Massive Productivity as a form of Procrastination? Indeed.

Well, there’s nothing like the difficulty of doing something that scares me a little (like writing a short story) to inspire me to get other work done.

In the last two days I’ve written roughly 7,500 words and completely planned out the plot for Red Lands Book 3 (Red Lands Book 2, City of the Dead, is currently with the trusted first reader getting checked over).  I wrote a lot of dialogue (as I tend to do when I’m outlining), and planned out several specific scenes.

Now, granted, I had been thinking about Book 3 for a long time, but I’m glad to finally have a solid grip on it.  My problems in writing Book 2 (City of the Dead) all came out of trying to make it something the series isn’t.  I wrote too many “character interaction” scenes that didn’t have sufficient personal conflict to keep the “fist of broken nails” pace and feel of Book 1 (Toward Darkness).  Once I finally figured that out, I was able to fix it. I don’t think that will be a danger in Book 3 (which I haven’t named yet).

But, to adapt a phrase from Bruce Cockburn, “I was writin’ this stuff to keep from writin’ something else,” namely, the short story challenge I set myself up on.  I don’t know why I’m so nervous about writing short stories, but I am.  But hey, if 3600+word days are the result of my procrastination, I’ll take it.

So, have you ever had that situation, where dodging something unpleasant led, not to laziness and stagnation, but massive productivity?  Is it even worth pushing through to write the short story, or should I just milk it for every massive word-count day I can get?

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May Word Count Madness (Plotting and Planning)

Okay, So I want to apologize for not updating sooner, but I was caught in the midst of a whirlwind of creative mojo.  In the first five days of May, 2012, I wrote just under 10,000 words, while working full time, not taking any days off work.  I was absolutely blown away by how much I got written, and I am extremely happy with it.  Not only did I write some final text that’s going to end up in the novels, but I planned out two potential new series and did a great deal of plotting for Red Lands Book 3.

In the intervening days, my writing has slowed, but I’m still more than meeting my 250 words/day goal, even not averaging in that amazingly productive first week.

As you may know, my writing process doesn’t involve a lot of rewriting (unless I absolutely have to, I only edit, not rewrite.  I fix errors, whether typographical, factual, or plot-based, but I don’t go in an polish all the originality out of my prose.  I’ve done that in the past, and it created a dry, soulless style that even my own family members couldn’t stomach … and if you think reading it was bad, trying writing it), nor does my writing style include a lot of formal outlining.

What I tend to do is get somewhat inspired about an idea or topic and write a large number of notes, typing as quickly as my clumsy fingers can fly, including dialog snippets, occasional full scenes, descriptions, plans for the long term, etc.  I’d say better than half of these ideas die off in the development stage, because they don’t have enough complexity and depth to really engage me (and if I’m bored or unhappy when writing something, the reader will be too).

Somewhere in the developmental phase I tend to write two ‘plot summaries,’ one based on Algis Budrys’ seven parts of a story, the other based on Don Miller’s definition of a story as “someone who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it.”  Between the two, they keep me focused on maintaining a solid, flowing narrative, with an active main character (one that things don’t just happen to, but who makes things happen), with solid motivations, who overcomes hardships and even makes sacrifices in order to get what he (or she) wants.

How far they’ll go, and how much they’ll risk or give up, is often what makes the story worth reading.  Or writing, for that matter.

A New Goal, a New Day

As you all know, this is the year I got serious about writing every day.  I set a daily word count goal of 250 words a day (91,500 words per year), which I knew I could meet.  Now, 250 is not a lot of words per day, but I knew I’d be better off setting a small goal that I could meet than a big one that I might not.  After all, success breeds enthusiasm, which breeds more and greater success, but failure breeds discouragement (you can see more about my reasoning here).  I wanted to succeed, and that motivation-boost was more important than the raw numerical output.

Well, everything was going just fine until a couple of weeks ago.  You see, right around the end of April I met my yearly writing goal of 91,500 words.  At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make a new word count goal (equal to the number of the days remaining in the year times 250, plus the 91500 I’d already written) or just enjoy being “over 100%.”

Well, I basked in my success for a few days, but by the end of the month, a malaise of demotivation (and not the funny posters) started setting in.  Fortunately, I knew the cure: setting another quantifiable goal.  Specifically, 250 words per day for the rest of the year (May-December), plus the 91,500 I’d already written.

So, now you see the new goal (in the upper-left corner of my blog).  I’ve left the old word count up, however, because it’s fun to see how much further I’ve gone than my original, New Year’s Resolution goal.  I’ve learned in life that consistency is the key to any victory, and I’ve finally managed to apply that to my writing, thanks to an achievable goal, a spreadsheet, and a little word count meter (thanks, Svenja Liv).  This consistency of writing has allowed me to finish a number of unfinished projects, which has given me the inventory necessary to actually start indie publishing as a business, not just a far-off dream.

Achievement … unlocked!!!

Okay, some of you may have noticed the little word meter on the upper-right side of the screen:  if not, take a look at it now:

That’s “write” – I’ve filled it all the way up!  I set a goal of 250 words per day when I made my New Year’s resolution, and that came to 91,500 words (366 days x 250 = 91,500 … gotta love leap year).  250 words may not seem like a lot, and it’s not, but it’s a very achievable goal that keeps me moving forward, in large part because it’s so easy to reach.  Success encourages persistence, after all (you can read a more detailed explanation of my reasons here).

I am VERY excited about this, clearly.  It represents a very big milestone, a massive success, a real sense of sticking to my goals.

So the question is, ‘What now?’  Do I just keep adding my word count to the word meter, happily zooming above 100%?  Or do I set a new goal, and create a new word meter?

I may end up doing the last one (if so, I’ll set it at 250 words x the number of days remaining in the year), but I worry that it will suck some of the fun of my success away, by moving the goal lines just when I reach them.  The point of this is psychological reinforcement (morale) as much as actual word count, so I have to be careful to play this right.

So for now, I’m just going to enjoy my greater than 100% word count, with a smile on my face.

 

Later!

Lagniappe: That Little Word-Count Meter

(I know I normally post on Monday, and I plan to post again next Monday.  In the Gulf South, we call this Lagniappe, or a little something extra.)

No, I’m not three months late for NaNoWriMo (or nine month’s early for this year’s), but I do have a daily writing goal, and I’m using this meter to make it public.  Thanks to Svenja for programming the meter.  You can click on the actual meter or follow this link to set up your own.

My daily word count goal (fiction only; blogs and such don’t count) is a gargantuan, world-shaking … 250 words.  One double spaced page.  I know, I know: it’s a herculean effort, but I think I’m up to it.

Seriously, though, I chose 250 words because of something Zoe Winters wrote, this post, actually, and this followup, back in August.

To make a long story short, a 1,000 word per day goal was discouraging, even intimidating, but Winters found that she could motivate herself to write every day, consistently, if her goal was short and easily reached.  She said she could do 250 words in 15 minutes.   It usually takes me 30, but who doesn’t have half an hour?

When I made my New Year’s resolutions, I knew one of them would be to write every day.  Thinking back to those posts, I set 250 words per day as my goal.  It’s absolutely attainable, even with my work schedule (even if at my busiest, I can take the time to write 250 words).

The thing is, just like Zoe Winters predicted, when I get started writing, I don’t want to stop at 250.  I’ve averaged over 800 words per day this year.  Will that rate continue?  I don’t know; I’m quite certain my work load will be increasing in the next couple of months.  Still, I’m very happy with how it’s going.

So if you want to write every day, I’d suggest setting a small goal, one that you know you’ll reach.  Success, and especially excessive success, feels a lot better than failure.  Writing 900 words feels like a failure if you have a 1,000 word per day goal, but that same 900 words feels like a triumph if you have a 250 word goal.  Success is encouraging, and reinforces good behavior.  Failure is discouraging, and pushes you to give up and abandon your goals, making it harder to press on.

And check out Zoe Winters’s blog, and her books as well (I’ll be discussing her one nonfiction work, Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author soon enough, as one of my “Honorable Mention” books on writing).

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