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:

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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

Cover reveal – A Fury of Angels.

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It’s been a few months since my last post. I’ve been extra busy this year with artwork, formatting, editing and writing. Already my word count is matching that of 2015, which means I might once again hit half a million words, even though I’d only planned a target of one third million.

One of the projects has been ‘A Fury of Angels,’ the final story in ‘The Angels of York’ trilogy.

Yes, Sara and Michael’s adventures have now concluded, although they haven’t ended by any means.

So here, for the first time, is the third cover, as created by the talented Ravven.

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It’s consistent with the previous two covers, featuring the quatrefoil tower, stormy sky and mysterious supernatural character. I’ve already received early feedback that this colourful cover is more eye-catching than the first two, something which was intentional.

Each new cover is brighter than its predecessor, promising a better and brighter future for my characters, even though the stakes are higher and the danger grows.

I’m close to completing the Kindle-formatted ‘Fury of Angels,’ and the Createspace layout is all but finished, meaning the trilogy will be complete and up for sale very soon.

Watch Amazon and Smashwords closely!

Until then, I continue to;

acern270ginger write on

Acer Switch half million words

 

 

Second paperback almost completed

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jpeg Voa

Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while may remember the troubles I had with my Createspace version of ‘A Construct of Angels.’ Many hours of format tweaking and two proof copies shipped to England from the US finally produced a paperback I was happy to sell.

With my second novel, I have applied the lessons learned and the formatting was completed within a week. A proof copy has been ordered and I hope to hold it in my hands within ten days – less than three weeks after my eBook was released. What a difference a year makes!

I’m also trying something new with this cover – endorsements. Two other indie writers, Candace Knoebel and Sonya Loveday have agreed to let me reproduce their glowing beta reader comments on the back cover. I’m hoping this will do two things. The first is to encourage people to buy my book (always a motivating force), and the second is to provide a little exposure for the ladies as a thank-you. They have both been hugely encouraging over the past three years, helping to propel me towards completing my debut, then my second novel. I’ve enjoyed reading books published by both writers and I’d recommend them without hesitation to other fans of YA fantasy.

Ladies. thank you, and:

acern270ginger write on

 

Does a second book imply greater determination?

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image courtesy of Miklav at Stock Xchng

The first week my debut novel was listed on Amazon, back in 2012, I was buzzing with excitement – and personal pride. However, that feeling settled after a wee while and I began thinking about the sequel, which has now been over a year in the making. As the First, and then the Second Drafts dragged on, a mild sense of panic began to rise within me.

What if I can’t do this again?

What if the first book was all I had inside me?

And so, a renewed determination to finish the sequel arose. I would NOT be a one-book wonder. I wouldn’t end my days thinking ‘What a shame I only ever wrote the one…’ *croaks*

Sure, I’ve written many, many stories in my time. A lot of them have even begun paying me back for the time I spent on them. But a novel is something else, isn’t it? It’s the obelisk of the publishing world, the menhir of our career, the monolith…

Well, you know what I’m getting at. To me, the magazine articles I’ve written are fine, if a little thin, like single sheets of paper in a breezy doorway. My short stories (especially electronically-published ones) can feel like leaves in the wind, but in comparison, the novel is a bit of a cast-iron doorstep.  To have published one feels like a serious achievement; to publish a second means it wasn’t a one-off event and I really, really can do it.

And then, of course, there’s the pressure to sustain the output until the end of days. Once that begins, there’s no getting off the roundabout.

Can anyone else relate to this feeling?

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acern270ginger write on 

 

Revisiting the scary world of creation

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terror

After having spent so darn long living with my debut novel, revising, re-revising, then working through Tara Shaner‘s edits, I find myself (finally) back in familiar territory – something that all writers may recognise.

I’d almost forgotten the simultaneous fear and thrill of creating new adventures for my characters, of developing their personalities from the ones I’d grown so accustomed to in the first book, whilst remaining faithful to their original outline.

Just to throw a spanner (wrench) in my own works (something I do very often), I’ve switched First Person POVs for the sequel, describing the new adventures through the eyes (and other senses) of a different main character. For me, it provides a fresh perspective on the character’s mileu.

I just hope the reader will agree. By comparrison, Philip Pullman did something similar between ‘The Northern Lights’ and ‘The Subtle Knife’.

Another spanner/wrench is the two-day overlap that occurs between the first and second books… a sort of half-reboot, if you like. Think of how ‘Back to the Future II’ meshed with the first film – except I’ve used days instead of years. No DeLorean, though. Shame.

By introducing this half-rebooted overlapping First Person POV switch (still with me on this?), I may have limited my timeline to some extent as the confluence of events must fit snugly against the original adventure. On the plus side, the alternative POV enables me to expand on the details of the overlapping scenes.

Win-win? We shall see. Ask me in a year’s time. 😀

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CoA

Coming soon! Dun, dun-dundun-duuuun.

Write on!

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A Construct of Angels – the 2014 re-launch.

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CoA post its

It has taken many, many months of hard work, but the revised version of CoA (Kindle, ePub and Kobo) is finally ready to be shown to the world. The paperback is due to follow shortly afterward.

My editor, Tara Shaner and I have been bouncing the MS back and forth across the pond since July, and now, finally, we are both happy with the result. It’s fifty or so pages shorter, two characters lighter and a great deal tighter than before.

I’ve learned a great deal during the process of revision (old hands will nod sagely at this point, but bear with me).

An edit is not just about spelling and grammar. It’s as much about the flow as it is about the structure. It’s about plot threads and loose ends; developing characterisations as well as removing characters who either complicate or lend nothing to the plot. Pace, language and humour are also essential elements of an engaging MS.

I began 2013 with the certainty that after scores of read-throughs, my MS would be error-free and ready to roll.

No need for an editor, I thought.

I can do English. I know how to use punctuation.

I was so naive.

I’ve learned, by taking this long way around, that it really does take an outside and professional eye to spot repetitive or erroneous patterns in a Manuscript – and to offer solutions. A writer can become settled and overly accustomed to the flow of the story and (I have caught myself doing this at times) can tend to ‘read’ the story, rather than edit it objectively.

Be in no doubt that you may begin to question your own skill as a writer as overused words, inappropriate dialogue tags and pointless character actions are unearthed before your disbelieving eyes. ‘Did I really write that? What was I thinking?’

But a good editor should also indicate the places where your work shines, where the humour tickles and where the pace grips the reader. And whilst human nature will automatically remember the bad over the good, an indicator of  competent, nay, great work will help to soften the blow – as well as encouraging the writer not to throw in the towel.

I know where my towel is. 😀

So the re-launch is imminent. Watch this space and if you can, please join me on my Author page for some fun, frolics and giveaways on Friday, 28th February.

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The editing continues – revisiting CoA (again)

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lucianotb remington

Sometimes, I’ve been extremely fortunate in my writing journey. When I’ve needed them the most, I’ve met people who have shown me that ePublishing is not only possible, but in some ways it is preferable to traditional publishing. 

During my year of querying agencies and receiving a whole basketful of raspberries, around the time I’d started to build my author platform, I quickly began to encounter other writers, some of whom were still querying, others who had decided to go it alone by self-publishing.

And as they proved to me that there is definitely hope after rejection, one author in particular steered me towards the tutorials that explained how I could complete the process myself.  Thanks Ryan!

I’ve also become friends with several other authors who went on to recommended exactly the right cover artist.

Thank you everybody! You are my guardian angels. Or at the very least, he recommended you all. 🙂

Now I am entering a new phase in my writing. By sheer chance, and some very fortunate timing, I have become friends with Tara, an aspiring editor who began by examining my first chapter, but went on to review the entire MS.  We are now working together on a complete and thorough edit of CoA.

When I wrote the post How to accept editing feedback I thought that accepting a professional critique would be much more daunting, but Tara has been fair as well as thorough with my MS.

She even likes my jokes… 🙂

As I write this, we have already made some major changes to the story and I now have several words to purge from the MS, on pain of nagging.

It seems that I use the words ‘just’, ‘like’ and ‘sigh’ a great deal (thanks, WordSmith!), to the point where it has begun to leap off the page at Tara. *Sighs* We are also discussing the intricacies of ‘forwards’ versus ‘forward’ and it looks as if I have sinned with ‘towards’ as well. Taking into account that I write in British English (BrE), we both understand that different rules apply on our respective sides of the Big Pond, but she may have me cornered in this instance. 🙂

However, Tara seems to enjoying the peculiarities of BrE and I’m slowly introducing her to some of our colloqualisms. I’ll soon have her speaking like a native of the UK and then we can be china plates for life!

Once we’ve finished my fish hook, of course. 

Toodle-pip!

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