Process Diary #4

I only wrote two days out of my five usual working days. Sunday, Monday, and Thursday were given over to a day off with my wife, work and chores, and vet visits, respectively. I managed to get a pretty good amount of writing done in the two days I actually wrote, however.

6/6/2017: 3026
6/7/2017: 1516

As far as my working habits, little changed. I go through the same routine, and at 10am the lights are out and I’m disconnected from the internet, down to write. I didn’t put on any additional sounds beyond the noise maker app, though I did experiment with it a little. I might attempt to use it for location specific sounds, to get me in a different headspace when I need something for a particular location or scene.
I worked on two projects during these two days. On both days, the morning sessions were given over to High Empty, and I’ve set a 1500 daily word count goal for it. I’ve spent most of my tracked time working on this particular project. I have a rough plot in mind, and each session has been in service of putting the pieces together. I’ve been building the world, creating necessary characters, and putting them into situations where they interact. The first act’s major plot points are mostly mapped out, the work at this point is writing all of the connecting narrative that propels the story along and makes it all hum along.
High Empty itself is shaping up to be bigger than I originally envisioned, but now that I’m finally committed to creating it, I’m finding myself more and more curious about where it’s going. I end each writing session with a desire to keep writing, to figure out how to lose myself in the world, its characters, the story that shapes it.
I also found that my first session usually has a lower word count than my second. Some of it is just finding my groove, and some of it has to do with what I’m doing in my first session. For a good portion of my tracking time, I’ve been using the first writing session of the day to start scenes and introduce new characters, both of which take up a lot of energy. When you’re not creating them ahead of time, figuring out the necessary elements of a character can slow you down.
Once I’m in that pocket, the next session goes by without a hitch.
My biggest change has been in adjusting my word count. I set it to a hard number, so I have something to aim for every day. It has helped immensely. Seeing the notification that I’ve made it after I’m done has brought me enormous satisfaction, and seeing the progress bar turn green just makes me feel good. It’s a simple trick, but it keeps me going.
I finished a couple of books over the last couple of weeks: Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist, and Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey. I also read volumes 4, 5, and 6 of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki, and the first and second volumes of Astro City by Kurt Buisek and Brent Anderson. Silverthorn was a fine book, but reading it in 2017 brings out a lot of flaws that make it feel dated—chief among them a total lack of actual female characters. I gave it a pass because despite that, it’s not an inherently sexist or misogynist.
Ashes was a mess. The perspective shifts are jarring, there’s little sense of a driving narrative, and it’s just really boring. The political wrangling lacks bite, the action scenes are too few and far between to keep up tension, and the characters themselves just feel flat, lifeless, and stale. There weren’t any real moments here. The Expanse as a series remains firmly above-average sci-fi adventure, but the last three books have fallen pretty flat. Ashes limps to the finish, without any real resolution or intense climax. A seventh book was announced recently, and it mentioned that it is the start of the final trilogy. Let’s hope they can recover.
Kurosagi and Astro City are wildly different comics, but they’re both rooted in telling stories using characters first. Both cover a lot of ground, and they work to create a deep and interesting world from their limited material. Astro City in particular does this very well, by hinting at a wider world that’s always existed in its first volume, and then diving deeper into the world in the second.
Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to this week. I’ll be back next week with another update.
Take care!

Process Diary #3

I’ll put the numbers down later, but here’s the update for this past week. I put all of my writing energy into working on a single project with the exception of a single day, and it definitely improved my process. I was able to not only start plotting out certain events better, but characters also became more defined. Their personalities, relationships, and motivations all started to show themselves. The cast is growing larger now, and I’m getting a much clearer idea of how to start positioning them for the big plot points.
Speaking of plot, I stayed fully in the beginning of the first act this week. The story itself is becoming more epic than I planned, but I’m committed to going with it and seeing it through.
The only day not spent writing was spent recording. I created the first four episodes of a fictional podcast, and the decisions I made in presentation is deliberate. I’m fully aware of what’s wrong with it, but I wanted to get it finished and put it out there for people to hear. I’m slowly working on new episodes, and it will undergo a format change. I simply wanted to get the idea into the world, and not lose it.
I kept my working process very similar across each session, and the consistency has been a boon. I’m up to about 1400-1500 words per working hour, and I hope to get faster as I pick up more of the necessary skills to plot and outline a work.
For this week, I’m going to be taking a break. I know I only started working on this particular process in the past month, but behind the scenes I’ve been working almost non-stop trying to figure out where I’m headed with my writing and other artistic projects. I’ll keep you posted on what I’m doing, and I hope to see you next week.

Tracking the Data: Process Diary #2

05/16/17-3057
05/17/17-1150
05/21/17-502
05/22/17-1295
05/23/17-2440
05/24/17-2290

10644 total word count

The process began slowly, as I tried to zero in on a project. I started with slower blocks of time to get used to sustained writing time. It began with 15 minute blocks, with generous breaks—probably too generous, as I had trouble getting back into the flow after I finished up a break.
My mornings are dedicated to relaxing before working. After seeing my wife off to work, I would have my coffee, go to the bathroom, and go for my one mile run. I started doing that when I began writing, and I find that working up a sweat at least helps me wake up. It’s a way for me to catch up on my podcast listening, and having few distractions allows me to focus on listening. Idle thoughts pile up there, and can eventually turn into something for me to work on later.
From there, I get home, relax, check my emails or other things, catch up on my social media, have my morning shake, take my medications, and get down to writing around 10AM.
Since I live in a one bedroom apartment, space is at a bit of a premium. Working and playing needs to happen in roughly the same area, which led me to adjusting as much of my surroundings as possible.
I kept my “writing cave” pretty consistent over the course of the week. Each day, writing was spent in front of my computer, whether writing by hand or typing, with the overhead lights turned off, and my LED reading lamp on. It helps me shift mentally into a working space. I would turn my computer to “do not disturb” and close as many programs as possible. I didn’t turn off my internet, but I did make sure that I was as disconnected from the world as I could be.
Then, the timer starts and I do nothing but write.
Some things did change. I tried music a few times, or dictated, or wrote things by hand. I used headphones and my computer speakers. I changed the lighting, using natural light or turning on my overhead lights. One session, I wore gloves in an effort to keep my typing more exact—that didn’t work.
I kept shifting small details to see how I worked, and if any of them would improve my output. I needed to know if my writing method was my problem, or if there were other issues. What I found out was that the physical factor changes seemed to have no effect, like with lighting changes, or negatively affected my productivity, like writing fiction with music.

This period of time was dedicated to writing without an outline, or short, general notes. I found that this method allows me to discover character, and helps seed ideas for the rest of the narrative. I can learn who they are, how they interact with the world, and unconsciously figure out key worldbuilding details.
Selecting what to write at the beginning of a session was the most difficult part. If I didn’t have a general idea of what to work on right at the start, I spend precious minutes fumbling out a few words before settling on a particular detail or thread to expand on. In the coming weeks, I’ll try to lay out what to write during a session before I sit down.
Another thing that jumped out at me was new characters in my story. When I would simply lay down words on the page to get a handle on the narrative, new characters would emerge from a particular narrative need or desire for a bit of spice. From there, I was able to explore those characters, and most of them are in the story for real now.
Writing without an outline led me to creating more notes to flesh out the gaps, which then became a short outline of key story points. I hope to keep expanding these notes, eventually getting to a full outline.
My desire for increasing raw word count seems to be working. My gains seem to come from knowing the story—at the beginning of the week, I wasn’t able to clear a decent word count, but by the end of this tracking period, I was able to clear about 700 words in 25 minutes, going as high as 900 words in one session. Drilling down on one project at a time also seems to be the correct move, because I can focus all of my storytelling efforts on that single thing, which I hope will help me gather momentum and clear higher word count totals.
Dictation seems alright, but I’ll definitely need much more detailed notes, and it’s very likely that it will require a full outline in order to get the most out of it. I might try it for short fiction in the future because I like the way writing voice takes shape through it.
It seems like I’m off to a pretty good start. In the coming days, I think I’ll try to bust out more detailed notes and scene outlines, and maybe vary my writing location. I don’t know for sure yet, but you’ll know first.

Process diary #1

Today marks the start of tracking data in my writing time. I’ll be tracking the following:

  1. Date
  2. Time
  3. Duration
  4. Project
  5. Location
  6. Imput method (typing, by hand, or dictating)
  7. With or without an outline
  8. Session word count
  9. Average word count/hour
  10. General notes on the session

For this first work week, I’ll be working without an outline, though I’ll be working on known projects, mostly. I want to see how pure discovery writing works for me, both by typing and by dictating.