Progress

The poem Progress by Mark Anderson Smith with a greyscale background of a wooden grid

I wrote last week that I was setting a new target to write 5,000 words a day.

Why do I do this to myself?

The results are in. I think I managed a thousand words one day that first half week, then I’ve managed 4,790 this week.

That’s not even a fifth of what I’d imagined might be possible.

I think it’s okay though. I’ve written several new scenes and expanded on both the character and plot for a main character in this new season. I’ve also broken out my initial synopsis and plan, using Scrivener, so that every key scene I’ve planned is in order, so that it will be easier to focus on a specific character’s story while writing.

If you are interested, after splitting out the synopsis and looking at what I feel I can actually use from my initial writing, and including the scenes written this week, I now have 30,292 words. My goal for Season Two is 120,000 words which would give 6 20K episodes. A bit shorter than Fallen Warriors, but with my publishers hat on, cheaper to print!

Since I started using Scrivener, I’ve found it really helpful for dealing with the complexity of the stories I want to tell. I can group scenes by chapters and by episodes, keeping the TV theme I’m using for the Fallen Warriors series. I can search for a character name and filter so that only scenes where they appear are shown. This allows me to read through their story and check I’ve covered everything I need to happen. Also so I can check their story is consistent all the way through.

I can add notes to each scene so i can remember why I wrote something, or add hyperlinks to research I’ve done. I can backup each scene individually as many times as I want. And I’m probably not even scratching the surface of what the application is capable of.

I’m still aiming to work up to 5,000 words a day, but am conscious that might not be possible unless I try something radical like switching to dictation. I’ve been looking into Dragon speech to text software, but at £350 for the professional edition which allows you to record and transcribe later, I’m hesitant to shell out that cash.

I think 2,000 words a day might be a more realistic daily target for the next month as another issue I’m facing is that I need to spend time setting up marketing and promotion of my next book: Double Your Salary. There is no point in publishing a book if I don’t make an effort to promote it, and it makes a lot of sense to start that promotion now.

I’ve been able to look at what writing 2,000 words a day might mean. I could finish the first draft of Fallen Warriors Season Two by mid August. That might then allow me to edit and ready for publication by Christmas, or if not, the three year anniversary of Season One’s publication date.

I would be happy with that.

I thank God for the progress I’ve been able to make. I’m conscious I’m still not really well. Finished the course of antibiotics, but am still coughing and my sinuses are full. If I could complete 10,000 words over next week, I would be delighted with that, especially if at the same time, I’m able to make progress towards promoting Double Your Salary.

I would appreciate your prayers.

Progress

I tell myself
my novel is a book
made up of words.
The first word
followed by another,
each word building
on the words before,
creating something of beauty,
of purpose,
of insight.
The novel does not yet exist.
But it will,
if I keep writing,
one word at a time,
until it is finished.

Copyright 2019 Mark Anderson Smith

Jamaica? No, she would have done it anyway…

photo of feet wrapped with chains

One of my many favourite things about writing is getting lost in research. Tracking down a fact, or answer to a question that might be useful or essential in taking the story forward.

I rarely share any of this because I’m terrified of giving the plot away. But is that just a wasted opportunity?

Would you be interested in joining me on some of these trips down a rabbit hole?

I wonder if it’s possible to share at least some of what I’ve found out on my research trips without giving too much of the game away.

Today’s (or yesterday when this is published!) fascinating expedition was to the Caribbean island of Jamaica. I just wish it had not only been virtual!

I found this article by Professor Geoff Palmer: Slavery, the Scottish Caribbean connection, which has given me an insight into one of my characters in the sequel to Fallen Warriors. It’s a fascinating read in any case, diving into Scotland’s connections with the slave trade, our hypocrisy in ignoring how many in Scotland benefited from slavery and tried to prevent abolition, and also revealing that in spite of a dreadful past, and maybe even because of it, there are thriving communities and people that have much to contribute.

It’s a complex and messy world out there. Have you ever been to Jamaica? What do you think of Professor Palmer’s article?

A new target

Photo of street map of York

I’ve taken a couple of months away from contracting to work on the sequel to Fallen Warriors and ready another book for publication. I ended up needing almost all of the first month to ready that book and was finally able to send it to the printers at the weekend and am now focusing back on Fallen Warriors.

I like big targets for my writing. Huge, seemingly impossible goals that are quite at odds with how I tackle other projects. I had in mind that I would write 5,000 words a day and produce a 100,000 word draft by the end of May, then perhaps even go on to write the first draft of the final book of the trilogy in June.

I started actually writing today and managed 1,000 words.

Considering that I’m trying to switch my gears from editing mode to creative mode, that might not be too bad. In the last month of “editing” Fallen Warriors, I actually first draft wrote most of the final chapters. They were then edited, they were proof read, but the story just flowed out as ten years of subconscious thought made itself known. That was while I was working full time.

Over four weeks I virtually wrote 2,000 words a day in three hours or less. It should be possible to write 5,000 words a day when I’m working full time at it.

In theory.

5,000 words a day seems like a goal worth pursuing. The first draft of any book doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to get the story out and since with each of my books there has been a process of rewriting and editing, I know I can and will improve on the first draft. Also, I have always needed to delete scenes and chapters. So why waste time carefully writing scenes that may eventually have to be cut?

I already know I’m not going to have all of June available, other commitments have taken priority. It might take me a week or two to get up to speed, but that’s okay. My main goal is to tell a gripping and enjoyable story. If I can do that faster, fantastic.

If it takes a bit longer, that’s also okay. I’ll be posting daily updates from Thursday onwards. Tomorrow is a different kind of day, but more about that later…

Instagram

View from Cliffords Tower in York looking towards the Minster

I signed up to Instagram months ago on the recommendation of fellow writers. Followed a few people, but just didn’t get it. I’ve struggled to know how to use Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram seemed like just another social media platform that I didn’t have time to use. Until a couple of weeks ago…

Turns out I quite enjoy using Instagram and maybe I do “get it”. At least, I get how I can use it.

I drove down to York (taking our electric car which may inspire another post shortly) for the weekend to do some research for the sequel to Fallen Warriors. I wanted to walk through the city, remind myself of how it feels to be there, and scout out locations to use in the next book.

As you’d expect I took a bunch of photos, and thought I might share some of them on Instagram as the weekend progressed. I added some short descriptions, not really understanding the potential the descriptions gave, until I posted this one of Monk Bar: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxkwnuUBiF_/

I hashtagged it #FallenWarriors, wondering if hashtags work the same way as on Twitter. Turns out they do! And of course, descriptions are searchable…

I’ve tried posting photos on Twitter and on Facebook, but neither platform really seems to fit for what I’m trying to convey. Instagram does. I want to be able to post a photo that intrigues me, a scene that has captured my attention, and share a short sentence about that photo. I also want to drop clues about my books, things that only readers will understand. Add cryptic notes as hints towards what I’m planning to write. Maybe even lead people up a blind alley, after all, it’s all about the journey, right?

And there is no pressure. I can post one photo a day, or not, and regardless, everything I’ve posted will be there for people to stumble across. Unlike Twitter which feels every time I use it like I’m trying to drink from a fire hose!

So, if you’d like to see what I’m up to on Instagram, you can find me here: http://www.instagram.com/my100goals/

I intend to post at least one photo each weekday for the next month and then review. Look forward to connecting with you on Instagram!

Boosting a flatlining Facebook event

It’s almost two weeks until my first Meet the Author event!

Cumbernauld Library and Culture North Lanarkshire have set up a Facebook event page and a page on the CultureNL website to advertise the event and ask people to sign up for free so they have an idea of numbers.

At the beginning of this week only four people had signed up and the Facebook page was only showing myself going and a grand total of 55 people having viewed the event after it had been live for two weeks…

I often feel there is too much to do and not enough hours in the day, but today was the day for doing something about this!

Part of the reason I’d been hesitant about promoting the Facebook event is that I’ve been stung in the past by facebook limiting me from contacting people when I’ve been trying to promote my novels. Facebook, understandably, want us to pay to advertise.

But, I hadn’t realised how easy it is to simply invite friends. I just needed to click on the Share drop down and select Invite friends…

I still had to scroll down through my friends and tick those that are local and I thought would be interested, but ten minutes later I’d invited 100 people. That was a good start. Within half an hour, four people had responded which was encouraging.

Then I paid to boost the event, setting the location within the minimum 17Km distance from Cumbernauld and targetting people with relevant keywords like “Thriller Novel” and “Crime Fiction” and “Young Adult Fiction”

I set the budget at £20 for seven days. Not a huge amount, but, then, I don’t have a huge marketing budget.

Depending on take up for the event I may run a shorter ad just before the event or continue it into next week.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from Wendy H Jones and Caroline Johnston. It would be great to see you there as well!

3,000 words

I woke up this morning, as usual thinking that I needed to tweet the scheduled blog post and share it on Facebook, only to remember I didn’t write a post yesterday…

That’s the third day I’ve missed so far. I had intended to write a post yesterday afternoon, but I’ve been working to a new target of completing 3,000 words on my Fallen Warriors sequel each day and yesterday it took me to after 5pm. I started at 9am…

That’s a full on normal working day to produce 3,000 words.

I started this new regime–for want of a better word– on Friday last week. Friday, Saturday, Monday and now Tuesday I’ve managed to hit 3,000 words each day. The only problem is that I seem to be taking longer each day to actually do it!

Admitedly, I’ve had a few distractions. My mind was elsewhere for chunks of time, and sometimes my body as well. Kind of hard to write when you’re not sat in front of your computer. (well, for me anyway.)

So, I don’t feel too bad about missing my 100 word target yesterday. Continuing Fallen Warriors is a more important goal. And to be honest, while I have now missed three days on my 100 words in 100 days challenge, I’ve never failed to write and publish at least a 100 word blog post each day. Today, I’ll need to write two posts, this one and tomorrow’s. Just need to think what I’m going to write for that…

The Sound Track to Fallen Warriors

I listen to a lot of music when I’m writing. Sometimes to block out distractions, sometimes to get me in a particular frame of mind.

It took me ten years to write Fallen Warriors and in that time I’ve gone through a lot of albums!

Here are eight of my favourites…

The Altar and the Door by Casting Crowns. I got this album in 2008 and immediately found the theme of the songs closely matched where I wanted to go with my story. Songs for Christians who know they are sinners, who know they’ve failed and that in spite of everything, God still loves us and has a purpose for us.

Brand New Eyes by Paramore. Once I got into Paramore, I found myself playing this album on loop. Anger, rage, injustice – music to get your heart pounding!

The Lord of The Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring by Howard Shore. I don’t listen to a lot of classical music, and maybe some of you will tear into me for daring to claim this is classical… but this is such an evocative score. The string instruments are beautiful, lifting the spirit before bringing such fear and tension.

Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette. Another angry album, but with a greater sense of wit. If I’m trying to write from a woman’s point of view, I’ll start here!

Shelter by by Sons of Korah. Some music is like a gift direct from God. I wouldn’t have chosen to buy this album (I think it was a gift from family), but it is one of my all time favourites now. The haunting strings, the powerful beats and the devastating lyrics taken straight from the Psalms.

Refuge by Sons of Korah. It took me a while to look for another Sons of Korah album. I am so glad I bought this one. If anything, I find this one even more intoxicating than Shelter. At some points the singing is like a Dervish and I can imagine David dancing in a frenzy of worship.

Paramore by Paramore. I didn’t like this album when I bought it soon after I started enjoying Brand New Eyes. A very different album, not as tight, the music more eclectic and yet over the past year I’ve listened to it more and more and it has replaced Brand New Eyes as my favourite Paramore.

Battlestar Galactica Seasons 1, 3 and 4 by Bear McCreary. Battlestar Galactica remains one of my favourite TV series. The stunning story arc was everything I could have hoped for in a Science Fiction epic. Without Bear McCreary’s music, I doubt the series would have been as good. Those drums were and are incredible.

This is what I’ve been listening to while writing Fallen Warriors. Do you use music when writing? If so, what do you listen to and why?

(I’ve used Amazon Associate links above and will receive a small commission if you buy any of these albums from Amazon using these links)