Day 8? Or 9?

(In which I completely lose track)

 

I have no idea what day I’m at in this crazy challenge I’m doing. (In case you’re just joining me, I said I’d try to write at least 4000 words a day for 14 days.)

 

2 things are becoming clear:

1. I have given up all hopes of steady progression, and am now working in bursts whenever I have the energy. (Or not. I sometimes force myself to have the energy, and enthusiasm follows once I get into things and my characters take on their own lives and surprise me!)

2.  Counting days is becomng completely useless.

3. (Did I say 2 things? Ha! Just goes to show how functional my brain is rigt now.) If I want to finish this rough draft Friday (which I’d love, because that gives me a few days to rewrite and edit), I have to write around 6000 words for the next few days. It might happen, it might not. I don’t have a lot of other stuff going on in the next couple of days, so we’ll see.

 

USEFUL WRITER TIP!

Twitter is a goldmine when ou figure out how to use #hashtags. (It only took me a year or two of being on Twitter before I figured it out…)

My favourite hashtag is #1k1hr (or #1k1h), where people meet up to try and write 1000 words in a set hour, and encourage and egg each other on along the way. The Twitter writing community is full of supportive, nice, and funny people! (And neither this book or my last one would ever have been written without them.)

 

So, the count! Where am I now?

 

Soooo close to halfway! I can taste it! Also, almost 7000 of those words were written yesterday, which makes me more optimistic about the next couple of days. We’ll see how I’m doing tonight!

 

(Potato-me is thinking: “Oh my! What on earth are my characters up to?!”)

 

Stay tuned as I fall ever further down the spiral of insanity, by delving deeper and deeper into my fictional world and gradually lose contact with this one. :p

 

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Behind, but not giving up

(In which we continue the mad chariot race towards victory. What if Ben Hur had given up, I ask you?)

So, the last couple of days haven’t been going as well as I’d hoped. (Been dealing with some personal stuff.)

But I keep doing as much as I manage, and I feel confident I will catch up again soon enough – maybe even get a bit ahead? Oh, glorious thought!

Also, I think this is day 5, but I’m not completely sure. My head is too full of words to have any room for numbers.

16146 words right now, to be precise.  So my little progress bar looks like this:

There’s just something really satisfying about seeing the red line crawling closer and closer to the target! Can’t wait till it’s past the halfway mark.

And ms. potato is sleepy today as well.

(Which means absolutely no bedtime reading! Just mindfulness CD and blissful sleep as soon as possible…)

Day 2

(In which I continue to be boring and count stuff. Sorry.)

So, more progress. I’m just about keeping up.

Example Progress Meter

And here’s little potato-me at my desk. Happy about word count, but I have also done lots of other things today, and I’m knackered.

No bedtime reading today, just a CD with meditation and mindfulness techniques which I fall asleep listening to (to keep my brain from freaking out too much. It’s all gonna be good).

Progress

(In which it turns out I’m still alive, contrary to all previous evidence, and I use this blog for my own personal goals with no regard whatsoever for your enjoyment.)

First of all, sorry. To all 5 of you.

I got off to a good start, and then stopped blogging for over a year. What happened?

Well, illness. (Depression and anxiety, to be specific, but this isn’t going to be one of those kind of posts, so don’t worry. I may write something about that another time. Who knows.)

The reason I’m back, is that I have a deadline. For the next 14 days, I need to write at least 4000 words each day, on average.

And I need to be accountable, and I need to see my progress visually. That’s right. I’m using this blog for all it’s worth, even if all (5) of my readers leave me. It’s only for a couple of weeks. I’m planning to track my word count progress here, and possible write something about my process or interesting snags I hit along the way, if I have the time and energy.

So, a handy tip to any writers out there: Be accountable. Tell people you’re writing. Tell people how much you aim to write today, and tell them what you accomplished. (But don’t set your goals impossibly high – that will only discourage you and be completely counter-productive.)

But, if no one knew that you were planning to write this month, and no one knows that you didn’t, then it’ll be easier to just drift along and keep on not writing. (Especially if you have a day job, which, let’s face it, most of us have). Share your successes! Share your failures! At least then it’ll feel like they matter.

And for those who follow me for the food stuff (all 3 of you): My humble apologies! I will try to make it up to you with some recipes or even just some nice food links once in a while. (But I make no promises.) At least, when the writing craziness is over, I will reward myself and indulge in food, and I will share it with you.

So, I started writing yesterday. So far, so good.

14% in just 2 days! That’s encouraging!

But that bar is kinda boring, right? This one’s nicer. Look at me, hard at work:

Current bedtime reading: A Short History of the American West (Hine/Faragher). Non-fiction. Really interesting, and changing my perception of the “wild west” with every chapter. Recommended 🙂

Guest blogger: Martine Svanevik

(In which I am excited to present my very first guest blogger, fellow writer and friend Martine, who writes about two of my favourite subjects.)

Martine Svanevik is a Norwegian ex-pat living in Montreal where she attempts to combine her job as Text Coordinator for Funcom Games Canada with revising her novel. She’ll get back to you on how that works out. Hook up with Martine on her blog: https://nascentnovelist.wordpress.com/ or on twitter: www.twitter.com/martinemonster.

Writing Snacks That Help You Focus

Having spent an extended period of time working from home, I’ve had the chance to try a fair bit of  writing food and I’m here to tell you: nutrition is important when you want to get that grey matter moving. See, I started out with Uncle Whisky and M&Ms, but after a while I just had to accept that they weren’t giving me with what I needed. Sure, there were the coolness points, but for sustenance, alcohol and chocolate were found lacking. So I looked elsewhere.

First, I turned to fast food. I consumed an embarrassing amount of portion-sized bags of salt and vinegar potato chips before realizing that they made me hunger for more. Instead of giving me focus, the delicious chips took it away by making me hunt through every cabinet, desperately digging for just one more bag. Those were dark days.

Next, I jumped on the health wagon and began making all my food from scratch. It was great. My energy increased, my skin regained its shine, and my cooking skills improved rapidly. There was only one problem: I spent so much time looking up and trying out recipes that the writing got lost in the middle of it.

I finally saw the light: I had to find some form of snack that gave me energy without making my body and mind crash, but it had to take less than five minutes to prepare. Sounds impossible? Not at all. Here’s my list of excellent snacks that keep you focused and clearheaded, without taking time away from what’s important: your writing.

My Rules of Thumb:

  1. You need protein, fat and carbs
  2. It has to be consumable without making your fingers greasy
  3. It has to take less than five minutes to prepare

There was some trial and error involved, especially once I got a job in an office and had to plan things beforehand, but I ended up with a few favourites. Let me know how they work out for you!

Martine’s Ultimate Writing Snacks:

  1. Carrots and almonds: cut the carrots (or better yet: by pre-washed baby carrots) and toss them in a bowl with some almonds.
  2. Sugar snaps and pistachios: put in bowl. Serve.
  3. Celery dipped in peanut butter: slather some almond butter on some celery sticks. Put them on a plate. Warning: these might lead to greasy fingers if you’re not careful.

Now, these are just snacks. For lunches and dinners you might have to put in a few more minutes. Not many, though. Barebones cooking is the way to go, at least when you know what’s important to you: getting those words out.

What are your favourite writing snacks? What gets you going when you feel like there’s no more energy left in you? Let me know how these snacks work for you!

Determination and deprivation

(A post which deals with food and writing at the same time, in which I make two scary resolutions, but both for good reason.)

 

So, it’s been November for a week already. This brings me to the first of my resolutions:

NaNoWriMo!

Thousands of crazy writers, professional and otherwise, wow to try writing a 50 000 word novel in 30 days. It might not be for every writer, but I think it’s worth giving it a shot. This is how I discovered I could actually finish something. Some people use it as an opportunity to hammer out a first draft of something they need to write anyway, others will see it as an ‘holiday’ from their normal, ‘serious’ writing – a month where you give yourself the license to write something without thinking too much about it, while others (most of the participants, I suspect), do it for the sheer fun of it, just to create something, even if no one will ever read it.

I’ve done NaNo twice before, but this year it will be a quite different challenge for me. Cause this year, I’m also doing rewriting/ revisions on a manuscript that my editor is waiting for. Yes, proper, ‘serious’ writing that I’m getting paid for and stuff. (A first for me.) I’ve decided to try doing NaNo as well as working on my MS. For NaNo, I’ll be trying to finish another novel that is half-finished, and has been sitting around in a drawer for ages waiting for me to rekindle my enthusiasm for it. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will help with that. It’s been a week already, and although I’m way behind on the word count, I’m optimistic and starting to care about those old characters again (while not losing interest in my other MS either, so I’d call the experiment a success for far).

To any writers who has never tried the wonderful November madness; I highly recommend it. It’s wonderful what deadlines and optimistic pressure will do for productivity. Also, they run @NaNoWordSprints on twitter, and sprinting is fun, and awesome! Also, the NaNoWriMo community is fun and supportive. Check out the website.

Now, anyone would think that this would be enough of a challenge for one month, but I figured I might as well use the November momentum for a food-related challenge as well. Which brings us to my next scary resolution:

 

Wheat-and-dairy-free Month

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it seemed the right time for it. One challenge can propel the other along, so to speak. The (rather uninteresting) background for this, is that I’ve had some pain in my joints for over a year now, and so far the doctors have been unable to tell me what it is (except that it’s NOT arthritis). After some googling, I’ve seen that many people experience relief from similar symptoms after cutting wheat and dairy, so I’ve decided to try it for at least a month to see if there’s any difference. (I tried just going dairy-free for a month, and while there wasn’t much difference to my joints, my skin was noticeably clearer and healthier.)

 

So far, so good. I’ve been doing this for almost two weeks now, and so far, no big difference to my joints, but a huge one to my skin (and also some improvement in digestion).

I’d like to think that I don’t really see this as something scary and restricting, but rather as an exciting opportunity to try something new, and cook in ways I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. But the big challenge here is of course, TREATS. (Hey, if you’re going to write a novel in 30 days, you’re going to need a LOT of treats. You know, stuff you can nibble while typing, that will fuel you through sleepless nights when your characters won’t let you go to bed (ok, maybe not, after all, I have another MS to work on, and a normal day job every other day)). So because the job that really pays the bills (for now, anyway), is only every second day, so I’ll have time for writing in between, this means I’m not exactly rich. I’m on a rather tight budget, so there’s no money for lots of expensive gluten-free baked goods (3 times the normal price for a packet of Jaffa Cakes that taste less than the normal ones? Are you kidding me?). This means I had a big baking day, where I tried to make my own treats and breakfast foods (but mainly treats, to be honest), without dairy or wheat.

No real butter? No cream, milk, cheese, yoghurt, or white flour? How can you bake anything yummy with these restrictions challenges?

Very soon, there will be a big, bold Baking Bonanza Blog post, in which you will find out whether I succeeded in making anything edible.

 

 

PS. Bedtime reading!

I’ve finished The Book of Negroes (which, I’ve discovered, is called Someone Knows My Name in the US, because the word Negro just wouldn’t fly there, even though the title is lifted from a historical document which is vital to the story). The last time I mentions it, I said it was a bit of an anitclimax after The Book of Night Women (written by the extremely talented Marlon James), and I know why -the latter is written in such a rich, evocative, almost hypnotic language, that it makes other books seem almost simplistically written in comparison. However, that is not the case with The Book of Negroes, which is actually written in a straighforward, et sometimes lyrical style. It just took some ‘acclimatizing’ to normal English again after the ‘vernacular’ of The Book of Night Women. (I think the language and writing style might merit its own blog post at some point, because it made me think a lot about writing voive.) And I highly recommend both books – the suck you into their worlds and make you care about their (very different) protagonists.

Now, I’m going to start The Long Song by Andrea Levy, and hope it lives up to these two! Also, I’d love reading recommendations! (Not just about slavery! Although it might seem like I read about nothing else at the moment. I’m open to anything, although I have a fondness for well told historicals, magical realism, and realistic/urban/historical fantasy.)

 

 

Time yourself – a quickie

(In which I try to conquer procrastination and lazyness. Ambitious, isn’t it?)

First of all, mind out of the gutter. Not that kind of quickie, you dodgy person. This is just going to be a quick post about quick stuff.

Second: Yes, time yourself. No, don’t time yourself doing any old activity. In fact, I can think of a number of activities which are vastly improved if you manage to forget time completely. I’m talking about writing (or any work which can be divided into chunks and, well, timed).

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll have the occasional problem with procrastinating. (If not, you’re either inhumanly structured, or lying. Most likely the latter.) Working at home there’s no one to see if you’re actually working, which can be a blessing and a curse. Suddenly the dishes need washing, and I’ll just check Facebook before I start, and shouldn’t I colour-coordinate my sock drawer? Wouldn’t my mind be clearer and thus more prepared for writing if my flat was all organised, feng shui-style?

The thing is, I love writing. I love when everything is just flowing, the words keep coming I forget time, and it doesn’t seem like work at all. I just have problems starting. It sometimes seems like there’s a huge step up to the plateau of flow, and my legs are too short. I need a good kick up the bum. If only there was an escalator.

Actually, there is. 15 minute magic. I’ve found it helps a lot to trick myself, saying ‘I’ll only work for 15 minutes’. 15 minutes is nothing. It doesn’t seem like a big commitment. I set my timer for 15 minutes and see how much I can get done in that short space of time. (If it helps, you can imagine you only have 15 minutes to save the world, and everyone is depending on you writing down something. Picture yourself as Jack Bauer, Doctor Who, or Flash Gordon if you will. Whatever floats your boat. It certainly lends a hint of excitement to the proceedings.)

Can’t get anything done in 15 minutes, you say? Go on, I dare you. Try it. You might find that you’re quicker than you think (or that 15 minutes is longer than you think. Maybe times moves differently when you’ve got an egg timer on. Who knows?). Also, when my time is up, I usually find that I’ve tricked myself into becoming sucked into the work, and I’ll be in the middle of something and don’t want to stop. So the 15 minutes can turn into hours if you’re lucky.

Sometimes you only have a few minutes, and it can be great to cram some work into those pockets of time that you wouldn’t have used for anything useful anyway. Grab your pen and notebook (or your preferred instruments) while waiting for the laundry or when you’ve got a dinner in the oven. You’ll be forced to stop when that dinner is ready, of course, but hopefully it will leave you in a good place, hungry for more (your chunk of work, not your dinner). So the next time you’re sitting down with your work, you’ve been interrupted in the middle of something, and you’re eager to continue.

The frantic, timed writing is great when you’ve got a first draft to get out, but getting yourself started by timing small chunks works for other stuff as well. It worked great for me today with some rewrites of a manuscript that my editor is waiting patiently for. I started my 15 minutes with reading through a scene which needs to be amped up a bit, tension-wise, and when the time was up, I had discovered new angles to the scene and started jotting down quick suggestions for improvement. By this time, my interest in the scene (which I thought I had re-written and re-read so many times I couldn’t possibly see it a new way) was re-ignited, and there was no stopping me. This provided a great starting point for more than an hours work, and some new love for a scene that I thought sucked. 

 

I would never have discovered the wonders of timing if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and though there’s nothing national about this crazy venture, it’s certainly novel, and if you write, or have ever wanted to, you should check it out.

 

Well, that’s just one of my strategies for kicking myself up the bum! Do you have any good ones?

 

Bedtime reading: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. I’ve just started it, and so far, it’s ok, but a bit of an anticlimax after reading the marvellous, hypnotic and harrowing Book of Night Women  by Marlon James, which deals with similar themes. But I’m giving it a fair chance – I’ve read some really glowing reviews of this book.