A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Writing as an Act of Quitting

 Image result for quitting images

Overnight, it seems, I've become a far more prolific writer. From spending up to two years on short novels of 40K words, I finished the last book in 'just' eighteen months...and should finish the next in no more than a year. Long-range goal: one book every 9 months, with 3 months to recharge and plan the next.

As I say, these are short novels. I know a number of writers capable of writing 2-5K words a day. And I know several, such as Russell Blake, who can turn out 4-8 novels a year. Sci-fi writer Kevin J Anderson recently wrote a 200+K word novel in 11 weeks. So I'd be in a sorry state if I wanted to compete.

I don't. But I do want, and need, to put on speed without forsaking quality. Mystery readers want a series of books--with, preferably, 4-5 titles to start. And I've just published the second book in The Seattle BOP series that seems to ring readers' bells. Now I need to finish the third book to secure a market place.

So where does quitting come into all this? Once I had all the toys and tools I needed--good laptop, Dragon Naturally Speaking (to convert longhand to text), Grammarly Premium (to help edit and proof)--I still had two dragons to face.

                                                                 Image result for two dragons images                                       
First, I'd come to see myself as a slow, painstaking craftsman capable of writing just 500 words a day. Second, I go through five or more drafts and at the end of each of them, I'll spend weeks typing up my changes, creating a slew of new typos.

I came to the conclusion that it was high time to quit thinking of myself as slow and being such a crappy clerk. And, since I was major league quitter on other fronts--alcohol, tobacco, meat, sugar, coffee--I'd apply the lessons I learned there to the task before me now:

1) No compromise: There can never be 'just one more' cigarette or drink. Just so, there can't be 'just one day' without reaching my goal of 1K words. That is the road to perdition.
2) Create strong routines. I'd gone to the gym or dojo at the same time I'd have gone to a bar or sat smoking my head off in a favorite cafe. Now I start each morning off with a brisk walk, followed by 1000 words before work. No compromise. Every day.
3) One day at a time...yes, but with a sense of the big picture.

                                         Image result for big picture images

The stark reality may crush: a lifetime to go without booze or a smoke? What are three days or week next to that? Three thousand words drafted...but 58k to go? I've learned the importance of keeping a daily log so that I can see and feel the days or words I've accomplished so far. It's a primitive but solid way of reminding myself that this is really going down.
4) Rewards are necessary. Why? They reinforce this central truth: Quitting in no way deprives us. It empowers us instead. And so we should celebrate with a well-deserved reward.

It isn't hard. Just keep these words in mind:

                                         Image result for be a quitter images

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Weapons of Mass Construction

I know some young digital warriors who embarrass and befuddle me with their high-tech gizmos and space-age savvy. They write every word electronically, including shopping lists and daily journals.

I salute them. And, as an older warrior, I hope to put on a little more speed by blending
 a few of their toys with my own geezer strategies.

Allow me to share my new Weapons of Mass Construction, beginning with the newest.

1) Don't laugh. Pinky, the manly man's pen/pencil case from Yoobi, is ideal for a longhand-writing guy who's often on the go. Inside, it holds a slew of pens and mechanical pencils, highlighters and refills for both pens and pencils. On the back side, there's a separate pouch for a prized pen/pencil set used for composition. And, on the front, a small pouch contains a precious daily jolt: three squares of dark chocolate.

2) The Sanford PhD pen/pencil set. I'm as attached to these as any other writer to the main tools of their craft. The key difference here is that the PhD line has been discontinued. So it's imperative that I look after these since replacements on eBay can run $40 apiece.

3) Amazon's Basic notebook is an excellent, and affordable, version of the Moleskine brand, with good paper, solid binding, plus the inside pouch and outside strap. At $9.99 each, I'll use 5 or 6 of these in the course of a 40K word book. 

4) Here's a shot of the notebook in action. After months of notes and outlining, I've started the first draft, using the right side for writing and the left for notes toward the next day's work.

5) Dragon Naturally Speaking is a terrific tool for longhand writers. Several times a week I'll dictate all or most of the pages I've written. This way, I won't be stuck with a month or more of typing at the end of my first draft, most of my typing riddled with typos and other errors. Plus, I can dictate hundreds of words a minute instead of typing badly 60 wpm.

6) Grammarly Premium. 

Grammarly's free plan should lead you to try, at least, the premium plan. What a difference it made to me! By the time I sent out my new book to beta readers, GP had cleaned up about 98% of all typos and glitches, also questioning word usage, sentence construction, missing or unnecessary commas, etc. I got an annual subscription at a special rate of $50--and I'll definitely renew, even at full price.

7) Extreme energizer. Whenever I feel pussywhipped by the prolificness of certain writers, I take a gander at this list. Wonderful books have been written by writers with more modest words.