I’ve been pitching a panel to a number of Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions which will discuss the “tool boxes” of a variety of writers. I think about these sorts of things a lot, probably too much. This admission is probably just a mea culpa of my character. I love tools! I love to tweak tools, I love to make tools, I love to adapt tools to a task.
Part of my approach to writing professionally has been to test tools, with the intent of optimizing my turn around time for any particular project. Figuring out what works best, what will be sustainable, has been a wonderful part of the experience of learning to write. I’ve posted about these sorts of things in the past, but this is the first in a a blog series I’ve titled “Writer’s Tool Box”.
Using the blog as a repository I intend to further refine my tool box while sharing my observations with you. Suggestions are welcome, this is an open discussion. Comment rules still apply (trolls will be soundly thwacked), but I’m really interested in hearing what you do.
The first installment is an open discussion of a social media utility that a lot of authors make regular use. Twitter has been around for a while, and it an excellent means of communicating with readers, of finding new readers even, and, perhaps most interestingly, for keeping up with writing goals. I use Twitter and the #1k1hr hashtag to stay on target with my writing goals and remain accountable to my readers.
Accountability, especially when you’re an Indie who sets and manages his own writing goals, can quickly become a moving target. Unlike traditional published authors my deadlines are completely up to no one but me. So, I can sit down to my computer and imagine that I’m not in the mood to write. That I can make up the words later. That I can simply push the my arbitrarily determined, self-assigned deadlines out just a little to compensate for a word slump.
But down that road lies doom. I came to this realization during 2013 NaNoWriMo when, after an impressive burst of wordsmithing (7k words in a weekend) I entered the next week drained and unsure where my story was headed. Quickly, my lead evaporated before my very eyes. It was sad, I cried a little. I was endanger of losing because I blew my word load.
By the time I tracked down a tissue and blew my nose, however, I knew where the solution might lie. The answer is pacing and regularity. I did not do all that pre-work, writing outlines and character sketches, creating a project burn down schedule and a back story for my story, so that I could go nuts, lose my pace and bonk hard less than a fifth of the way into the race.
This realization was accompanied by a suggestion that I try using NaNoWriMo word sprints to stay on task. I did and I cleared November 28th a confirmed winner.
So what do I do the other eleven months of the year? I’ve got a very hectic schedule and lots of demands on my time. Sound familiar? But I can usually cram in an hour here or there during the course of most days. And my writing tempo allows me to knock out about 1,000 words in the space of an hour if, and only if, I know where my story is going.
When I have a fresh pot of tea and a little time I will sit down and write. Aral, my youngest son and primary responsibility, knows that when I’m “getting my words” he has to self-entertain for a while and he even looks forward to this time these days. In order to ensure that I stay on task through the whole hour I usually tweet something about the #1k1hr I’m soon to attempt.
And then follow this up when I hit my target.
These daily exercises make me accountable, in bite sized pieces, which remain easily achievable. My readers know that I’m writing and sometimes they encourage me which is very helpful. I wake up each morning thinking about what I need to write next, both to stay on target with my ultimate release date as well as each section of the story.