Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Apostate 1.3

     What did I learn from Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better? Did it help me write faster?

     I learned that Rachel's method for writing faster and better stands on three legs: 1) knowledge, 2) time, and 3) enthusiasm. I learned that this works for me, too.

     Knowledge means knowing what you are going to write before you write it. Think of this as a map to get you from here to there. If you want to go someplace you have not gone before, do you strike out randomly or do you consult a map?
     Rachel called this an outline. My idea of outline is formal, and I cannot get that rigid structure out of my head. I use what I call story notes. For example, these are my story notes for the first chapter I will write today:

[--. 25Oct2012. J sends 4th installment to Deidre.
[26Oct2012. Friday. Jane's stitches removed at Hospital de las Mujeres. Maria acts as interpreter. Doctor impressed with how well foot healed; take pictures for Jane's medical file. Maria copies the medical file including pix. 

     These may be meaningless to you, but they are enough to prompt me to write 1,600 to 2,000 words.

     For me, this means tracking the time I spend editing and writing. And tracking my daily word count.
     Last installment -- Apostate 1.2 -- I inserted the part of my spreadsheet that tracked my editing and showed how I reduced my daily editing time from an hour to 20 minutes. To see it, click the link, 'cause bullying a readable spreadsheet into this blog is such a pain that I am not going to do it again.
     The purpose of tracking these things is to improve efficiency. It works for me. Yesterday I had the idea to write in bed. I set up my laptop on a little table and sat there propped up with comfy pillows around me. Word count for the day: 848. Before that I cranked out 1,600 words an hour.
     I won't write in bed anymore.

     Stated in one sentence, are you excited about what you write?
     When I wrote Heart of Stone (see sidebar),  the passion for the book drove me to the keyboard and chained me there each day until darkness fell.
     You know what?
     I don't feel that burning passion for Navel of the Moon.
     Oh, I like it well enough. I think it is a good story. But it does not burn within me with the white hot passion of Heart of Stone.
     This may sound funny, but bear with me: As a pantser, I did not have enough enthusiasm to finish Navel of the Moon. As a plotter, I do.
     What I mean is that plotting moves me forward. That movement generates enthusiasm and that enthusiasm spurs more movement. With pantsing, enthusiasm generates movement. It is a chicken and egg dilemma. This one I solved by plotting.
     For me, the benefit is that it frees my subconscious to surprise me with little twists along the way. And sometimes big twists. Like the ending that hit me at lunch last Friday.

     Did it help me write faster? 
     Swapping pantsing for my interpretation of Rachel's method of plotting during April NaNoWriMo Camp changed my daily word count from 723 to 1,635.
     07 May 2015 I clocked 3,391 words in 5 hours.
     I need to write 1) to become consistent and 2) to reach my goal of 4,000 words a day. I have confidence both of those will come with time and practice.

     This is what I took from WF,WB. YMMV.

     Next time, Apostate 2.0.

Happy trails.

Links to the posts in this series:
Apostate 1.2
Apostate 1.1
Apostate 1.0
Apostate 0.2
Apostate 0.1

Links to the books:
Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better
Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!

Links to the authors' websites:
Rachel Aaron
Libbie Hawker

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Apostate 1.2

     I finished Libbie's book. That means the title of this post should be Apostate 2.0. Well, that's gonna have to wait, 'cause I still have things to write about from Rachel's book. Looks like at least this post and one more before I get to Apostate 2.0.

     In Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, Rachel mentioned the use of a spreadsheet to track her time: when she wrote (time of day), how long she wrote, and how many words she wrote each day. As I recall, she promised an example of the spreadsheet she used, but I never saw such.
     Sometimes just knowing a thing can be done spurs imitation.
     I knew Rachel used a spreadsheet for her purposes, so I constructed one for mine. Here is part of mine for the month of April:

Navel of the Moon


Date Start Stop Duration





2015Apr21 <--started using technique from WF,WB
2015Apr22 06:25 07:23 00:58



2015Apr24 14:30 14:56 00:26



2015Apr26 18:11 18:27 00:16

2015Apr27 08:58 09:23 00:25

2015Apr28 14:15 14:28 00:13

2015Apr29 09:36 10:02 00:26

2015Apr30 07:14 07:31 00:17

     (FWIW getting this table into blogger was a huge pain in the ass. Well, getting it in wasn't, but getting it in in a readable form was.)
     Navel of the Moon is the name of the work.
     This post deals with editing. I got my editing technique from Stuart Woods (SW). Each day SW reads what he wrote the previous day and edits that. Then he writes new copy. I do the same. Makes for a clean first draft.
     I may post writing times later, but so far I have learned nothing from analysis of my writing times and durations. Rachel wrote that she had two months of data before she noticed anything. Maybe I expect too much from ten days of data.
     The first thing you may notice is that the entries from 2015Apr06 to 2015Apr20 are missing. I edited those out, because they all looked like 2015Apr05: nothing. Who wants to look at lots and lots of nothing?
     The times are in 24 hour clock. The durations are in hours and minutes.
     The first thing I noticed was how long I spent editing 2015Apr22: almost an hour. What you can measure, you can change. My average (mean) editing time for the last five days is under twenty minutes. I changed my editing habit. It is now more efficient.

     I see now that last time I promised to write about "clocking editing and writing." I've done that for editing with this post. On the writing side, there are three more columns to the right of the editing times. Substitute 'Writing' for 'Editing' and they look similar.
     One hiccup I ran into was how to deal with split writing times; for example, write from 07:00 to 07:45, break, and write again from 19:25 to 20:35. What to do with that?
     My solution was inelegant. I copied the first duration to the cell to the right, entered the times for the second period, and added the duration for the second period to the copy. Not precise, but close enough for government work.

     No output today because I spent the day editing Navel of the Moon from the beginning and building a complete timeline for the novel. Looks like those tasks will also consume tomorrow. In the end, these efforts will make for a tighter novel and a better read.
     The idea for the climactic scene hit me at lunch on Friday, and I whipped out my little yellow notebook and jotted furiously for about ten minutes. Scared hell out the other patrons in the restaurant.
     It's good. It's really good. And it ties up everything in a satisfying way.

     I've not decided if there will be an Apostate 1.3 or if I shall go straight to Apostate 2.0. Stay tuned and find out next time.

Happy trails.

Links to the posts in this series:
Apostate 1.1
Apostate 1.0
Apostate 0.2 
Apostate 0.1

Links to the books:
Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better
Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!

Links to the authors' websites:
Rachel Aaron
Libbie Hawker

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Apostate 1.1

     Next time I will put up the numbers from my NaNoWriMo Camp.

     That is what I said last time. That means this time is last time's next time. That means I put up the numbers from my NaNoWri Mo Camp.

     As advertised:

Navel of the Moon

Word Count

Date Day Total

2015 Apr 05 Sun 6,424 6,424

2015 Apr 06 Mon 1,003 7,427

2015 Apr 07 Tue 0 7,427

2015 Apr 08 Wed 0 7,427

2015 Apr 09 Thu 2,135 9,562

2015 Apr 10 Fri 0 9,562

2015 Apr 11 Sat 0 9,562

2015 Apr 12 Sun 0 9,562

2015 Apr 13 Mon 0 9,562

2015 Apr 14 Tue 976 10,538

2015 Apr 15 Wed 475 11,013

2015 Apr 16 Thu 2,194 13,207

2015 Apr 17 Fri 123 13,330

2015 Apr 18 Sat 0 13,330

2015 Apr 19 Sun 0 13,330
723 2015 Apr 20 Mon 1,127 14,457

2015 Apr 21 Tue 1,424 15,881

2015 Apr 22 Wed 814 16,695

2015 Apr 23 Thu 854 17,549

2015 Apr 24 Fri 0 17,549

2015 Apr 25 Sat 3,069 20,618

2015 Apr 26 Sun 2,124 22,742

2015 Apr 27 Mon 2,016 24,758

2015 Apr 28 Tue 1,679 26,437

2015 Apr 29 Wed 2,614 29,051
1635 2015 Apr 30 Thu 1,753 30,804

     Navel of the Moon is the title of the work.
     I did not track my word count until the fifth when I finished with a total of 6,424 words.
     April 1 to April 20, I wrote according to my former pantser model. If you look to the left of the entry for 2015 Apr 20, you will see the number 723. That is my average (mean) daily word count for the first twenty days of the month.
     A lot of goose eggs in those first twenty days, eh?
     April 21 -- highlighted above -- I began to use part of Rachel Aaron's system. Specifically, the knowledge part. I wrote a note about what was to happen next and then wrote the scene. The difference is clear. My average (mean) daily word count for the last ten days of the month was 1,635, more than double what it was previously. And only one goose egg.
     I think the results speak for themselves. If you disagree, leave a question in the comments. I will address it.
     Next time, clocking editing and writing.

Happy trails.

Links to the posts in this series:
Apostate 1.0
Apostate 0.2 
Apostate 0.1

Links to the books:
Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better
Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Apostate 1.0

     Day . . . ah, who's keeping track of the days of my apostacy anymore? Not I.
     This post is numbered 1.0 because I finished Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better. Now reading Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants! When I finish Libbie's book, I shall change the numbering to 2.x.

     These are my highlights from WF,WB, with edits to make things clear:

1. I was doing the hardest work of writing (figuring out what needs to happen to move the story forward . . .) in the most time-consuming way possible (ie. (sic), in the middle of the writing itself).

2. If you want to write faster, the first step is to know what you're writing before you write it.

3. Every writing session after this realization, I dedicated five minutes . . . and wrote out a quick description of what I was going to write that day.

4. Of the three sides of the triangle, I consider knowledge to be the most important. This step alone more than doubled my word count. If you only try one thing out of this entire book, this is the one I recommend.

5. I . . . note[d] the time I started, the time I stopped, how many words I wrote, and where I was writing on a spreadsheet.

6. A happy writer will always produce more and better than an unhappy one.

7. If writing feels like pulling teeth, you're doing it wrong.

8. [W]hile I loved having written, I didn't actually seem to like writing, and that terrified me.

9. [I]nstead of treating bad writing days as random, unavoidable disasters to be weathered, like thunderstorms, I started treating them as red flags.

10. If you are not enjoying your writing, you're doing it wrong.

11. If your goal is to become a faster writer, the single most efficient change you can make isn't actually upping your daily word count, but eliminating the days where (sic) you are not writing.

12. [D]on't blame your subconscious when it doesn't want to write. Listen to it.

13. [T]he most important step of writing fast is knowing as (sic) what you're writing before you write it.

14. I can easily explain why other people would want to read it.

15. [Y]ou can't afford to work for free.

16. [T]he three pillars of story: characters, plot, and setting.

17. Figuring out the end of a book is my number one priority.

18. If the basics (the plot, characters, and settings . . .) are the scaffolding, [creating the timeline, map, character bios, and scene list] is the concrete foundation the will support my novel through the writing and edits to come.

19. [Y]ou are not nearly as good at keeping track of things in your head as you think you are.

20. Draw a map.

21. Write out who knows what, when.

22. Just because you've already made a decision doesn't mean you can't make a better one. No one has all their good ideas at once so don't be afraid to let go and just write. Plotting exists to make your life easier, not harder.

23. Even if characters start out as passengers in the story . . . they must eventually get up front and start pulling or they'll never be anything more than a point of view.

24. [C]haracters with proper agency will write their own stories.

25. Every character in a book, even the most minor, needs a motivation. They have to want something.

26. [P]lot and character development should be so tightly intertwined they can't be separated.

27. Act I, put your characters in a tree.
Act II, light the tree on fire.
Act III, get your characters out of the tree.

28. The point of the denouement isn't happiness or sadness or even wrapping things up neatly. The point is tension relief.

29. [T]he core part of the writing triangle is knowledge. In day-to-day terms, this means knowing what you're going to write before you write it.

30. If you want your writing process to be fast and reliable, it's not enough to just trust your feelings for what works. You need to know why it works and how it works.

31. [T]rusting you gut is different from being at its mercy.

32. [S]cenes do three things:
• Advance the story
• Reveal new information
• Pull the reader forward

33. [I]f all we're adding is bulk and not substance, we're doing more harm than good.

34. My ultimate goal as a writer is to be able to put out fantastic novels as efficiently as possible.

35. The most effective way [to get better at editing] is to write a lot of books and edit them.

36. [O]nce you invite people inside [your book], it's no longer yours alone.

37. [K]nowledge makes you go faster.

     I put that last one in bold because I found it true for me. I write notes about what will occur in my work-in-progress (wip) at the end of the chapter I am writing. When I finish a chapter, I cut out those notes and paste them into the template for the next chapter. I have things in there that I will not write for several chapters, but a short pencil is better than a long memory, and I will not forget them.
     That is tangent to the point. The point is that by using these notes, my daily word count rose during April NaNoWriMo Camp from 723 words/day to 1,635 words/day.

     Next time I will put up the numbers from my NaNoWriMo Camp. Until then, happy trails.

Links to the posts in this series:
Apostate 0.2 
Apostate 0.1

Links to the books:
Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better
Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!

Flight Out

     For one week only, Flight Out.

Flight Out

. . . is gone! Come back next month for another short story.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Apostate 0.2

    Day 5 of my apostacy.
     There is no Heaven but clarity, No Hell except confusion.
     -- Jan Struther 
     In our last episode, I was reading Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better and Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants! concurrently. I stopped that.
     Both Rachel and Libbie use a three-legged stool metaphor and give detailed suggestions for outlining. Reading both concurrently, I confused who said what and was not able to keep them straight.
     Since I began WFWB first, I shall read it through to a conclusion. Then I shall return to TOYP.

     So you wanna know my word count? Yeah, of course you do.
Day 1: 1,424
Day 2: 814
Day 3: 824
Day 4: 0
Day 5: 3,069 (Equal to my best day ever.)
     If you missed them before, here are the links to the posts in this series: 
Apostate 0.1

     And links to the books:
Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better
Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Apostate 0.1

     Half an hour ago, I decided to blog my conversion to pantser apostate step by step. Twenty-five minutes ago, I figured out 'step by step' reporting was impossible, so I settled for reporting by milepost.

     This is the first milepost.

     So you can follow along, let me tell you how I will organize these posts.
     My conversion shall be based on these two books:
1. Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better and
2. Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!
     Because I'm lazy, I shall refer to Rachel's book as WFWB and to Libbie's as TOYP.  When it's not too much trouble, I shall italicize the abbreviations. 
     I read both WFWB and TOYP concurrently on my Kindle. I just started 'em.  I've read far enough in WFWB that Rachel has named the three legs of her method -- Knowledge, Time, and Enthusiasm -- and I've read her descriptions of the first two (okay, now I've read all three). In TOYP, Libbie has laid out the Story Core (she chose to capitalize the term) and gave examples, but 16% deep into TOYP she's still selling me the book.
     When I finish both books, the post I write then will be Apostate 2.0.
     When I finish one book, the post I write will be Apostate 1.0.
     Between Apostate 1.0 and Apostate 2.0, the posts will be titled Apostate 1.1, Apostate 1.2, Apostate 1.3, and so on.
     Until I finish the first book the posts will be titled Apostate 0.1, Apostate 0.2, and so on. 
     Get it? *;) winking 

     In the Gospel according to Rachel, Knowledge is the outline. It is the map that shows you where to go and how to get there. 
     This is what I expected.
     I have mapped out my writing before. I mean, I finished my writing for the day and left myself notes about what I wanted to see happen next in the story, which characters were where, what was at stake, and what I needed to set up the next scene. This was my map. It formed the skeleton for me to write over the next day. And because I appended it to the end of the day's writing, I often literally wrote over it.
     I do not know if this is what Rachel meant by Knowledge, but this is the way I took it. So I spent 5, maybe 10 minutes sketching out where I was going and how I was going to get there in the next several thousand words in my work-in-progress.

     So how did I do in my first day of apostacy? That's all you really care about, isn't it?

     Drum roll . . . .

     Day 1 as an Apostate: 1,424 words. 

     Disappointed? I'm not. That's my third highest daily word count this month. And here is the kicker.
     I spent my morning in a dentist's chair having a crown applied. I started my 'day job' this afternoon, and because I started late, I stayed at it until 8pm. Next came dinner and then I got to write.
     My day's word count came from less than an hour of writing.

     But you wanna know what's really great about that? Greater than the speed? 

     Drum roll . . . .

     I was excited about the writing. I was enthused. I knew where I was going and the words poured out of my fingers. I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed writing since 'Certified Street' grabbed me in my sleep and drug me to the keyboard at 3 in the morning.

     Dean Wesley Smith calls his style (pantsing) 'writing into the dark', so I'm not going to apologize for calling pantsing The Dark Side.
     I now write on The Light Side.

The Jedi has returned. *:D big grin 

Saturday, April 18, 2015


     I am a pantser. That means I write by the seat of my pants. I follow Stuart Woods's procedure for writing: I read what I wrote yesterday, I edit that, and then I write today's copy.
     No outline.
     Well, sometimes I leave myself notes at the end of the day about where the story is and where it is going. More often than not, I write into the dark like Dean Smith
     Sometimes this creates disconnects in the story, and I have to go back and change something that happened pages and pages before. Just this week, I wrote one scene three times. It started with six characters sitting at a table. Then I realized that two of them had to be elsewhere, so there were only four at the table. Next I realized that two had to be off doing something else, so only two could be at the table. That means my progress for day one was 2,194 words; day two, 123 words; day three, 0 words.
     Keep this in mind. 

     I believe that writing is art; publishing is business. Write for love; publish for money. 
     I have business goals. To meet those goals, I need to write 4,000 words a day. I have never written 4,000 words a day in my life. Recall my progress on that one scene in the paragraph above.
     How did I discover that?
     To regain the habit of daily writing, I enrolled in NaNoWriMo Camp for April. I set my word count goal at 60,000, which divides down to 2,000 words a day. I saw this as a stepping stone to achieving my goal of 4,000 words a day.
     By 05 April -- 5 days in (goal: 10,000 words) -- I had written 6,424 words. I saw I was falling behind. I set up a spreadsheet to record my writing progress.
     By 18 April -- 18 days in (goal: 36,000 words) -- I had written 13,330 words. *:-O surprise
    The evidence is persuasive beyond a reasonable doubt. Pantsing will not support my business goals. 

     I like David Gaughran. David has earned my trust and my respect. When he talks, I listen.
     David recently (that is, yesterday) wrote of his troubles as a pantser and of making the switch to plotting. He recommended two books: Rachel Aaron; 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better and Libbie Hawker; Take Off Your Pants!
     Any book that promises to take my writing from 2,000 to 10,000 words a day gets my attention. I have heard and heard and heard about Libbie's book for the last month. It has my attention now.
     Rachel's ebook is 99¢. Libbie's is $2.99. I am grateful that these how-to-become-a-plotter books are inexpensive. 

     I am a pantser. I shall become a plotter.


Monday, April 13, 2015

eBook Review: Beat the Last Drum

Thomas FlemingBeat the Last Drum: The Siege of Yorktown 

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 3851 KB
    • Print Length: 278 pages
    • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
    • Publisher: New Word City, Inc.; 1 edition (February 26, 2015)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B00U2MF8WG
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray: Enabled
    • Word Wise: Not Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars (16 customer reviews)
    • Price: $2.99 

1. Short review: *:D big grin (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it. Will read it again soon.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: I enjoyed Beat the Last Drum very much. I looked forward to returning to my Kindle to read it. In its place, I now read Bushido. I plan to read BtLD again once I finish Bushido.  It is that good.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A roller coaster punctuated with walks in the park.
Outstanding value for the money. Easily worth ten times the price I paid.

2.2. What I did not like: Does not apply. First to last, it's good.

2.3. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes. Searching for more books by Thomas Fleming.

2.4. The work in a nutshell:
     BtLD is a comprehensive history of the Yorktown campaign. It covers the naval actions -- French and British -- that determined the outcome, Washington's march from New York to Virginia (no small feat), the siege, the dithering of Clinton and Graves, Cornwallis's surrender, and the effect the news of the surrender had on affairs in England.
     TF managed to give his history immediacy by including excerpts from journals and letters written by American, French, and English generals and sergeants, too. He included letters from German troops pressed into service for England.
     I knew the ending before I began, but TF still made it exciting. I felt the surrender negotiations would collapse at any moment over trifles.

2.5. Other:
     There is so much in BtLD that I find it hard to choose a start. 
     History is best and most true when it is not written as history but is written as a near-contemporaneous record for another purpose.  Arthur Gould Lee wrote the letters that make up the majority of No Parachute to ease his wife's fears; the excerpts from his diary give the lie to his letters. Thus his book is a better story of the RFC in 1917 than the official history.
     Before I have written that history is about lies. The closer the sources are to the events and the less their intent is to record them for public consumption, the more true they are. Such histories lie less. When these are collected, lies creep in because the editor chooses which sources to include and which to exclude.
     In college, a professor shared his monograph with me. The thrust of the monograph was that DuPont built a gunpowder mill on the first fall line of the James River in Virginia. That one mill supplied two-thirds of the gunpowder used by the Continental Army. This explained why Cornwallis was at Yorktown. He was there to be supplied and reinforced by sea before he marched up the James to destroy that powder mill. 
     The half hour I spent reading that monograph and discussing it with its author taught me more about history than all the classes I took. I learned that recitation of events and dates is historiography. The purpose of history is to explain why events happened. 
     With the passage of time and more reading, I have come to doubt the professor's explanation of Cornwallis's actions. But I have never forgotten what I learned about the purpose of history that day. 

     Americans may be interested to learn that in all the years of Cornwallis's service to the crown, Yorktown was his only defeat. He won every battle he fought before Yorktown and every battle after. He went on to illustrious campaigns in India and Ireland and governed both well. 

     TF made it clear that Lafayette was a captain of reserves in the French army but a major general in the Continental Army.

     One thing I saw in BtLD that TF did not point out is that the Continental Army marched and worked faster than the British or the French. During the march from New York to Virginia, the American army took a day to cross the Hudson; the French army -- of the same size -- took four. During the siege, when the Americans stormed the British forward redoubts, they dug parallel trenches the same night; morning found the American army under cover. The French were still digging. (This was never so pronounced and astonishing as at the siege of Boston. The British knew the Americans had to take Dorchester Heights, but their officers opined that the work required 3 weeks and that gave them plenty of time to counterattack. Knox moved his guns there and entrenched all in one night. The British sued for terms the next day and quit Boston within a week.)  
     On the field of battle, the Continental Army could not stand toe to toe with the Royal Army. It could, however, defeat the Royal Army on a field of its own choosing. The Continental Army's ability to outmarch and outwork the Royal Army meant that more often than not, the Continental Army chose the field. 


2.6. Links: Thomas Fleming

2.7. Buy the book: Beat the Last Drum

Saturday, April 4, 2015


     For one week only, Boston. Boston is the bonus short story packaged with the novel Heart of Stone.


. . . is gone! Tune in next month for another short story.