Sunday, 19 November 2017

Words, Statistics and Time — the creative life's little problems

Linzé Brandon, Apple Watch on charging stand
Linzé's iWatch on its charging stand
I recently read an article where the blogger/author mentioned that if you wrote 1000 words in an hour, it shouldn't take you more than 50 hours to write a 50 000 word book.
It also means that a full-length fantasy or other novel, typically in the order of 100k+ words, can be done in 100 hours. Now we are talking first drafts here. Editing and all the other activities to get a book to publishable quality, are not included in those hours.
So that means NaNoWriMo should take me (at two hours per day) only 25 days to do. These two hours are what I have available on a weekday. If I double that to 4 hours per weekend day then my NaNoWriMo target should have been completed today - the 19th of November. Since I have not achieved the 50k yet, it means that I am not as efficient as I would like to believe. Based on current performance, and present word count (41010 words) I would then complete the requisite 50k words in two days, the 21st.
Crunching a few more numbers, it means that I have only been 90% efficient at using my time this November. Using 30 days out of a potential 365 days of writing is not a large enough sample to draw any conclusions.
So I went to my word count spreadsheet for the year to see how efficiently I have used my time this year, so far. To do the math correctly, I can therefor only count the days until today - 19 November. This means my calculations must be done for 323 days if I include today.
So here is what my numbers for the 323 days of 2017 look like:
Writing: 208130 words
Editing: 126.5 hours
Until now there were 45 full weekends (ie, 2 days) plus one weekend day (today). I counted Saturdays, but it makes no difference since 1 January fell this year on a Sunday.
So that gave me 323 days x 2 hours per day + 90 weekend days x 2 additional hours per weekend day + today's 4 hours = 830 available writing hours
At 1000 words per hour, I should have written 830 000 words this year!
Let's work with hours; the numbers are just smaller to use for the calculations. Based on the 1000 words per hour premise, I had been writing for 208.1 hours up to today. Add the editing (because I can only do one of the two at a time) my total hours spend on writing projects so far were 334.6 hours.
Now my efficiency does not look that good anymore, does it? Crunching the numbers one last time gives me 334.6 / 830 = 40%.
I have used only 40% of the time I have allocated for writing this year. If this does not bother you, you can rest assured, it bothers the freaking daylight out of me!
To be honest, I type about 1200 words in an hour, which is not helping my case at all.
So where did things go wrong? Alternatively, did they go wrong at all? Am I deluding myself into thinking that writing for two hours per day is what is happening?

Reassessing my writing time slash writing life:

1. I don't suffer from writer's block, never have. So if I don't write, there must be other reasons for not writing - exhaustion, illness, and other obligations. These things happen, I am only human.
2. I read a lot. Since I work full-time, I have to choose between writing or reading in my spare time. Reading does not make me feel guilty for not writing, so those hours (which I have not kept track of) probably account for a significant portion of my writing hours not used for writing. To date, I have read 45 books - not nearly as many as I have done in recent years.
3. Studying. In September and October, I did a management course (on my own time) which required 60 hours of studying and assignments. It inspired me to change direction in my professional life. That means that I am now studying towards my diploma in Life Coaching. Again, hours taken away from my writing time.
4. Art. I have made it a point to do more art this year, and I have. The exact hours recorded are lost in a file that I cannot recover, but I did not spend them writing when I used pencils or paint brushes.
As I sit reading what I wrote here, I realise that I haven't done that badly at all. I completed Camp NaNoWriMo both times on target, I am about to finish the 50k version in the next two days, and while my fourth novel is late, it will still be published this year.
However, I have to ask: was I only 40% efficient? Judging by the numbers, I would have to say yes. However, this is my life, and while numbers don't lie, they simply cannot tell the whole story with all its plotlines, intricacies, and surprises.
Time is the most precious resource we have, and maybe I shouldn't use the number of words I write as a measure of how I spend my time. At least, not as the only parameter. A qualitative element could be more useful. Was that hour, day or week's time happy, satisfactory or fulfilling instead. Something to consider as the approach of a new year lends itself to a new way of doing things.

Until next time!
Linzé

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Eyes wide shut...a book review

The Unstoppable Creative by Todd Brison

I don't know about you, but I have been getting tired of the new 'writing books and courses' that are being advertised all over the internet. I mean what's wrong with the thousands (yes, thousands!) of books and courses already available? Are authors now telling the rest of us that writing is not the thing anymore, it is teaching? Then I guess we should go into teaching.
Personally, I own more than a handful of books about writing, writing better, writing for the internet, blah, blah, blah. Instead of reading more books about writing, I have been looking for books about being a writer. Yeah, there is a difference, and a big one too.
So it was with real anticipation that I volunteered to review Todd's latest book, The Unstoppable Creative. And it is not just for writers. Or artists. Most of us think that unless you do art, or are an author, you are not creative. You couldn't be more wrong because Creativity (with a capital c) comes in many forms.
What I particularly liked about the book is that the author doesn't tell you: Now THIS is the best way. There are many, many articles and books out there to tell you that to be successful or be the best writer or artist, you have to do the next five steps, and bam! Success rolls in the front door.
For those of us who have been in this game for a while, it is more a question of if it's not working for me, what can I learn for it to make my situation work for me.
There are no quick fixes, but there are ways for creative people to get more from the hours that they do have. And before you roll your eyes, no there is no ONE solution. As much as my life, my writing, and my art differ from yours, a strategy that works for me will probably make you break out in hives.
The Unstoppable Creative is a book for people to understand what creativity really is, and how you can develop a strategy (and plans) to make your own creativity work for you. How you can make your own creativity earn money for you.
As with any changes you start with yourself and your way of thinking about your life and your creativity. The author does mention people who have made things work for them, and not all of them in a way that you might think. It is a focus on learning and understanding and often outside your usual situation. Since I study a wide range of topics, it is this outside-the-box approach to learning that resonates with my own philosophy about my own creativity that I appreciate about the book.
Writers and other creatives need to understand what it is they truly need to do to grow in their art, in their own person, to achieve what it is they want out of their art. The author outlines the limitations we create for ourselves, the wrong stories we tell ourselves and believe, that destroys the opportunities we might have seen as a result.
But the book also helps us to understand how we can overcome these limitations. How we can set our own course and that we don't need much beyond our own belief in ourselves to live the life we want.
My creative life starts with me, and if you want to take that step too then this book is a must-read for you.

My rating: 

NOTE: The book launches today. If you are interested in where to find it, please pop over to Facebook or Twitter where I will share the link as soon as it is available. 

💜  LinzéB


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Why do we write? Let me count the ways by Richard Beynon

Why do throngs of people around the world feel the urge to record their thoughts and feelings and observations, but, more than that, to shape them into narratives that engage and enthrall others?
The internet age – with its promise of instant publication and worldwide distribution – has ushered in millions more writers who dream of firing the imagination of readers, and making a mint of money in the process.
But it’s not simply money that drives us, I don’t believe. Even the most commercial writers who crank out an annual thriller or detective story in time for the Christmas rush, are driven at least partly – and I suspect, mostly – by the thrill of creation.
Because it’s out of the threads and tangles of our imaginations, fed by our observation of the world and its players, that we weave our stories. And that act itself nurtures the powers of our imagination, and sharpens our observation of the world. There is instant reward and gratification for creating stories – and the more skillful we become at shaping these stories, the greater the reward.
Perhaps it’s because the act of writing calls on our whole selves in a way that few other – if any – activities do. Not only does it yoke the active and fluid imagination, it also calls on all our powers of critical reasoning.
Many of us have remarked on how totally lost to the world we become in creating our own universes. This is little wonder, given the complete commitment that writing demands and elicits.
Writing plays a subversive role amongst the snarls of our own prejudices. We might create a villain who embodies all the vileness we’ve encountered in others – and then find, when we stand in his shoes, that there are vulnerabilities and weakness present that, while they might not excuse him, make him human, and capable, therefore, of remorse and redemption.
One of the injunctions directed at writers of fiction is to give their antagonists the best arguments. Thinking your way into the logic of a bad character - or even a character very different from you - yields surprisingly good insights and will develop sympathies that could, not to put too fine a point on it, expand your moral horizons.
And then, of course, whenever a writer plugs in her laptop, or uncaps her pen, she embarks on a hero’s journey of her own that at once generates surprises, heart-stopping climaxes but above all direction. Every story you embark on constitutes a project with its own imperatives and goals.
Ursula le Guin, author of the magical Wizard of Earthsea, dwelt on what writing means to the writer. She wrote, “A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well, they strengthen their souls.”
Perhaps we should encourage others to join the throng.
Happy writing,
Richard

💜 

For more writing tips and a little motivation click here to read Jo-Anne’s latest blog, Writing Secrets: Sentences aren’t strong men – don’t overburden them and click here to read last week's Monday Motivation: The bigger the story, the larger your lens

💜

Note from me: The post was reblogged with permission from Richard at www.allaboutwritingcourses.com

Monday, 6 November 2017

Review: The Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm by Sybrina Durant

illustrations by Dasguptarts
It is a story for young adults featuring a tribe of unicorns threatened by an evil overlord. It is mainly a story about finding friendship, love, and learning to fight together to defeat the evil that threatens them.
Buy the book: Amazon
The main characters set off on a journey to help fulfil the prophesied destiny of Blue, born without a metal horn. The story details their adventures and how they all learned that together they could find their way back home.
It has been a long time since I read a story intended for a much younger audience, and I did enjoy it. The illustrations (watercolour paintings) were bright and depicted various scenes throughout the story. The colouring book option, I am sure would appeal to the intended audience.
Given the nature of the story, I would say the book would appeal more to girls than to boys.
I reviewed the PDF version of the book, and here was the only thing that detracted from my enjoyment - the font of the text made it difficult to read, even on a computer screen. I don't know what the other formats look like, but a different font (such as Times New Roman) would have made it an easier read.
Overall a nice story, and worth reading.

My rating: 

(the review is part of a b00kr3vi3ws blog tour)

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Now is not the time to study writing...

My NaNoWriMo history
If you are a writer, your inbox has probably been inundated with emails about NaNoWriMo. Websites that sell all kinds of writing advice books that want you to buy their offerings before November. Others that offer online courses about writing just in time for November.
All of these are of course marked down by 50% or more to entice you to their websites to buy their products, to make you a better writer.
I have terrible news for you: at this late stage of the game (NaNoWriMo is three days away!) reading any writing advice books, or doing any online courses, are not going to help you. Any course or book requires time to study, time to practice what they teach you, and time for you to learn and get better at the craft of writing.
So should you just ignore these emails? Delete them without a glance? My answer is a bit different from what you might have anticipated. No, don't delete them, but don't do the work either. Huh?
Books about writing can be costly, so if you have been wondering whether or not you want to buy a book or two, I would say go for it. The prices are marked down, so now they are affordable.
If the online course allows you do buy the video course do it now as long as you can watch it later.
So why all the fuss, when I advise you not to do anything so close to the 1st of November? The answer is simple: time.
All skills take time to develop, and while it will be good for you to acquire the means to better your skills, now is not the time to do it. You simply cannot learn all there is to learn about writing in three days. Sure you can try, but what will you remember? How much will you be able to practice in time for November? The answer is not much if anything.
People place so much pressure on themselves in November to write that best-seller, because a few others have done that. The fact is, those books only became best-sellers months (or even years) after they were drafted in a NaNoWriMo challenge. That first draft is so far removed from the end product, that it might very well be unrecognisable to anyone who compares it to the published book.
So go out there and write that awful, misspelled, confused plot structured, wayward genre of fantastical characters in the medieval times, with characters cavorting with warriors dressed in kilts and wielding laser firing longbows and crystalline swords. Worry about the grammar, and the spelling and plot gaps later.
Because the one thing that November 2017 should always be in your memories nine years from now, is that it was fun. Whether the book is a national best-seller or an international movie blockbuster, at some point in your life writing has to be a pleasurable experience too, doesn't it?
Hard work it is, long hours of editing it will be, but if you don't enjoy writing the first draft, when will you have the chance to just love what you do? Write!
My writing buddy 😍
So join me on my seventh journey down the NaNoWriMo rabbit hole. Put away the books, and clear out your desks. Pour the coffee and gather your energising snacks. Dust off your writing buddies and let the words flow with glorious abandon and screaming pleasure. November is here!
You will have lots of time to study those books and watch those videos afterwards.
Let the fun begin!

💜 Linzé
PS: You can find me as Alexandra Beck on the NaNoWriMo website.