10,000 Word Writing Challenge: Week 3

10,000 Word Writing Challenge: Week 3

This week was a lot of bouncing around different projects and being hyper contemplative.  I’ve been reading a lot of personal blogs and just bathing in  the deep thoughts of others.  Does it help with the fiction writing? Fuck no it doesn’t.

Been writing mostly non-fiction.  I think the short story that I started has already died on the table, but I’ll poke at it some more to see if I can get it to stand up off its ass.  The major problem is that I have the beginning and end but the middle is a lot of “here be dragons,” so I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts and notes.  Some of those posts might even see the light of day at some point.

And if you haven’t already figured it out – this being the third post in the series – these entries have a bit of a structure to them so let’s get to it:

What have I learned so far?

Three weeks is about 21 days; that’s enough time for interesting trends to emerge.  Looking at my challenge tracker – as I’m calling the spreadsheet that tracks my word counts – I’ve noticed that I can’t seem to write for more than five days in a row.  I go strong for the first day or two (writing well over my target number) then I start to peter out.  Never going below the target number, but not beating it by that much, and then by the fifth day I stop.

I have three breaks on the spreadsheet.  The first break is three days long and the others are two days.  So I’ve settled into this work week/weekend rhythm which I’m entirely okay with at the moment.  Remember: I kept the word count relatively low for this month so that I could have days off if I needed to and not create a deficit in one day that’s so large I can never recover from it.

How am I pushing through hurdles?

The way I set up the challenge tracker was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Making the word count per day breakdown dynamic has been really helpful.  As much as I hate to see it go up when I miss a few days, I love to see it go down when I actually put in my word count for the day.

Knowing that I can make the needle move in my favor if I beat the daily word count goal is absolutely helping me push through.  Last night, I had a lot of distractions and I really didn’t think I was going to get my words in, but I wound up writing the most I have all month by working a little bit on three different projects.  The whole time, I had that daily goal in my head and wouldn’t quit until I beat it.

Writing Chart
Current word counts by day

Currently it’s at 393, and I haven’t put in the numbers for today yet.

I really didn’t think having the daily word count fluctuate was going to have such a positive effect.  In fact, I thought quite the opposite: I figured there was no way I was going to write every day and seeing that number go up was just going to demoralize me.  But it has been motivating me to keep writing and try to get that number back down.

All in all, how do I feel about it?

Pretty damn good, actually.  Word count is one thing, but I feel pretty good about the things I’m producing, which is the real point of all this.

But if you want some more math – and who doesn’t – here’s the most heartening statistic: I have been tracking every day I’ve written for two and half years now.  This month I’ve written for more days than any other single month since I’ve been tracking that data.  And the month isn’t over yet.

Next Sunday marks the fourth week of this and pretty much the end of the challenge.  I toyed with the idea of not doing a check in and just going right into my post-mortem but that doesn’t feel right.  I like doing the weekly checkins.  Plus it lets me put off the end of the challenge write up until after the end of the month so that I’ll have some distance on the thing.

This is a long way of saying: see you next Sunday.

10,000 Word Writing Challenge: Week 2

10,000 Word Writing Challenge: Week 2

This week went much better than the last one.  I still didn’t write every day (missed Thursday and Friday), but doing the actual writing and finding the time is starting to be easier.

I finished the short story I was working on.  First time that’s happened in a few years I’m sad to say.  But it was good to finally break the barrier.  I’m already working on a second story and I’ve started notes on another novel.  We’ll see if anything comes of that, but right now I’m only comfortable being at the noting stage.

What I have I learned so far?

For someone with a liberal arts background, I’m a pretty data driven guy.  My way to get started writing each session is to think about the fact that I’m going to be creating a new data point in my writing tracking spreadsheet for this month.  It gives me something to focus on other than the “oh shit” feeling of looking at a blank page.

I’ve also learned that making a word count writing goal for the month is an excellent way to keep me engaged with writing projects.  Basically because I can use any writing project against the 10,000 word total, it gives me fluidity to move to different projects when I get board or tired of them.  This month I’ve worked on four different projects including this blog.

This isn’t something I could do with a challenge like NaNoWriMo, which forces you to dedicate 50,000 words in one month on one novel.  I’ve never done it despite the fact that it seems really cool because one project with that kind of word count goal feels way too constricting.  If I missed one day because “I wasn’t feeling it,” I’m completely screwed because my average word count would be well past 2000 words a day too quickly.  And as I said before, I can’t write that much in a day.

How am I pushing through hurdles?

In 2016 and 2017, I started tracking each day that I’d write.  I build another spreadsheet that gave me a graph of how how may days I would write each month. The spreadsheets only tracked if I wrote and not how much.  I’d set a goal of how many days I wanted to write for the year and never hit them.

After I started this challenge I created a yearly tracker for this year and was able to figure out when I wrote earlier this year. As it turns out I’ve already written more this year than I did all of last year.  That’s a pretty heartening fact and It’s giving me the confidence to push through blocks because I want to see the graph for this month go up.

Another thing I’ve build is a Trello board for tracking all of my writing projects.  (If you don’t know what Trello is, it’s a productivity app that lets you organize tasks anyway that works best for you and your project.)  The way I have it laid out is each project is a card and each list is a part of the life cycle.  This way I can track which story is just an idea, which one’s that I’m actually writing notes one, or which one’s I’m currently drafting.

I don’t work on that many projects at once, so again, this is manly for psychological effect, but it’s certainly working.  I look forward to finishing a step so that I can move the story’s card to the next stage of the process.

All in all, how do I feel about it?

I need to figure out an effective way to write every day in a week regardless of what comes up.  That, I think, is the overall goal of this challenge.  But it looks like I’m one my way to cracking that mystery.  We’ll see, I let you know how it goes next week.

10,000 Word Writing Challenge: Week 1

10,000 Word Writing Challenge: Week 1

So It’s been a week, and as promised, I’m checking in with my first update.  Things didn’t go as well as I would have liked. My first two days went well: I was over quota both days, which meant the benchmark I needed to hit per day actually went down.  However, the 4th of July was in the middle of the week and that threw off any hope I had of achieving a rhythm.

I didn’t write for the next three days after that, but today and yesterday, I’ve been good.  Currently, I have to hit a daily writing goal of 359 words a day, which is higher than when I started.

What have I learned so far?

This is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be and I thought I was going to be hard. One of the things I started this week was a new short story and it is taking me a lot longer in each writing session to hit my quota.  In the few times I’ve worked on the project, it took me the better part of an hour to get to around 350 words.  This is probably because I haven’t written any fiction in about a year and I’m really out of practice. That said, I don’t automatically hate everything I’ve written, which is nice.

I’ve also noticed that changing gears is hard for me.  One of the other projects I’m working in is a computer program to help me set up a media sever, and I’ve noticed that once I start coding, the last thing I want to do is stop and start writing fiction. Conversely, I can’t go right back to coding after I’ve written.  So while I’ve always been good about having hobbies for both parts of my brain, I can move between them that quickly.

That coding project is starting to wind down, which should allow me to focus on writing.  It’s good to know for the future, however, that I have have to be better about blocking out time between these two things and not just assume I can jump between them with ease.

How am I pushing through hurdles?

The thing I like about writing challenges is that they are almost all marathons and not sprints. Finding time to puzzle writing into my life on a consistent basis is one of the things I find the most difficult, and I’m using challenges like this as a way to force myself to create tools and methodologies that will help me keep creative writing as a part of who I am on a daily basis.

One of the strategies that seems to be working is the actual tracking of what I’m doing each day.  I’ve created a spreadsheet that tracks how much I’m writing each day and updates my per day quota dynamically. I find myself really looking forward to putting in my word count each day to watch the numbers move.  This being an Excel spreadsheet, I of course, have a graph that goes up and down with each new data point.

The data tracking is a double-edged sword.  While it does track my progress, it’s also a really good record of my failures.  Seeing those three “empty days” build up was pretty demoralizing and it made it harder to jump back into a writing project that I was struggling with anyway. That’s something to really watch out for as this month unfolds.

All in all, how do I feel about it?

Pretty good so far.  It feels really great to be working on fiction again.  As I mentioned above, I’m starting build strategies to keep working consistently and that’s really the whole point of this.

Anyway, that’s how the first week went.  Now it’s time to dump the word count for this post into my spreadsheet and keep on working.  See you all next Sunday.

Writing Challenge: 323 words

Writing Challenge: 323 words

It’s the first of the month and along with paying my rent, I’ve decided to set myself another writing challenge: write 10,000 words in the month of July.  While I have done writing challenges before, they were usually based on output for that day: write one blog post a day, do any writing of any amount a day, ect.

I saw the 10,000 words in one month challenge on some forgotten Reddit post, and what stood out to me was how the post’s author broke down the challenge.  Writing 10,000 words in a month with 31 days in it works out to 323 words a day. (If you round up.)

I’m probably the world’s slowest writer and when I’m writing fiction, I average about 500 words in a hour.  This makes advice like Steven King’s “write 2000 words every day” very difficult because that would take me at least four hours a day to do.  And unfortunately I’m still one of those poor souls that still has a day job, so that kind of time commitment has been a little too much for me.

But less than a hour of writing a day is something that I can commit to.  At least for a month anyway.

So what are the rules for this challenge?

Given that I haven’t been writing that much this year other than my Dungeons and Dragons campaign, I’m going to allow any kind of creative writing to count.  This means that fiction, blog posts, and notes can count.  (Even as I was writing these rules, I was about to allow journal entries, but I think I’m going to nix that in favor of only writing intended for public consumption.  This normally means that notes for fiction and blog posts shouldn’t count, but since it’s my first challenge like this in while, I’m going to allow it this time.)

I’m also going to be tracking all of my daily word counts in an overly complicated Excel spreadsheet that will re-calcultate what my new per day word count will be.  The point of this exercise isn’t to write 323 words a day, it’s to write 10,000 words in a month. This means that if I write more than 323 words in a day, or miss a day (far more likely), I’m going to need a new per day writing goal.

The last rule is being public about my progress.  I’m going to be writing weekly check in posts to update everyone on the challenge and what I’m working on.  This way, I’m honest.  If I screw this up and fall flat on my face, I’ll let all of you know.

But I don’t think I will.  I guess we’ll just have to wait until next Sunday to see how I’m doing.