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Starting over

You follow the rainbow, and you look for the pot of gold

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Perhaps you think that it will be there for you if you do the work, and make the release, and write on your blog.

In some sense, and if I think about it for a while I tend to agree (at least in principle), it is the act (of writing, or painting, etc) in itself that matters.

And if you stop, and let the Resistance rule, it does not get better. Not at all. Each day it becomes more difficult to start again. And if you wait long enough, it may be really, really, difficult to start again.

So today I will start my Scrivener again. We’ll see what the outcome will be.

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A history of words

For 1107 days, producing an average of 145 words per day, it looks like this if you make a graph.

words

The graph shows one bar for each work shift, placed at the date when the work shift took place. The length of each bar corresponds to the total number of words in the book, at that date.

We see from the graph that there are periods of productivity, and periods where the pace is slower.

Referring to the labels in the graph, here are some milestones

  • A – March 2012. This was the start, however not from zero. My input data was 57875 words produced during NaNoWrimo 2011.
  • B – Summer 2012. Vacation time from day job, and deciding to do some work. This blog was rather new, and I wrote about giving it a try, and about the theme of the book.
  • C – Summer 2013. The next summer, and I am not done. Time to speed up. I read From where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler, and it was a game-changer. I wrote this post about Hypnopompia, and I became a little bit more convinced that I would make it to the end. We see that the productivity goes up (more words per day, and less days between each work shift). Looking forward, we see that this will happen also the next summer.
  • D – January 2014. Added this is a work of fiction, and a publishing note referring to the year 2014 (it was later changed to 2015). Started using Scrivener for the writing (before this date, I used Emacs with org mode).
  • E – February 2015. Decided to use Bookbaby (I purchased e-book production and Cover design), and aiming for the release. Starting the final edit, together with my first reader (who, like for Jan Guillou, happens to be my wife). Here I used docx-format for the book, since that was the format to be used for the submission, and Kindle Notes for the editing markings. We saved some rainforest and did it using phones, tablets, and computers. In total, there were over three thousand markings – small but significant changes! (In retrospect, this final editing was very well worth the effort).

Here are some conclusions

  • Every day without writing pushes your release date forward. Your book has a certain amount of words – even if you beforehand do not know how many – and every day you don’t write, the release day is postponed by one day. See this picture, which shows the number of words per day, and this picture, which shows the number of days without writing between working shifts – and you will see the effect more clearly.
  • Sometimes it helps to think that you are closer to the end than what you really are (a post published January 2013).
  • Books about writing can help – they did, surely, for me. But beware – count the number of blogs about blogging and the number of writers writing about writing, and select carefully which ones you want to spend time on.
  • Copyediting is painful but productive.
  • Selling and marketing needs their fair share of work. For me Joanna Penn has been a great source of inspiration. And of course, also here you need to Do the Work.

So, even if writing it was hard (well, at least it took time, but it was a lot of fun), I hope that reading it would be less cumbersome.

Closing in

They say it is like driving in the dark …

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… writing, that is – you see only a small part of the world, and sometimes it is very hard to know how to find your way home.

But now I have given myself a deadline!

I must admit that I have been strongly influenced by a) my wife, and b) a new job, which starts beginning of February 2015.

But nevertheless, I can sense a small feeling of (premature) celebration.

It has been a long journey. It started with NaNoWriMo in 2011 (yes, 2011!), and it has involved publication of excerpts here on this blog. And of course, many hours with my computer.

The excerpts are now removed, since it was impossible to keep them up to date. The manuscript changes all the time, and when it is finished (yes, it will be), I might reconsider the idea of publishing snippets from the book also here.

I plan to use Bookbaby, and when it is done (the publication, that is), I will give myself some rewards.

I will read this expensive book, leaned back in a comfortable chair.

I might join the Story is a State of Mind course, by Sarah Selecky.

I will read more in these excellent writing books (yes, it is always more fun to read about it than doing it – Resistance, right!):

  • How Fiction Works, by James Wood – because of its language, and because of its use of that language to describe what people have written in books!
  • The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner – because it is interesting in an elitistic way
  • Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose – because it got me started

And I will return to my other book-project – Books with Views.

And I will post here more often – I promise.

Why is it so much harder near the end?

It’s like a long, and sometimes also winding, road, that gets narrower, and narrower, and narrower …

a_long_way_to_go

It can also be seen from the word count. I started it with a bang, in NaNoWriMo 2011, going from 40000 to 50000 words during the last 3 days of that rainy and cold Nordic November month.

Then it was time for a well-deserved Christmas break.

A new year started, and I was determined to finish my work. My plan was to continue adding text to the draft, and then do a revision and rewrite of the whole thing. As it turned out, I later decided to publish rewritten scenes, one by one, on this blog.

Although the idea of NaNoWriMo was to create a complete first draft, there were a lot of holes to fill. I have continued to add words (and also rewrite) during 2012, and as we now start a new year I expect I will add another 10000 words before I am done.

Here you can see the word count for 2012.

word_count_2012_larger

From the graph above you can see that there is a steady increase in word count, but it tends to slow down as we approach the end of the year.

I have this feeling that it gets slower and slower. So what can be done about this? Why is it so hard to finish?

Being partly an academic person, I should of course look for an answer in the available literature.

The first time I read about fear was in Linchpin. I learned that we tend to listen to our primitive feelings of fear, designed to protect us from dangerous animals wanting to eat us alive. And that we use these feelings as excuses for not finishing our work. In the materially safe world of today (at least when comparing with the pre-historian Flintstone-inspiring world) it is of course not so smart to listen to these primitive feelings.

Instead we should sit down and Do The Work.

We could also listen to what other, more famous, persons have to say. As an example, I can recommend the article How to Break Through Your Creative Block: Strategies from 90 of Today’s Most Exciting Creators from the always excellent Brainpickings site.

There is also a good article – very appropriate for the topic at hand – at Write It Sideways, called 3 Steps to Overcoming ‘Almost Done’ Syndrome.

Often, in advice for getting the writing done, there is a time aspect. Like if you set aside a certain amount of time, and dedicate this time to writing, then things will happen. This is practiced in a technique called the Pomodoro technique, which I became aware of during a visit to my work from a book company representative. I received a free copy of a book about the Pomodoro technique, where it was said that I should purchase a timer, and set it to 25 minutes. All work should then be done in 25 minutes intervals!

John Cleese also says that you should set aside a certain amount of time, when you desire to be creative.

Based on these advice, I have tried the time technique. I set aside two hours for non-fiction writing and one hour for fiction writing. And those days when I had the discipline to follow it, it surely worked. Words got written down, software was developed, and the idea of thinking in quantity rather than quality really helped (to get things done).

Perhaps it is possible to follow this example, from the always interesting Copyblogger site, where it is described how a person became very productive by setting aside a certain amount of time every day: How to Kill Writer’s Block and Become a Master Copywriter in Only 3 Hours a Day.

Do you, dear reader, have similar experiences as the ones described above?

Perhaps I should give it a try

Perhaps it was due to inspiration from my wife, perhaps it was myself remembering my early attempts as a ten-year-old author wannabe, or perhaps it was procrastination towards writing academic papers.

shopping

In any case, I decided to give it a try. Fiction writing, that is. It was August 26, 2011, and I had seen the NaNoWriMo writing challenge on the web. It seemed very interesting, this NaNoWriMo stuff. You committed to write 50000 words in one month, and if you succeeded you could call yourself a winner.

I signed up, using the nickname dr_dynamic, and I was ready to go.

But where to start? How on earth could one write a novel? And in one month? This certainly seemed like a daunting task.

I decided I needed to practice. At the time had an account at 750 words, a very nice site where you make a promise to try to write 750 words of text each day. The site keeps track of your words count, and awards in the form of nice digital badges are given to you as you make progress. The more days in a row that you write your 750 words, the higher ranks you get.

So I used 750 words as a diary, and while writing my 750 words a day, I tried to sneak in some text snippets meant to be seen as “fiction”. I thought of these as possible building blocks, later on, in a novel of some kind.

Being an aspiring Kindle addict (reading books mostly on my phone – I do not own a real Kindle hardware yet) I had also purchased and downloaded some books, where I hoped I would find some hints. At this stage I had acquired a Kindle publishing guide, and also a a book on how ideas spread.

I was most inspired, however, by Steven Pressfield’s great little book Do the Work, a book which I read through directly, without zapping away to any of my other books.