Tracking The Words

This came up recently on the Facebook page and the timing was pretty good as I’d been thinking of writing about this topic anyways.

Up until recently I didn’t track my daily word counts.  Didn’t really see the need.  I knew I needed to write everyday to get the kind of production I needed to hit the publishing schedule I wanted.  What I want to do is pretty expansive. Lots of series, lots of releases.

And to do that I needed to up my production levels.

I knew that but it still wasn’t coming.  I’d always say “let the words just come” and that is true but to meet my goals, I needed consistency.

So I went through everything I had written since publishing my first book The Skeleton Stone (May 2016) and tallied it up. Lots of writing, not that high a word total.

No wonder my production was so slow.

I saw people churning out books after books after books and I was struggling to keep up with an every-other-month novella series.  Something had to change.

I’m not a fast writer. I know that.  I’ll never have the production of a full novel every month. And that’s okay.  But I did need to consistently produce.

Working up a spreadsheet I figured out a daily word count minimum that I could hopefully sustain.  Most nights, I only get about an hour to actually write so had to factor that in.

My goal is 1,500 words a day (not an hour). Any project, or any number of projects, but I needed that minimum.  30 day month, that’s 45,000 words.  I figured if I hit 40,000 for the month, wanting to do more obviously, but I’d be satisfied.  At 40k a month, that’s 480,000 for the year.  Still not that high compared to others (there are people that do 1 mil halfway through the year) but at 40k minimum for a novel (according to Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers of America) that would translate to twelve short novels.  One a month.

(for the record SFWA has word counts as: Short Story – up to 7,499; Novellette – 7,500 to 17,499; Novella – 17,500 to 39,999; Novel – 40,000 and up)

That’s a lot of work produced in a year.  I shoot for 30k words for a Novella and 60k+ for a novel.

Now knowing what I needed to produce, I had to start doing that.  Setting the goal, having a tangible record via the spreadsheet, forces me to write every night.  I switch projects when hit a wall on one, start new things.  But I’m writing around 1,500 words a day.

I play “games” with myself.  Some nights end up writing less if something else is going on (kids not sleeping for example) so I make it up another night and can see I planned in for non-production days (the 45,000 a month vs 40,000).  Since I started tracking on 10/18/18, I have generated 33,982 words.

Not bad for only 15 days or so.  Half a month and I’m already pretty close to my ultimate goal.

That’s all the evidence I needed that tracking your word counts works.  If you aren’t, I would suggest that you do so.

It seems a minor thing, tracking word count every day, but having that goal that need to hit does wonders for the motivation.

I’m thankful I started going it.

Now just need to make sure I can maintain that pace.

The Final Summons – Available for Pre-Order

The New England Speculative Writers are proud to announce that Pre-Ordering is now available for our debut anthology, The Final Summons. This collection features fourteen amazing stories by New England authors. We are also excited to announce that USA Today Best Selling Author, Craig Martelle has written our foreword. Currently pre-ordering is available for Kobo, Barnes & Nobel and iTunes. Pre-Ordering for Amazon will go live on November 7th. For more information visit: http://www.thefinalsummons.com.

About the Book

Galactic omens. Apocalyptic wastelands. 14 mind-bending stories of future worlds and dark fantasy on the brink of oblivion.

Fate is never written in the stars. From embattled lunar colonies to inter-dimensional courtrooms and the murky alleyways of Victorian London, there’s no telling when or where the day of reckoning will arrive. Do you dare test the limits of your reality and answer the final summons?

With stories encompassing planet-wide apocalypse to intimate tales of heart-wrenching sacrifice, join assassins and improbable saviors as they battle for survival and strike deals with the devil. From the visionary New England Speculative Writers comes an unforgettable exploration of the gathering darkness at the edges of the great unknown.

The Final Summons is a sci-fi and fantasy anthology showcasing 14 brilliant speculative fiction writers. If you like multifaceted characters, mind-bending concepts, and uncharted new worlds, then you’ll love this provocative short-story collection.

Buy The Final Summons to journey to the edge of oblivion today!

Look Inside
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NaNoWrimo Write-Ins, your novel and you!

 

So with NaNoWrimo just mere weeks away, it’s time to makes plans! Plan your novel! Pants your novel! No one cares if it makes sense as long as you get the 50k in the kitty before November 15th it’s all good!

Also, plan to go to a write-in.

Wait, what’s a write-in?

A NaNoWrimo write-in is a public gathering of NaNoWrimo participants. Among many things done at these write-ins is participants type away on their laptops until they all get sick of each other or their work in progress.

Yes, you heard me, writers gathering in groups and typing away.

This may sound odd but it’s fun and you’ll find you get more work done in the end.

A brief background on myself, I started NaNoWrimo in 2004 in Rhode Island and gradually worked my way up to becoming an Municipal Liaison (ML) and in 2014 or 2015 stepped down so someone else got the fun job.

An ML’s job is essentially to herd cats, er, participants, send out emails to the region, hold a mandatory Kick-Off and Thank God It’s Over (TGIO) parties and schedule write-ins even if no one shows up.

A write-in is essential to your NaNoWrimo experience for several reasons.

First, so you know you’re not doing this alone. The comradeship helps as November rolls on and the writers who were hot to trot three weeks ago all of sudden dwindle to nothing by the time Black Friday comes round.

Second, because coffee shops.

I was never a really big coffee drinker in junior, high school and college. I’m one of this morning people that can roll out of bed at 6am and start working without the caffeine.

So, when I started to frequent places like Panera, Reflections, Brewed Awakenings, the now defunct Borders Café, Blue State and Elephant Room (now Schastea) and so on, I figured out what I liked and what I didn’t. This helps later on in life when you’re writing to make a buck and can’t get any work done at home.

Besides the drinks, being an ML is meant looking for places where if need be the entire group of writers (10-15 on a good night) could de-camp for three hours and write without ticking off the owners. Doing these events taught me to look for several things like seating, electrical outlets and parking.

Along with all this, I learned to keep a surge protector in my bag at all times just in case which has saved me on more than one occasion.

Thirdly, write-ins are fun because if you hit a brick wall you get to people watch and listen to for instance a comedy stand-up act about Muppets and fisting.

Lastly, it’s fun to see your fellow writers and swap war stories about losing a thousand words or how many words they gained. Word Wars are started this way and it’s fun to have someone nipping at your heals. This hobby can be very lonely at times unless you manage to hit pay dirt and begin a professional career out of it.

It’s what helped create the writer group I started some eight years ago and out of the core group, myself included, five of us have gotten short stories published or in my case published novel that took me seven years to finish because as much I as I thought I was writing it I wasn’t put my ass in seat, cut the cable tv, the PS4 and the twitter feed to finish it.

So, when November rolls around as it does every single year, check the regional calendar and see if there’s a write-in. Bring your laptop, the charger and your noise canceling headset and go to write-in. Get a lovely NaNoWrimo sticker for which the ML should have many and start typing.

You’ll surprised at how much writing you’ll get done with everyone else is tapping away on their keyboards.

The Reality of Royalties & Being More than a Number

I published my first book, Suburban Zombie High in October of 2013. I had been writing for a few years and decided it was time to press the dreaded “publish” button. I self edited the book (my mastery of the English language is questionable at best.) The story didn’t quite fit into a genre, and the only saving grace was a cover illustrated by Amanda Kahl. I don’t know what I expected. It sold. People other than my family purchased it. Reality finally struck in the form of my first royalty statement: $18.65.

I didn’t have high expectations, but I think we all secretly hope it’ll take off and before we know it there’s a movie, a toy line, and a new societal trend based on our books. I recall staring at the number, and truth be told, I was a bit devastated. I was a novice, unsure of what I was doing, and not entirely sure I wanted to be a “writer.” Imposter syndrome (as I would later learn the term) sunk its ferocious nails into my hide and refused to relent. Authors don’t talk about their royalties frequently, it’s a well guarded secret. We might be judged based on our success because of a single number. The reality, we judge ourselves harshly based on that number.

That first year, I made $34.34.

My self-worth became married to that number. I wasn’t even worth $40. I couldn’t pay a bill after a year. I could barely afford a decent take out meal. Depression, insecurity, and wavering love for my hobby started to crop up. I was alone. I couldn’t talk to the “big authors” because they obviously wouldn’t understand. They’re living the dream and I can’t even afford a week of Starbucks.

I was picked up by a publisher and Nighthawks, my first superhero novel came out in February of 2016. I was stoked to have a partner in this journey and start washing away that horrible first experience. My confidence strengthened and I started working at a brisk pace. My book was professionally edited and the cover was supplied by the publisher. I was green, for me, this was the moment, my big break, my chance to be worth more than thirty dollars. In May of 2016, I received my first royalty statement for Nighthawks. My heart sank as I saw the phrase, “Grand Total: $7.66.”

In 2016, I made $105.76 from my fiction novels.

I had four books out at this point, three fiction and one non-fiction. My non-fiction managed to do well enough to make mortgage payments. I didn’t want to be a non-fiction writer, and I grew angry at the success of a work I didn’t feel passionate about. I had managed to make enough with my fiction to pay a single month of cable, a single hotel night, or gas for my car for a month. This “not good enough” mentality refused to shake free. I started believing I might simply be bad at this “hobby.”

Then things started to change. I decided to take a bit of a different approach to life after some catastrophic events happening in my professional life. I needed to be done with stress and start looking at things through a glass half full lens. Why did I have these doubts? Why did I feel insecure in my work? Why did I just feel not good enough all the time?

Let me point out some things:

  • I published a god damned book. How many people fail before this step?
  • I made money on something I love doing. Strangers bought my creation.
  • My profit increased from one year to the next.
  • My output increased. I now have fifteen (soon to be sixteen) titles between novels, anthologies, and audio.
  • I started to learn the industry behind the “hobby” I love.
  • I met amazing folks who support me unconditionally.

How do I put a price tag on those things? You can’t. Suddenly, my outlook changed. I stopped looking at myself as a creator and started thinking of myself as an artist who needs to commercialize their craft. I’m a graphic designer, essentially an artist for hire. It clicked. My worth is not a number. My identity isn’t a royalty statement. Those numbers are a byproduct of my effort and my blood, sweat, and tears.

In 2017, the number increased by ten fold. 2018 isn’t over, and the number is continuing to climb. I wish it was ten fold again, but I’ll take double or triple (you can calculate the math to guesstimate my income.) The number continues to climb.

I got my royalty statements yesterday. I didn’t even look at them until I needed to pay one of my vendors. I opened my account and said, “Uh, that’s more money than I thought.” I inspected my royalty statements and realized I made more in one month than I had between 2011 – 2016. Can I live off it? Absolutely not. Can I pay all my bills? I’m happy to report we’re nearing that threshold.

What I want you, the author reading this, the struggling artist, to take away? I want you to know that 1) you are not a royalty statement. You are so much more. You are a creator of worlds, a long-winded poet, a human. 2) Authors may not divulge our numbers openly, but when you get a royalty check that doesn’t amount to dinner on the dollar menu at McDonalds, we have all been there. Many of us are still there. We all struggle, even if it’s not visible, communicated, or disseminated across social media. 3) If you want to do better, you control your future. You can be better. There is no magical cap on your potential. Hard work can (and will) get you there.

I used to measure my success in royalty statements. It still colors my definition, but I’ve broadened what I find to be considered success. My definition of success comes in small steps, and each step I take leads to the next. I am not going to be Angela Lansbury and solving crime by tomorrow. I may not have a Netflix series out next month. But someday, one step at a time, I will finish this marathon a victor, even if my time is monumentally longer than those in first place. The take away of this I guess, you are not a number.

New England Speculative Writers Conference Open for Registration

Learn More & Register

We’re proud to announce the first New England Speculative Writers Conference. We’ve talked about it for the last year and what it would take and we’re out to make this a banner event. We’ve watched the group discussions and talked to fledgling and veteran authors and created a hybrid networking and educational event. We have some outstanding speakers coming to talk about their areas of expertise, advice that will help your author business grow whether you’re just starting out or have been writing for years. The conference is being sponsored by BetaBooks (a great resource to collaborating with beta readers) and stay tuned, more are on the way.

One of the biggest concerns we had was affordability for authors. We wanted to make sure if money is being spent, it’s money well spent. We’ve created two flexible payment options: pay in full, or pay on a four month payment plan. We’ve also negotiated with the Double Tree to reduce room rates for the night. While it’s one-day event, we wanted to make sure folks from all corners of New England (and beyond) have an affordable option for the night.

Lastly, we’ve heard from many authors about the solitary journey they take in their career. We aim to give authors a comfortable space to mingle, collaborate, and to inspire one another. We’ve designed everything from the presentations, to cocktail hour, to the dinner to help you find your tribe in the speculative community. Now you can put faces to handles, develop a writing group, or find a partner for your next project and we plan to do it in a no pressure, be yourself, relaxing environment for even the most introverted of us.

Learn More & Register

It’s Official We’re One

The New England Speculative Writers has officially survived its first year. We’ve been so busy we almost forgot our inception on July 2nd, in 2017. It’s hard to believe a year (14 months, but who’s counting) ago we decided to put together a group for New England’s Fantasy & Sci-Fi author community. It has been a wild ride since we started, so why not spend a blog post recapping the fun? In one year we have:

  • Changed our name from Massachusetts Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors to the New England Speculative Writers.
  • Reaching 150+ members (almost 200) between the website and the Facebook group.
  • Had weekly posts from New England area authors on a variety of topics being read by nearly 10,000 individuals.
  • Hosted a cover contest.
  • Successfully held our first anthology open call.
  • Announced a networking conference.
  • Put together a Science Fiction and Fantasy preview book delivered to individuals signing up for our mailing list.

The brain child of Jeremy Flagg and Cristina Alden was dreamt up, created with a dash of this and that and heavy splashes of ideals, goals, dreams, wishes, and sprinkled with a little fairy dust for luck. Then it was carefully and lovingly incubated until it hatched and was shared with the world. Now, with an awesome collection of authors collaborating and exchanging ideas and information it has taken on a life of its own.

This has been the warm-up year as we test the waters. There are plenty of ideas that have been shelved, some just waiting for the right time. It’s been a great first year, but it’s not going to be the best.

Why I write: The Need of a Creative

For as long as I can remember I’ve had the urge to create.

When I was little I would draw storybooks, read them out loud, and record them so you could follow the story. It was usually a tale I made up to go with the random pictures. I don’t remember much about the stories themselves. Although, one of the ones I remembered turned into the short story called Uni (included in my collection: Legend Of North Lake & Other Short Stories)

G.I Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and Star Wars all fueled my creative brain. I spent hours by myself creating elaborate scenarios with the action figures. Looking back, they were likely just a combined rehash of whatever cartoons or movies I watched, but the fire had been lit.

In high school, I wrote and created whenever the urge hit me. Though, they were never done with consistency or purpose.

My muses were now comics: The Punisher, Cyberforce, X-Men, Wildcats, and whatever else I could get my hands on. Authors: Stephen King, Rick Hautala, R.A Salvatore, James Axler, and Clive Barker kept my imagination churning with their fantastical tales. Directors: Steven Spielberg, George Romero, and John Carpenter gave me inspiration through a visual medium. All of those things drove me to create.

For one reason or the other, my creative focus turned to music. It was a huge part of my life for years (and still is) While I wasn’t creating stories in the traditional sense, I created stories through my song lyrics. I wrote hundreds of songs over the next fifteen years in the various bands I sang in. Each told a story. Often the works of the authors and directors I admired being an inspiration.

When I semi-retired from being a regular performing musician I found myself missing the creative outlet I’d had. It started out with a simple, albeit challenging personal goal to myself. Write a book. Something I told myself I would do for years, but never got around to. Now was the time. That moment was the precipice for rekindling my love of creating fiction.

Since then I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve struggled to find my place, style, and voice. It hasn’t been easy. There have been times when I’ve wanted to give up and pack it in. There have been moments where I wondered if anyone cared about what I did? Was there any reason for me to continue or just a self-masturbatory delusion I might have something special to add to the literary world?

I’ve asked myself those questions a lot lately.

From a creative standpoint, the last year has been especially tough. I’ve had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Why do I write?” The only answer I could come up with. I need to. No matter what format it has taken on over the years, I’ve always needed to. Even when it’s challenging and I feel like I’m making no progress, or getting to where I want. The desire to create is still there. It’s a part of who I am.

I Write for the Outsiders

My name is Anders. When I was an only child, my dearest companions were the characters who lived inside the books I loved. Stories helped me discover the mystery, wonder, beauty, and complexity of life, and they helped me feel like I had somewhere to belong. Today I write for the all the outsiders and the loners, for all the artists and the dreamers, for everyone who has something to offer to the world, but who are still trying to figure out where they belong.


anderscahillbooks.com || medium.com/@thewonderdome

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Why I Write

I write because I finally believe I can.

That may sound a little strange. I definitely write because I have stories to tell. And I write because it’s exciting to create something from my own imagination. It’s satisfying to watch the thread of an idea weave into a complex world filled with characters I’ve invented and adventures of my own making. I write because I love to, even when it’s hard and feels like work.

When I was a little girl, if you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say writer, then astronaut, then writer, then archeologist, then writer again. It was there all along, this desire to create something with words. I wrote poetry, horse stories, and adventure tales. Later, I wrote research papers for school, documents for work, blog posts, and sometimes more poetry.

But, somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that I couldn’t write a whole book, that I couldn’t possibly carry a story arc from start to finish, that I didn’t have the required skills or the discipline to do it.

Then several years ago, I took on a year-long writing project for work, and I issued myself a challenge. Since I had to establish a daily writing habit around this project, could I also write something creative every day? Could I actually finish a manuscript?

At the end of nine-months, I had a quality report for my job, and I had a finished draft of my first novel. It was a very rough draft, pretty terrible in fact, but it was enough for me to finally believe I could be a writer.

Maybe we ought to challenge our own assumptions. Who knows what we can accomplish when we believe we can?