R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Author: R.S. Hunter (page 1 of 13)

How I Started a Writing Habit

DisclaimerThis post is about how I, personally, started a writing habit. It’s not a writing every day sort of thing, but near enough. However, I know that this doesn’t work for everyone. Every writer has a different process, and this is not supposed to be prescriptive in any way. Ultimately, you gotta do what works for you! (And that may change from project to project)

I’m lazy. I have a tendency to take the path of least resistance. In some cases, that’s actually not a bad quality to have! When it comes to my writing… *handwaves and ehhhhhh noises*

I should do some writing BUT I just got home from work and I’m tired and I need to make dinner and take care of the dog and now it’s like 9 pm and I’m tired and the couch looks comfy and there’s a new episode of Chopped on and look at that now it’s bedtime I’ll just have to write tomorrow but I have that errand to run and well we can write the next day then okay yeah sounds good.

Repeat ad infinitum. The specifics of the stuff after the BUT would be swapped out depending on the day.

I’ve tried writing everyday before, but any time I’d fall behind I’d beat mentally myself up. That would create a cycle where writing just wouldn’t happen.

I tried creating spreadsheets to track daily word counts. And I set goals and deadlines. But again those didn’t work for me. I think they didn’t work because they didn’t account for time spent thinking and plotting. Those activities don’t always result in words on the page in the rough draft. Sometimes they are just thoughts. Other times they get written down as notes. But ultimately I couldn’t figure out how to work them into my idea of progress as measured by Excel.

So what changed? How do I now have a (probably premature to say this) successful writing habit?

I changed what counts as success. And I changed what I use to track progress over time.

Gamify Your Life!

Okay, annoying attempt at a marketing tagline aside, this helped. I’ve always been drawn to to-do lists, checklists, what have you. So I knew I needed an online way to do that.

Enter Strides.

Ignoring the marketing bullet points, Strides gave me what I needed; a way to:

a) set goals online with a variety of metrics to choose from

b) track progress

c) see that progress over time

Instead of just having a word count goal, I set up a “Writing X of Times per Week” goal. From past experience I knew trying to write 7 days a week wouldn’t work. I settled on 4 days per week. It’s a little over half, gives me a “weekend” off if I want it, and seemed–this is important–like an achievable goal.

 

There were no other strings attached to this goal. And even the name is a misnomer. The goal wasn’t necessarily writing four days per week, but just focusing on my work-in-progress on four days (non-consecutive even!) during a week.

Added a few paragraphs to a rough draft? Success!

Worked on an outline for later chapters? Success!

Spent an hour doing character sketches or some worldbuilding in a notebook? Success!

This system allowed me to place greater value on the creative parts of writing a novel, not just the “writing” part. And it worked! There were a couple of weeks, especially in the beginning where I was still building this habit, where I missed the mark. But right now I am at 20 consecutive weeks where I’ve hit that goal of working on my novel projects at least four times a week.

I’m using the free version of Strides, so it only keeps my data for small periods of time. But it works!

And now that I got that habit on its way to being entrenched, I added another goal. I did what had gone so wrong before: I created a word count goal.

For whatever reason, telling myself that rough drafts can be bad has finally stuck. This time my word count goal isn’t hindering my progress. If I write only add 50 words to my draft, I record that. It’s okay. It counts toward my 4 times per week goal, and it adds to my word count total.

Back to those Caveats

This post is what I found worked for me. Maybe something similar would work for you? Stride is (kind of) flexible so you might be able to add your goals to it. There are other gamify goal tracker to-do list apps too. For example, Cat Rambo references Habitica in this post. As a big ol’ RPG nerd, I’m definitely going to check it out.

And hey! Maybe none of these works for you. Maybe you don’t need a system to codify your progress, or you work better without a set schedule. I know Kameron Hurley’s talked about how she works well by writing in big chunks on the weekends.

Like I said before, experiment. Find out what works for you for that particular project. And good luck!

Addendum 8-1-17

Since I started this post, I’ve made a couple of changes to how I track my writing habit. I still use the “4 Times per Week” goal, but I’ve added a more traditional “Word Count Goal” as well. I did that because deadlines occasionally motivate me, so I set a goal to write 75,000 words before 8/31 in this hybrid outline/draft thing I do.

Ignore the Daily Goal part. That’s a bug in Strides that they’re fixing.

I think part of the reason why an “X Words by Y Date” goal worked for me this time is because I’d already spent months laying the groundwork. I built the momentum of writing every day, so I was able to set a word count goal without it causing me to shut down.

This is also a special case because I’m reworking an old draft. So I’m able to copy and paste large chunks of text in between new sections. This definitely inflated my word count, but *insert I don’t caaaaaaare gif here*

 

Unstructured Thoughts on the Tethys Chronicles

I had some thoughts about writing a series–especially over a long period of time–ever since Magen Cubed did a Twitter thread about this sort of thing. (I can’t find the exact one, but here’s one about “pulp” that’s great. Go follow her. And buy her books (superhero or fucky)! I wanted to do something similar, but I don’t know if Twitter’s the best venue for it. Instead, I’m going to write out some rambling, unstructured thoughts about The Exile’s Violin, its sequels, and my weird, tangled emotions about coming back to the series after a hiatus.

Continue reading

The Exile’s Violin 3rd Edition in the Works

exile's violin 3rd edition cover banner

It’s been a little over a year since I wrote this post about the future of my Tethys Chronicles books. I needed that time to distance myself from the series and the ridiculousness of PDMI. (Seriously, I count myself lucky getting out when I did. It could have been much, much worse)

I used the past year to work on a few different projects. Unfortunately I haven’t sold any books or landed an agent in that time. But if I’m being honest, I don’t consider this time wasted at all.

Continue reading

How I Learned to Give Scrivener a Chance

I’ve long been a holdout on the Scrivener front. I tried a free demo over a year ago, and I immediately bounced off the steep learning curve. Then in 2016 I bought a license when it was on sale during NaNoWriMo. I tried to use it–this time trying the introductory/training materials–but again I just couldn’t do it. I was too in love with my personal wiki for worldbuilding and Microsoft Word for writing my drafts.

Continue reading

Keeping Track of Your Worldbuilding Part 3: Wikis

Last week. month. year. ohmygodit’sbeentoolong time, I covered mind maps as a tool for fantasy and science fiction writers can use to keep track of their worldbuilding. And we’ve already covered plain ol’ Word documents. Now we come to what I currently use: personal wikis.

Continue reading

Keeping Track of Your Worldbuilding Part 2: Mind Maps

Last time we talked about using multiple Word documents as a system of keeping track of your worldbuilding. For some, that system is the be-all end-all. I used Word documents to keep track of the worldbuilding for my first two novels. But over time, as the series went on, trying to work with multiple, often conflicting documents didn’t work.

Continue reading

An Update

Quick update for you all. As of May 11, 2016 (which is when I received the signed paperwork), all rights to The Exile’s Violin and the unpublished sequel, Terraviathan, are mine. The series is no longer with PDMI Publications, and I have no further affiliation with them or any of their imprints.

So what does that mean for the series? It means The Exile’s Violin is now out of print, and I’m stopping work on Terraviathan for the foreseeable future. I may have a handful of fans out there who will be disappointed by this news. To you, I’m sorry. There’s a lot of stuff I can’t go into about all this, but finishing Terraviathan and then self-publishing the series is just something I cannot do anytime soon.

Thank you to everyone who bought, read, and loved the book. Thank you to everyone who bought, read, and hated the book. And everyone in between. I’m so, so grateful for all of you.

Moving on, I have lots of other projects in the works. I have a sword and sorcery series that got a tiny bit of agent and publisher attention. That’ll be revisited sometime soon. And I have another urban fantasy novel in the works. My sights are set on getting better as a writer, at not being fucking scared to find my voice.

I’ll come back to Jacquie Renairre and her steampunk world someday. I just don’t know when that will be.

‘Til then, I’ll be over here scribblin’ words and makin’ up worlds.

Keeping Track of Your Worldbuilding Part 1: Word Documents

It’s a beast that hounds all writers, but especially genre writers: how do you keep track of your worldbuilding? How do you keep it all straight?

Inconsistent worldbuilding (I’m looking at you Supernatural!) is one of my biggest pet peeves. And keeping everything in order, especially when you’re working in a huge multi-volume universe, can be tricky.

One method that I’ve used before (not anymore) is a collection of Word documents. A file separate from your manuscript can be used to catalog your worldbuilding efforts.

Pros

This method is easy to get started with. You just need to use the same word processing program that you write your drafts in. So you’re already instantly familiar with the interface and capabilities of what you’re working with.

You can write in sentences and paragraphs, or just keep track of everything in bulleted lists.

Cons

To be honest, even though I wrote two novels using this method, it’s not my favorite. No matter how careful I tried to be, I always ended up with a dozen different worldbuilding documents. Outlines, character sketches, worldbuilding bibles, timelines. It was too much. Too many contradictions.

But for some writers this may be all they need! A single file that lists important aspects of their story world. Maybe your book is set on Earth in an era or place you’re intimately familiar with. Maybe you’re the kind of writer who makes things up as they go along and keep it all straight. More power to you!

Alternatives?

For those of us who can’t make this method work, don’t fear! In the next couple of posts I’ll talk about some alternative methods I’ve tried including mind maps and personal wikis.

2016: Refocusing on Art

Bear with me here. This is 100% going to be one of those New Year, New Me but Not Saying the Word “Resolutions” Totally Navel Gazing-y posts. I’ll do my best to make it not be insufferable.

2015 was a rough year, for reasons that you don’t want to hear. And quite frankly some of them feel whiny–or at least according they feel that way to that nagging voice in the back of my head.

So instead this whole post, this whole year is dedicated to looking forward. And what do I see in front of me?

ART

Continue reading

A Tale of Awkward Handshakes

I’m not a cool person. I like “dad jokes”, puns, portmanteaus, chiptunes, and pretty much everything else that’s the antithesis of youngcool, or hip. Do the kids even say those words anymore? I have no idea.

And yet, I think I have one of those faces that says “Yes, I am down to attempt to a weird handshake high-five gesture-thing in this serious business context.”

This has happened twice now in quick succession, and each time I’ve walked away from the experience cringing and wanting to die from embarrassment.

Continue reading

Older posts

© 2017 R.S. Hunter

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑