Short Stories and how to live with them

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quill meets tool

I’ve been a lot less active on this blog lately, and with good reason… I guess. One million words don’t write themselves, unless there is such a thing as a Contiguous Word Generator for Windows available. If there isn’t, you can have the idea. I don’t have time to write the software.

My gift to you.

That said, if you type a couple of words into your smart phone (For example, Why don’t we… or What if we…) and select whatever the autocorrect throws up for a couple of sentences, you might have the beginning of a short story. The longer you’ve had the phone, the better it works. Let me know what you come up with in the comments. (Mine said: Why don’t we… utilize the same community as Brooke’s sister? Could be her first time in the UK.)

I know that sounds random, but now I know from the above that my phone has been quietly memorising my plot ideas…

giphy phone

Aaanyway, my endeavour to prematurely wear out my keyboard continues. I’m working my way through 2017 with more short stories, and I’m already three weeks ahead of my (largely provisional) target of 1/4 million words per annum (I know, I’m slacking this year, compared to 2016). Word count isn’t everything, of course. However, it remains the best way to track my progress, IMHO. For now, it’s still tricky to quantify quality or ideas.

The ideas continue to flow, helped by key words. Five seemingly unconnected words can be enough to prompt a new story. Last year, many of the subjects revolved around shifters and vampires. This year, they have a distinct sci-fi, time travel and romantic aspect. Who knows what I’ll be writing about by the end of the year?

 Random Obscure Fact: Most Muppets are left-handed. (Most Muppeteers are right-handed, so they operate the head with their favoured hand.) Source: Buzzfeed

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With that thought, I shall get back to my keyboard

and

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One Million Words

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My marathon, two-year  adventure has concluded, and now I look to the next twelve months with new ambition.

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Somehow, by randomly pressing keys on five different keyboards, I put together 97 short stories and two novels, and after 24 months, I ended up with a grand total of 1, 013, 548 words. As an average, that works out at around 1400 words per day, which isn’t far short of NaNoWriMo pacing.

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Little wonder then, I’m struggling to ease up in 2017. In the first week, I managed to keep my word count down to 5,000, although I was editing for about half of that time.

I’ve no intention of aiming for another million word target, but I’ve set myself a provisional target of 250,000 for 2017, which will allow me to keep track of my writing, and utilise the spreadsheet I created during my 2015/16 sprint. If I reach the quarter-million mark during this year, great. 😀

What have I learned by writing one million words?

Targets are essential. If you want to take your craft seriously and finish stories, set yourself a target, whether it’s a completion date, or a word count, or even a chapter-by-chapter pace. Of course, it should be realistic and work with your lifestyle. Work, health, and family all take up time, and none of them should be neglected. Fit in your writing where you can, but fit it in! Even 100 words per day will result in a 36,500 story by the end of the year.

Set your targets 25% higher. If you don’t reach them, you can always adapt and extend. Don’t be dismayed. And if you’re easily reaching your targets, kick them up a notch and push yourself. However, you’ll be surprised by what you can do if you tell yourself ‘just one more paragraph before I go to bed,’ or ‘if I get up ten minutes earlier, how much more can I write?’

Keep a daily track. Achieving a goal becomes more feasible if it’s broken into bite-sized chunks. As many people have learned with NaNoWriMo, a target of ‘50,000 words by the end of the month’ is very much on the distant horizon. However, writing 1667 words per day brings the task much closer to home. And watching those numbers grow is both rewarding and encouraging.

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Be as organised as you can be. Whether you use a notebook and pen, or create a complex spreadsheet filled with calculations, keep a note of what you’ve written, and what you’re currently working on. If you’re writing for people, keep notes on who they are, and what they require (genre, word count, payment rate-if applicable). When you’re busy, it’s so easy to miss something and ruin your flow.

The downsides?

I missed out on a lot of things I wanted to do during my million word sprint:

Big movies, which I love to see on the big screen, went unwatched because I ‘didn’t have time.’ I couldn’t spare the three hours journey, waiting and watching time when I had (sometimes) 2,000 words per day to complete.

I also have a number of short movies on YouTube, which haven’t been added to in many, many months, although I’ve been itching to create more.

Editing, an essential part of the writing process, has tended to be rushed because I was heavily focused on building my word count toward one million. So my third novel is still only available in Kindle format, despite requests for a paperback version.

However, I managed to find time to strip a bathroom back to bare brick and completely refit it during the second half of 2016, so I didn’t spend the entire year at my keyboard.

Was it all worth it?

Definitely. I set myself a major target and managed to achieve it, although there were times where I believed it was beyond my ability to complete the challenge. Midway through 2016 was a difficult time, but the graph I created to illustrate my progress showed me how close I was to being back on track. The daily numbers were all very well, but seeing this told me a completely different story:

graph-screen-shot

I’m currently on a high, and as I said earlier, I’m still trying to throttle back to below ludicrous speed. It’s all very well writing like a mad person, but the scenery needs to be enjoyed every once in a while. I may never slow down to my pre-2015 pace, but I’m not sure I want to. Writing is what I want to do, and I believe doing it every day can only help to improve my skills.

97 short stories and two novels were created during the process, something I’m proud of. I also proved to myself that I can juggle three different genres at one time, and keep them compartmentalised in my mind. It’s a wonderful way to prevent writer’s block. If one story stalls, or needs a fresh approach, then jump tracks to a different genre and return to the problem at a later time.

In conclusion

In the writing business, motivation can be difficult to find. Sometimes it’s entirely down to us as individuals to push, otherwise our enthusiasm wanes and we fail. Setting targets isn’t the only way to fire up the neurons, but it can be a useful for the writer. I know I would have never achieved my goal of one million words if I hadn’t set myself the target, and then monitored it closely every day. I’d have taken days, nay weeks off and written only when I felt like it, achieving only a fraction of my total.

If you aren’t already in the motivation mindset, create a realistic target for yourself, whether it’s a word count, a half-hour sprint using the Pomodoro technique, or ‘just one more paragraph before…’

And then add 10%, or if you’re more ambitious, 25%. 😀

If any of this has been useful, or if you have questions, please let me know.

What targets are you setting for this year?

acern270ginger write on

The Vows We Make – New Release!

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Now available on Amazon.

Click to purchase

Or Read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

The Vows We Make

Book 4 of The Six Series

Mark and Paige’s story.

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Some vows can be deadly…..

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Mark and Paige are living in sin—that’s what any man of the cloth would say. All they want is to get married, but they refuse to exchange vows without their best friends—the Six. As they wait to hear back from them, Mark and Paige can’t help but feel they’ve been put off… forgotten.

When the threat of an enemy stalking them is brought to light, the call is made to bring them into the secretive world of Cole Enterprise.

Slotted for recruitment by the very agency that stole their chance at a normal life, Mark and Paige have to adjust to their new path as secret agents in a war they didn’t even know existed.

What neither fully understands is that nothing will ever be the same… and some vows are deadlier than others.

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CHANGE WAS ALL AROUND ME.

Everything was different. My life. My dreams. All of it.

Maybe some of it was for the best. Maybe it would push Mark and me to make more of ourselves than we would have on our own.

Crossing my arms tightly, I stepped out onto the dock and made my way to where Mark stood looking out over the water.

Coming back to the cabin and being around our friends after such a long absence from both had enveloped us in something like a constrictive hug. Both needing it, while desperately trying to come to terms with it.

“Hey,” I said, stepping up beside him and sighing when he pulled me into his arms.

I leaned back, turning my head slightly to fit into the crook of his neck. His cheek brushed against my hair and he asked, “Can you believe this place?”

I snorted. “No. But then again, we are talking about Jared’s parents, so…”

“True. It still feels the same here though,” he answered, watching the water ripple along the surface with the wind.

Arriving at the cabin, or what used to be the cabin, had sort of floored us all. No one knew what to say when we’d got our first glimpse of the new and improved place.

What used to be one story with a kitchen, living room, and six bedrooms with bathrooms was gone. Its replacement was two stories, ten bedrooms with full bathrooms, a massive open-floor kitchen/living room, a movie theater room, and a game room. Grant and Nadia had gone all out to make the cabin a place where all of us could live together, for an unforeseeable amount of time.

“It’s like they just knew…” I said, leaving the rest of what I was thinking unsaid. It wouldn’t do any good to dwell on the things none of us could change.

“How are you holding up with all of this?” Mark asked.

I sighed deeply and closed my eyes. “Honestly? I don’t know how to feel right now. It’s like this huge war being waged right here,” I said, poking my finger against my chest. “I’m happy to see everyone. We’re here together—just like we wanted—but for all the wrong reasons. I’m missing classes and work. I don’t know what to do with myself. My life is literally on hold at this point.”

He hugged me tighter. “Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. If you want to leave, we’ll go. They can’t hold us here.”

I snorted. “Can you imagine the look on all of their faces if we just walked out with our suitcases behind us? No. I love you for that though. It’s nice to hear you’d do that to make me happy.”

He kissed the top of my head. “I’d do anything to make you happy, Paige.”

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The Vows We Make is Amazon Exclusive!

Don’t have a Kindle?

No problem!
All you have to do is download the Kindle App to your tablet or phone!

sonya-about-the-author-graphic

 

sonya-author-picSonya Loveday, first and foremost is a reader, an avid one. It is of that love that brought her to purchasing her first laptop in 2009, and then publishing her first novel, Casted, in 2013.

Not long after the completion to the Casted Series, Sonya tried her hand at Contemporary Romance.

Thusly, the Six were born with The Summer I Fell.

In 2015 Sonya joined forces with best friend and fellow author Candace Knoebel. Together the duo created the Game of Hearts Novels. The series has two published titles: Love Always  and Runaway Heart. Knoebel and Loveday will be releasing the third book in the series in 2017..

 

or more information about releases, and appearances, follow Sonya on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/sonyalovedayauthor

What I’ve learned from Ghostwriting.

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As I pass another significant milestone in my (crazy?) attempt to write one million words in two years, it occurred to me how much my outlook on the craft of writing has changed in eighteen months.

(Image: At night, by Georg Charwat)

In 2015, I embarked upon my personal challenge to write half a million words before the year ended. By the end of December, I was able to claim 502,000 words written in the form of stories, outlines and synopses. I’d fully intended to throttle back in 2016, but a busy first few months saw the numbers continue to rack up. As March came around, I realised I was already on target to complete 125,000 in the first quarter (4 x 125k = another 1/2 million, yeah?).

So I thought, why not go for the full million?

Yes, I know I planned to calm down in 2016, but my momentum was building, and by July, I’d achieved 3/4 million, and was (almost) on target to complete the full million by the end of the year.

It was an irresistible target.

*Pauses for breath*

Those who know me will have noticed I’ve been less active on social media and blogging since I began this crazy journey. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day, and something had to give. But just so you know, I’m planning to throttle back, to calm down, and take it easy with the writing in 2017.

Maybe. 🙂

But eighteen months of writing at near-NaNo pace has taught me many things.

First of all, I realised I needed to be organised.

Although my spreadsheet is not yet as graphic as the one on the NaNo site…

graph

…I managed to put together a useful sheet that charts every word I write, although it still lacks the nicety of a graph(I will address this soon).

At the end of each day, I have a list of stories, both current and historic, on which I manually insert the word count of the project I’m working on, and it updates this, the daily count sheet.

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A third sheet then tells me how many words I still need to write in order to reach my target of one million.

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If I write less, the requirement rate rises. If I have a good day, and manage to write a few thousand, the requirement rate falls. You get the idea.

Without this, I would have little idea of my progress, and couldn’t plan my writing targets. Heck, if I hadn’t counted up how much I’d written in the first place, I could never have aimed for the half-million!

The uppermost spreadsheet allows me to chart my slow days, and my best days. Most of my writing happens mid-week, so I have an additional target cell for the ‘four day week’ period. If can fulfil those days, the rest of the week takes care of itself.

The second thing I learned was the need for self-discipline. It’s a quality needed by any writer who is serious about their craft. You might already know this, you might be learning this the hard way, or you might be blissfully unaware of the need, in which case, enjoy writing at your own pace. It’s wonderful, but not necessarily productive.

For me, the spreadsheet keeps me motivated. Creating a target of one million words is a harsh motivator, but an effective one. It’s quantifiable. If I don’t work hard, my assigned workload creeps up, and if left unchecked, it would reach a point where it becomes impossible. For now, 1,600 words per day is feasible, although I would have preferred it to be lower. That will only happen if I increase my output, but I only have a finite number of free minutes in my day.

You might prefer to set yourself number-of-chapter targets, or number-of-minutes per day targets. Work with whatever fits best into your life. For me, the word count ties in nicely with my short story work, which is measured (and paid) by the number of words produced.

The third thing I became aware of was the need for constant inspiration. My clients, for the most part, leave the subject matter up to me, although I’m supplied with a few words to point me in the right direction (e.g. romance, adventure, vampire, shifter, werecat, paranormal, time travel, sci-fi etc). This means I constantly need to dream up new scenarios for as-yet unwritten characters, and the stories must differ enough from each other to avoid brain-mashing confusion as well as potential plagiarism (of my own work!) issues.

The plus side of this is I often end up with spare story ideas, which I can then use to create short stories under my own name. Several times, I’ve begun writing for a client, only to realise the story has greater potential for an extended series, so why waste the idea on a one-off?

With that in mind, I keep the proto-series idea for myself, and write something new which better suits a one-off HEA (Happy Ever After) tale.

Win-win. 😀

Finally, I had to embrace closure. Seasoned writers will appreciate how it’s possible to get close to characters, to want the best for them and leave them happy (or not, depending on the genre). Perhaps it’s so difficult to let them go, that sequels spring up, even a whole series. Not so with Ghostwriting. It’s necessary, even essential to learn to let go. Once they’ve flown the nest, they never write, never call and very rarely do they return for new adventures. I have fond memories of some of my creations (my Valkyrie women, to name one), but they’re gone, and I must move on…

I’d be interested in hearing from other ghostwriters who haunt the blogsphere. What has writing for others taught you? Do my experiences ring true, or do you feel differently?

Now I must return to my laptop and fulfil my allocation for the day (2,821 words) or I’ll fall further behind (it’s been a slow week).

I wish you all well in your endeavours.

If you enjoy it,

you should;

acern270ginger write on

PS I’ve now added a graph to illustrate my progress better. Plus, it adds a little colour. And it illustrates graphically that I’ve fallen behind my target. 😦

screen shot progress graph

A Fury of Angels – take two

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Following a minor glitch at Amazon (where they failed to acknowledge my .mobi file upload), the formerly pre-orderable ‘A Fury of Angels’ is now fully live!

UK Link

US Link

Apologies to anyone who used the pre-order option and received a message to say it wasn’t available. 😦

Normal service has now been resumed.

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Half a million words – the sequel?

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After the mad rush of 2015 and the stunning realisation that I’d managed to type half a million words in the form of short stories and a novel, I decided to ease back for 2016 so I could spend less time with my head down and enjoy the view.

The result? In the first quarter of 2016, my word count is already at 138,000. 138k  x 4 = 552K!

So much for easing back…

source; Stock.Xchng

source; Stock.Xchng

Could someone please pass the fingertip balm?

acern270ginger write on

 

 

‘A Fury of Angels’ is now available for pre-order

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April sees me unusually organised with my work.

With ‘A Fury of Angels’ out for beta reading, I’ve already listed the book provisionally on Amazon, and its now available for pre-ordering, should anyone be keen to read it. 🙂

There’s plenty of time for me to make final changes to the MS before it goes live, but I thought I’d set myself a publication deadline in order to get this, the final story in the (first) trilogy completed and put to bed.

Put to bed? Nah!

It ought to be rising with the lark, ready for the day ahead, its tummy filled with tasty breakfast!

Just to demonstrate that Amazon’s pre-ordering system works, I found this whilst browsing:

A Fury of Angels japan

Also available for pre-order in Japan. Don’t you love the 21st Century?

Have a great day!

I must now Write On. Half a million words aren’t going to write themselves!

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