Who would've thunk it?

When Did You Stop Reading? (Crashcourse, Day 24)

Welcome to Day 24 of Crashcourse!

Who would've thunk it?

Clearly NOT READING!

Did you ever stop reading fiction? If so, when did you stop? Why? And when did you start reading again?

When Did You Stop Reading?

First things first. I added 1,648 words in four hours of creative editing yesterday. It was an uneventful day and when I was finished, I started thinking about something that’s been on my mind as of late.

Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, something curious happens. Their eyes get a faraway look. Their voices grow kind of wistful and perhaps, a bit sad. “You know, I used to love to read when I was a kid,” they often say. Hmm … this always gets my attention. Books are, after all, my business. But also, I experienced something similar a long time ago. So, I’m always curious to see if other people’s reasons match up with my own.

“So, what happened?” I’ll say. “Why’d you stop reading?” The person’s look will, more often than not, turn quizzical. “I don’t really know,” they’ll reply.

Hmm … now I’m intrigued. What could cause someone to fall out of love with reading? Competition from video games, movies, podcasts, streaming TV, and the Internet? That seems like the most obvious possibility. But when I probe a little deeper, a different story often emerges. Namely, that reading became work, often during the middle school or high school years, and thus, ceased to be fun. Textbooks share part of the blame, of course. But there’s also another side to this. It turns out a lot of people seemed to lose their love for reading once they started analyzing fiction (especially fiction they never wanted to read in the first place). Ahh, this is curious since it’s my experience as well. Were you forced to read Shakespeare in, say, seventh grade? Did you tear it apart and analyze it week after week? If so, did it increase your love of reading? Maybe, but if my experience and conversations are an indicator, it turned off a lot of kids, too. Reading for fun is a wonderful experience. And it seems there’s no quicker way to destroy that experience than to force kids to read books they don’t want to read at a rigorous level. Fortunately for me, I learned to love reading again, but it didn’t happen until I finished schooling. Many people that I meet never read for fun again.

Anyway what’s your experience? Did you stop reading at some point in your life? Can you pinpoint the moment it happened? If so, send me a note. I’d love to hear your story!

Crashcourse Totals

Daily Total: 1,648 words in 4:00. 412 words/hour

Total: 23,986 words in 39:42. 604 words/hour

You can't really see it, but that's a nice sunset back there.

Save Your Work! (Crashcourse, Days 21, 22, & 23)

Welcome to Days 21, 22, & 23 of Crashcourse!

You can't really see it, but that's a nice sunset back there.

Exploring the ancient suburban structure known as the “mall.”

Despite a sizable hiccup, Crashcourse is at full-steam right now. What kind of hiccup, you ask? The kind that comes with an error message.

Save Your Work!

I spent the last three days in creative editing mode, yet still managed to add 3,830 words in eight hours. The story is growing in heaps and bounds and I can’t help but wonder if this will be my first book to pass the 100,000 word mark. My other books all average about 80,000 words apiece, but Crashcourse feels bigger than that.

After two to three hours of writing on Friday, Microsoft Word shut down on me. On the bright side, the error message promised it had saved changes to the document and I could recover them once I reopened the program. So, I reopened Word and … nothing. I had set auto-save to do its thing every ten minutes. But for some reason, it didn’t work and I lost a ton of work. On a whim, I tracked down the Autorecovery folder. Unfortunately, there was nothing helpful there. Overall, it was extremely annoying and a good reminder to save my work on a regular basis, rather than depend on Autorecovery.

Anyway what could I do? I just pointed my cursor at the right spot and started writing again. And you know what? It was actually kind of freeing. Don’t get me wrong. I would’ve rather spent my time writing new stuff. But it was an interesting experience to write something all over again on a moment’s notice. The words flowed just fine and I had fun. This new version is definitely different than the original version, although I can’t be sure how much. Regardless, the story continues to flow nicely.

Crashcourse Totals

Three-Day Total: 3,830 words in 8:00. 479 words/hour

Total: 22,338 words in 35:42. 626 words/hour

 

Inspirational!

Characters Forming Around Me (Crashcourse, Day 20)

Welcome to Day 20 of Crashcourse!

Inspirational!

Here’s a small part of my writing space. The painting, which I got in Mexico, is spray paint street art.

Creative editing continues on Crashcourse and I’m starting to see this story develop into something real and unique. It’s amazing to see art come to life.

Characters Forming all Around Me

Creative editing continued today and I’m forced to admit it’s way more involved than I’d first expected. With that said, I only added a net 569 words in 4 hours. But I’m not viewing that as a bad thing. You see, I thought I was only adding a new section to the story. But it turns out I’m changing a lot of things, lighting countless new paths through Crashcourse. Which means the story is changing and growing before my eyes. It’s awesome to see and helps me remember why I started writing in the first place. By the way, I decided to include creative editing under my total writing time since I’m interested in knowing how many actual writing hours it takes me to finish a story. By the time this is over, my words/hour rate will probably look pretty sad!

Today, a lot of work was devoted to three characters. Randy Wolf, of course, who’s turning out to be more resourceful than I anticipated given his status as a recent dropout. At first, he was a bit skittish and uncertain of himself. But it turns out he’s got a quiet sort of bravery and resilience to him. Next up is Thaddeus Crucible, a pea coat-wearing magician with strange powers who seems to have been erased from the collective memory. And finally is Headmaster Lancton Boltstar, the world’s greatest magician and a fashion plate  in his own right. Boltstar is an old-fashioned type of chap, dapper in his derby/vest combo. But don’t mess with him. I’ve got a great picture of him in my mind, by the way. I was this close to drawing his derby tonight. Hmmm … maybe tomorrow? We’ll see!

Crashcourse Totals

Daily Total: 569 words in 4:00. 142 words/hour

Total: 18,508 words in 27:42. 668 words/hour

Food Festival!

Creative Editing Begins (Crashcourse, Day 19)

Welcome to Day 19 of Crashcourse!

Food Festival!

Taking a break from the writing

I did something I didn’t want to do today, namely editing. But this was a bit different than acquiescing to an inner critic. This was creative editing.

Creative Editing Begins

I added 1,366 words to Crashcourse today in 1:26. That doesn’t really sum up the day though as you’ll soon see.

Overall, I got sidetracked again, but I think it’s for a good reason. After about thirty minutes of free writing, I got the feeling I was off on the wrong trail. Not completely, mind you. It just felt like I’d skipped a few stops and failed to light a few torches along the way. You see, I’ve written a lot of stuff about the Madkey School and how magic works on the premises. I’d touched on Randy and his life as well. All in all, a fascinating world is coming to light. But Randy’s actions within that world felt off to me. He’s been a passive character, walking around, letting stuff happen to him. But that didn’t feel quite right. I get the feeling that Randy should be doing more. So, I took some time (a couple of hours) to let my mind wander, then returned to the book. And lo and behold, a whole new part of the story came to mind. I began to see how various pieces and scenes fit together. I went back to the beginning of the story, introduced a new character, and kept writing. Things started to change very fast. Unfortunately, I had to cut out early due to a prior engagement so I didn’t get to see it through yet.

Now, a few days ago I expressly said I didn’t want to do any editing until I was done with the story. And yes, the work I did today involved some editing, mostly little stuff, as I worked to add in the new section of story. So, yes, I edited. On the bright side, it was creative editing, designed to help add in this new section. I’ve always liked the idea of creative editing. But I’ve never really done it since it always dovetails into endless rewrites. My challenge will be to add in this new part while staying in creative voice. I hope it works!

Crashcourse Totals

Daily Total: 1,366 words in 1:26. 953 words/hour

Total: 17,939 words in 23:42. 757 words/hour

Perhaps another creative adventure awaits me …

Am I an Author? (Crashcourse, Day 18)

Welcome to Day 18 of Crashcourse!

Perhaps another creative adventure awaits me …

Hey, look … it’s my adventurer’s hat!

After a few days of being sidelined by my inner critic, I finally got back to writing. Also, I continue to ask questions about my future. Namely, am I just an author? Or am I meant to tell other kinds of stories as well?

Am I An Author?

Yesterday, I wrote about how I got sidetracked by a desire to plan out something in advance, specifically the curriculum at the Madkey school. I lost a little writing time, but hey, at least I’m back to work. I wrote 2,563 words today in three hours and fifteen minutes. That averages out to 789 words per minute, which doesn’t surprise me. I found myself nitpicking A LOT today, making small changes here and there and reversing them multiple times. Overall, I had trouble keeping my inner critic in check. No surprise really, given how I succumbed to it the last few days. Still, I enjoyed writing today.

This blog series has been an interesting experiment for me, especially in helping me realize some of the problems with my work habits. But for now, let’s move beyond self-criticism and do a little dreaming. That blog title up there is really just for show. I’ll be writing books for a long time to come. But I’d like to try other types of storytelling, too. In the past, I’ve considered a lot of mediums. Animation, film, video games, theme park rides, physical adventures, board games … you name it, I’ve considered it. But I’ve never gotten past the point of daydreams.

There’s a good reason for that. The life of an indie author is a solitary one. My wife helps out with editing and my dad pitches a hand with marketing. But for the most part, I work alone. And that’s just fine. But venturing out into other mediums would probably require collaboration. That’s a hard thing to admit, even harder to accept. I’m not even sure how I’d go about recruiting the help of artists, programmers, etc. And once you start working with other people, you have to deal with a whole mess of other things. Yikes. Still, it’s good to talk about this. Maybe it’ll help me move forward. Stay tuned …

Crashcourse Totals

Daily Total: 2,563 words in 3:15. 789 words/hour

Total: 16,573 words in 22:16. 744 words/hour

Designing a Magic Curriculum (Crashcourse, Days 14-17)

Welcome to Days 14-17 of Crashcourse!

And it's back to the Serious Face again!

This is what it looks like when you realize you just lost a battle to your inner critic.

So, I wrote at a good rate over the last four days, but I didn’t rack up a ton of hours. Why, you ask? Well, I spent a lot of time trying to design a magic school curriculum. Which was a waste, as it turns out. Curious? Then read on …!

Designing a Magic Curriculum

I wrote for four hours on Friday and 41 minutes on Saturday, racking up 4,628 words in that time. That’s 988 words per hour which isn’t terrible by any means. Now, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t write for a longer period of time. Well, I got sidetracked on Saturday by curriculum. Specifically, I began to wonder what kind of curriculum the Roderick J. Madkey School of Magical Administration might employ. Some magic school stories involve a kid attending classes, learning spells, then using those spells to achieve a goal. School is undeniably relevant and helpful, even if it doesn’t appear so at first glance. Does that sound like a typical school to you? Have you ever used physics outside of a classroom? Calculus? How often does literature analysis come up in your day-to-day life? I’m sure some of you need knowledge on these subjects. But I suspect the vast majority of people rarely, if ever, make good use of what they were taught in school. According to this article, just 19% of people use basic algebra on the job. That number drops to 9% for complex algebra. Frankly, I’m surprised the number is that high. And yet, all students are required to study the subject at great length. I don’t want to pick on math here. I suspect you’d find similar results for many other subjects.

The point is this … the stuff you’re taught in school doesn’t necessarily match up with what you’ll need in life. And that was always my impression of Madkey. That is, the students are learning stuff, but that stuff won’t prove helpful when trouble arises. On Saturday, I started writing about how Randy Wolf (the hero of Crashcourse and a dropout of Madkey) was secretly listening to a lecture at his former school. When it came time to depict the actual class, I figured it should have some meat to it, but not be particularly practical. But I couldn’t really think of anything. Now, here’s the important (and sad) part.

I stopped writing.

That’s right. I felt uncomfortable with the fact that I really didn’t know anything specific about Madkey’s curriculum. So, I stopped telling my story and began brainstorming. I thought about different subjects and the individual classes within them. I thought about how they’d be taught and how much time would be spent doing hands-on magic versus theoretical magic. And despite all of this, I still couldn’t come to any sort of conclusion. The story came to a halt and my inner critic had “won” again.

It’s crazy how it happened. I’ve spent the last few days trying to silence my inner critic via free writing. And yet, it still found a way to stop me. My inner critic demands to know how everything’s going to turn out even before I start writing. So, it’s constantly pressuring me to slow down, to stop, to back up a bit. It’s convinced I can’t write about a single magic class until I have full knowledge of the entire curriculum. But here’s the thing … the curriculum will emerge over time if I give my inner artist enough time and space. Or maybe it won’t if the actual curriculum doesn’t prove important to the book. Regardless, I should’ve just trusted my inner artist. Unfortunately, my inner critic has a powerful voice.

Well, that’s it for now. Back to writing!

Crashcourse Totals

4-Day Total: 4,628 words in 4:41. 988 words/hour

Total: 14,010 words in 19:01. 737 words/hour

Groove Riding (Crashcourse, Day 13)

Welcome to Day 13 of Crashcourse!

Swings are still awesome.

Took a turn on the swing set yesterday.

Crashcourse slows down again, but never fear. We’re still going plenty fast and I’ve got a few ideas on how to speed things up even more!

Slowing Down a Bit

It’s kind of interesting that this blog series has discussed editing at such great length so early into Crashcourse. I’ve considered my editing strategies to be a problem for a long time but I don’t think I realized how much they bothered me until now. From that standpoint, this blog series has been a great help. It’s pushed me to separate editing from creative writing and I think I’m benefitting from that.

So, I wrote 2,238 words today in two hours and ten minutes. That’s 1,033 words per hour, my lowest rate since I started this experiment. Why is that? Two reasons come to mind. First, I’m fighting the urge to edit as I go. A part of me worries the story is becoming too big, too unwieldy. So, this is eating up clock and more importantly, headspace. Second, I’m just not immersed in the story right now. I think that’s because I’m only writing in short spurts. I’m having trouble getting started in the morning and I’m taking lots of breaks. As a result, I never get into a groove. And groove riding is important right now since the basics are pretty much laid out and I have to start building upon them. This requires more thought and effort. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to park myself in my chair for at least four hours per weekday and two hours per weekend day. Maybe longer if I feel the need.

On the bright side, I’m trailblazing some interesting paths with this story. Madkey is starting to take shape as Randy Wolf navigates its hallowed (and strange) halls. I don’t want to reveal to much about the school right now, but at first blush it’s not based in a castle, brick building, or anything else you’d expect.

Crashcourse Totals

Daily Total: 2,238 words in 2:10. 1,033 words/hour

Total: 9,382 words in 14:20. 655 words/hour

Nice flowers!

Fighting off the Edits! (Crashcourse, Day 12)

Welcome to Day 12 of Crashcourse!

Nice flowers!

Doing a little brainstorming on the way home from my gym.

Another day down and I’m still not up to a full workload. Even worse, my critical voice is chomping at the bit to do some editing. But things are looking up, nonetheless!

I’m Starting to Sound like a Broken Record Here, But …

First things first. I logged 2,717 words in two hours today. That’s well below my hour rate for the last two days, but still mighty good. My words are still very raw. So raw, in fact, that a part of me is starting to worry. Don’t get me wrong. I kind of like what I’m doing. The story is moving forward and seems to be taking a few interesting twists along the way. But it’s, thus far, heavy on action and light on description and emotion. I’m not even sure if I’ve actually described Randy Wolf or his friends yet. Plus, I’m repeating myself and sentences aren’t always in chronological order. It feels so free, yet utterly unsettling to write this way. Which is probably why my critical voice is quietly nagging at me, telling me that I should maybe start editing a few passages. Maybe write free in the day, then edit at night! What could go wrong?

If you’ve been reading this blog series, you already know the answer … plenty. Editing while writing has always been the bane of my existence. And yet, my critical voice keeps coming up with new reasons or ways for me to do it. I’ve written ~4,500 words in the last three hours of writing and it’s been a fun experience. And still, I’m tempted to go back to my old ways. I won’t do it, but this is a tough fight.

I haven’t talked about the story lately, but it’s getting interesting. Randy is a thirteen-year old magic school dropout. He works as an orienter, helping to bring in new students to Madkey (his old school). But his first real recruitment job goes bad and he’s confronted with a very old enemy of Madkey’s headmaster and staff. Now, he’s back at school, a little worse for wear, and trying to move on with his life. Something tells me it won’t be easy.

Crashcourse Totals

Weekend Total: 2,717 words in 2:00. 1,359 words/hour

Total: 7,144 words in 12:10. 587 words/hour

We’re Rolling Now! (Crashcourse, Day 11)

Welcome to Day 11 of Crashcourse!

Trust me, that's just the tip of the iceberg!

You can see a bit of my home library back there!

Crashcourse is starting to pick up steam. I’ve got a real good feeling about this. So, let’s get to it!

My Word Count Explodes

I wrote for just one hour today. Why so little? To tell you the truth, I just couldn’t bring myself to do more. That’s been a problem for as long as I can remember. I can force my way to daily word counts or through timed writing sessions. But I can only do that for so long. Sooner or later, my creative side just quits on me. That’s usually when I shelf a story or start massive rewrites or, well, you get the idea. Another thing that bothers me is that I never want to keep going at the end of the day. Once I reach a word count or finish a timed session, I’m done. I never have the desire to continue onward.

Now, I love to tell stories. So, why don’t I actually love writing them? Well, I think it has a lot to do with the way I work. As you know, I’ve always mixed creative writing with rigorous self-editing. I’m not sure why I fell into that routine. Regardless, it’s drained a lot of the fun out of storytelling for me. Sentence structure, grammar, and word choice might be important. But they’re work, not fun (well, at least not for me). The worst part is that I diagnosed this problem over two years ago. I’ve just never addressed it. But hey, there’s no time like the present.

My goal for Crashcourse—and beyond—is to separate writing from editing. And in that sense, today was a big success. In just one hour, I wrote 1,885 words. That’s even better than yesterday. Now, I didn’t do any editing. So, what I wrote is raw and far from publish-ready. But there’s a certain energy to it that I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s not enough for me to keep going right now and I really don’t want to force things. But it’s promising. Ideally, I’d love to give up word counts and timed writing sessions altogether. I’d like to have to tear myself away from a story, rather than strong-arm myself in order to keep going. Hopefully, this type of raw writing will get me there.

Crashcourse Totals

Weekend Total: 1,885 words in 1:00. 1,885 words/hour

Total: 4,427 words in 10:10. 435 words/hour

 

Not much grass here!

A Glimmer of Light? (Crashcourse, Days 8, 9, 10)

Welcome to Days 8, 9, & 10 of Crashcourse!

Not much grass here!

Some local street art, spotted during yesterday’s Memorial Day Parade

A few days ago, I wrote about how work on Crashcourse had slowed to an excruciating crawl thanks to major amounts of self-editing. So, how’d I do over the weekend? Did I manage to speed things up? Let’s find out!

A Path Forward, Perhaps

I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I edit constantly as I write, massaging the text over and over again. The result is polished, close to publish-ready. However, the process is exhausting and often feels antithetical to creativity. Which makes sense when you think about it. My creative voice is trying to let loose, to explore my subconscious, to tell a brand new story. And yet, it gets shifted to the back burner by all of these edits. I’ve been writing this way for a long time and I think my stories have suffered for it. I vowed to take a different path this weekend. So, how’d I do?

Well, I spent most of the Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. In fact, I only managed to squeeze in one writing session, and that was for just twenty minutes on Sunday morning. Doesn’t sound like much, right? But get this … I wrote 584 words in those 20 minutes. That works out to 1,752 words/hour. Wow. I mean … just … wow. That’s a record for me and it’s not even close.

Now, here’s the thing. Those 584 words are … imperfect. They’re unedited and extremely raw. Honestly, I’m not even sure they make sense. A part of me is strongly tempted to edit them, to massage them like I always do. However, I’m going to try to keep that urge in check. The whole point of this is to learn to trust my creative voice, to give it room to speak. And editing right now seems like a good way to sabotage that effort. So, I’m going to try to keep writing this way, with no editing, for the duration of the book. Crazy, huh? I’m curious to see how it works out. Part of me worries I’ll end up with a unintelligible mess that’ll require months of heavy editing down the road. Part of me thinks my creative voice will settle down and the end result will surprise me. Hmm … I guess we’ll find out.

Crashcourse Totals

Weekend Total: 584 words in 0:20. 1,752 words/hour

Total: 2,542 words in 9:10. 277 words/hour