and went nowhere. I ultimately deleted them so hopeless were they. Well, that didn't feel productive and fulfilling. So, I decided I'd let my brainstorming sessions count. Toward the end of the month, I reread Break Writer's Block Now and was surprised to find that Mundis specifically says that brainstorming, outlining, editing, and revising should all count toward your daily writing time. (Marketing, signing contracts, working on your website, and all other "business of writing" projects do not count.) So, I've been allowing myself to brainstorm during my writing time and it's been going well.

I've every intention of keeping going. I'll start off April writing for 45 minutes each day and increase my time week-by-week throughout the month. If I do this, then by month's end, I should be writing 65 minutes per day! If I keep increasing each week by five minutes then by the end of the year I will be writing 3 hours and 10 minutes per day, which  . . . is unlikely. I've got two kids; by end of the year, I'll have a third. I've got a job. I've got chores to do around the house. I've got friends and family to talk to and hang out with. I've got movies I'd like to watch and books I'd like to read. I also need to sleep, eat, and do the other things of this nature that keep the body going. At this point in my life, there is very little chance that I will have the time to write for over three hours per day. And in fact, it may be that I am never able to write that much on a consistent, daily basis. Many full-time professionals don't. At some point, a writer's mind begins to wander; you only have so much concentration to spend on a given day. Yes, some pros write for 8+ hours per day, but that isn't the norm, in my experience.

So what is my ultimate goal? 

I'm glad you asked. But honestly, I don't know. I think I could reasonably expect to write for an hour each day, maybe a little longer. My plan is to keep working my way through ever-increasing writing times until it feels like too much, either because my brain is pooping out on me or because I'm missing out on too many things I need or want to do. At that point, I'll reevaluate. 

There's only one way to find out.