29 June 2014

A Page of My Handwriting

A certain bearded gentleman recently asked me how small my handwriting is. This is the easiest way to answer:

click image to embiggen

Common answers to FAQs: yes, I can read it. Some people find it easy to read; others don't. This is the third-last page of my current novella project, so if you don't want spoilers for something that'll probably see the light of day in the far future, then, uh, don't read it? Also it is overwritten. If I can't decide how I'd like to say something, my tendency is to write it two or even three different ways, separated by commas, and pick one when it comes time to transcribe or edit.

For the curious, the marks and numbers in red on / over the text were made when I counted the words (545 in all for this page). I count words for record-keeping purposes, to help me stay on track for my annual raw word count goal (250k this year) and also so I have a sense of how long the draft is. The numbers in the left column are tallying the total number of words I wrote on June 20th (545 on this project / 1168 on another project); the monthly total (11968), and then the total number of words for this project (545 + 52379 = 52984).

So to answer your question, Andrew: I don't know if I'd say my writing is microscopic. It's not the smallest I've seen, but I've found that the key to fitting lots of words on a page is horizontal density - squishing the words left / right rather than how tall they are. I guess they're pretty closely packed.

21 June 2014

Page a Day Novel Update: How to Break Your Muse (and Put Her Back Together Again)

I won't be lame and apologize for disappearing, but, uh, I'm still alive! In the last couple of months, my focus has been on doing more blogging for my small business and trying to keep things going with my non-blogging-writing goals (sort of going okay-ish?). Then there was a major family medical crisis (mostly resolved with some scary question marks still hanging there). Life: wow.

A while back I wrote about my page a day novel project, and then (while it was still going smoothly) I posted again to say that the page a day plan is a really easy, almost effortless way to produce a large volume of writing over a long-ish time span. Basically, I decided to try writing a short novel project at the pace of one page a day, starting in February. A page in this case is one of my handwritten pages, so on average about 550 words.

Well, somewhere around April I decided that I wanted to be done with that project. To my logical mind, a page a day was starting to feel a bit slow. I decided that I would double up on my pages every other day - one page, then two pages, one page, then two...and so on. That's a good compromise, right? Still much slower than my usual novel drafting pace. At my fastest, I've done 6-7k in one day. That's not a normal pace, but it was something I'd managed three or four days in a row when I was trying to get the thing done.

Have you spotted the flaw in that previous paragraph? Yes. My logical mind decided what to do, without consulting the intuitive writer that was happily ambling along at the very comfortable rate of one page per day, and even, on most days, happily going on to do other stuff after the page was done.

I should have paid more attention when, at the beginning of the month, I ended up continuing on with the page a day. On the days I'd planned to write two pages, I just didn't feel like it. Instead of asking myself what that meant, I pushed a little harder. I managed four pages on a couple of days: great progress. Sometimes it's good to push, yeah - like the man said, you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. THIS WAS NOT ONE OF THOSE TIMES. By the end of April, my muse was pissed, or my inner procrastinator had taken over, and I just wasn't getting that page a day done.

I've worked on a bunch of other stuff since then, but one of my major focuses has been trying to get back into the page a day habit. I am five pages away from the end of the page a day project as I write this, and rather than speed up, like I imagined I'd be doing, I've slowed down even more. The more that is happening in my story, the slower I want to take it. Or maybe this is just standard procrastination drag. Not sure? Seriously, none of this has ever happened to me before. It's like it's been opposite day...for the last three months.

My current theory is that my muse, my inner writer, my personal scrawler of first drafts, was pretty happy with the deal we struck at the beginning of this project, and, when challenged to go faster, simply broke down. I'm slowly massaging things back into shape, and already looking forward to bombing through 50k in July, but I guess I've discovered that it's important to hold to an intention I set at the beginning of a project. I said a page a day. Next time, I'll stick to a page a day. If I want to go faster, then I think I need to have that talk with my muse at the beginning of the project.

It's still the easiest novel-length project I've written. Next time, I'll know not to push things that shouldn't be pushed.