Lessons learned? Hard to say.

Posted on February 28, 2018 By

Okay, I’ve been going about this in a less-than-useful fashion. Or at least I’ve changed my targets…both in the past, and today.

At first I wanted to track and post words per day. Then, I realized that doing so meant all my dictation had to be transcribed, daily, and that doesn’t seem to be very helpful when my goal is (or after it became) to proceed until the end of the first draft (which is finally complete, by the way!). (Also by the way, I now have a fairly major subplot to add. Fun, maybe!)

Then I moved on to posting the number and length of dictation sessions. More useful, maybe. But maybe not. Doing that moved my focus from working on whatever seemed logical to trying to force dictation sessions. Now, I do want dictation sessions to happen. But I don’t want them to seem to be chores. Nor do I want to build them up into something that’s more important than it needs to be–that way lies blockage, and perhaps madness.

Neither metric is at all useful when editing. Doesn’t that count? I guess it might be handy to de-emphasize editing in favor of creating new fiction, if I were actually worried about endless cycles of rewriting or some such. I’m not, though.

What I really need to track–no, that’s not the right word–what I really need to focus on is publishing novels.

Worse yet, the amount of time I dictate tells me very little about the amount of progress I’ve made given my available opportunities. My word count has ranged from just under 2000 up to about 3400 per hour. But some sections need more editing than others. Or at any rate, sometimes the editing takes longer than it does other times. For instance yesterday I went to fix a chapter I thought was fairly horrible, and ended up liking it so much that I changed almost nothing.

Sometimes I’m going to feel like dictating. Others, like editing. Others, like taking care of various publishing-related tasks. Some days it will make sense to wander around outside, dictating new fiction. Other days it will rain. Is it okay to type on those days? Maybe not if I’m trying to switch to dictation, to learn how to dictate. But after? I think it has to be okay. Otherwise, if I’m in a situation where dictation doesn’t make sense, I can’t write new fiction even if I want to. Am I a bit worried that my authorial “voice” (and didn’t I feel oh-so-pompous just writing that) will change as I switch between the two? Yeah. I guess I am. So I’ve dictated nearly all of the first draft. But the hell with it. I’m going to try to ignore that kind of thing, and just produce what/where/when I can, however that works out.

I don’t think focusing on trying to speak faster, or even setting goals related to word count or time spent in one activity versus another, is (currently) turning out to be useful for me. Mostly I just need to focus on doing something writing-related during the hours I have set aside for that–now that I have hours set aside for writing, and have minimized-to-annihilated most forms of interruption.

This doesn’t mean that I will never return to trying to track something like words per hour, or total words written (and edited?) in some timeframe, at some future point. Doing that stuff may even have been helpful for me to get to this point: where I really just want to work, and not be bothered by goals external to the specific project I’m working on.

What does that mean for the blog posts? Beats me. I guess I’ll be letting you know.

There are some other things. It’s definitely the case that dictation and transcription don’t go well with editing on the fly. This means that regardless of whether I’m dictating or typing, I really do need to go back to that “rough first draft” idea, at least for dictation sessions but probably also for all new-fiction-generation sessions. I’ve been moving away from it, but…too bad. It is what it is. Otherwise, I find myself wanting to transcribe a bunch of audio files prior to writing new fiction. When instead I could just type (or dictate), right in the manuscript, a couple of notes to myself about anything I want to either change or check, and move on. Which is better. And there will be opportunities to deal with all those notes later on, so I don’t lose a whole lot here. (Except that the editing process is usually less fun than writing new stuff, so I have this resistance to building up too much of it for myself…I’d rather do it piecemeal.)

This also affects my toolset a bit. It’s tempting, now that edits “always” happen after the fact, to put my work into Scrivener (or Writers Café, which I like a lot) for editing purposes. But that would mean I’d need to have my laptop with me to edit, since there’s no Android app for either. So I’m going to stick to individual text files. I can work on those on my phone (though also on the laptop, yes, and allowing myself to do that again…because I’ve been forcing myself to use the phone for everything…is probably a good idea going forward). From there I can put the text into Jutoh, which I use for e-book formatting, and from there it can flow into Adobe InDesign, which I use for formatting print books.

At some point I may get into a discussion of the apps I use to edit text files, and how/why I selected them. If I convince myself, possibly over a beer or three, that anyone will care about the specifics. For the moment I’m using JotterPad on my phone, and WriteMonkey on the laptop. Different versions of WriteMonkey according to whether I’m working in Windows or Linux, because Dragon’s “full text control” only works in an earlier version under Windows, and Linux will only run a later version, but it may be that I’m the only person anywhere who will ever care about that. I’ve dropped Nuance’s Dragon Anywhere entirely, in favor of transcription (that way I don’t watch words appear on the screen, and so I also don’t stop to edit/correct them–I felt I had to watch, with Dragon Anywhere, because it didn’t save the recording as an audio file separately for me to check later…errors were thus semi-permanent, and sometimes large). I have also dropped using Dragon to interactively display my words as I dictate entirely, except for blog posts like this one. Even then, most get their start from a transcribed recording.

I am a bit frustrated that the Linux version of WriteMonkey won’t indent or put visual spaces between paragraphs, but then neither does JotterPad. And Dragon doesn’t understand paragraphs without line breaks anyway…so what the hell. I just have extra line breaks between paragraphs, everywhere, and will auto-remove them somehow, at some later point. Even though I think they look sort of silly and I sometimes roll my eyes at them. And oh yeah: I do use markdown syntax in the text files, for italics and so forth. Rarely, but it’s there…and WriteMonkey is very easy to use that way, so it’s handy for text-file edits. JotterPad isn’t as cool, but it does semi-understand what I need with markdown, so that’s good enough. I’m looking forward to doing edits with WriteMonkey and Dragon, by the way…will it be worthwhile? Or should I just type? Beats me.

Too much detail? Already? Yeah, I kind of knew that. So…I’ll bet you know this next part.

Have fun out there!

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Access revoked! Or, the why/how of my planning day.

Posted on February 26, 2018 By

The week before last, I had my phone set to Airplane Mode for a couple of days. That worked nicely–the sense of freedom it gave me was, well, freeing. Then last week happened.

There was a lot going on all week, and I kept thinking Airplane Mode would happen again the following day, but that never seemed to work out–and it came to a head on Friday. I had texts from a kid, texts from people wanting to ask questions about the kids, something like 30 texts (to make it more difficult) to schedule visits between the kids we have here and their siblings who live elsewhere, calls about a vehicle in the shop for repairs, and in the midst of all this…I also texted and called to coordinate things like my mom’s birthday party, meeting for lunch to pre-celebrate said birthday, and arranging to borrow a vehicle for the weekend. And driving to borrow said vehicle.

I got nothing done. Well, a lot of things were managed, but it was a completely unproductive day for writing. This is not okay.

So that was frustrating. My wife and I ended up having a late-night conversation yesterday, which was obviously not going to help today’s productivity a whole lot but was nevertheless overdue and necessary. We agreed that I’m simply going to be unavailable, to anybody, until 2:30 PM on weekdays. My phone no longer displays any notifications of text messages, and all calls are forwarded to another number, which goes straight to voicemail and records whatever people want to say, then forwards that to my email address. I took email off my phone too. I’m no longer allowed to call my wife to ask questions, or to plan things, or for any reason other than an actual emergency. (Turns out she, too, has things to do that aren’t aided by interruptions…weird!)

Nope. None of that.

My wife and I also agreed to go back to having scheduled meetings every week…sounds odd, I’m sure, but they used to work pretty well. We have a shared Evernote folder, and what we did before was create a note with an “agenda” tag for non-emergencies that we felt we needed to talk about. So then we’d set aside time to do all that talking, and deal with whatever we’d put in there. As long as we kept having the meetings, that worked. When we let life and a desire to do deep dives into projects prevent the meetings from happening, it meant there was little point in using the agenda-setting system, so we didn’t do that, and we would either interrupt each other or drop the ball or try to manage it all via email or…well, who cares what else? That didn’t work very well. So, we’re going back to a system that used to work.

As for Airplane Mode? I’m also using that. I don’t really need it to stop myself from browsing the Internet, or using social media (I actively dislike social media). It’s there to keep me from being interrupted. So, with the changes to my phone’s setup, it’s less necessary–but it still saves battery life, and I might as well turn it on.

All that said? Since, today, I’ve had a chance to stop and think a bit? I’ve spent my time thinking, and making both notes and plans. I need to make decisions about my previously-published novels and pen names. I need to work on new covers, new titles, and scheduling time to edit/rewrite each of them before re-publishing. New print editions, too. Audiobooks? Maybe. Someday. Not now.

I figured some–but by no means all–of that out, maybe. I’ve also worked out some details of the next two books I’m planning to write. I’ve downloaded a bunch of cover images. I’ve written no new fiction today. That’s…going to have to be okay.

I would write more here–for values of “write” that mean “dictate”–but this post has been long enough. I still have things to do. Back tomorrow.

Have fun out there!

Daily post

Picture this!

Posted on February 22, 2018 By

So here’s the thing. I started looking at potential cover images yesterday, and put the maybe-cover on the right together. I’m still playing with it, of course, because I don’t quite like it yet.

Maybe I’ll start over.

Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I had a bunch of images to play with?

Oh wait. That kind of thing is possible, these days. I like dreamstime.com for images…so I paid them $219 yesterday and can download 750 of them during the next month. That’s going to take quite a bit of time, but in the long run it’ll be good to have that kind of library sitting around. I think.

Another rainy day today. So. Better get busy on images, right?

Have fun out there!

Daily post

Rainy-day blues?

Posted on February 21, 2018 By

Well, sort of. I forgot to post anything yesterday, and it’s raining, and I’m not trying to dictate fiction…so I guess that could all be upsetting. It’s not, though.

Lots of stuff is happening around here. There’s kid-drama and related bureaucratic drama, mostly significant (if it is) because the people making decisions don’t know the kids involved, don’t know the family, and also don’t divulge the information they do have to me–I mean, I could be helpful, you know? But that’s not how the system works. I will also spend hours on different kid-stuff in a meeting today (and my wife and I spent hours last night doing pre-paperwork), the end result of which will be…nothing much. We’re supposed to come up with specific, measurable goals…but life is more complicated than that, and the primary issue these kids are actually facing right now, in the real non-paperwork world, is the impedance of exactly this sort of bureaucratic nonsense. So, do we write that down?

All of that typically gets more brain-space than it really should. I’m going to stop talking about it now.

I’m not dictating fiction because it wouldn’t be fun. Our living situation is a bit weird, in many other ways but also in that we share a wall with a shelter for infants and toddlers. The wall is very thin, and anything we say in the non-bedroom areas of our home can be overheard. Normally that’s not a big deal for us, but it’s not cool for dictating fiction. I don’t want to be thinking about other people’s reactions. I also don’t like hiding in a bedroom to work, and dictating outside in the rain is a bit silly, and our truck is in the shop (and our other two vehicles are currently inaccessible to me), my wife has the minivan, and…I’m just inside for the day. So I need to do other things.

What are those? Here’s a list:

  • Create a new Dragon NaturallySpeaking profile for my new voice recorder. The old one is getting a bit messed up, possibly because I assumed the new recorder would be substantially the same as my old one. Maybe not.
  • Figure out the things currently standing in my way (the type that live inside my head), type a few sentences in rebuttal, and post those on the wall. Goofy, I know, but when I actually do this it seems to help.
  • Start looking for images for a cover for my new book. Won’t be long now before I need it.
  • Maybe do the above for other books too.

Oh yeah! I pulled all my fiction down. It’s not available for sale online anymore. How come? Well, because I’m going to redo everything. New titles, new covers, new author name, plus some edits. A backlist is fine, but I’m focusing on Amazon sales and Amazon gives a significant boost to new stuff. Therefore all my stuff will become new. Logical, maybe.

I did hate giving up the reviews. Sort of. I mean, I appreciated the hell out of them when people posted them. But it also felt really, really good to just wipe the slate clean.

Tomorrow is the first day of the life I’m not actually living yet. No, wait. That’s not how that goes, is it?

Well, whatever. Have fun out there!

Daily post

A cookbook day…

Posted on February 19, 2018 By

I had all these plans, but kid-stuff derailed my brain last night and I barely slept at all. Meaning I let that happen, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I’ll ever stop giving top priority…though, yes, something more effective than lying awake and worrying would be good. Also, teenagers are nuts and have no idea how bad their decisions might turn out to be, for themselves or others. Still gotta love ours, though, for tons of reasons.

Anyway. I did a lot of fiddly-bits for my wife’s cookbook. The cover and interior PDF are waiting for her final approval. Not that that’s especially final. In, you know, reality. Next up? I submit the files for review at Createspace, then I deal with whatever I screwed up, then we order a proof copy, and so forth.

Meanwhile I need to work on keywords and categories for the thing later on this evening. That will take a while, though completing them will mean we’re mere hours from publishing the ebook.

And the ebook is going to be available via Kindle Unlimited, at least at first, so I won’t need to worry about Google Play, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, or anybody else. Sweet.

Kind of a good, if underwaterly-brained, day. But not productive in a new-fiction sense at all. Maybe tomorrow. I hope so.

Have fun out there!

Daily post

Personal stuff.

Posted on February 16, 2018 By

…that’s what happened today. I did get some edits done on the prequel, which came out better than I’d thought. And I had a few revelations, or at any rate ideas, and wrote them down. But no writing to speak of. Unless we count a nasty-gram to a school administrator. You guys ever notice that bureaucratic folks seem to kind of reflexively cover for each other? Even if their jobs are entirely unrelated, they sort of honor the hierarchy. Is this useful behavior, or simply a carry-over of a bad habit from one arena to another? Beats me.

Anyway. I am lame. I declare it so, and hope to do much better on Monday.

Have fun out there!

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