October Write Day: Still Resetting

September was a strangely long month, but it went pretty well. A lot of my attention has been drawn towards watching House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power and listening to reaction and theory podcasts for each episode. I’m a couple episodes behind on Rings, but I’m really enjoying both of them, for quite different reasons.

I’m also a little miffed that those two shows, plus Andor, plus the start of football season all happened in the same month. So Andor will have to wait, although I’ve heard good things.

But in non-TV news…

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Progress my writing.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Exercise 3 times per week.

Let’s see how I fared.

Progress my writing?

Yes, in some small ways, which was really my goal. I transcribed notes from a beat-up journal into a larger, cleaner one. The beat-up journal went through a washing machine because I forgot it in the pocket of a pair of pants. So, many notes were lost to wear and ink-bleed, but I’m satisfied with those I was able to recover through the dried, stiff pages as I peeled them apart.

Lesson learned: don’t use journals that can fit in your pocket. It might sound nice and convenient, but they are too easily thrown in with dirty laundry, apparently.

Part of those notes included the beginnings of an outline for The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy. I’m not good at sticking to outlines with my stories, but there are too many factors at play for me not to be a bit more organized with this story:

  • It has now been five years since I published The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, the predecessor to Legacy, which obviously raises a lot of continuity concerns I want to avoid.
  • I have 60,000+ words written already, but I last looked at them in 2019 — so I kind of have to start over anyway.
  • It’s a fairly complex story, with three broad plotlines that hover around each other but do not necessarily cross.
  • It’s based primarily on established characters, so in addition to getting the plot right, I want to get the voicing and the continued character development right.

So I’m building my outline using a few techniques, starting small and then expanding outward.

  1. First, I write a logline for each major point-of-view character, so I know who that character is and what they want.
  2. Then, I’m breaking that logline down into a three-act story — basically three mini-loglines for the beginning, middle, and end of that character’s arc.
  3. Then, I want to break that down further into 9 parts, 3 parts per “act” to identify how that character’s story progresses.
  4. Once I have a nine-section outline, I want to add general notes for each section to help drive the narrative details that will drive each plot point forward.

I’ve never used this method to outline an entire story before, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

So, while I didn’t do much writing in September, I definitely feel like I’m laying the groundwork for a project that has been screaming for my attention for… 3 years.

Read three books?

Checks Goodreads…

No! I finished one long audiobook that was really a lecture series about linguistics. It was John McWhorter’s series on Language Families of the World, one of the Great Courses offered on Audible. I enjoy linguistics, but this was a long listen. I had been picking away at it for a couple months and decided to just close it out in September.

I then powered through a short military sci-fi story that was pretty good.

Two books isn’t bad, but I’m trying for better in October. I already have one book down and another well on its way!

Exercise three times per week?

Vaguely. I don’t have a set routine so much as I have a nagging feeling that I need to move and do some kind of physical activity on most days. That generally takes the form of some basic stretching and yoga poses and some resistance training, and maybe an extra long walk with the dog.

I want to start interspersing those “lighter” days with power yoga videos again. I’ve gotten away from any set yoga routine and want to start it up again, even if it’s just a few times per week.

So, I’m exercising, just not as much as I’d like to, and with no real goals in mind except not feeling stiff, or lazy, or weak.

Goals for October

  1. Finish 9-section outlines for four POV characters in The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy. Now we return to a more specific and quantifiable writing goal. If I can lay out the foundation of an outline for my four primary characters, then I’ll feel comfortable returning to my draft-in-progress to read through it and start building out my outline.
  2. Read 3 books. Like I said, I’m well on my way. This month’s focus is just reading for pure enjoyment, even if I end up reading three books in the same series in a row, which is a stark possibility. Usually I try to diversify my reading list, but nah. It’s time to just read anything that catches my eye.
  3. Exercise 3 times per week. What I want “exercise” to mean from this point forward is not just a few stretches or a long walk. I’d like to get in the habit of 15- or 20-minute sessions of stretching/yoga mixed with resistance training. I have a basic routine down pretty well that combines some yoga poses with deep squats and push-ups, but I also want to mix it up with guided yoga sessions focused on movement and strength. So I’ll just need to be a bit more deliberate about how much I exercise each day.

April Write Day: Fitting into a Routine

April has arrived and so has spring in Maryland (I hope). March was a surprisingly long month.

I spent a grand total of five days at the office last month, which is more than twice as many days as I had spent there in 2021. It was a chance to meet some colleagues in person for the first time, and it was nice being in that environment again.

Then everyone went home, and I returned to working from home.

Goals-wise, March was, on paper, less than great. But I feel like my mindset on these things has started to shift for the better. I feel like I know where I’m at in my writing endeavors, what I really need to focus on, and that what comes down the road should not distract me.

More on that next.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 10,000 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Continue the exercise climb.

Write 10,000 words?

No, and this shortcoming has led me to a slightly new way of thinking about my monthly writing goals.

I wrote 7,122 words in March. The obvious problem, as always, is that I had three gaps in my writing progress that exacerbated how far behind I fell until I effectively gave up for the month. This happens basically every month when I fall behind early, or when something in normal life takes me away from writing for a few days.

To this point, my writing goals have been rather un-scientific. But that’s changing. One thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that if I really sit and focus, I can easily write 600 words (or more) in 30 minutes or less.

I realize how unimpressive that looks when many writers do 2,000 words per hour, but this is the first time I’ve really time-boxed my writing sessions with a clear goal to achieve.

I also now know that weekend writing is increasingly difficult and unreliable, because we just tend to have things to do. My twice-weekly posts on this site do not count towards my writing goal, but they definitely take up precious writing time, so I also need to account for that.

So here’s my new calculus:

  • Total days in a month
  • minus number of Saturdays and Sundays
  • minus Tuesday blog writing
  • minus days for any other or prior non-writing commitments
  • x 600 words

For April, that gives me 9,600 words as a writing goal, which is right on target with my usual un-scientific goals. It also saves me the self-loathing of not finding the time to write on weekends or days when I have other things to do.

After two years of trying to shoehorn writing into my daily life and largely underachieving, it finally dawned on me that I need to ensure my writing routine actually fits around my daily life, too. So that’s what I’m doing.

Read three books?

I did not finish a single book in March. I have been reading, but my Audible listening has hit a dry spell, and I’m still taking my time with Towers of Midnight. I’m also really enjoying it at the moment and, strangely, have no desire to plow through it.

I definitely listened to a lot more podcasts than usual in March, primarily because that’s how I followed the early weeks of the Ukraine conflict.

I’m on the hunt for something different. Probably some non-dystopian sci fi or fantasy. The world is dystopian enough for me, at the moment. I’ll gladly take your recommendations though!

Continue the exercise climb?

I feel like I’m on the right path. I’ve finally decided on a pseudo-routine to guide me throughout the week. Basically, I want to alternate between longer (20-40-minute) yoga sessions and resistance training/running. My cardio is completely shot, so I’d like to start running 2-3 times per week, paired with push-ups and pull-ups for a more complete workout. If I feel physically tired or mentally drained, then I’ll do yoga.

I did not maintain a meditation routine, so I likely need a daily calendar reminder to… not forget.

The climb continues.

Goals for April

  1. Write 9,600 words. Oddly specific and yet not random. (See above)
  2. Read 3 books. My new podcast notifications have settled the last few days, so I’ll obviously need some other form of storytelling to distract me. If only I could look at words on paper and hear them said by the voice in my head… I’ll think of something.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. I think success here will look like me running/working out or yoga-ing 4-5 times per week for the month. Plus remembering to meditate.

Steve D

March Write Day: Rough Pass

So March is here, and I’m feeling pretty meh about it at the moment. If I had to use one word to describe my February with respect to my goals for the month, I would go with… distracted. I just didn’t give much thought to any of my goals during the month, and it’s not for lack of trying. I just had other things on my mind.

Our seven-month-old isn’t sleeping through the night, and we spent a good portion of February trying different bedtime strategies to nudge him in that direction. The closest we’ve gotten is him sleeping in his crib for a couple hours, then one of us bringing him into our bed when he wakes up for his midnight comfort snack. Now, we’ve just accepted that he’s a particularly cuddly kid, unlike the toddler.

My computer has also been BSOD’ing on me with such regularity that I compulsively save my work every sentence or so. Dear Micrsoft, please fix the REFERENCE_BY_POINTER error, or at least give me some more guidance other than “update drivers”. This computer is probably not even two years old and I’m already contemplating a replacement.

Anyway. Neither of those things are crises, but they’ve taken up my head space recently.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 11,000 words.
  2. Read three books.
  3. Continue the slow climb to a decent exercise routine.

Let’s get this over with.

Write 11,000 words?

Holy crap, no. I didn’t even get close. I could try to blame the extended time we spent in the mountains this month, but that’s not even accurate. Look at this:

Look at that! That’s nine days in the middle of the month where I didn’t write squat. That’s terrible. And I can’t even tell you what I was doing during that stretch. It wasn’t catching up on shows or reading. The second stretch is mostly when we took an extra long weekend in the mountains. I worked mornings for a few days which meant I didn’t want to be on the computer much extra time.

Ugh. Moving on.

Read 3 books?

Technically, yes. Two of those three were one-hour shorts on Audible, and the third was a not-as-short study on meditation to increase productivity. That’s ironic, now that I think about it. Still, I’m counting it!

And I’m into meditation as a balancing effect on the stressful mind. I just need to start up a daily practice.

Establish a decent exercise routine?

I was on a solid pace of resistance training until our little vacation, but that pretty much always happens. I definitely want to jump back into it, so that’s a positive sign.

I might also want to (gulp) start running again. I have always found running boring, but I know I’m not doing enough at the moment, and if doing a loop through my neighborhood gets me outside and moving for 20 minutes, I might just take it at this point.

Goals for March

  1. Write 10,000 words. We’re not doing a ton of traveling this month, and I have three extra days compared to February. I just need to get back on track.
  2. Read 3 books. I’ve made solid progress on Towers of Midnight, even if I’m not reading it as quickly as I had anticipated. I’m kind of savoring this book a bit, knowing it’s the second-to-last in the series. Still, I’ll probably finish it this month.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. And add a meditation practice. My goal is 2 minutes per day. I feel like I’ve talked about exercise a lot, and I just want to do it at this point.

Steve D

January Write-Day: New Year, New Adventures

December was a fun month. I’ll get into it a bit more with my goal review, but we got to watch our one-year-old open gifts and really be excited to play with new toys for the first time.

Writing time was limited due to the holidays, but that frankly wasn’t surprising. I’ve been productive in other ways, effectively planning how things are going to go on this site for this year. More on that in a few days. Continue reading “January Write-Day: New Year, New Adventures”

A Writing Routine Requires A Life Routine

February has been an up-an-down month, if you hadn’t already guessed, and it’s this kind of sudden change (“Life Events”, as your friendly HR department refers to them) that can throw any decent writing routine completely off course.

Finally, however, I think I’ve found a way to keep writing during this vaguely temporary period of unemployment. Continue reading “A Writing Routine Requires A Life Routine”