The Journal, Wednesday, 9/9: Retraining

One more fairly major change to this blog. I’ve changed it so the full post appears in your email. You’ll still have the option of reading the whole thing in your browser where it looks a lot better. And of course I’ll continue to hope you will refer this to others, but you can also just read the whole thing in your email now.

This won’t help those who don’t bother to even open the email, but for those of you who do, maybe this will make things a little easier.

Rolled out a little before 2 again this morning. Checked email and other stuff while waking up. Unfortunately, I was distracted so failed to write during the first two hours of the day.

Sometimes email or Facebook or an article in one of the newsletters I get distracts me too much. I might need to go straight to writing, then go to emails and all of that after two or three writing sessions (so around 5 or 6 a.m.) Maybe I’ll try that for a day or two. I mention this only in case you might also have this problem occasionally.

So today I allowed myself to be distracted, then wrote this blog post and now it’s almost time for my walk.

Becoming a professional writer takes some retraining, and some of it is ongoing. Like you, I’m learning as I go. Much more on all this in the Topic below.

I’ll go out to walk about 6. Then back here to write.

Good walk. Left my camera in the pickup and just walked. Planned on 6 miles, but at mile 3 I decided to go for 8. Then about halfway to that I realized I was being stupid and cut it off. Ended up with 7.4 miles at just over 18 minutes per mile. Not bad for an old guy. Turns out I could have made 8. I’ll put that in the bank for another time.

Topic of the Post: Retraining

Well, all of that was a good lead-in to the topic of retraining.

If you want to become a professional writer, or if you want to become a more prolific professional writer, chances are you need to change a few habits. That’s the retraining I’m talking about.

This is something nobody else can do for you. It’s a lonely, internal endeavor.

Others can give you motivation, tools and suggestions that you can use in your retraining, but that’s as far as they can walk with you along this very private path.

What keyed my own retraining way back in early 2014 was reading Dean Wesley Smith’s very short book, How to Write a Novel in Ten Days. He ghosted a complete 70,000 word novel, under contract, in ten days. He blogged about the experience as he did it, then published those blog posts as a book.

When I first started retraining myself to be a writer, I adjusted my personal day to replace a few hours that to me were wasted. I replace those with hours during which I could work. That’s why I go to bed at 7 or so.
The time from 7 to 11 p.m. holds little value to me. I would do nothing but sit on the couch and stare at the TV, slowly numbing my mind. So I sleep during those hours.

From 2 to 6 a.m., it’s quiet and I can work, so I substitute those hours for the ones I cut.

Those hours, that schedule, is pretty much all I have left of my original retraining. But what I do during that time has slipped severely. So here I am, having to retrain myself again. In case they’ll help you in your own endeavors, here are the main points of my own retraining:

  • I’ll keep the hours I have now, but I’ll use the early hours (2 to 6 a.m.) for writing.
  • In all writings, I will strive to give my subconscious free reign and Write Off Into the Dark.
  • I will adhere to Heinlein’s Rules.
  • I’ll get off the break-every-hour schedule. Dean does this so I thought I’d try it. It doesn’t work for me. As often as not, forcing myself to take a break after an hour or so kills the story I’m working on. I’ll continue to take breaks when I’m tired, even if only to get up and move around a bit, but I won’t limit those to a particular time frame or word count.
  • I’ll spend no more than a half-hour on wake-up time. During that time I’ll consider my progress and make necessary adjustments in my current challenge. Might also use the time to revisit goals, etc.
  • As part of my retraining, tomorrow morning (and on the mornings that follow) I will write for at least two hours before my walk (fiction only).
  • I’ll continue to walk on most days. Gotta do it, and I like it anyway.

And I’ll continue to post this blog as a journal for myself and in the hopes my mistakes will help someone else.

My Current Challenge and Goal

Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September.
To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge.
Stay tuned.

Today’s Writing
Still stuck in a slow start on the challenge. Every story is different. In this one, I’m working to add a lot of depth through the characters’ physical senses, so I’m doing a lot of cycling back. It’s similar in a way to rewriting, except you do it as you go and it’s all done in creative voice (from the subconscious). In other words I’m not making any conscious decisions regarding word choice or sentence structure or anything like that.

I finished this one, but at times it was rough going. Not smooth and not as much fun as it should have been. The fun was more in the dialogue exchange among the characters and in weaving the setting into that through the senses of the characters.

I won’t do a second one today, that’s for sure. As I said, I allowed myself to be distracted, and that slowed me down a lot.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up with a new story idea and go for it.

Fiction Words: 1762

Writing of “Finding Harold Harshbarger” (short story)
Day 1…… 0721 words. Total words to date….. 0721 words
Day 2…… 1762 words. Total words to date….. 2483 words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month……… 1 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month……… 2483
Total fiction words for the month…………… 4073 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year……………… 469114