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2013 Year End Review

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Well, it is the end of the calendar year so it must be time to post a year end review. Technically I haven’t been writing for a year yet. I seriously started on the writing journey in October, after years of just dreaming about being a writer. I finally got to the point where I decided that I can do it now or just forget about it.

My writing progress so far:

I have three books that are in progress. Project A was not moving forward so I put it on hold to pursue Project B. Project B started out as a short story but started pushing itself into a longer work. I had an opening and what I thought was the ending. As I worked on it though I found I was having too much trouble trying to force the two parts together into a workable story. Taking a step back I think I’m going to take the story that I thought was the end of Project B and make it into its own short story. The characters in Project B started taking the story in their own direction anyway so I’ll follow along and see where it takes me.

In November I put the first two projects aside to participate in NaNoWriMo ( National Novel Writing Month ) and started on Project C. I wanted to start on something fresh to keep in the spirit of NanoWriMo, going from a concept to a 50,000 word first draft in thirty days. I’ve made it through 20,182 words of that task.

I took a short detour in December to write the first draft of a short story. I found this a surprise because it turned out to be a horror story. I don’t particularly like horror, I don’t read lots of horror, and I certainly didn’t think I’d ever write in the genre. I’m preparing it for submission and hope to start shopping it around soon.

I started another short story today that I hope to finish tomorrow.

I’ve come up with ideas for two more novels that I’ve written down some preliminary notes for. I don’t want to get distracted from the things I’ve already started and not complete them. Completing your work is the name of the game in this business. I put down enough information so I can pick up the thread when I come back to them later.

Things I have learned:

My strength up to now has been writing short stories. I get an idea for a scene, or a character, I sit down and I crank it out.

Novel writing is not the same as short story writing. (Blinding flash of the obvious, right?) It is not the same as putting a few scenes together. There are character backgrounds, subplots, and other things that you don’t need to worry about in a short story.

I find that I cogitate better in the mornings, mulling over ideas and projects.

I am more productive at writing in the afternoons, when I seem to mentally wake up.

When I know what I’m going to write, like a short story or scene, I can do between 500 and 800 words an hour. When I don’t know what I’m writing, or trying to figure it out as I’m going along (like I did with the NanoWriMo project) I only do between 200 and 500 words an hour.

Things to work on:

I’m trying to work on my processes when putting a project together. The short stories I’ll keep doing the way I always have as it seems to work for me. What I need is to figure out how to tackle the larger novel length works. I can’t take the ‘pantser’ approach – writing by the seat of your pants – like I do with the shorter works. I think I need to be more of a plotter, coming up with the complete story and making notes or an outline before I begin so I don’t get bogged down in the first draft trying to crank the words out. The story may change from my outline as I write it (and that is OK) but at least I’ll know when I’m deviating form the plan and adjust accordingly.

I think I can increase my word count if I can find a process that works for me. I think it will also make writing more enjoyable for me, because I have lots of story ideas that I want to turn into written works. And if the work isn’t fun why bother?

I need to stop checking email / social media as my first task in the morning. I’m finding that it can suck up to two hours of my morning that could be better spent working on the ideas / outlines for my stories.

I need to continue working on the craft of writing. There is always more to learn, and just like writing computer code, you get better at it the more you do it. Then after a while you look back at your earlier work and go ‘Holy cow, how did I ever write that!’ You see all the ways you could do it better.

I also need to learn more about the business side of writing. As with any business endeavor not knowing the ropes can be a costly mistake. Hopefully I don’t have to learn everything the hard way and can learn enough before getting throw into the deep end of the pool that I won’t drown.

Finally I need to learn some better time management. I tend to waste time on things when instead I should be putting the time into my writing. Working in the computer field had the benefit of keeping me focused on my current task. If I needed to look up how a function worked I knew where to find the answer and got back to work. If I don’t know the answer for a story I’m writing I go to the Internet to find it and end up wandering around looking at related information, which inevitably ends up linking to unrelated (but interesting) information.

So that’s it for 2013. Tomorrow is the beginning of the new year and time to recommit myself to the journey. Here’ hoping 2014 is a more productive and educational year.

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