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

 

 

Is half a million words per year normal for a writer?

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Goal achieved.

Acer Switch half million words

Fifty-four short stories and a 60K First Draft later, I finally reached my target, with three weeks of 2015 still to go.

*celebrates*

Entering NaNoWriMo for the first time this year probably helped me to hit the magic number a little earlier than I would have.

half a million

My average for the year to date was around 1,400 words per day (very much an average. Some days were noticeably better than others), and November’s average was a little over 1,700 per day.  I would still have reached the half million, but the race would have been much closer to the wire.

The obvious question now hangs over me:

Can I do it again in 2016? Would I want to?

The answer would largely depend on how much work I can bring in. 2015 has been particularly fruitful for short story projects, keeping me busy for the entire year. If I work as hard as I did in 2015, half a million is possible.

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Over the past few months, I’ve begun to wonder what the ‘normal’ output is for a writer, particularly someone who writes full time. For the record, I also have a full-time job. I was speaking to Sheila Quigley, another North-East (England) writer  about my endeavours. When I told her about my target, she stared at me, then blew out a long breath.

I got the impression that 500k is not the norm. 🙂

My work / life balance means that I work away from home and have my evenings free from distractions as I write in my hotel room. When I’m not away, I find it tricky to concentrate with the TV on in the background much of the time.

So, what is everyone else producing over twelve months? I’d be interested in hearing from both full-time and part-time writers. How do you manage to keep up the pace when you work AND live with a family? What’s your routine?

Andrew Toynbee logo

 

Live action book trailer for A Construct of Angels.

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film-clapper jaylopez

image courtesy of jaylopez at Stock Xchng, modified by Andrew Toynbee

 

In the past few days, I’ve released several teaser trailers for ‘A Construct of Angels,’ my live-action trailer.

Now here’s the full video, which has gone through many phases of editing, as well as a beta review by several friends.

A Construct of Angels (novel).

camera-gianni testore

image courtesy of gianni testore at Stock Xchng

As with writing, it’s only once you embark on making something like this, do you realise how many people become involved. Creating something as complex as a novel or a short movie requires patience, dedication and a number of good friends, willing to lend a hand.

There were many other elements I wanted to add to this short trailer, but time, money (i.e. the lack of it) and a wish to see this released on September 16th, the day the first book begins, all led to the video being wrapped up in late August, with a few last-minute edits (inevitably).

I hope you like it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the time to make a sequel, but who knows? If the response is encouraging, then it would be worthwhile.

Until then, I endeavour to Write On…

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Synchronicity?

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Image courtesy of ba1969 at StockXchng

In an odd turn of events, I find myself incapacitated and stuck at home, exactly fifteen years after a similar event kick-started my writing.

Those who know my story might remember that a week-long illness gave me the time I needed to collate all my scattered notes onto my first-ever laptop. This was the start of my first ‘real’ writing project, the still-to-be-completed ‘Homeworld.’ (I will complete this one day, when I’ve cleared a few other projects.)

Now, after eight weeks immobilised, resting my crocked leg, my Muse crept up behind me, placed her hands over my eyes and whispered: “I have a great idea. Wanna hear it?”

And so she delivered an entire story, possibly an 80k novel, into my shell-like ear. I’m 99.8% certain (in life, there’s always room for a little doubt) the idea would never have come to me if I’d been working.

I’m optimistic that this new story has legs and will come together pretty quickly. It’s a quiet little British adventure story (provisionally titled ‘Pink Camper Van’) that made me smile as it unfolded. At the time of posting, I’ve already written 2,000 words, and I have a firm conclusion in mind, meaning this particular tale won’t end up as one of my infamous neverending stories.

As they say, watch this space. And as Monty Python might add: ‘And now for something completely different.’

.

acern270ginger write on

Fame or fear, that is the question.

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'Shame' courtesy of  Katherine Evans at Stock Xchng

Many of us who are writing have probably dreamed about suddenly being catapulted to fame – the sort of fame now enjoyed (endured?) by Joanne Rowling.

But would such a thing be a triumph, or a terror?

For me, I would hate the idea; love the income, fear the price that comes with it.

As an introvert, I would far rather hide in the background and pay an accomplished actor to be ‘me,’ to press the flesh and face the flashes as a blizzard of questions are launched.

I’m happy to think, imagine, dream and type out my thoughts on my current keyboard, from wherever I happen to be in the world.

I have been to exactly two book signings in my life. One was for my fellow writer and Darlington-dweller, Jenna Burtenshaw, the other was for Robin Hobb, one of my favourite fantasy authors.

Although the attendance at Jenna’s signing was a little smaller than Robin’s, I still wondered what it would feel like to be on the opposite side of the table.  It didn’t appeal. Although it would have been nice (I imagined) to speak to people who’d enjoyed my work, the idea of being placed in front of the public sent a cold shiver down my back. I would much rather communicate with an audience on-line than in real life.

Am I alone in this?

Do other writers fear the repercussions of their work achieving a measure of fame?

It’s a question raised by Ben Myers in The Guardian. In the twenty-first century, do writers now have a duty to the public?

If you ask me, I’d rather simply…

acern270ginger write on

The quiet writer

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'KP15' courtesy of Ryan Ar�stegui at Stock Xchng

Continuing the theme of shy and introverted authors, I happened upon this article ThisDayLive.

It seems, and this is unlikely to surprise anyone, that introverted thinkers can often go on to become accomplished, or even great writers. The article’s author describes herself as ‘…an introvert. That is what I am wired to be, and to write..’

Can you relate to the issues described here? I certainly can!

The Huffington Post goes on to list sixteen famous faces who were (and still are) considered to be introverts. Some of them might surprise you.

In the meantime, shyness notwithstanding, I intend to:

acern270ginger write on

 

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