My tricks for more productive writing

Lately, I’ve started getting back into the mindset of wanting to push out higher word counts on a daily basis. There’s no secret to why – I’m working on a novel again (see front page sidebar for writing status on Chrysalis, which I update every few days. Chrysalis is intended to be the introductory novel for my character, Niki Hunter). The last few days especially, I’ve seen my word counts jump from a few hundred a day to a few k a day.

To be fair, the last few days I’ve also been off from work and without much in the way of commitments, unless you count going to the movies or taking the kids to Pokemon a hard pressing engagement. These are, however, the things that have worked for me.

  1. Tunes. Preferably something with a strong drum tempo and low word count. I prefer either Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel, Dark Knight, or the Sherlock Holmes soundtracks) or Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica reboot – I have them all). I find my fingers pounding in tune to the tempo, and I like that.
  2. Typing effect. Yeah, it’s arcane and stupid, but I’ve found that the sound of typing – especially when it corresponds to letters appearing on my screen – helps fuel my writing. The nice thing is that there are a lot of options here – you have FocusWriter, which can handle text and ODT files and has typewriter sounds built in. Or you can get something platform specific, like NoisyTyper on the Mac, that turns every keystroke into a typewriter sound.
  3. Actively counting words. I’ve loved Jamie Rubin’s scripts for word counting and spreadsheet updating without muss or fuss. Every time I change toolsets and workflows, I write helper scripts to keep the spreadsheets updated. The problem I’ve had lately, in addition to finally finding a tool that doesn’t meld well, is that the same thing that makes these scripts great – the lack of human intervention – also makes them less than ideal for mental tallies. Instead, I’ve gone back to an old spreadsheet format I used to use, which let’s me record daily writing updates on the novel and returns how many words I’ve written. This is not for everyone, or probably even for most, but for me the manual process of updating my word count serves the function of  reminding me how much I’ve done and how much more I might need to do. Programs like Scrivener or Storyist, if that’s your thing, can do this for you automagically. In my quest to be more platform agnostic, I’ve been working in LibreOffice lately, making for some more manual efforts.
  4. #1k1hr – this twitter hashtag, when used, has helped me produce more words than I ever thought possible. The notion is simple. Announce or search on twitter, and then with or without others, start writing for exactly 60 minutes. I don’t know if it’s the time constraint or what, but I’ve had great success with this. There is no winning or losing, but the focusing for an hour on just the one thing – writing – can be exactly what you need sometimes.

These are the tricks that seem to help me. Of course, nothing beats just sitting ass in chair and writing. I hate using the expression, but these are like productivity hacks that work for me. Give a few a try. Worse case, you can leave me a comment somewhere telling me how awful it turned out and then my secret plan to figure out who my readers are will have begun to hatch.



A plethora of stories

Just under the wire, but here is this week’s writing update.

I have…a plethora of stories at the moment. I wish I could say these were all new stories. Most of them were written in the Fall, then set in a drawer to percolate while I worked first on NanoWriMo, then on the latest novel draft (huh…I just realized I wrote two novels back to back in the last six months. Go me.) What I am left with is a veritable plethora of stories, though.

I have the stories I’m revising that were in the drawer, as well as new stories dancing in the periphery. For the first time, ever, I have 2 stories out with 4 beta readers at the same time. The real kicker is that one of them, a space opera, wasn’t satisfying enough to me in the first draft, so I sat down and rewrote it from scratch (it’s practically a completely different story now).

What does this mean? A lot of checking my inbox for feedback emails, all the while biting at the bit wondering why I haven’t heard anything back from folks yet (it’s been, at most, a few days. It’ll probably be another week.). But this also means that I’m quickly running out of beta readers. I dont’ feel right asking the same folks more than once. I guess I better get this writing thing down right while I still have the kindness of others.

And that’s where I’m at with writing this week. Hope things are faring well on your end!

With math, I can justify anything!

Brigantine Amazon entering Marseilles in Novem...
Brigantine Amazon entering Marseilles in November 1861. She was later renamed Mary Celeste, as which she became the well-known ghost ship. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As background, my current writing project tackles the question of mysterious disappearances – sort of. Mostly, its a SyFy Channel treatment of the subject, so future readers shouldn’t get their hopes up for deep discussions (it’s a creature feature story, and I must admit I’m having a lot of fun writing it). But out of curiosity, I did some simple math today, and found this…intriguing pattern.

If you take the difference of these two dates (the 1586 is a bit of a fudge – the colony was out of contact for three years, so it could have happened any time in that time frame), you get 286 years apart. Now these were just the two that popped into mind, and being curious if I could force a pattern out of this, I divided that number in two and got 143 years (under the assumption it happened more often, and because this first answer didn’t quite help me)(I’m writing fiction, I get to make the facts fit!). And 1872 + 143 = 2015!

So, assuming a cycle as long as 143 years (but maybe only 70 something!), we can expect another small population to just vanish this year. You’re welcome.