Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Update and Some Writing Productivity Advice

Wow, October already. That means I went clear through August and September without a blog update. I'm so sorry!! It isn't you, it's me.

I've been very busy, and since a large part of that busyness is from writing, I think it is a good reason that I've neglected things here. So let's start with updates on my writing.

As I ramped up my marathon training a month ago I found myself running alone when my running partner hurt his hamstring. This left me running 17 miles with only my thoughts to keep me company. I know, scary.

I started thinking about my WIP, which I've tentatively titled "Zane Zedler" and my writing group refers to as "The Bear Story". As my brain tends to do, it started wandering from the topic at hand and I was thinking about some notes I had taken a few days after my first marathon.

The short version of these notes is that I shouldn't have ran that marathon due to a lack of practice, but with some tricks I pulled it off. I've mentioned these notes to a few people, especially people trying to do their first marathon, and some have requested to look at them. However, I wrote them for me and not for anybody else. During this long run, I decided to turn it into something for public consumption. By the end I had come up with a title and an idea to turn the notes into a novella length memoir and marathon training manual.

Excited, I got home and wrote out a forward, which I submitted to my writing/critique group. I then went on to write out half the memoir. I was nervous and looking forward to the reaction from my writing group on the idea later that week. It certainly is no "Angela's Ashes" (my favorite memoir) or Rudy (my favorite motivational movie).

The response from my group was positive and encouraging. To be honest, I think it is the most excited feedback I've received, which tells me I might be on to something. Emboldened, I had the entire memoir written in about a week. Well, the first draft. There were, and are, a bunch of places where I wrote, "Okay, talk more about this" or "find this picture and insert it here" or "expound on this". But I think this will fall somewhere between 20,000-25,000 words once completed.

I'm going through and adding more and more to the story while cleaning it up and submitting chapters to my critique group. I've got two editors lined up to put the finishing touches on it. I hope to self-publish it this spring.

This book on running has caused me to put "Zane Zedler" to the side for another month or so, but this has actually inspired a whole new approach to the story that I think will make it stronger and more interesting. I can't wait to get back to it!

So let me share with you some things that have really helped me make some progress:

1) Make time to write. I've blogged on this before but if you are trying to find time to write, you probably won't. Something more pressing is always going to come up. You've got to make time to write. Schedule it in. Let others know you plan on writing between certain times. First that will give you something you have to account for and it will let others know that you need some away-from-life time.

2) Get sprinting. I know, I just mentioned how running inspired a story, but I'm actually talking about sprint writing. Sprint writing is where you get online with other writers and do little gusts of writing. Often these are about thirty minutes, give or take. There is just something about saying to yourself, "Okay, I'm going to write all I can in the next half an hour," and focusing on nothing but that.

It is amazing how many words you can punch out in half an hour. Plus, you've got other writers there in times of need. Can't find the right word? Looking for a new way to describe something? Throw it out there, I've had them come back with some great ideas. Also, I've done some story outlining touchups on there and found people to read some of my work. Best of all, after the sprint you compare word counts. I thrive on competition so the challenge keeps me focused and energized.

I've also started doing this at work. While my online buddies are sprinting I'm finishing projects, adding some programming code, paying bills, or trying to accomplish something else within half an hour. It's helped ramp up my productivity.

There are several writing chat rooms you can join and lately I've been hanging out in the iWriteNetwork chatroom.

3) Turn off the editor. This is hard for me as I am often my largest critic. But there is something to be said about making progress on a book and not being bogged down on, "This chapter doesn't sound right, I'm going to rewrite it until I love it." Save that for the second draft. Or the third. Or even the twentieth. Get the words down on paper (or word processor of choice) and get that book written.

4) Check out this post by Tristi Pinkston. I think this is a brilliant idea when you have several projects going on in your life, like Tristi does. I'm thinking of doing this at home, while incorporating my writing goals, and doing it again at my office.

Okay, I'm off to write some more. I'll try to update my blog again sooner than later.