Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Writing Every Day

I seldom write every day.  I have too many other things I'm interested, not counting family and friends.  I do write five days per week, and, when deadlines press, six days per week.  This said, I can write seven days per week, and have for extended periods.  Because I don't write seven days per week, I seldom comment when I hear other writers say they can't write every day.  Sometimes they have reason, be it bad health, or a sixty hour per week job, along with a family that needs time, though I know writers who live under these circumstances and still write every day.

Here's the problem.  Over the last few months, I've encountered more than a dozen writers who say the can't write every day because it's too hard. Or because they can't be creative that often.  Or because it makes writing seem too much like work.  They all have plenty of spare time each day, but they just can't write that often.  (Work seems to be the worst four letter word in the world now.  the F-bomb is no longer even a firecracker, but "work" is a horrible work.)

Well, fine.  As I said, I write only five days per week.  Inquiry, however, showed these writers don't write five days per week.  Or even three days per week, on anything like a regular basis.  They. Just. Can't. Do. It.

I've decided I no longer want to hear it.  If you happen to be one of these writers, yes, you can write seven days per week.  Or five, as I do.  But you can write seven days per week, and so can I.  The difference is I don't pretend I can't.  I don't care if it makes writing seem like work.  When you decided to be a writer, decided you wanted to sell what you write, writing became work.  That's just how it is.  Work is not a dirty word.  Work is a blessed word, the way we live, the way we prosper, the way we build, the way we survive.

Writing should be fun.  This does not mean it isn't work.  This does not mean there won't be times when it takes everything you have in you to sit down and be creative when you're sick, or dead tired, or depressed.  It does mean that the day it also stops being fun, you're thinking about all the wrong things when you're sitting there writing.  It means you're think about rejections, or the odds of ever selling anything, or any one of a hundred other things.  It means you are not thinking about the one thing that matters, which is simply telling a story.  When telling a story stops being fun, uninstall your word processor and find another way of filling your time.

And when work becomes something you don't want to do, don't enjoy, just give up on everything.  You're either lazy or pampered.  Work does not mean bad, and hard does not mean bad.  If you only want to write as a hobby, by all means, laze away.  When, however, you decide you want to be a writer, want to sell what you write, stop whining.  At least to me.  You've got it easy.  Half the world would kill to have it half as easy.  Most of the other half would at least maim, if not kill.

If you don't want to write every day, then don't.  If you don't want to write at all, then quit.  No one will miss you or your writing.  Either way, stop trying to tell me about it.  I'm not going to help you justify your laziness, your pampered life, your disappointment, or anything else.  If this were an easy business, anyone could do it.  How much fun would that be?  It isn't easy, it work, it's hard, it's frustrating, it's disappointing, just like everything else that's a business.  And selling your writing is ALWAYS a business.  So get over it.  Sit down and write, or do not expect me to nod my head and agree with your sad, sad story.  I'm not going to do it.


James A. Ritchie

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Finally Back

Well, it's been a long, long time since I made a post here, but there have been reasons.  First, we lost Comcast for more than two months.  Three, if you count a month of totally unusable service.  We thought about switching providers during this period, but found no alternatives where we live, which is boondocks central.

On top of this, we lost both computers within a week.  Lost completely.  Both blew motherboards and hard drives.  Neither was worth repairing.  I don't know what the odds of this are, but it happened.  We had plenty of time to make a decision about new computers because my work load right now has been all offline, and off computer.  Most know I write the large majority of first drafts longhand, and that's what I've spent the last few months doing.  Everything I wanted to do online, mostly making forum posts and doing research, was easy enough to do with a cell phone.  Trying to post here with a cell phone did not work at all, so I gave up after two attempts.

Money has been the real problem.  It's been scarce since my heart attacks.  Even with good insurance, we still went through our savings.  All of it.  So the choice has been buy cheap, or go in hock for something expensive.  About three weeks ago, we reached the point, or I did, where we had to make a decision.  I had reams of work built up in longhand, and deadlines looming.  You can't rebuild savings by going n hock, so we decided to buy cheap now, and save for expensive computers later.  We started shopping around, decided on a pair of Asus laptops, and paid cash.  I'm just now running them through the tests, but so far, so good.  They have a one year warranty, and should keep us going until we can afford to pay cash for bigger, better computers.

I've already learned I hate Windows 8.1, but other than this, I'm impressed with these computers so far.  And I'll probably update them to Windows 10 when the release is made public. 

I really shouldn't be very hard to impress.  My first computer used those huge floppy disks, and stored only about fifty pages of writing.  My first "modern" work computer, top of the line at the time,  had a four gig hard drive,  and the OS required two gigs of hard drive space.  But even with only two gigs to play with, I never filled it.  Yet it cost something over $1,200, which was a lot of money back then.  These Asus computers cost $249 each, have four gigs of ram, a five hundred gig hard drive, and a fifteen and a half inch screen.   A massively more powerful computer for twenty percent of the cost.  That's progress.

My wife needs a bigger, faster computer for some of her later in life activities, but who knows, if it doesn't break easily, this cheap Asus may prove to be all I need for writing?   I've always bought top of the line, but maybe that's no longer necessary?  We'll see. 

I'm certainly going to put it through the test over the next month or so.  I really do have a massive stack of longhand that needs transcribed, and I start on it tomorrow morning. 

Anyway, we now have Comcast back, and they even paid us for the months without service.  I have a computer, and all, so far, is well with the world.


James A. Ritchie

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Comcast Is Truly Evil.

.Writing for Monday,  2,131 words.  Tuesday  1,295, Wednesday  991 words,  Thursday  1,021  words,  Friday, 1,903 words.

Writing for year:  12,915 words.

Writing goal for year:  375,000 words.


Comcast is truly evil.  I’ve tried to make a post here fifty times this week, but my blogging software has timed out every last time.  I’ve been able to get on forums a bit, but I have to click on a thread, wait five  minutes, and then do the same for anything in the thread.  Making a post takes even longer. Research has been almost impossible, and my writing has been slower this week because of this.  It has not been fun.  Comcast says they can’t find the problem, but one tech I’ve known a few years told me it’s an area wide problem, and he thinks more than one thing is wrong, which is why they’re having trouble getting everything up and running right.  Something has to be done, but darned if I know what.

At any rate, I’m more or less combining this week’s posts.  I’ll keep trying to post this one until it goes through, which I think should happen sometime today.  I seem to be getting just a touch more speed, though it’s still unbelievably slow and unreliable.

But, writing for the week.  Worked on “Second Time Around” on Monday, and again on Tuesday, and finished it  after about seven hours of writing on Tuesday.  At least four of those hours were spent waiting for research material to come up on the web.   I thought the story would finish not too far from six thousand words, but I didn’t expect to to hit it exactly, but that’s what I did. 

On Wednesday I started and finished a piece of flash fiction called “Eternal Love”.   It came in at nine hundred and ninety-one words.   I’m not sure what genre it falls under.  Psychological thriller, more than likely.  This, at least will be where I start submitting it.

On Thursday, I started write a crime story called “Cold October Wind”,  This is a new story, but with an old title.  So is “Eternal Love”, for that matter.  When I really like a title, I tend to keep using it until a story with the title attached actually sells.  Again, I spent too much time trying to do research, so it took the full five hours to write the 1,021 words.    Yesterday, Friday, went a little bit better.  I wrote 1,903 words in my five hours, and finished the story.

So far, so good, all things considered.  I am falling a little bit behind because of the internet problems, but not badly so.  I need to average 31,250 words per month, or 7,212 words per week.   Or, to be even more exact, I need to average 1,660 words per writing day.  If the math doesn’t sound right, it’s because of vacation time.  Just like any profession, I think its a good idea for a writer to take scheduled time off, to actually take a vacation or two in order to refill the well, to recharge the batteries, to seed the imagination, or whatever analogy you prefer.  While it seldom works out in the real world because of deadlines, or editor requests I can’t refuse, or something else, my goal is always to write two hundred and twenty-six days per year. 

This means weekends off, two vacations per year of two weeks each, and about a week off at Christmas.  This is a pace that lets me get quite a bit of writing done, but that also lets me pursue other interests, and lets me recharge, refill, seed, etc. Chances are excellent that I’ll go over this by twenty days or so,  but rather than letting the extra days cut into vacation time, I work on some Saturdays, and the occasional Sunday.

I have a few projects scheduled for this year, but I’m doing a lot of free floating right now.  The huge amount of nonfiction and business writing I had to do last year left little time for thinking about fiction this years.  I know one of my pseudonyms has to write an MG novel, and i know I want to write a western novel.  Or maybe just chapters and an outline.  Other than this, I’m not at all sure.  I do want to write more short stories than I did last year, but I think I’m mostly going to relax for a change, and just write whatever pops into my head.


Sincerely Yours,

James A. Ritchie

Friday, January 2, 2015

Day Two Train Wreck.

Writing for today: 2,574 words.
Writing for year: 5,574 words.
Today’s project: Short story entitled  “The Second Time Around”.
Writing goal for year:  375,000 words.

Train wreck describes this day perfectly.  Managed to get in my five hours of writing, but it took about twelve hours to manage it.  Part of the problem was needing lab work, and having to make an unexpected drive out of town, part of it was Comcast internet going on the fritz again, and part of it was unexpected company.  Not one of the best days I’ve ever had, and the year is just getting started.  Comcast is also why this didn’t get published yesterday.  Our home Comcast internet is supposed to deliver fifty megs per second, and right now we’re getting about one.  It’s ridiculous, but it’s the only high speed internet available where we live.
Anyway, despite the hectic mess, I started another mystery short story entitled “The Second Time Around”.  Wrote 2,574 words of it, but this one is going to go twice this long, and may finish somewhere close to 6,000 words, so I probably won’t finish it tomorrow.   In fact, tomorrow is Saturday, and the first weekend of the NFL playoffs, so I won’t write at all.  I’ll get back to this story Monday morning, but probably won’t finish it until Tuesday.
I did notice I failed to put my writing goal for the year in yesterday’s  post, so I’ve corrected it here.  It’s an extremely modest goal, but even this may be very difficult to achieve.  As much as I’d like to think otherwise, sometimes life can get in the way of writing.  I do believe there’s seldom, very seldom, a reason to let life stop  a writer from getting a decent amount of fiction written, but there are reasons to let life slow you down a bit.  Some of these reasons are good, some few are wonderful, some are bad, and some are catastrophic, but nothing short of death, or a truly horrible accident or disease, should stop a writer completely. 
Many writers know about NaNoWriMo, a challenge of writing fifty thousand words during the month of November.   Writers panic, write pure crap, copy and paste, and find all sorts of ways of saying they’ve accomplished this task, but, in truth, fifty thousand words in a month is not very fast, even for someone with a nine to five job and kids.    It’s 1,667 words per day.  Wow!  This coming year is likely to be one of my most challenging years for a fair number of reasons, which means I’m likely to get very little written.  By “very little”, I mean 375,000 words.  I write only five days per week, and only forty-eight weeks per year, so this works out to 1,669 words per day, which converts to doing NaNoWriMo  each and every month, but with only twenty or twenty-one days writing.  This is sloooooowww.
I wish more new writers would get over the speed problem.   Slow does not produce better writing, and if you aren’t average at least a thousand words per day, all year long, you’d better be in your death bed.   One good writer to read on this front is Dean Wesley Smith.  His blog shows how much you can do away from writing, and still get an amazing number of words written in a year.
Gotta run.  Have much left to do tonight, and little time to get to it.
James A. Ritchie

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Start.

Writing for today: 3,000 words.

Writing for year: 3,000 words.

Today’s project: Short story entitled “Dickens of a Tale”.


As much as I hated doing so, I had to abandon this blog early last year, and for all sorts of reasons, most of them serious.  I had some health problems I talked about, such as a torn meniscus in my right knee, with accompanying surgery,  and some I didn’t talk about, and won’t. 

I also had a year of writing very little fiction, and somehow such things as letters to politicians, company brochures, and inventory reports did not seem like fun things to put in a blog.  These thing are, however, primarily behind me now, I’m completely caught up on the slave writing, and so can concentrate on my own stories, and those of my pseudonyms.  There’s still the problem of how to do this without giving away my pseudonyms, or violating a contract, but I’ve decided there’s nothing wrong with talking about writing in general, about books I read, and about keeping a daily word count of how one writer works.  So that’s what I’ll do.

With one caveat.  The writing of such things as inventory reports is all behind me, but for a number of reasons, I’m unlikely to write quite as much, or quite as often,  this year as I usually would.  I’m getting older, I have some things to do this year that will likely get in the way of writing now and then, and I have such lovely things as thrice weekly physical therapy to occupy and enliven my life. Joy.  Or, I may write even more than usual.  It depends on how things work out.  I’m not going to sweat it, one way or the other.  I’ve been at this for thirty-five years, I’ve paid my dues, and all things bow to time. 

I usually do no writing at all from a day or two or three before Christmas, depending on the day of the week it falls on, until the second of January,  It’s a busy period, and a time I use to refill my well. . .a small vacation, I guess.  And I’m usually tired on the first.  I doubt I’ve done anything that could qualify as partying more than three or four time in my life on New Year’s Eve, but I've stayed awake to see the New Year arrive since I was twelve, and did so again last night.  At midnight, my traditional habit has been to go out and empty a shotgun in the air, but these last few years I’ve been content to step outside with a cup of coffee and listen to all the other revelers fire off their shotguns.  I live on the outskirts of a small city,  population just under 18,000, scattered out over about seven square miles.  I typically hear forty or fifty gunshots from my location, but heard at least twice this many last night.  This, I think, is a good thing.

Any, I broke my custom today and actually did get a full five hours of writing done.  Or rewriting, in a way.  About seven years ago, I wrote a mystery short story called “A Dickens of a Tale”.  I didn’t like it, and for once my opinion was justified.  I submitted it to every possible market I could find, and all rejected it.  Not one editor even suggested a rewrite.  Eventually, I ran completely out of markets and shelved the thing.  Then, about three years ago, I tossed the hardcopy and deleted the story from my computer.    But it’s a story that wouldn’t leave me alone.  Or the basic premise wouldn’t leave me alone.  Then, last Sunday, while watching football, it popped into my head again, and I knew I really wanted to write a new version.  

I started writing about nine this morning, and wrote until eleven thirty, getting about 1,500 words organized into appropriate sentence.  Then I broke for an hour and half for lunch and a too short walk out in the brutal north wind, started writing again about one, and added another 1,500 words by three thirty, finishing the story.   This version is a thousand words shorter than the original, but it’s richer in detail, has a much better protagonist, and a better storyline.   I’m still afraid this is going to be one of those stories that never sell because it isn’t your usual mystery, it does not have a typical protagonist, and I’m not even sure it’s believable.   I do, however, think it’s a heck of a lot better than the first version was.  I’ll get it into submission in a day or four, as soon as I figure out where the heck to start, and we’ll see how it goes.


James A. Ritchie