October 30, 2013

#MobNov October Update

There’s just no easy way to say this. My iPhone novel writing project is struggling. The story’s almost done and there’s just the endgame left, which adds up to a couple of thousand words or so, but the manuscript is way too short. As I’ve said before, writing in such short spurts completely changed the pace of my writing, and I’ve already re-outlined the novel twice, to no avail.

The past few days I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time each day to mull over what I’m going to do about this. True to the project, I’ve tried not to spend too much time. It has to be reasonable.

This is the new plan:

  • Insert the new scenes and character earlier in the story. This is usually not a good idea when writing, but I need these elements to proceed.
  • Add a parallell storyline, the one I scrapped because I thought it’d push the novel over 100,000 words. Yeah, that was quite a miscalculation.
  • Update the outline properly. I’ll most likely do this on paper, that’s how definite this thing’ll be.
  • Get back into the 300 words daily mindset, because these issues have left me scattered and unfocused.

That’s about it. I might change writing app as well, because Byword, which I’ve used thus far, have had quite a few issues with iOS 7. We’ll see, more on that in a later article series for this site.

October 3, 2013

#MobNov September Update

The iPhone novel writing project is struggling. I’ve missed two days completely thus far (because of life and, well just life), and a lot of time is spent thinking and outlining and re-outlining. Some days see less than 300 words because of this, which I don’t think is in the spirit of the experiment, but a result nonetheless. The word indecision comes to mind.

The current status is this. The story’s progressing a lot faster than I thought it would. It’s not that surprising since each writing session is so short, and I indadvertedly want to reach a point where the session makes sense in its own. This is messing with my schedule and pacing, because as it is now this isn’t a novel, it’s a novella. It’s distracting and annoying.

This pacing tells me that the second draft will probably be a lot more fleshed out. This is not a new development for me as a fiction writer, when I stick to an outline I tend to be brief, which can be both good and bad. There’s room for improvement in this particular story, especially around a character I’ve decided to bring back. Fleshing that out will be another 10,000 words or so.

I’ve decided to take a week off to let the story rest. As you’re reading this said week is no doubt over already. I’m not sure how this fits with the experiment, but just like the trouble finding a stride, it’s a result if nothing else.

As of the last of September, there are four months left of the experiment. I’ve learned a lot about writing when there’s no time at all, and prioritize the word count when I’d otherwise do other things. I’ve also learned that I have issues with keeping to short word counts. 300 words is a small target for me, I tend to set my targets at over 2,000 words so that I can settle in properly and get the words flowing. I’ll hold off on any analysis around this for now though. It’s still an interesting experiment, and I’m really curious to see what I’ll have on January 31st 2014. And what I can do with it beyond that.

September 2, 2013

One Month Of iPhone Novel Writing

On August 1st this year, I started to write a novel on my iPhone. It’s a long project that’ll end next year. The idea is to write 300 words daily on my novel manuscript, on my iPhone, and obviously there’s a point to be proven in the end. Along the way, I realized that I need to schedule time and words for outlining work, and I’ve done that on a weekly basis, more or less.

One month in, I’ve written at least 300 words daily. The 31 days of August should mean that I’d have at least 9,300 words, but some of these words have ended up in the outline. Then again, I easily make up for the lost words by writing more than 300 words daily on average. The manuscript is 10,263 words long after one month, that’s 331 words per day had I spent all my writing on it. In short, I’m on schedule, despite the change in procedure that the outline work prompted.

Some additional notes:

  • I still write around 350 (manuscript) words per session, at 11–13 minutes.
  • The word count of each session have had an impact on the pacing of the story. I’ve since adjusted, but this might mean that additional editing’s needed, beyond the usual needs of course.
  • The story is progressing faster than expected, which means I’ll have to reconsider my outline yet again. We’ll see where this takes me later on.
  • I tend to write late afternoons or during the evening. The daily alert I’ve got at 4 pm obviously has something to do with this.

So far so good. I expect to report on the project on a monthly basis from now on, assuming there’s something to report. Daily updates are posted to Twitter and App.net if you’re interested.

August 28, 2013

Another shot of the setup. Flickr.
iPad Writing Setup

It should come as no surprise that I write on my iPad. This is the setup I’ve been enjoying most of the time this summer, in my summer home.

The bookshelf features a desktop that you can pull out, fitted to a regular dining room chair, which is what I’ve been using too. I put the iPad mini on the first shelf to get a better angle. My keyboard of choice have been the Logitech Tablet Keyboard, covered previously. I’m not sure it’ll be what I use when I leave my summer home, but I decided to give it a fair shot and thus I left my trusty Apple bluetooth keyboard and its Origami casing at home. Just as well, as we picked up this combined bookshelf and cupboard this summer, and it would’ve worked less than great here. I think it’s good to be able to detach the keyboard from the stand, most of the time, and obviously that’s the case here.

The writing shelf, featuring Paazu the shiba inu. Annotated on Flickr.
The writing shelf, featuring Paazu the shiba inu. Annotated on Flickr.

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August 18, 2013

Two Weeks Of iPhone Novel Writing

Previously:

I decided not to publish an update on my iPhone novel writing project last weekend. Not much had changed since the first update, linked above, and I did say that I’d do these updates somewhat irregularly.

I won’t bore you with statistics at this time. Hitting 300 words per day on my iPhone is still no problem. I write between 300 and 400 words in 10–15 minutes. Most sessions end at around 330 words in 13 minutes, but it depends on how clear my vision is for the writing session.

It’s too early to talk about when and where I write, but something of a pattern is starting to emerge. I’ll get back to that when we’re further into the experiment.

Read more →

August 8, 2013

The E-ink Typewriter

Writing outside is a painful experience. Sure, you could do as I do now, sitting cross-legged in the shade on my lawn, tapping away on my iPhone. That works reasonable well, at least until my back gives in. It’ll work for today’s 300 words of the iPhone novel, but beyond that it’s just not ideal.

An e-ink Kindle perhaps?
An e-ink Kindle perhaps?

I’d like to be able to put out a table, perhaps equipped with a parasol, and sit in a proper chair. I could do that, but it’d be far from ideal. Laptop screens just plain suck outdoors, and although devices like the iPad fare better, they still put an unnecessary strain on the eyes.

What I really want is an e-ink display and a keyboard, I really don’t need much more than that. I can’t find it though, probably because e-ink is still too slow and unresponsive to make it truly work as a regular screen. But let’s dream a bit, shall we?

The e-ink typewriter for modern writers who like to work outdoors:

  • 9–10″ screen, backlit and with a retina-like resolution (much like the excellent Kindle Paperwhite)
  • Keyboard support via bluetooth
  • Wifi and/or 3G, mostly for sync with Dropbox/other
  • Mad battery life (10+ hours should be a piece of cake for a device like this)
  • No need for a distraction-infested app store of any kind.

The only thing the e-ink typewriter needs is a nice writing app, something inspired by iA Writer or Byword. Markdown support would be nice, but it really doesn’t matter. I’d like to be able to change the font size and margins, for a more personal workspace, but that’s not a must-have either.

Please sell me this writing device. It’s all I want during the summer. Well that, and a new chair and table, possibly a nice parasol that I can angle anyway I like too. And sun, and a cold beverage, obviously.

August 6, 2013

Writer Math

Let’s do some simple writer math. If you write 1,500 words on a daily basis, that adds up to 10,500 words weekly. On a 30 day month, you’ll clock in at 45,000 words.

In two months you have your 90,000 word novel. Or rather, you have the manuscript for the first draft.

Photo by M. Valdes (CC)
Photo by M. Valdes (CC)

How long does writing 1,500 words take? That depends on who you ask, for me it’s less than an hour most days. There are times when it’ll take longer, days when the writing’s hard. We all have those days.

What does this simple math teach us? It’s pretty obvious, but I’ll spell it out anyway: Write every day, preferably at least 1,500 words.

This math is dangerous, because it’ll tempt you to consider what 2,000 words daily would mean (14,000 words weekly, 60,000 words monthly, just a month and a half until you reach the 90,000 words mark mentioned above). Or maybe 3,000 words (21,000 words weekly, 90,000 words monthly), some of us could crank that out on a daily basis right? These are tempting, yet dangerous, numbers. It’s all too easy to get lost there.

My advice: Pick a sensible daily word count, cut it down to 70%, and achieve it every day.

It’s as simple, and as hard, as that.

August 4, 2013

Four Days Of #MobNov

I’ve written 300+ words daily for four days straight, on my iPhone, and thus far the iPhone novel writing project that will be part of my everyday life for the coming six months is coming along nicely. Four days out of (up to) 184 is almost nothing, but I’ve made some initial observations:

  • 300 words daily is an easy target, which was the whole point.
  • Starting a new writing project is awarding, and thus I’ve written more than 300 words on the first days (594, 578, 747, and finally, 316 words today). I expect the word counts to normalize at between 300 and 400 words.
  • I’ll have to be careful not falling into the “lots of short chapters” trap, where each writing session turns out to be a chapter. This has been the case up until now, and might mean that the structure of the draft will need more work than usual when I’m done.
  • The outline is, as expected, crucial since every writing session is so short.

I’ll report back on the project in regular intervals, weekly to begin with (on Sundays, as you might’ve gathered). If you want daily updates, follow me on Twitter and/or App.net. The updates pertaining this projects are marked with the #MobNov hashtag.

August 2, 2013

Photo by snigl3t (CC)
Indecisiveness

Most writers know about indecisiveness. It’s what we have to face time and time again, be it while we’re working on an outline, writing the first draft, or editing our final manuscript. There’ll always be situations when we’re struggling to decide where to go next.

Photo by snigl3t (CC)
Photo by snigl3t (CC)

Personally, I think the worst indecisiveness you’ll face is what to do next, the next project. Being creative creatures, we tend to have quite a lot of ideas. Where to go next is hard since it means choosing between these brain children of our imaginations. It can be a crippling decision.

At times, the next project is obvious. Perhaps some outer factor have made the decision for you, like a contract with a publisher for example. That can be a good thing, it might feel like a lifesaver. It could also be suffocating in its own way, but at least there’s no indecisiveness to tackle, only your own discipline to get the job done.

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August 1, 2013

I’m Writing A Novel On My iPhone

That I love writing on my iPad, with the appropriate apps and accessories, is no secret. After all, I did write an ebook about it, called The Writer’s iPad, so it goes without saying.

I’m also an avid iPhone writer. Before this wonderful device came along, I managed to crank out the occasional draft on my dumbphones, something that was a lot less pleasant than today’s alternatives.

Writing on mobile devices, smartphones in this case, is nothing new. There’s been novels written using SMS and Twitter only, and there used to be things like this in Japan back in the day. There’s nothing groundbreaking about writing long form on a smartphone, a lot of friends and acquaintances rely on their iPhones and Androids for these things, much like I do. I’ve written a lot of shorter stuff on my iPhone myself, and thousands of emails, as well as parts of longer articles. Thanks to the wonderful world of cloud computing, I’ve been able to jump into documents as needed, getting work done using only my iPhone.  Read more →