Tuesday, 8 May 2018

First week of sprints

I'm quite happy with my first week. I ended up writing 11,000 words in 7 days.

Now on first sight, that sounds pretty fantastic. Going at the rate, I could complete a Middle Grade novel in three weeks, or an adult novel in seven. But consider that when I first started playing with writing sprints, I was hitting around 3,000 words a day. If I'd continued like that I should be closer to 21,000 words per week. That would mean a Middle Grade novel in ten days or an adult novel in three and a half weeks.

Of course, there's a little more to a novel than writing fast. Part of successful writing sprints is knowing what you are going to write before you get going, which means a lot of planning and pre-writing. So you have to add that into the mix - does that count as writing every day? If it does, I'm laughing, because I jot down ideas and scenes all the time. It doesn't result in word counts, and sometimes it's just doodles on paper, but it is development and creativity.

The other thing about writing quickly is you get lots and lots of errors. The theory is sound - Most of what you write in a first draft will be rewritten or deleted.

But I like to play with sentences as I write. I usually do something called cycling, where I write a chunk, go back and edit, polish then move on. That's not possible with writing sprints. To maintain high speeds, you have to ignore grammatical errors and spelling mistakes and simply push on. And if you want to hit the magic 5000 words per hour goal, you need to switch to dictation. I've tried that with Google Docs, both in the house and while out walking the dog. With my accent the results were usually hilarious and needed more work than ever just to get them to make sense.

All in all, I really like the fun and the challenge element of writing sprints, so I'm going to keep with them for now, and plan to really go for it when I start my next project. I'm going to plan in advance and see just how fast I can complete a 30k Middle Grade novel. I'd like to get a first draft in ten days.

But for now, I'm going to keep the sprints for fun projects that aren't really about anything. Just writing for the sheer fun of it.


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Streaks, sprints and word counts

Yesterday was the first of May, and I agreed with a writing friend to go for the #100daysofwriting challenge.

It all stems from my post a couple of days ago about following Chris Fox's guide to writing 5000 words per hour, but it also goes back to the writing streaks I've done in the past, where a streak is the amount of days you can go by hitting a minimum word count for each day. I think I managed 500 words per day for 53 days which isn't that fantastic at all.

This time I'm taking a new approach by going for streaks of sprints. Sprints are small chunks of time (15 minutes for me) where I just bang out the words and track the amount written.

I'm not going to blog every day because blogging takes up valuable writing time, but also because publishing word counts doesn't really make good blog material. The only function of tracking is a motivator for myself and to see on the long term if writing sprints really do help.

Also, 100 days is a long time. Most of this is going to be just play - writing for the sheer fun of it. What's the point in that? Well, the fun of it! But also, it's the fun writing that creates the best ideas that I can eventually take to the next level. There's no need to keep the Nano approach just for November!

Colin Mulhern



Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Scrivener pros and cons

Okay, so here's my verdict on Scrivener. I've spent the last couple of weeks absolutely submerged in this thing. I didn't want to simply tinker, I wanted to know the thing inside and out. To do that, I transferred my current WIP across and dove in.

Overview

Scrivener is a piece of writing software specifically designed to work to a writer's needs. Someone sat down, took a look at how they work, at how other writers work and decided to make a piece of dedicated software that can handle everything from concept notes, to research, photos, character profiles, synopses, scenes and chapters. It's got everything you can think of, and if you've got the time, everything can be customised. Clever stuff indeed.

Everything a writer could wish for... isn't it?

Pros

Great for outlining, plotting and researching. If you do bags of research that you need to refer to as you write, then Scrivener can keep it all under one roof. You can split the windows and have anything in either - ideal if you are redrafting or need to keep notes on screen. You can colour-code keywords, add tags and labels to folders and files. You can also track all of these. As for writing, you can work directly in the window or bring up a full screen, having everything else either faded or blacked out.

Cons. 

Learning curve. Even a simple project will cause frustration. I consider myself quite IT literate, and I'm used to complex software from my time in the games industry, but I spent a LOT of time watching YouTube guides. Some things seemed just too complicated or difficult to find. Also, getting your work out of Scrivener and into something else is also a pain. What you see on screen is not what the final document looks like. It isn't very portable. You can save to Dropbox, which works fine if your other laptop runs Scrivener, but this means syncing those files (lots and lots of them). Scrivener will also back up locally, so that other laptop needs to be secure. Not good if you're using a work's machine.

Conclusion.

I want to like Scrivener more than I actually do. It ticks so many boxes, and once you get into it, isn't particularly difficult to use at all. Unfortunately, it makes playing far too easy. So when it came to actually writing, I didn't get a lot of work done. While having everything at your fingertips has its advantages, it's also a distraction. Having everything right there was like having a screen full of sparkly things when all I really need is my manuscript. I ended up compiling my document, took it into Google docs and slipped straight back into the writing seat.

Google Docs on full screen.

And that for me is the acid test. When it came to getting work done, I reverted to something simple because for me, to be able to write, I need to clear out the clutter, remove the distractions and simply get to work.

Added.
It's less than 24 hours since I wrote this post, and I've already gone back to Scrivener to give another, last last last go. I'm my own worst enemy. It's like having toothache - I just can't help wanting to give it a prod and a poke. At least this time, I've written a couple of thousand words.

Colin Mulhern