Day 7: Goals and Establishing a Routine

Dec09WM7Well, it’s the end of Week One for our December 2009 Writing Marathon. Today, I ask you to reflect on your goals and see how you’re doing. Did you write a lot? Not enough? Did you end up doing penance like I did for your lack of writing?

Admittedly, I didn’t get a lot done out of the gate. Why? Well, partially because Week One for me was about getting back into a well-balanced routine. The tricky thing, though, was that I was pretty far behind on my housework. (Six months behind.) Not to mention, December decided to sound the Winter trumpet with colder temperatures and snow — just last week it was fifty degrees!

You see, I find that I’m more productive when I have a clean house, a decent workspace and a creative hobby. Why? Well, when I have these things I’m no longer distracted by “the things I should be doing” because they are already done. Once the house is already clean, I find I write more. Then, when I do get a break off the computer, I already have “something else” to do like learning how to knit or focus on my artwork. This balance definitely has some other benefits, too. (Like decreasing my stress!)

Now that I forced myself to get some of that back log done, this week I’m adding in an additional layer to round out that balance. Today, I start the Couch-to-5K Running Program from Coolrunning.com.

Even though I didn’t get a lot of original writing this past week, I did take stock of what speculative fiction I do have to help me focus what I’m working on. Turns out I have quite a few marketable stories I could revise, and I do have a few other “plans” I can sort out. However, the novel revisions are a big time sink, and they force me to not publish or submit anything new. Going back to the whole “I typically write-for-hire” conversation, that’s pretty scary to me. After all, if I disappear from a publishing schedule for six months, would you still remember my author name?

Still, the time for asking questions about where I’m at in my career is over. It’s time to get serious.

Original Goal: Revise a little bit every day, average about three chapters a week.
Week One Summary: Figured out how to incorporate back story and cut exposition without having to rewrite novel. Wrote four days, revised most of the first chapter.

And so, I begin Week Two.

Day 3: Oh, How the Unexpected Thrills Me. How About You?

Dec09WM3How’s everyone doing so far? We’re barely out of the gate, and already I’ve had an interesting couple of days. I think gremlins have invaded my home. While I haven’t made a ton of progress yet, I’m still doing my due diligence and trying to get back into a routine. Translation? No filing yet. Hoo-ray for me!

Here’s my account of the first, few days. I have to warn you, please don’t call the grammar police. This was written in a very stream-of-consciousness sort of a way. Don’t want a ticket for bad verb agreement.

Day One: Cats decided to wake me up by having an epic “CLASH OF THE TITANS” battle on my belly at 6:00 a.m. I am dragging and can’t focus, so decide to get a few work-related things out of the way so I can take a peek at my schedule. With a “return-to-the-gym” visit tonight and edits on a nonfiction project, looks like I’ll need to write for ARGENTUM during my lunch hour at work. In the morning, I focus my efforts on getting everything ready for the day and knock out a rough outline for work before heading in. Writing during my lunch hour seems manageable enough; provided I force myself away from the computer for a few minutes. Fortunately, I have plotted out a well-paced outline for the book which will help me revise things a bit easier. Shoot, I’m not going to even bother tracking word count for non-fiction, etc.

Unfortunately, the writing over the lunch hour isn’t manageable. Exhausted, I know I won’t get to the gym so I decide to take a brief walk outside. I realize that it’s probably better if I work out during my lunch hour when I can, because I need the break away from the computer.

So…looks like I’ll have to wait until I get home. Crap. I really don’t want to do paperwork tonight so I’m going to force myself to sit down for an hour after I work on a different project. Remind self to give cats a sedative tomorrow. This six hours of sleep business really sucks.

Fortunately, I opened the file. I looked at the file. I started rewriting the file. But that’s about as far as I got before I called it a day.

Day Two: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. WHY DOES THE UNIVERSE HATE ME? The coffeemaker has decided to stage a revolution. Apparently I need more fiber because it’s got “a few” grounds in it. Joy of joys. Well, I’m up so I’m going to work on my non-fiction project this morning and make some more headway on that. Work has been extremely busy, especially with the holidays right around the corner. Got home. Want to crawl back into bed. End up writing instead. Unfortunately, the internet has decided to voluntarily take a vacation so I don’t get much non-fiction stuff done. End up refocusing on ARGENTUM. Bugged about the back story and the pacing.

Day Three: Cats decide to have a freak out all morning long and tumble all over the place. Looks like crappy filters might be the cause of coffee pot woes. Hopefully. Internet still out. Grrrrrrr… I stare longingly at a DVD rack and decide to put in an episode of Charmed for fashion-filled background noise while I work on ARGENTUM. (Cheesy acting = great background noise.) Figure out back story still works, just need to cut down on the emo-ness of the main character. Needs more handcuffs. Depending upon how tonight goes, may get back into it.

Hrmm…maybe the mornings really are the best time to write for me.

To be continued…

Let the December 2009 Writing Marathon Begin!

Dec09WM1Are you ready for a marathon? I am!

My goal this month is to work on my revisions for my urban fantasy novel, which is loosely entitled ARGENTUM, a little bit each day, regardless of what else I have going on. This year has been a good year for me, because it’s helped me understand where my limits are and just how difficult it is to balance paid work with speculative work. However, knowing where my boundaries are isn’t the same thing as exercising within them. I’m hoping December will be “that” month that helps me get back into a routine, which is why I’m hoping to get through a chapter every other day.

So my December word count goal is focused on my speculative work. I hope to achieve a minimum of 20,000 words of non-contract, original fiction while I’m working on other projects. If I don’t work on my original fiction even a little bit during a particular day, then I’ll suck it up and do…FILING. *gasp*

Hopefully I’ll be off to a good start this week. For me, it’s about re-establishing a balanced-yet-productive schedule one day at a time.

From reading your goals and those “things you don’t want to do,” I see that we could all use a little bit of balance in our lives. While this is a marathon, don’t forget to enjoy yourselves, too. Okay? Even though the words need to get down on paper or through your keyboard, sometimes the quality and the love of what you’re doing matter more than how many words you’re burning through. Still, it can’t hurt to practice writing faster. After all, you can’t revise if you have nothing written!

So get ready, get set…and let the words start flowing!

Read Other Goals by These Marathoners

We had a few people opt to fill out the form I created to help decide your writing goals; you can read the results there, too.

Here are a few goals that people sent to me to link in this post. If I missed you, don’t worry! You can still participate anonymously.

Good luck!

Puking Content, Plagiarism and Too Much Free

I’m sure many of you have thought something along the lines of, “My gosh, there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet.” And you would be right.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s too easy to get sucked into providing editorial on bad information to set the record straight. Of course, I’m speaking in generic terms here, but this is one of the reasons why a lot of people “puke content.” The more content that gets written about a particular subject, the more saturated the topic gets, the harder it is to discover the truth. Ultimately, this results in “louder” or “more forceful” content and angry emotions.

And that’s how internet trolls are born.

Sometimes I feel that professionals are “too” scared to set the record straight partially because they know the trap exists, but also because internet content is “stored.” Not every piece of internet content has a date stamp, so even if you provide content that corrects an error, there’s no way to keep track of “when” something was said. (Also, a lot of internet rumors start based on outdated content. So just because something has a date — even in the URL — it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone reads that content.) Unfortunately, silence isn’t always golden.

If you look at the trend of “too much content,” the reason why that’s a problem is not because of what you, yourself, are doing. It’s an aggregate trend that occurs because many professionals or amateurs like yourself are all doing the same thing at the same time.

There are a two other “trends” that concern me right now, too. I feel these are getting lost in the shuffle.

1. Too Much “Free” – My blog is a free, watered-down sample of some of my knowledge. I often cover extremely generic topics that are related to what I do, but I save the more “crunchy” bits for paid work or my day job. Why? Because this knowledge is what I get paid for. The free sample entices people to see what I’m about, without ramming self-promotion down someone’s throat.

I made the mistake of believing that my experiences were a good conversation starter to talk about my own fiction writing. Oh sure, I’d having interesting discussions with people about what I do – but in every case, no one offered to pay me or talk about my fiction writing. When they did, it was an “afterthought.” No one cared about my work, they cared about getting my knowledge for free.

Think about it this way: If everyone has a contest for a free book give-a-way, then that contest becomes the norm. It becomes “expected” for an author to provide that contest for a free book. If piracy and free content is left unchecked, then the reader (or consumer) expects things that normally have value to be “free.” Same goes for accessibility, which in a way, is “free” access; if you’re always online, people “expect” you to be there and answer your email immediately. For me, it was something along the lines of, “Well, Monica is always there to answer my questions. So I can ask her more questions, can’t I?”

Too much free devalues what a work or experience is worth; not enough free doesn’t allow readers (or consumers) to try before they buy. I believe that not enough people are concerned with giving things away for free (or taking them) as a whole. Just like the trend of puking content is a problem, so is “too much free.”

2. Plagiarizing “Free” Content – I have heard of several cases where writers are taking both non-fiction content (from Wikipedia and related sources) or fiction published online and offering it as paid work. One “author” took online published stories, published them as their own, and offered recommendations for themselves using fake sock puppet or alias accounts. Another, all-too-common practice is to copy/paste reference material from Wikipedia or other sources online and use it in articles, non-fiction or other published works. Recently, I heard of a fan offering free material under Creative Commons and a publisher picked it up, re-tooled it and offered it as a paid product.

While I believe that this is heinous for several reasons, this type of behavior originates from “too much free.” After all, if content is posted online, who really owns it? The person that created the content in the first place? The website that it’s located on?

The word “entitlement” comes into play here for two reasons: one, people expect content to be free for them and two, once they receive that content, they can simply do whatever they want with it and not expect some sort of recourse. They don’t seem to see the “aggregate” of thousands of other people believing the same way they do; they see it as “Well, it’s just me…what’s the harm?”

Note that popularity has more to do with the expectations of what should be free than the quality. YouTube! is a great example of this, because it continues to lose millions of dollars. (1) The moral to this story is that conventional wisdom still holds: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

One person plagiarizes and it effects the original author, publisher and the writer. A million people plagiarize and all of a sudden multiple businesses start going under because they can’t afford the lawsuits, damage to their reputation, etc. not to mention the loss of sales.

Same thing with piracy. One person “takes” an image from an artist that’s normally offered on commission, and that artist is out the amount they charge. Add several people to that equation and now the artist is out more than just money lost from those taken images; he’s unable to “sell” artwork to new, more viable customers because people just simply take from him.

These questions are currently being explored more in depth through changes in copyright and internet law. I believe that these changes won’t be received well because it’s a little like putting a genie back into the bottle, which is why education about the negative effects is really important. Just like piracy and plagiarism is “achieved” on a one-on-one basis, people need to remove their blinders about the negative effects this type of behavior causes. After all, you wouldn’t expect a doctor to provide care for you for free — why would you demand an artist or writer do the same?

Regardless, these trends are affecting not only what I read and write online, but how I pursue my career objectives and what I recommend other people to write as well.

[Form] Goal for December Writing Marathon 2009

If you’re interested, I’ve created a form to collect your goals for the December Writing Marathon 2009. This form is anonymous and once you fill out the form, you can see the results.

Remember, if you want to be a part of the December 1st goal round-up on my blog, I will need a link to your blog post by Monday, November 30th. You can submit a link to your blog post to me via my Contact Form.

To fill out the form, please click on the “more” link below or submit your December Writing Marathon 2009 goals via this web page link.

Read More…

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