Flowing Words

Some days they do; some days they don’t. I’m excited to say I’m coming up on 300 days of writing in a row at 750words.com. At a minimum daily count, that’d be over 222k words.

I’ve written more than that.

I actually joined that site a year ago yesterday. In the 367 days, I missed 12. My streak as of yesterday was 297 days. Yes, somehow I managed that through moving (Thanks, Mom!) and having a baby (always with the technical gadgets when he slept) and figured how I could do that minimum through my phone if I had to.

My fastest entry took 7 minutes to reach the goal, over 100 wpm. My 355 completed days have accumulated 344,110 words. The most I ever accomplished in a day was 4944 and makes me wonder why I didn’t push to the 5k mark. [Personal best writing day is over 8k – before I ever had children or found 750words.]

The site also tries to give insights into my writing, whether I’m feeling affectionate or thinking about death or if I use present tense verbs or what sense (read: vision) I’m using for description.

But that isn’t the information I turn to when I want to understand my writing better. Besides the words themselves, and there are a couple budding novels in there if I’m not careful – or maybe if I am. Some days it’s hard to tell. The information I gather lends more to understanding the process.

I learned I can type off the top of my head and still send words flying out of my fingers over 100 wpm. When I say they’re on fire, that’s pretty close. I learned I can type over 3000 words in an hour. That might seem like a modest 50ish wpm, but keeping it up for an hour or more is daunting.

My best time of day is the morning, but I can’t type in the morning because I’m busy with kids. So I almost always do my writing during afternoon naps. When I have to do it in the evening it takes longer, especially if there are distractions like the TV or my husband. [I told you I was writing. Go do something else until I’m done!] Longer often means five times as long, slowing me down to the average at this site, somewhere around 13 wpm when averaged with the distractions.

When I get warmed up and set a timer, I can shut out pretty much everything else. It’s really fun to just sit there and commune with the characters while they’re doing weird things.

So now I’m working on figuring out how to do that all the time. Because every now and then I end up with random brain dumps that, while helpful, aren’t exactly fueling my fiction word count. Except they do by getting the other stuff out of the way. It’s amazing how full the brain can get just going about your daily business.

I keep working to refine what I write, to learn more from this tool, to pursue more goals in my writing. It’s an ingrained habit for me, and whatever else it teaches me, that alone has been good enough to keep me at it.

Now what I need is a tool that makes me sit there and edit things on a daily basis. Because having the rough draft out only gets you so far. My drafts are improving, which means some of them are not complete dreck when I spew them out.

And today, when I sit down to write my words again, I’ll be figuring out something else to take time and make my words count. It doesn’t always have to be a race for speed. It’s about what I need to get out in order to do the writing I want to complete.

What tools do you use to keep your habits going for writing, editing, publishing, social media, other writer-type habits I’ve forgotten? Please share.

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Learning Languages

Just because a character is learning a language doesn’t mean you need to dump a bunch of information at the reader. By ‘information’ I mean the endless words that are not native to the language the story is in.

I think this is especially true for fantasy authors who may create their own.

Some authors are masters of creating languages, like J.R.R. Tolkien. We’re not all linguistic gurus, though, and we shouldn’t subject our readers to random strings of letters.

Not everyone loves Star Trek enough to learn Klingon, Vulcan, or any number of other created languages associated with it, and similarly most readers will not be pretending to be one of your creatures.

If you’re curious about creating a language, though, go here.

Don’t forget that characters might speak in programming languages or some other math-based jargon. That’s part of the beauty of creating a different world.

Just remember there’s no need to show off all the research you did. The story will be stronger most of the time without it.

Today’s Topic: HTML

Oh, I’m not sure why I haven’t really picked this up yet. Right- I haven’t really built a web page.

Sure, there was that one, way back right after I got married, that my friend built. But I only got the pictures together and provided captions. The two girls with me worked on scanning them and putting them together on a pretty page to share.

Definitely not the way to actually learn how to do it.

I’m finally sitting down with books and other resources (an online writer friend/recovering enginerd and w3schools.com) and putting things together in my head. It really isn’t that hard. I’m actually enjoying it.

Why? Doesn’t everyone need a website at some point? I might hit that point, and I’d really like to see if I can manage.

I also don’t want that to get in the way of the writing, but the writing has been on a precipice for awhile. My goal of creatively putting it off until the pressure builds into a necessity is slowly gaining speed. I’m thinking about my current project more, and the pieces have been falling together.

I have no idea why this strategy works so well for me, only that it’s doing its job to refocus me for what I really want to happen to the book.

It also helps that I have a tutoree or two in my target audience right now. I do the typical adult responsible thing with texting to give the proper info, and I get a one-word reply.

It makes me smile and think of Ethan and all the new and improved obstacles I’m going to throw at him. Let’s see if he makes it through all this unscathed!

I love pouring on the drama, as long as it isn’t my life the drama’s going to seep into. All right, I’ll admit it. I only love fictional drama!

Continuing Education

What do you choose to do to further your education?

A friend mentioned that her job (and mine, come fall) requires some continuing education and for it she was studying from a book. I’d read the same book for a student I’m tutoring. (Kiss My Math by Danica McKellar) She appreciated that they college requires you to continue to refine your skills by learning.

I can appreciate that, too. My home library speaks to a lot of continued education through books on several subjects. I’m looking up other opportunities to keep skills fresh, as well.

Math might not pertain to writing, but it’s good to keep a lot of skills going. One thing I have always wanted to do is learn another language; I have a few phrases here and there but nothing fluent.

I’m always learning more about writing. With my new part-time employment gigs, it’s sometimes difficult to sort out what my primary function is. (After motherhood, of course!) I like to think I’m a writer, which means I need to focus on the written words.

My focus takes me to critique groups. I learn from the other writers as well as teach them things. I’ve been carting books back and forth from the library in order to hone my skills from published books in fiction and the writing section.

Plus I read and write and rewrite and edit and polish. Some of those are overlapping¬†functions, but each has a special place in the writer’s agenda.

I currently need to finish the fiction book I’m reading by Jacqueline Carey that’s due tomorrow, plus one by Scott Westerfeld that will be due not too much longer.

Some days the difficulty lies in learning versus doing. If the doing (the writing) takes over, there is at least something to work with, something to fix. If the learning takes over, no output. There has to be a balance so both can be done for the betterment of my work. (Well, anyone’s work, I suppose.)

So another question: how do you think the experts learn more about their fields?

How do you learn?

A fair number of people learn by mistakes. We try things, we fail, but there is knowledge gained in each venture. So many adults fear the attempt. It may not be the truth, but it does seem like the older one gets, the more afraid they become to try something new.

Perhaps that’s why my nephew, at two years old, could take his daycare provider’s cell phones and make calls. He had no fear. When do we learn that fear? Some of us may never learn it.

There’s a difference in learning by mistakes and getting some education on the beginning side. A little guidance can go a long way to stop from making too many mistakes and becoming discouraged.

One thing I love about reading is that I can pick up a lot of knowledge. I learn by seeing and by doing. Yesterday I picked up some new tricks about internet marketing. For instance, Google ranks this blog with a 2 (from 0 to 10, with 10 being rock star Google and Facebook status). A 2 is respectable. I mean, even Amazon only ranks a 9.

Failure is not necessarily the screwing up of a task. I think of it more as not doing anything about what you learn. I watch my daughter toddle with a few steps. Sometimes she falls on her butt. Other times she goes head-first. Hasn’t stopped her yet!