For at least five years now, I’ve tried to keep track of my yearly word count, and I’ve always failed. Partly because I work on so many different projects that it’s a monster of a job just to try and keep track. And partly because I know that word count isn’t really indicative of anything. As much as I rewrite and rework, or write whole chapters that never see the light of day, or erase and rewrite, the numbers turn out to be liars. But, this year Scrivener added a new feature that keeps track of it for you. It tells me how many words I’ve written each day and each month. And I have to admit I’m curious–I had no idea how many words I might write in a day, or a year, or five years. Do I write every day? (I already know the answer is no). Do I write in streaks? (Probably).
I meant to do this check at the end of January, but it got away from me, so here’s January plus a week in February. You can see that I wrote on 18 days this year, with an average of about 1400 words on each of those days (I’ve chosen to keep track of deleted words, so these aren’t how many I wrote exactly–I wrote more, but then deleted them, so they don’t count). But some days are bigger and better than others (yesterday, for example, was a high-word day for me, where all I did was put words on the page. I rarely have those kinds of writing days.). So far this year, I’ve written about 25,000 words (note that this is just game and fiction writing; it doesn’t include blog posts, web articles, and the like).
So what am I writing? What will all of these words become? Scriver helps me keep track of that too.
Green stuff is game writing–I’m working on the next book for Invisible Sun, as well as a Numenera adventure for Gen Con. Orange is short fiction. Red is for novels. Yes, I’m working on all of them at the same time. That seems to be my best process, even though it takes forever for me to finish anything that way.
Is all of this interesting? It is to me, because I always want to learn more about my processes. It might be to you too, if you’re a writer with questions. This shows that you can accomplish a lot without writing every day. That all of those single words add up quickly. That you can go from nothing to something in just a month (plus) of time.
Here’s an excerpt of the story that’s currently titled SSSA (Six Syllables Sung Aloud):
After Ben died, I locked my voice in a box. The kind of box doesn’t matter, nor does the lock. What matters is box and locked. Said together, like that. Throw the key away into the surf. Think better of it just before the shore claims it as its own, and grab it from the white foam, hide it somewhere warmer, quieter, more dangerous.
My husband, Erik, wanted to know what I wanted for dinner.
“Do you want—?” he asked from where his top half was submerged inside the fridge. I could hear him moving things around inside, and I knew what was in there: greens gone wet and brown, jars of liquid skimmed in algae, crumbs of bread nibbled from all sides. “Pasta or potatoes?”
I sat at the kitchen table and watched my husband’s scissored legs be cut off at the waist by a steel box and thought how none of those words made sense anymore. All those p sounds, like something small and round you’d squish with your fingers and their insides would pop out and you’d be grossed out and try to wipe them on your shirt when no one could see. But you’d still feel it and feel it, even in the shower. Even in the moments you’d forgotten about the something small and round, you’d still feel what was left upon your skin.
My husband is a good man. Everyone says that about their husbands, I guess, but sometimes someone says it and it’s true. He’s not perfect, but he holds me up the way water holds up oil.
Do you keep track of your word count? Work on multiple projects at once? Use Scrivener in a cool way? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on process!
Kiss kiss bang bang,
P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me (and Ampersand the Wonder Dog) on Instagram.
Did you make a resolution for 2018? Set a goal? Plan a dream? Maybe all of those things? Me too. And I’ve already botched them. And you know what? That’s okay. Because I know I’ll reach them anyway. Here’s why:
I often start the new year (or a new season or a new birthday) with big intentions, most of which get washed away by that unplanned-for “thing.” You know, a sudden deadline or event that keeps me from writing what I’d wanted to write. Or someone’s birthday party full of glorious cake that made it nearly impossible to reach my goal of cutting down on sugar. Or bad news (or just a bad day) that causes you to slide back into old habits, no matter how much you don’t want to. At that point, it’s tempting to throw up our hands and decide we’re done. We’ve failed. We might as well just not even try (or maybe that’s just me — I often end up there. Of course, part of the reason for that is that I set my goals too high. Setting myself up for failure by laying out unreachable, impossible goals is a well-documented Shanna-ism.).
What I’ve learned to do is take stock after that initial bump. Okay, birthday party is over, deadline is met and passed, shitty day is kicked in the ass (or at the very least, lived through). Now where am I? Do those goals I set before still matter to me? Are they something I want to continue to pursue? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.
With that process, each week becomes its own “new year.” Every week, I say, “Do these goals still matter to me?” If the answer is “yes” then I pursue them with purpose. Last week’s failures no longer matter. They stop holding me back, because only what’s next matters. By renewing my goals each week–regardless of whether I achieved them or not in the past–I give myself the power and the desire to continue pursuing them.
At the end of the year (or of the project, dream, hope, goal, etc.), does one failed week matter? No. Do two or three? No. Even four or five failed weeks? Nah. You won’t even notice them by the end. You’ll only notice what you accomplished.
But do 52 failed weeks matter? Yes.
So this week I renewed by goals: write more fiction, eat less sugar, live with greater intention, write a blog post that means something to me (and hopefully to those reading), and continue to pursue the goals that matter to me with kindness and an understanding that stumbling isn’t the same as falling.
Live your joy,
P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me and Ampersand the Wonder Dog on Instagram.
I’ve been planning to do a blog post on bullet journaling for almost a year now…and it just keeps slipping out of my grasp. Which means that my task labeled BJ post (yes, I laugh every time I see it too) has reached the point in my to-do list process where I either need to do it or dump it (more on this in a moment). So I am doing it, because I don’t want to dump it.
If you’re new to the term Bullet Journal, I suggest a quick internet search. There are tons and tons and tons of posts about what a bullet journal is, how to use and make one, and so on. Don’t look too long at the BuJo porn pictures, however, because if you’re like me, you will become intimidated and distraught at how beautiful some of these journals are and how un-beautiful yours is and you will never make one. But, as I keep telling myself, a bullet journal isn’t about making shit pretty, it’s about getting shit done. (Although if you can also make it pretty, I have nothing but envy and best wishes for you).
Okay, so go do your googling. Don’t get lost in the pictures. Come back soon, and I’ll give you the quick and dirty run-down of how I use a bullet journal for writing.
Here are my main tools. I like to keep it simple and easy, since I move around a lot and often write in coffee shops and away from my desk. This is the whole shebang: the Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted journal; a small Checklist Notebook (Efficiency Supply); PaperMate InkJoy pen; Fucking Brilliant pencil (Calligraphuck); and a wraparound pen/pencil holder.
Here are the main sections that I have in my Bullet Journal:
1. Yearly writing calendar. The next two years, divided into months, with the projects that I’ll be working on each month and their deadlines. I write them in pencil, because they move around a lot. When something is complete, I write it in pen in that month, so I can always go back and see what I was working on when.
2. Weekly spread. I keep my weekly spread clean and simple, partly because I have no artistic skills, but also because I need lots of room to write tasks and notes.
I make a simple calendar on the left. Each day, I write the things I’d like to accomplish in pencil and then if I do them, I erase them and mark them off on the main checklist to the right. At the end of the day, I might write in some stuff I did, or things I want to remember. The pink boxes are my 6 things to do each day. They vary from week to week. This week, they’re mostly about taking care of myself and not working too much, because I’ve had a hell of an autumn so far.
On the right, is the general to-do list of things that I want to tackle this week. I add things to the bottom of the list all week long as they come up. There is no general order other than WORK and NOT-WORK and YES and MAYBE. YES are things that must be done this week. MAYBEs are things that I’d like to do. If I move a MAYBE task more than a few times, it gets moved to YES or it gets dropped entirely (see my earlier note about writing this blog post!). If a task comes up that’s for next week, I just add it to the next spread, getting a jump start on next week’s to-do list.
If a task is tied to a project (see Projects, below), I put the main page number of the project after it for easy reference.
3. Projects. I typically work on a LOT of projects at once. This is the way that I like to work, but oh my god, keeping track of the details of each one used to be a disaster. I’d have a separate notebook for each project, but then I’d forget to bring that notebook and I’d write notes in the wrong notebook and then I could never find anything. Then, I tried keeping every project in the same notebook by sections. But it was impossible to tell when you started a project how much room it would need, and some projects flowed over into other sections, while other projects had too much empty space, and I still couldn’t find anything.
This, for me, is where the bullet journal shines. I have a sticky tab that says PROJECTS. Behind that tab lives every single project I’m currently working on, completely organized and discoverable, while also being incredibly flexible. Here’s how:
First, every major project gets a main spread. Left side gets the giant to-do list for that project — everything that I think I will need to do in order to complete it. On the right-hand side, I make notes about deadlines, word count, publisher, contracts, anything and everything that I might need to refer to about the project.
This spread then gets a tiny fold-over dot along the edge in a unique color. In the image below, for example, you can see a pink dot near the front. That’s the main planning page for the No Thank You, Evil! Kickstarter that we just launched. This is also the page that the to-do list items refer to as well (which I mentioned earlier).
I made a few pages of NTYE Kickstarter notes, and then I needed to work on a different project, Predation. So, on the next empty page, I started writing about Predation. I tagged that page with a green dot. And so on. Every non-sequential page for each project gets a folded dot in that project’s color. This means that no matter where the notes on a project fall in your notebook, you can find them all easily. You’ll notice that I have three main projects here, and they all overlap. (That first page you see with three dots is the index–the names of the projects are written next to the dots there, so I can easily see which one is which).
Sometimes, smaller projects and general notes get interspersed between the larger projects. A lot of times these are what I call my thinking notes — places where writing helps me figure something out, but where I don’t need to go back and re-read that information. Once I’m done making ‘thinking notes,’ their work is done, and it’s okay for them to get lost in between the bigger projects.
Sometimes, the notes are things that I will need to find again in the future. Maybe an idea for a short story, or some title ideas, or whatever. Each of these pages gets a short title and page number written in the index in the front of the notebook. (That’s on the same page as the “dot index” I mentioned). Then, I can just scroll that list and find whatever I’m looking for.
4. Lists. The very back of the journal has a section that is just lists. Things I love. Things I want. Things I accomplished. Gifts I’ve given. Books I want to read. They’re not comprehensive or complete, and I don’t need them to be. Instead, it gives me a place to write something down that isn’t a scrap of paper stuffed in a drawer somewhere.
I believe I’m on my fourth bullet journal for this year (and probably my last ~ this one might carry me as far as February or March of 2017). The first three are labeled (Leuchtturm1917 provides nice labels with each notebook) and tucked onto my shelf. Will I ever look at them again? I don’t know. But this year, they helped me lead a company, run two Kickstarters, write four books, and accomplish myriad other tasks, so I’d say they’ve earned their retirement.
And now, finally, I can go check that task ~ BJ blog ~ off my to-do list.
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.