Category Archives: writing

2 Years of Writing

It crept up on my, but I awoke this morning with a feeling that the date, February 27, was vaguely familiar. I couldn’t quite place at, not at first, and then around mid-morning, it hit me. It was 2 years ago today that I began my efforts to write every day. It was also 2 years ago today when I first started to use my Google Docs Writing Tracker.

2 years of writing

Prior to February 27, 2013, I’d tried on a number of occasions to start a streak where I wrote every day. I was never successful. However, in the 2 years that have now elapsed since February 27, 2013, I have written every day, except for 2; that’s 728 days out of the last 730. What’s more, I haven’t missed a day since July 21, 2013. As of today, I’ve written for 586 consecutive days.

How’d I do it? Well, I’ve talked about here and here, so I won’t rehash it all in this post. But I do want to point out once again the cumulative effect of writing a little bit every day. In the last 2 years, I have written a total of 631,960 words. I’ve averaged 865 words/day, which for me amounts to about 35 minutes per day. I’ve sold around 15 stories and articles during that time.

For me, the most important thing is practice. I’m a believer in Stephen King’s advice that to be a good writer, you need to read a lot and write a lot. Every bit of writing I do is practice. I make mistakes, and I try to learn from them, and hopefully, as with all practice, it is making me a better writer.

High Word Count Days

As a counterpoint to my earlier post on low word count days, let me take a moment to discuss high word count days. And specifically, in the context of yesterday’s writing, where I managed to blow away my previous one-day record of 5,300 words by writing nearly 7,200 words. If you are not a writer, 7,200 words might not mean much so let me put it into perspective: it’s about 30 double-spaces pages.

Most full time writers I know consider 2,000 words a full day’s work. Since I am not a full time writer, I consider 2,000 words or better a high word count day. How many of these high word count days have I had in the last 728 days? 26 of them, making them twice as rare as a low word count day. Here are all of my high word count days laid out over time:

High word count days

Put another way: I have a low word count day (less than 250 words) about once every 13 days. I have a high word count day (2,000 words or more) about once every 28 days. I think this makes sense. Given limited time, it’s easier to squeeze in less than a page, then it is to find the time to write ten pages.

I took the low word count days and high word count days and mashed them together, and here is what I got (low = red, high = blue):

Low-High Mashup

All the white space in between are days on which I wrote at least 250 words, but less than 2,000 words.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of this exercise is to find that a high word count day does not necessarily follow a low word count day. This might be true if I were trying to make quota, but since my only real goal is to write every day, I don’t feel the need to “make up the difference” after a low word count day.

Yesterday’s record was an oddity all around. I had written about 3,000 words of a first draft of a story, and yesterday, the rest of the story just kind of clicked. I wrote the remain 3,000 words almost without stopping. As I have explained before, my first drafts are for me–me telling myself the story. My second drafts are complete rewrites. Now that I know the story, I can tell it to an audience, adding all kinds of nice embellishments. But it means that I rewrite the whole thing. So I started the second draft yesterday as well, and managed to get through about 4,000 words of it before calling it quits. Thus,a 7,200-word day.

Interestingly, the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. Writing does not tire me out the way that, say, spending 8 hours writing code does. I get mentally drained from coding, but I seem to derive an endless supply of energy from writing. Whether or not the writing is good… well, I guess my beta-readers will let me know.

In any case, I suspect it will be a very long time before I have another 7,000 word day.

There was a time when I thought I would never be published…

Once upon a time, when I first started to write with the idea to sell stories, I used to have these wild daydreams of being published. I’d finish writing a terrible short story and then sit back in my chair and imagine what it would be like just to be published, to have written something good enough that an editor was willing to pay money for it, and that readers other than my friends and family would read.

My reverie was a lot of like those silly daydreams of winning the lottery. I’d come home from class one day, and find an envelope in the mailbox. Instead of a form rejection slip, the envelope would contain a Letter of Acceptance. I had no idea what such a letter would look like, but there it was. I’d dance around the room, happy as can be, floating on the thought that I’d done it! I was a published writer.

Then I’d come back to reality, face the blank page, and wonder if it really wasn’t just a pipe dream.

One day, I sold a story. I was thrilled. A contract arrived in the mail, followed by a check, and a few months later, my first published story appeared in an online magazine. It was wonderful, delightful, and very much like winning the lottery. In the back of my mind, however, I wondered if I would ever be published in one of the big genre magazines, especially Analog, which had been around since the 1930s, and in which many of my heroes had been published.

I thought that it probably wouldn’t happen. The stories published there were just too good, the competition for space too fierce. This didn’t deter me from writing, it simply provided a new form of daydream. I’d been published, and now I would close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be published by Analog, my name of the table of contents, my byline on a story in the pages of that revered (well, by me, anyway) magazine. No, I didn’t think it would happen, but it was fun to daydream about. And I kept writing.

Then, one day, I sold a story to Analog. I couldn’t believe it. I was thrilled, but I was sure it was a one-time thing. I kept writing. Analog bought more stories and articles from me. So did other magazines. So did some original anthologies.

These days, I don’t worry much about selling stories. In most cases, when I write a short story, I’m pretty sure I will sell it, eventually. But I’ve been writing longer and longer pieces. I’ve written a novella, and a first draft of a novel. My daydreams no longer deal in short fiction. I’ll tilt my head back, close my eyes, and imagine I’ve just gotten word that I’ve sold a novel. I can almost see it. I can almost imagine how exciting that would be. An entire book that I wrote, appearing in bookstores throughout the country. How cool would that be? Just thinking about it gets me giddy.

My tendency is to think that it probably won’t happen. Writing a novel is hard. Writing good novel is really hard. The competition is fierce, and there are lots and lots of good novels being published every week. Mine would just be static within the noise. On the other hand…

I never thought I’d really sell a story. And when I did, I never thought I’d sell a story to Analog. And when I did that, I never thought I’d do it again. But of course, I did. And so I no longer worry much about the self-doubt that I face as a writer, because while the doubt is always there, lingering in the shadows, waiting for a weak moment to pounce, I’ve shown myself that, despite the doubt, I’ve managed to achieve more with my writing than I thought possible. So why not a novel? Why not bestseller? Why not a life as full time writer? Ah, one can dream.

But one can also write.

Low Word Count Days

Yesterday, I managed to write only 112 words on the story that I am currently working on. It is the lowest word count I’ve had since April 11, 2014. I thought I should mention it here since I often talk about my writing streak and my daily averages, to show that sometimes, even the best laid plan of mice and keyboards make it hard to fit in the day’s writing. Yesterday was one of those days.

112 words does not sound like much at all. Even so, I spent 20 minutes coming up with those 112 words, and they represent a complete scene in the story. I knew that yesterday was going to be a long day. I had a lot of work to focus on at the day job. In the evening, we went out to dinner with friends. So there wasn’t going to be much time to write. I squeezed in the 112 words early in the day, thinking I might have a chance to come back to add more later, but that didn’t happen.

I’m okay with that. Even though it was only a few short paragraphs, I felt good about what I’d written, and I was relieved that I’d gotten it done early in the day, rather than stress it about not having it done yet through the latter part of the day. For me, the goal is to write every day. It doesn’t matter how much or how little.

But it did make me curious about how often I have these particularly low word counts. Since one full manuscript page is about 250 words, give or take, I’ll use 250 words as a threshold, and ask: how often have I written less than a page a day?

In the last 724 days, I have written less than a page 57 times. That’s about 7.8% of the time, or about 1 out of every 13 days. Looking at it as a timeline, my low word count days look as follows:

Low word count days

I’ve learned not to be discouraged about low word count days. Some writing is better than no writing, even if it’s a page or less on a given day.

But mostly, I wanted to show that despite my growing consecutive day writing streak, not every day is an 800 or 1,000-word day. There are plenty of days (57 day of them!) when I can barely get a page.

 

How Do You Find Time to Write?

From time-to-time, I get asked how I find the time to write. I supposed this is, in part, because of my consecutive-day writing streak (which now stands at 576 days). But I think part of it comes from the fact that I manage to write while working a full time job, while blogging, and while raising a family. The question comes in various forms but it all boils down to the same thing: how do you find time to write?

I’ve talked about this before, but I don’t think I’ve ever written a post on it exclusively (I could be wrong–with more than 6,000 posts it’s hard to remember everything I’ve written). So I thought I’d try to answer this question here. Keep in mind that the question I am answering is how do find time to write. Your mileage may vary.

1. I challenged my assumptions about the time I needed to write

When I started to write every day, nearly two years ago now1, the first thing I did was test my assumptions of what I needed to write.

With respect to time, I used to think that I needed a chunk of time–a minimum of, say, 1 hour, better yet 2 hours–to get any decent writing done. In the past, I’d tried to carve out an hour or two during the day to write. Usually it was very early in the morning, and while it worked for a time, it eventually failed. It fail for several reasons:

  1. I might be able to get up at 4 am a few day a week to get in some writing, but the long days wore on my, and eventually, I’d fail.
  2. When I did fail, I felt guilty for the rest of the day.
  3. Failure one day led to failure another day.

So the first thing I did in February 2013 was challenge my assumption about how much time I needed to write. I decided to experiment. My experiment was as follows:

  1. I would write every day, even if it was only for a few minutes.
  2. I would not schedule a specific time to write, but writing would be a priority for any spare time that I found.

This experiment required that I be able to write from anywhere, which is why, beginning in February 2013, I moved my entire writing infrastructure into Google Docs. Using Google Docs meant I could write from any device, wherever I happened to be. It meant I didn’t have to worry about moving files back and forth across devices. That meant I could spend what little time I had writing instead of copying files and managing versions.

2. I challenged my assumptions about the environment I needed to write

I used to think I needed a quiet, secluded environment where I could do my writing. But if I had to write whenever the time was available, as opposed to setting aside blocks of time, then I needed to challenge my assumptions about the environment I needed to work in.

I decided to try to write in whatever environment I found myself in, so long as the time was available. If that meant writing at the library, fine. If that meant writing in the quiet of my home office, fine. If that meant writing in the family room, with the TV blaring and the kids running around screaming, fine.

3. I collected data about my behavior in order to provide a baseline

I wrote a set of scripts for Google Docs that automated the tracking of my writing. This meant I could focus on writing, rather than tracking, but still collect the data I was looking for (how much I was writing each day). I also began using a tool called RescueTime which tracks how much time you spend on various applications and documents across your computers. This gave me real numbers for how much time I was spending writing each day, which I could use to see if my assumptions were good or not.

4. I wrote every day

With my challenges to my assumptions, and my automated scripts and data collection, I started to write. I wrote every day. Sometimes I’d only write for 10 minutes. Other times, I’d find 3 hours to write. Sometimes I was exhausted, but wrote for 15 minutes anyway. Sometimes, I knew what I was writing was terrible, but that the practice was important, so I kept at it.

Sometimes my day got thrown off. I adjusted as best as I could. When I knew my schedule would be crazy in advance, I’d plan ahead, and try to get a little writing in early in the day. At least then, it was done. If there turned out be time to do more later, I’d do more.

I found that over the course of 721 days, there were only 2 days that I could not manage to get any writing in. Both were unusually long, busy travel or conference days. I learned lessons from both, and haven’t missed a day of writing since July 21, 2013.


What the numbers told me

Over the course of my 576 consecutive day writing streak, I’ve written over half a million words, and sold 11 stories or articles. Here is what the data looks like for the duration of my streak so far:

Continue reading How Do You Find Time to Write?

  1. Although my consecutive writing streak stands at 576 days, there is a larger overall “streak” beginning late February 2013 during which I have only missed 2 days of writing. That is, I have written on 719 out of the last 721 days, the last 576 of them consecutively.

“What’s your story about?” (Or why I don’t talk about the stories I’m working on)

There is one question I dread in interviews, and even casual conversations when people find out I am a writer. And no, it is not “where do you get your ideas?” Take casual conversations as an example, especially with people who I haven’t spoken with before, or who have heard I am a writer. They typically go something like this:

“So you’re a writer?”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Have you been published.”

“Sure.”

“I don’t mean self-published.”

“Neither do I. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.1

“Are you working on something now?”

“Yes, I’m working on a story.” At this point I begin to tense up. Here it comes. I know it. Here it comes.

“What’s your story about?”

Okay, I have worked out a standard answer, although it’s probably unsatisfactory to both me and my questioner. Usually, I’ll say something like, “I’m not sure yet. I’ll let you know when I finish it.” But that is a white lie. Because I almost always know what the story is about, or at least, what I think it going to be about.

Over the years I’ve learned something: if I talk about my stories when I’m writing them, I find that it takes the life out of the story for me. When I return to the keyboard after spilling my guts, I find I just don’t have the same enthusiasm for the story that I did before I talked about it. So for a quite a while now, I just don’t talk about them much, beyond mentioning a title, and perhaps a very brief description, like, “It’s a baseball alternate history novella.”

The problem is, I sometimes get the feeling that “I’m not sure, I’ll let you know when I finish,” comes across as a little disingenuous. So in interviews, I’ve started being more straight-forward about it. If I’m asked about what I’m currently working on, I’ll say that I’m working on the second draft of a novel, or a short story for a theme anthology. I’ll add that I don’t like talking about the stories while I work on them, not to maintain an aura of mystery, but because I find that the story loses life for me when I talk about it.

If an editor asks me about a story, I’ll try to be more explicit without popping the bubble, but usually, I don’t talk about the stories even with editors until they are finished.

A few writers I know don’t seem to have this problem. They will describe in ten minutes a story that would take five minutes to read. They will go into extraordinary detail. And I wonder if they are immune to this allergy of mine.

I’m curious about other writers. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been published or not, but I’d be interested to know if you can talk about stories you are working on without those stories losing their verve. And if not, how do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments.

  1. There is an occasional diversion from the main branch of the conversation here, with my questioner asking, “When’s the movie coming out?” in mock-serious tones. “Friday,” I’ll usually say without missing a beat.

My Favorite Form of Fiction-Writing: The Novella

Since I have been working on the second draft of a novella off-and-on over the last couple of week1 it occurred to me, at some point, that the novella was my favorite form of fiction-writing.

What is a novella? Officially (for the purposes of award categories), according to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a novella is a work of fiction from 17,500 words to 40,000 words. In reality, a novella is a long story that can approach the length of a short novel. If you think of stories in terms of pages, a novella can be anywhere from 60 – 160 manuscript pages in length. You’ve probably read novellas, although they might not be called such. Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” is a novella. So is his story “The Body” on which the movie Stand By Me was based.

I have written only 2 novellas in my writing career. The first was a 20,000 word story written years ago, but never sold. The second is the one I am working on now. The first draft came in at about 20,000 words. I don’t yet know how long the second draft will be.

There is something remarkably free about writing a novella. It is not nearly as hard (at least for me) as writing a novel. Yet it is not nearly as constricting as writing a short story. A novella gives the freedom to tell a story at its own length and pace. Perhaps it is best described as a novel wrung free of all of the chaff, compressed as tightly as possible without sacrificing the story.

If an half-hour sit-com is a short story, and an hour-long drama is a novelette, then perhaps a mini-series is the equivalent of a novella.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing short stories. But there is a feeling I get when writing a novella that I don’t get with short stories. I once read that a short story should describe a moment from which you can derive everything that came before, and everything that will come after. When I write short stories, I try to start the story as late in the action as I can manage, and finish the story as soon as I can after the action is over. The same is not true with a novella. With a novella, I feel like I have the freedom to roam. Many things can be happening at once, and the threads are ultimately tied together, but it is not rushed.

As it turns out, my favorite form of fiction to read–from a purely artistic standpoint–is the novella. I’ve mentioned Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth” and “The Body” but there are many others that have astounded me. Nancy Kress’s “Beggars in Spain,” Robert Reed’s “Marrow,” Ken Liu’s “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary,” Isaac Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man,” Kij Johnson’s “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” and many, many others.

The main problem with novellas is that they are the hardest pieces to sell. First of all, there are not a lot of markets that accept them, although in the science fiction world, several of the major magazines do publish them. Outside the magazines, the choices are even more limited: small presses, or self-published. Consider that for a magazine to print a 20,000 word story, that that story has to be better than four 5,000-word stories. For this reason, for a long time, I didn’t write novellas. I knew my odds were much better at selling a 5,000 word story.

But I’ve since cast aside the desire to sell the story as the first reason for writing it. These days I write novellas first and foremost to entertain myself. If I can sell them, all the better, but I no longer avoid writing them because they are hard to sell.

I’m hoping to wrap up the novella that I am working on now (“Strays”) in the near future. I still have the novel draft to work on, but I need a break from that sometimes. So when I do finish “Strays” I have another novella which I’ve been wanting to write, and I’ll probably start that one so that I have something to fall back on when I get tired of the novel draft. And who knows, maybe, with practice, I’ll write that is good enough to sell and then you’ll be able to read it, if you so choose.

  1. To give myself a break on the second draft of the novel, which requires some additional thought.

The Evolution of a Storyteller, Episode 1: “The Stone”

Okay, I have a treat for all of you who have been so patient with my absences here lately. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and now seems as good a time as any. I’m going to occasionally post a very old story that I wrote. When I say “old” I mean old. Like from when I was just starting out to write stories and submit them in my junior year in college.

It is difficult for me to look at these stories, let alone read them, but I think that posting them here serves a couple of good purposes:

  1. Geniuses excepted, almost no one starts out writing brilliant, publishable prose. If you feel like your writing is crap, wait until you get a load of mine, circa 1993.
  2. Practice (lots and lots of practice, in my case) really does help. I’m not one of the great writers of the science fiction/fantasy genre, but I do write publishable fiction, and I feel like I’m getting better at it.
  3. Whenever I don’t feel like I’m getting better at it, just look at one of these stories.

And so, without further delay, here is the very first story I wrote for submission after deciding I wanted to be a writer. The story was written sometime in December 1992. It is called “The Stone”

Continue reading The Evolution of a Storyteller, Episode 1: “The Stone”

NEW STORY: “Meat and Greet” is now available in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Issue 43

I have a new story in the latest issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show. “Meat and Greet” is short metafictional piece, and my only attempt at ever writing a zombie story. Those interested can head on over to IGMS to read the story. The stories in this issue will be freely available when the next issue comes out.

There are a couple of unique things about this particular story:

1. It marks my 10th professional piece of fiction, which is something of a milestone. Three of my stories have appeared in IGMS, including my very first one.

2. The story sale has a unique provenance: I gave a reading at the World Fantasy Convention here in the Washington, D.C. area back in November. I read two short stories. “Meat and Greet” was one of them. After the reading, Edmund Schubert, who edits IGMS, came up to me and grabbed the manuscript. 2 days later, he emailed me letting me know he was buying the story. So: first story sale from a reading.

3. Check out the amazing art work by Scott Altmann. Scott did great art for my story, “Big Al Shepard Plays Baseball on the Moon” and he did another fantastic job on the art for this story.

Major Code Update to the Google Docs Writing Tracker

I made a major update to the Google Docs Writing Tracker today. Although the update does not introduce any new features, it does bring the code up to the current standards for Google App Scripts. Back in December, Google deprecated a big portion of its Google DocsList code in favor of the DriveApp code.

DocsList Service

The Google Docs Writing Tracker referenced the old code in dozens of places. Today, I replaced those old references with references to the newer DriveApp object model. This means that if you are using the new code, you should no longer see any messages about deprecated code in the execution logs.

The only significant change, from a user-perspective, is how folders are handled in the Config tab of the spreadsheet. For now, I did the simplest possible implementation. The values for the Sandbox and Snapshot folders should refer directly to the folder name and not include the path. So if you used to do something like this:

Old Folder Model

You should change it to do this instead:

New Folder

This looks for the idea of the folders named above, and uses their ID instead of their name throughout the scripts. It does mean it will cause problems if you have more than one folder with the same name, but it is good enough for now.

One small bug fix

Included in this refactor is a minor bug fix. Some people have reported no data all of a sudden, after the code has been working for a long time. The problem, it turned out, was happening with people using the RescueTime integration. If, for some reason, RescueTime could not by reached by the API call, the JSON file returned was empty. This wasn’t handled properly by the scripts.

Now, it is.

So if you use RescueTime integration and the API call fails for some reason, it won’t break the rest of the script from running. You just won’t have RescueTime data for that day.

Getting the new version

To avoid confusion in the short term. I have checked the new code into a separate branch in the GitHub project. If you want the new code, pull the google-drive-refactor branch. If you want to see how much of the code actually changed, check out the differences.

I’ve done some testing on my own machine and it seems to work okay. When I feel that enough general testing has been done, I’ll merge this code into the master. If you find any problems, open up an issue.

More coming soon

I’m also working on a new feature that I’ve wanted for a while now: Project Tracking. This allows you to assign arbitrary project names to documents. The words counts are tracked daily by project on a separate sheet in the workbook, allowing you to track words and time by project, as well as by day. Especially useful if you work on multiple projects in a day (as I sometimes do) or have multiple documents in a project (as I do when I work on novels).

And as always, if you have suggestions, let me hear about them. Or better yet, fork the code and try to implement them yourself.

Google Docs vs. Scrivener for Writing

I used to be a hardcore Scrivener user. Over the last 2 years, however, I’ve used Google Docs almost exclusively for everything but my submissions drafts. In the last 2 years, I’ve put nearly 600,000 words through Google Docs.

Because of this, I am often asked why I use Google Docs for writing instead of Scrivener. Or, put another way, I am asked “Which tool is better for writing, Scrivener or Google Docs?”

The answer, of course, is both, depending on how you work. When I write posts about the tools I use, I write them from the point of view of me as a writer using the tools. My process may be different from yours and the process one uses often dictates the best tools for the job. For some processes, Scrivener is a far better tool than Google Docs. For others, Google Docs is sufficient. For others still, another tool might be appropriate. Let me expound upon a few things that might help distinguish the pros and cons of the tools

Process

I choose a tool based on how well it fits my writing process. There are two things that are important to know about my process:

  1. I am more of a “pantser” than a “plotter”
  2. I track my writing in order to track my progress, but I’ve automated this because I don’t want to spend time doing it manually.
  3. I want to spend as much of my available writing time writing.

Everything about my process is driven by these three basic requirements.

Bud Sparhawk and I have, over the last few years, given a talk at Capclave on “Online Writing Tools.” We demonstrate our processes through the tools that we use. It’s great because, as it turns out, Bud and I are opposites when it comes to process. Bud is an extreme plotter, while I am a pantser. But I wasn’t always a pantser, and when I did plot out what I was writing, I used Scrivener almost exclusively.

Scrivener for plotters

Scrivener is, in my opinion, the single best all-encompassing software tool for writers available today. And if you are a plotter, Scrivener is probably the best place to get started. Scrivener has a set of features designed with plotters in mind. Scrivener makes it easy to lay out scenes, outline stories, shift things around visually, and have those shifts reflected in the manuscript with little or no effort.

Scrivener also does something that I believe is critical for a word-processing tool for writers: It separates the content from the presentation-layer. In other words, how the content appears on the screen when you write is completely separate from how it appears when you compile your manuscript. You can have large, easy-to-read fonts on the screen, and Scrivener will still compile the document in standard-manuscript format. This means that as a writer, you can focus on writing, and not be distracted by formatting.

Scrivener also has advantages for self-published writers. It makes it easy to produce e-books in multiple formats.

It has hundreds of features that speed up the process of managing your document so that you can concentrate on plotting and writing. I can’t think of another tool that does all this as well as Scrivener does.

Google Docs for pantsers

On the other hand, many of these features, for me, are overkill. I don’t create outlines. I don’t generally have a need to shift scenes around in my manuscript while I am working. I don’t prepare e-books. What I do is this:

Continue reading Google Docs vs. Scrivener for Writing

5 Writing Goals for 2015

It has taken me almost a week to catch up on various things, but I finally have some time to jot down thoughts on my writing goals for 2015. Good thing, too, since tomorrow evening at the writers group, we are discussing–writing goals for 2015. Keep in mind these goals apply to paid writing, and not the writing I do here on the blog.

1. Increase my daily average to 1,000 words per day (40 minutes/day)

In 2014, I wrote, on average 850 words every single day of the year. Since writing, for me, has become a daily habit, when I think about my goals, I think in terms of what I can do each day, as opposed to the overall big picture for the year. That’s because, getting the writing done each day is great practice, and by its very nature, builds up the word count. (I wrote 311,000 words in 2014.)

Many of my full time writer-friends aim for 2,000 words/day. Ultimately, I would like to get there, too. There’s just one problem. With a full time job, and a family, I don’t have the time to write 2,000 words every day. With nearly 700 days worth of data collected, thanks entirely to my automated Google Docs Writing Tracker system, I have data on not only how much I write each day, but how much time I spend. Based on the data, my rule of thumb is 1,500 words per hour, or 1 page (250 words) every 10 minutes.

In 2014, an average of 850 words/day would amount to about 34 minutes of writing each day. To write 2,000 words/day would require 80 minutes per day. No, my goal is not write 80 minutes/day in 2015, because I don’t have that kind of time. I’m more for an incremental approach. What’s reasonable? How about a little less than a page per day. In other words, I’d like to average 850 + 150 = 1,000 words per day in 2015.

To do that, I need to find an additional 6 minutes per day for my writing. That’s not that much, and in 40 minutes each day, I can write 1,000 words. That means producing about 365,000 words in 2015 vs. 311,000 in 2014, an increase of about 17%.

Goal 1: Average 1,000 words/day in 2015.

2. Finish the second draft of my novel

I have been hard at work on the second draft of my novel. For a long time, I struggled with it, going through 36 restarts in order to find the right voice and opening. Having finally found that, things are moving much better. I’d like to complete the second draft of the novel and send it to my beta-readers for comments before the end of the year.

Goal 2: Finish the second draft of the novel.

3. Submit 2 short stories

I haven’t done much short story writing in a while, and I want to get some stories out there. It’s been hard because I have been focused on the second draft of the novel (see #2 above), and when I haven’t been working on that, I’ve been writing some nonfiction (see #4 below).

However, I’ve been invited to some anthologies, and I have a story idea for one of them, which I have started to write when I need a break from the novel. I expect it to be a fairly short story, 4,000 words tops, but when it is finished, I plan on submitting it to the anthology.

I also have an idea for a new story that I’d like to send out to one of the magazines, a story that takes place in the same world as the novel that I’m working on. If all goes well, I’ll have that story written before the end of January, and I’ll send it off to the magazine I have in mind.

Goal 3: Submit 2 short stories.

4. Finish the baseball novella that I started in 2014

I finished the first draft of a great baseball novella in 2014, and I got started on the second draft, but gave it up to work on the second draft of the novel instead. When the novel draft is finished, I’d like to return to the novella and try to finish that up before the end of the year. I don’t know that I’ll be able to submit it before the end of the year, but I aim to have it finished, and off to beta-readers.

Goal 4: Finish the baseball novella that I started in 2014.

5. Look for additional opportunities in nonfiction writing

2014 was a breakout year for me in terms of nonfiction writing. I wrote for The Daily Beast, had a virtually viral article for 99U, wrote an editorial for Analog, and wrote my favorite article of the year for SF Signal. I love writing nonfiction, especially on technology, or science fiction history, and I’d like to be able to do more of it in 2015. So I’ll be keeping my eyes open for additional opportunities to write nonfiction in the coming year.

Goal 5: Look for additional opportunities in nonfiction writing.


Those are my writing goals for 2015. Have goals you want to share? Drop them in the comments.