The B.I.S. Method

Following the patented B.I.S. method (Trademark pending) I hit my 3,000 word goal on Friday. It took most of the day to do it, but if that’s what it takes then that’s what I need to keep on doing.

B.I.S. or Bum In Seat for the uniniated, is a tried and trusted method for getting the job done. Some fields use similar methods such as T.U.F.W. (Turning Up For Work), K.O.D. (Knocking On Doors), or even the slightly outdated, but still respectable M.A.E. (Making An Effort).

Sometimes methods can be so simple that their power can be overlooked.

Just Do It…

The messy middle

I’ve struggled this last week to make any real progress on the sequel to Fallen Warriors. At last count I was at 23,892 words.

I have a beginning and the start of an ending, but have found myself bogged down in what writers technically know as “The Messy Middle”.

I had the same problem with the first novel. Too many characters and an uncertainty of how best to bring them together. I had a look at how many characters I’m planning to work with during the sequel. Eighteen! Eighteen characters for whom I want some sort of character journey, some interaction with other characters.

You know that mathematical issue where you increase the number of participants and get an exponential growth in terms of interactions? I think that is part of the problem. There is a reason why writers who are starting out are advised to stick to simple plots.

Anyway, there is a simple solution to the interaction growth issue and the messy middle problem. Technically this is known as “Bum In Seat”.

In theory all I, or any writer facing a similar problem, needs to do is place bum in seat and keep writing. Gradually the problem is resolved, one scene at a time.

It’s a solution that can be adapted to many issues and problems. One’s bum does not have to be in a seat – it can be standing at a workshop bench, or running another mile. Sonetimes the only way to resolve a problem is to keep working towards resolving it, no matter how messy the middle may be.

All that we can achieve

I was pulled up short this morning. I’ve continued reading past the two books of Samuel and am now half way through the first book of Kings.

The last few chapters have been quite a slog, king after king who did evil in the eyes of the Lord, each one failing to learn from the mistakes of those who went before them. Israel divided in two and for a time it seems like the new nations of Israel and Judah are being led by leaders who are as evil as each other.

Then I read this: “As for the other events of Baasha’s reign, what he did and his achievements…” 1 Kings 16 v 5

I generally consider achievements to be a positive. I have 100 goals and as I make progress towards achieving them I feel good about that. Yet if I gained the whole world and lost my soul…

All we can achieve may be worth recording in a book some day, may be worth people remembering, but if those achievements are side by side with a legacy of disobedience to God, of a life spent following whatever evil our hearts find to do, then what ultimately was the point?

Going backwards

Well, yesterday was a bit of a disaster writing wise. I’d been going so well, 3,000 words a day on the Fallen Warriors sequel for a whole week and then – bamm! 789 words. Not only that, but I’ve decided I need to delete 300 words from another section.

On the plus side, I think that loss of 300 words allows me to do something that will be much better in terms of plot, making the story more interesting. I’m going to try and write some more today (Saturday) so I may yet get closer to my target. I’d hoped to be at 25,000 words by yesterday and I’m still 2,000 short.

So what actually happened? Why did I fail to hit my word count goal?

I did what I promised myself I would not do, I spent time on admin in the morning and got caught up in that, putting off writing until I knew I was going to struggle to hit my goal. Then when I started writing, I felt under such pressure that it took me longer than it should have to write anything.

Yet, I’ve been putting off the admin all week and I really needed to do some advertising. I called some more book shops and while I didn’t get any sales yet from those calls, I also had a followup from a previous contact which is looking promising.

I’m not going to spend all day writing to try and catch up. It’s the weekend and I’m in one of the most beautiful villages in the world on Regatta day. I’ve got kids to look after, ice-creams to buy and water to avoid falling into…

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…

Day 75 – Three Quarters of the way…

Yesterday was day 75 of my challenge to write 100 words a day for 100 days.

I confess that I missed two days. Fortunately I’d build up a backlog of posts and so there has been at least one post daily.

I also confess that I’m not at all sure this is a challenge I’d like to repeat. I think the goal, while being specific – write 100 words a day for 100 days – is also too vague. I’m jumping around from topic to topic and there isn’t a consistency that might attract readers if I stuck to a single topic.

Still, reaching the three quarter mark is an achievement and the end is in sight.

Some numbers if you’re interested:

My average daily word count has started to fall, from a high average of 472 down to an average of 320 words per day over the last 25 days.

I’ve reached a total word count for this blog challenge of 28,827 words.

I had intended to also write 100,000 words towards my next novel last month. I failed abysmally. I didn’t even reach 5,000. That has to change. I need to reach a decent word count for August otherwise what am I doing?

On a positive note, I have a fairly substantial plot worked out for my next novel. Now I just need to fill in all that lovely detail…

It’s also worth having a look at where I’ve seen spikes in posts being viewed, mainly on the 18th, 25th and 31st July.

These spikes have been on or immediately after the following posts:

Lydia’s Song – a book review

Lydia’s Song – an interview with author Katherine Blessan

Digging a trench for Pod Point Cabling and our new Nissan Leaf

All three posts were shared to relevant groups and the two connected to Katherine Blessan’s Lydia’s Song were part of a blog tour where we were all sharing each other’s posts.

Other than that I’m averaging 5 post views a day which just doesn’t justify the time it takes. But, blogging is a long game and part of the reason for setting myself this challenge was to give myself an outlet for writing on broader topics, and to provide a platform to market my novels.

This blog has already allowed me to share information which others have found useful and to build relationships with others in the writing community. Both valuable reasons to write a blog.

How much time should we spend on preparation?

I tend towards over thinking: analysing eventualities, considering contingencies, thinking things over and over like a dog worrying a bone.

But not always.

Sometimes I think just far enough ahead to get myself into trouble and then hindsight starts to kick in.

My task for today was to scrape loose paint off the front of our house – above the porch – as preparation for repainting it and if the rain held off actually do the repainting.

I thought through what I needed:

  • A bucket to mix paint with sand which I’ve been told might stop the paint flexing as much in the sun and prevent having to repaint too soon.
  • The tin of paint.
  • A screwdriver to lift the lid off.
  • A ladder to get up to where the paint was flaking away.
  • Someone to hold the ladder.
  • A scraper.

I was set. I had everything I needed. We did everything carefully – no broken windows when we moved the ladder. I didn’t fall off the porch roof. I cleared away all the loose paint and left a surface that should be just right to apply the first coat of paint.

I was prepared.

Apart from considering what would happen to all those small flecks of paint I’d be scraping off…

Thousands of differing sized, cream coloured, slivers of paint. All over our driveway…

I wasn’t prepared for that. I picked up the larger pieces by hand. I tried sweeping. Got some of them. Tried hoovering (don’t tell the wife!) Got most of the rest.

If I do this again I’ll get some ground sheets out and can capture the worst of it in them and shake them out into a bin.

Sometimes we can over prepare, sometimes we can under prepare. I under prepared. The job took longer, but the job got done. Well, mostly. It looked like it was going to rain so painting has been moved back to another day.

Goals and the Christian Life

Should Christians have goals? A question posed by a friend on Facebook which immediately caught my attention. I’ve been goal obsessed for over a decade and my first response to this and similar questions is always: of course! But, after this initial burst of enthusiasm for goals, I then remember that my goals sometimes seem to suck the joy out of my life and so I need to explore the question in a deeper way.

Words are powerful tools, yet each language and each generation can interpret them so differently.

Growing up I had the following passage almost imprinted on me: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 3 12-14 NIV)

This extract from one of Paul’s letters seems to make it clear that goals, or at least one specific goal, are something every Christian should aspire to. Yet perhaps the word itself: goal, is a modern invention that isn’t necessary.

Try reading the same extract in the King James Version: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 3 12-14 KJV)

The language is similar, but a subtly different interpretation can be seen in the two translations made several centuries apart.

There are many accounts of people in the Bible who clearly had what I would call goals. Yet how they acted differed enormously. Paul seems to have been an all or nothing kind of guy and he frequently encouraged and challenged others to be like him. I’ve been reading through the two books of Samuel over the last month or so and another famous person had a very different perspective on goals…

David was chosen by God to be king over Israel. There was a problem though, Israel already had a king: Saul, who had also been chosen by God…

There’s an important point in that situation. God gave Saul the opportunity to be king, to have a dynasty established with his children and their children after them set up for life to rule over God’s kingdom on Earth. An opportunity like that wasn’t to be taken lightly though and it seems Saul just didn’t have the faith in God, the trust and patience that anyone would hope a leader would display.

Saul disobeyed God out of fear and his dynasty was taken away. But he was still king…

I heard someone say once that David was an astute political careerist. Several situations are recorded of David having every opportunity to kill Saul off and take the throne himself. In every instance, David chose instead to look to the longer game. He spared Saul’s life again and again making it clear that no-one, even God’s annointed, had the right to take the life of someone else that God had previously annointed. When opportunists claimed to have killed Saul and his family, David had them executed for the high crime of treason against God’s annointed.

David had a goal – to become king, but that goal was not to be achieved at any cost!

Should Christians have goals?

Perhaps the problem is with the word “should”. Christians are called to be obedient to God. We are called to follow Jesus. We are encouraged to become like Jesus. There are many examples in the Bible of people who have what I would call goals, but each person deals with that differently and each situation is also different. Some people have goals given to them, like Jonah who was commanded to tell the population of Ninevah they were going to be destroyed because they were wicked. Not a pleasant goal to be given when you were far more likely to be executed than be fined or spend time in jail if the authorities didn’t like you. Perhaps understandable that Jonah ran in the opposite direction until God steered him back…

Esther found herself with one of the most basic goals that exist – find a way to survive.

Gideon kept on questioning the goal he was given.

Nehemiah set his own goal – to rebuild Jerusalem and would not let anyone distract or trap him as he set out to achieve that goal.

I’m not sure that any of these people used the word goal. I am certain that many did not break their objective into chunks or daily tasks. None of them will have read the seven habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey, Brian Tracy or Norman Hill…

Yet each of them did, eventually, and sometimes with a lot of persuasion, press on towards the mark.

It’s okay to have goals. It’s also okay to not have goals. But, if you want to achieve something, whether that is finish a poem, write a novel, or even change a nation, you have to have something you are aiming for and working towards.

Day two in the author’s house…

Let me start by saying I’m not planning to spend every day from now on recording the minutiae of writing a novel. I wanted to hold myself accountable through this blog and that’s the purpose of this post.

A week ago I posted my regimented writing plan. If I stick to that plan, I’m certain to complete at least one draft of 100,000 words in four weeks of writing. If I’m writing…

As I always do when I finish a contract, I wrote up a to do list. A list of all the things I’ve not had time for during the contract. There is always a conflict between what I want to do, what I need to do and what I feel I have to do.

On top of family and work related responsibilities, I spent a large part of Tuesday and Wednesday finishing off a final edit and format of the print edition of Fallen Warriors

Yesterday evening, after two days where I imagined I might plot out two novels – and managed only to begin that process, I put that dream on hold and started writing. This morning I continued writing, reasoning that I might need to explore the characters’ stories further before the overall plot of the book becomes clear.

I wasn’t up this morning as sharp as I wanted though and haven’t kept to my regimented plan. Today I’ve been working on preparing for a meet the author event I’m going to be part of in September. Tomorrow I may have to switch off my phone!

On the positive though, I went for a short run today, my first attempt at exercise in over a month. I wrote 2047 words in 225 minutes spread over the whole day. I’ve developed a new character, well, three of them actually for a story that may run across both sequels.

I’ve failed to meet my target word count, but there’s always tomorrow and each day I write is one day closer to realising my goal of publishing a sequel to Fallen Warriors!

Small Steps

When you’ve no time, how do you change your life?

One small step at a time.

In 2007 I set out to write a novel. I committed to writing 100 words daily and knew if I persevered, I would finish Fallen Warriors in four years. It took ten, but eventually, Fallen Warriors was published.

Small steps, taken daily, lead to long journeys.

Five minutes tidying a room, daily, will gradually clear the clutter.

Ten minutes pulling weeds, daily, tames your garden.

We can all find a few minutes each day to work towards our goals.

What you will achieve will be amazing!