Prioritizing Your Core Life Goals


As I’ve gone through my writing life, I’ve changed my process again and again. I don’t think any one process has ever been perfect. And that’s okay. The creative process should evolve, molding both to the project and adjusting to the constant changes in one’s own life.

I’ve written in coffee shops. I’ve composed stories at the breakfast bar in a trailer house, my roommate mixing me large glasses of Red Bull and Jägermeister, as I scribbled stories out onto blank paper. There was a time I even wrote while livestreaming on Twitch.

Sometimes my creative decisions were driven by the Muse, the bursting forth of prose in an endless flow that couldn’t stop for days and weeks at a time. But most of my decisions were for the sake of motivation and accountability. Writing in a coffee shop made me feel accountable because I was there, in a single place away from distractions. The environment of home with its chores and potential entertainments was not available, so I could focus on my work. Writing while live online helped me finally finish my book (click here to watch the moment I finished the zero draft of my novel).

But my process had to evolve. The coffee shop regulars – awesome people though they are – became a distraction as they chatted with me often enough that I found it hard to get into the flow. Twitch was instrumental in boosting me through the final sections of my novel (I was only making progress on short fiction at the time). But even minutes before I finished with my zero draft, my beard got insulted by troll in the chat 🧔. Twitch was endless distraction, sure, but at the time I needed accountability – eyes on me watching me write – more than I needed to be left alone.

I’m done with coffee shops and I’m done livestreaming. At least for now. And, to be honest, probably forever. One of the best things I’ve done in my life is to quit worrying about the side projects and to deep-focus on the core of what I want to be doing and who I want to be. The answer to the what and who of such self-introspection will be different for everybody, but for me, I want to be a novelist who knows about literature.

This isn’t to say that someday I won’t return to creating AuthorTube videos or can’t foresee myself delving into other creative or educational projects. I will if I feel I’ve mastered the essential things first. I value expertise. Always have. But I’ve never prioritized the pursuit of expertise until now.

I think that most of us do find it easier to check our email, boot up a video game, binge a bit of our favorite TV show, check the notifications on all of our social media accounts. I get it. The easier thing is always going to give us immediate satisfaction. Though it’s a short lived satisfaction, for sure.

At least you can spot those kind of distractions. But the easier things don’t always look like rest and relaxation. They sometimes look like work. Uou have to ask yourself, is what you’re doing really leading you toward your goal? Do the things you spend your time on align with what you most value, with the vision of your core life goals? You might argue that having a successful blog or YouTube channel is going to help you sell books when you finally write them. That may be true, but if it’s a book writer you want to be, are you spending 6 hours a day at the writing desk and 2 editing your videos? Are you spending an hour maintaining your author platforms and 4 at the writing desk? Or is it the other way around? Is the mastery you’re acquiring actually in line with your goals or is it a distraction? Is the way you spend your time an inverse of what you truly want?

Only you can answer that question.

I’ve had the rudiments of this blog post in my head for a while now, but I only got around to typing it today because I just finished the second chapter of my slice of life novel, freeing up some time for this. Yes, my devotion to my goals is extreme enough that I’ll even put off writing a little blog post in order to prioritize the core of my goals, making sure that they get done daily. That they get done first.

I know that my life is “blessed” in many ways. Though my job leaves me poor, it usually allows me 4 days a week that I can devote to writing. My handicap with technology – my inherent Ludditism – has actually made a life free of distractions easier. For around a decade I didn’t watch TV. For even longer than that I lacked any kind of video game console. After high school I never played a computer game. To this day, I do not own a so-called smartphone.

Yet, even with these advantages (advantages for me and my particular goals at least), putting one’s time toward the hard work of gaining mastery is not easy. Not at first, at least. Even for me, there’s so much that can please immediately, it’s rather a wonder that I ever managed to complete 3 books, 1 of which was published.

My process will evolve again as my life changes, as opportunities open and close, as my creative needs change. But right now, I have a great schedule that works for me. I found I love to-do lists but don’t do well when I try to micromanage by the hour. I’m not saying this schedule is what you should do; rather, I’m sharing it so that you can see how I prioritize writing and literature, which are the things important to me.

After breakfast: write my slice of life novel until lunch
After lunch: revise my brick of a novel (usually until 2 or 3 o’clock)
After writing: study literature (currently studying the history of literature)
After studying: do chores
After chores: play (most often I like to dive into my antique dictionary collection, find and catalog obsolete and archaic words I think are interesting; I believe play – something relaxing and fun for you – is important after working hard)
After supper: exercise (in the summer, this means a walk)
After exercise: read

As you can see, this schedule prioritizes writing first. Right now I have the new novel I’m writing and the draft manuscript of a novel I’m editing, so it’s easy to split these projects with a lunch break, giving me 4 or more hours of new writing and 2 to 3 hours of revision time. This is perfect because I find I can always sustain attention on fresh writing much longer than on editing and revision work.

My schedule prioritizes literary studies second. This is important to me and something I’ve wanted to know in more detail for a long time. So it’s the second major thing I do in my day after writing. If there’s one thing I’m unhappy with in my schedule, it’s that reading comes last. But I’ll be honest, I often get satisfied after a while of fun with my dictionaries and still have time to read before supper. Reading is like playing for me; some people might claim it’s my default mode. And of course there are occasional social calls and nights when reading is cut short to watch a movie or show with my wife. Yet after days, weeks, and months of a schedule prioritizing my core life goals, pursing them will be an established habit, a routine of success.

I am by no means a successful novelist right now. I am not an expert on literature or even what I’d consider knowledgeable. What I am though is one who gets that I’m not going to form a good habit, let alone succeed in my core life goals, if I prioritize my notifications or choose to continually says, “I’ll watch just one more YouTube video.” And, in fact, I’m just starting to understand that I won’t probably reach my life goals if I say “I’m going to do this other thing one or two days a week” or decide “I’ll spend just a few hours a day on this” instead of the core thing I desire, the actual books I want to write, the real knowledge I want to have. I will write all the hours I can first. I will study for as long as I can. Everything else comes after that. Nothing comes instead of these primary, essential, core goals.

So, what are your core life goals? What have you been prioritizing? Have they been the same things?

WIP Wednesday #8: Summer is here

Work in Progress

Summer finally breezed in on the 21st, and maybe with days of exceptional heat, I’ll actually feel like staying inside long enough to hop on the computer. I’ve probably only used this electronic contraption a handful of times since I last updated my website back in April. I admit, nice summer days may simply not permit me to touch so much as a smartphone. Reading and writing (pen & paper) outside is wonderful. And while I’ve spent much more time reading than writing, my time hasn’t been entirely unproductive (and I truly don’t consider reading unproductive; it just isn’t writing).

 

brick

I managed to get through the minor planned edits of my brick of a novel. I still have a small pile of sticky notes on my desk with major edits that I need to tackle. After completing those smaller edits, I realized I needed to let it rest longer, so I set it aside for all of May and June here and am only now starting to feel that I could potentially begin to grapple with The Brick again soon; though I’m not keen about screen time when it’s nice and sunny out, with the high contrast option I can at least see the screen outside. And, like I mentioned, the potential of weather in the upper 90’s might drive even me indoors.

quotation-marks

I finished (sort of) typing up my remaining dialogues . . . at least the ones I could find. Unfortunately, a few pieces went missing during the move. It’s likely that they’re in the house somewhere, but misfiled somehow. I’m not terribly worried. My wife has encouraged me to put off publishing a book of my dialogues until I have at least one more novel out in the world. The marketing makes sense to my mind; a collection of shorts is less likely to be bought and read than a novel, I believe, and I’ll have more luck getting a short story collection in bookstores if I have a publisher who is already selling my other book(s). When I feel like tackling the dialogues again, I’ll either need to find my missing stories, rewrite them from scratch, or write entirely new dialogues. Even if I do find the missing ones, it is possible I’ll write new dialogues while leaving some of the ones I wrote during my weekly challenge unpublished. Not all the dialogues came out great, which is fine for something like the writing challenge I gave myself.

Slice of Life

This spring I’ve gardened, finally finished setting up my library, and have given myself quite the to-do list for the first summer in our new home. And today I finished the outline for my next book. This is the first time I’ve outlined a novel. Descriptions of Heaven and The Brick both had notes with sentences and images, but little in the way of plot. For this book, I wanted a detailed outline; it’s a slice of life or day in the life piece following a young woman looking forward to a romantic connection. (Let’s call this new WIP Slice of Life for now.) While I’ve read that day in the life kind of books are frequently plotless, I felt that such a book needed to account for the order of events in a way that my other books, which cover large sweeps of time, did not need. Of course, I haven’t started writing the book yet, so this former “discovery writer” is about to discover if plotting will work for him or not. (I do expect it to work, BTW). If anything, finding that I’m not set in my process, but am flexible depending on the needs of the work, makes me hopeful that I can write more than one kind of book: tightly plotted or loose and digressive.

Let me know what you’re working on this summer, be it writing or roofing.

WIP Wednesday #7: Pandemical Output

Work in Progress

It seems that a lot of people are finding life hard right now. They’re stuck at home, can’t socialize, and many have other worries (lost jobs, long lines at food banks, bored children who can’t hang with their friends). This event—caused by the novel coronavirus, a biological entity spreading as a sickness known to the world by the name of COVID-19—as a sociological phenomena has affected me mildly. So I’ve been putting off writing anything about it here on my website (though my personal journal is full of reflections).

Little Girl Social Distancing Dolls
Capture from a video of my niece’s dolls social distancing in the yard.

One of the things that social distancing has taught me is that I don’t socialize. It really hasn’t changed my social life whatsoever. The biggest social difference is that I’m no longer meeting up with Mike for our working meetings (we’re creating scripts for a literary YouTube channel we hope to get off the ground at some point).  Although this itself doesn’t feel odd, since we only started doing them about 3 weeks before #SocialDistancing became a thing.

My wife, however, has been feeling the changes more acutely than I. She’s a school teacher, so she’s been working from home, doing Zoom video meetings regularly.
Iowa law does not currently allow virtual learning to count toward minimum hours required each school year. So my wife’s district has been creating voluntary homework. It’ll be corrected, but not graded, for those students who choose to do it (AKA for those kids whose parents make them do it).

Not Study Game
I must say, having Libby at home has been generally nice. While different, it does not feel particularly novel. After all, she is home pretty much all day during the summer. Summer just came early, while snow still kept repeatedly gracing the ground with its annoying clinginess. #FuckSnow #MeltAlready

We also happen to live in one of the few states without a mandatory stay-at-home order (and I work in Nebraska, which also lacks blanket pandemic measures). So things don’t feel as locked down as they probably do elsewhere in the country. The hotel I work at has slowed down quite a lot; it seemed the summer construction season was ramping up early before the virus appeared on our shores. Nevertheless, we’ve been holding our own. Also, because of our status as a housing facility, I think we’re considered essential business, so it’s likely that even if Pete Ricketts began implementing draconian measures to help save the lives of citizens under his governorship, our business would continue to operate as long as employees were staying healthy.
So if there’s financial hardship headed my family’s way, we’ve yet to see it. With the stimulus check landing in our savings account last week, we’re actually coming out ahead.

coming out ahead

I think the most stressing part of all this (outside of the copious amount of hand sanitizer and bleach water I’m using while at work) is seeing the president attempt to rewrite history, push conspiracy theories, cut off funding from WHO, and (most recently) make a call for citizens to rise up against state governments (specifically of Democrat governors; Republican led states doing the same thing aren’t the target of his presidential tweets).

Check out Randal's current sole political essay on Medium

This is highly distressing. It simply boggles my mind how such a horrible human being and incompetent “leader” can possibly be in charge right now.  With another weak Democratic candidate as the only option left (well, I guess we’ll see if the unofficial write-in-Bernie movement gets serious by the time November rolls around) I’m afraid it’ll be four more years of the Orange Buffoon. Hopefully his transparent ploy to save the economy by duping people into thinking it’s okay to get back to normal before the transmission rate gets close to zero (the Fed guidelines are only asking for a 2-week downward trend, which isn’t what health officials had suggested as a sign for reopening the economy). Of course, without adequate testing, there’s no way to know for sure if any place is ready. Is the trend really down or are our testing supplies in such inadequately short supply that we’re guessing based on wholly incomplete data? But the Liar in Chief continues to think the public and reporters are too dumb to realize that we don’t have enough tests. Only his ardent cult followers believe him and whatever tumbles out of the screen from Fox News (#fauxnews).

idiot in chief

And by the time this scheduled post goes up, who knows what other insane set of alternative facts or devastating decisions that Trump, the Great American Traitor, will let issue forth from his frog’s mouth.

Politics were slightly less stressful for me the first three weeks of social distancing at the beginning of March because I didn’t have time to catch more than a handful of soundbites on the radio. Why? because I was writing. Yes, I was actually writing quite a lot. I found a publisher for a piece called Christ Abyss and so began the process of taking a draft, adding and editing until it turned into a short novella or novelette. I sent it in to the transgressive publisher on the 31st, though I suspect it could have been better (a beta reader got back to me only recently with some great suggestions), but that was the deadline.  I don’t know if you’d term it a dark fantasy or horror fantasy or an anti-heaven tourism novel, but it’s not written for righteous among us.

badass Jesus

Whatever it is, it had my full attention for those three weeks—despite being just about done with draft 1 of my novel and having just downloaded new software for editing the video footage I filmed for a “Write with Me” style YouTube video.

Order of events: I wrote the damned novella, took a week off from everything except our new Nintendo Switch (okay, this is the other biggest change that the coronavirus has thus far brought to our lives; I haven’t owned a gaming system since 2005), and then finally finished draft 1 of the novel last Thursday. Yes siree, the zero draft I completed on December 3rd has finally been fully transferred into an edited digital first draft.

My goal was to write a sorta bigger book (no Moby Dick, but hopefully something bigger than the standard 80K). I thought I would probably hit somewhere between 120 to 126 thousand words for my first draft. My hope was to then expand this during my edits, adding scenes, better detail, etc. Then, in all likelihood, I would see it trimmed back down to about the original length after my future publisher’s editor got done hacking it to pieces revising it.

My final word count came to 173,499 words. That’s over 47 thousand more words than I expected to get. And I’d love to see this word count even higher when I get to work on draft 2. I don’t think I will see it rise more than 5 or 10 thousand words, but if for some reason I managed to add enough to get my #FutureMasterpiece above the 200K word mark, I’ll treat myself to a fancy steakhouse dinner (assuming the local steakhouses find the means and meat to reopen after America gets its herd immunity—I mean its mass vaccinations).

Steak (Simpsons)

My next task is to dive back into the remainder of my unedited dialogues. I’m sure that I’m waaay behind where I should have been with these, but that’s the writing life for ya. You get creatively distracted. You get bogged down by life or lifted away into a book (when will I learn that I can’t read fiction in the mornings if I want to get any writing done?). Your muse sometimes says you must muster your writerly might for more material matters (for example: an alliterative blog post).

I also don’t know how attentive I’ll be on my AuthorTube channel; whatever pleasure and practical gains I get from it can’t compare to the simple act of writing & creating story. On top of that, it begins to look nice enough out for sitting around outdoors in the evenings with a book. Maybe I’ll make a goal of one video a month for now (though don’t hold me to it). Other than putting off the unessential, I’ve also taken some stabs at starting a new novel. The proper way to begin is eluding me. What I think I need to do is actually sit down and plot this book. I’ve never plotted before. And since my attempts at not plotting this thing have petered out, it’s time I take the plunge into the twisty waters of plotting. Wish me the best of luck! #WriteOn

Please stay healthy, happy, & word-nerdy, Bookworms.

write on

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[An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that requiring online education was illegal in Iowa. This post was updated to reflect more accurate language around virtual education in this state.]

New Publication in Squawk Back

New Publication In Squawk Back

This one goes out to all the major Lit Nerds. It’s A Word Portrait of Gertrude Stein in the Style of Gertrude Stein’s Word Portraits, a biographical piece on that giant of Modernist Literature and woman who invented new ways to play with words. If you’re not familiar with her Word Portraits, go find some online. A word portrait is a “little prose vignette” or, as I describe it, an experimental biography.

Pablo Picasso -GertrudeStein

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

My own word portrait is both homage and fanboy imitation. Of all her writing, it’s these prose vignettes I turn to again and again for their charm, wit, and ironically vague exactness. It’s my hope that my Lit Nerd homage would at least please this patron of the arts. I know that it pleased Zak Block and the others at Squawk Back. It’s a good feeling when you’ve written something that you know needs to live up to that which it’s making direct nods to and someone believes in it enough to print it when they certainly could have published anything else. So thank you Squawk Back for believing my own Word Portrait to be of literary merit, even if it’s only homage and imitation of the literary giant I’m writing about.

The whole issue is free to read online, so go check it out to discover some of the coolest writing out there on the net.

Squawk Back March 15, 2020

plain of swords – New Publication

plain of swords

I’m so excited to announce that my first hard fantasy story plain of swords has been published in Outposts of Beyond. I call it my first hard fantasy because I have written some other things that are arguably fantasy-esque, such as Demon Zone, but nothing like this: We have a knight, a princess, and a dragon. But don’t expect this to be a straightforward tale either. It’s not really what you’d expect just from those details.

plain of swords is an experimental story. I try to indicate with the all lower-case title that this piece is approaching the conveyance of prose in an unusual way:

a plain of swords is made to kill. The knight surveys the glinting blades . . . crows swoop low . . . a daring game . . . “a death dance,” the locals say . . . a love affair with the polished edge and the gore of impaled pilgrims who have flung themselves from the cliffs above . . . a reenactment of Saint Leemarrow’s ancient miracle . . . only with less flying . . . yet just as much faith.

Outposts of Beyond

As you can see, it’s their January issue, but there was a delay at the printers, so it came out just last month (and I got my copy in the mail—check enclosed—just yesterday). This is also the last issue of Outposts of Beyond. I’m super happy to see that it’s a very reasonable price, only $9 USD. I think people spend more than that for coffee and cookies on the regular.

Image result for gif coffee and cookie

If sci-fi and fantasy isn’t your thing, I’ll understand you probably won’t buy it unless you’re a huge fan of mine (I see you waving your arm in the back there, Mom!). So if you’re really wanting to see the rest of the short story, you’ll have to purchase a copy of the magazine since I don’t know when I’ll have a collection coming out with plain of swords in it. Probably not anytime soon (though I certainly have been building a collection of stories which will include plain of swords).

Thanks for all the support, Bookworms. Let me know what you’ve been reading lately. If you’re a writer, me know what you’ve been working on and if you’re been writing outside your usual genres and how you experiment or keep it traditional within your own work.

Tarot 9 of sword

2020 Author Goals

2020 Author Goals.jpg

One of the things to remember when setting goals is that less is more. If I want more productivity, then I take more off my plate rather than add to it whilst budgeting my time into complex micro-amounts in an attempt to tackle it all. With this said, last year was a year of focusing on my novel. This year I want so much more. We’ll see if I can have a lot more without breaking my goal-setting rule of less is more.

Writing Goals. 
My goals for this year include editing my completed novel, editing my dialogues, and to work on two new novels.

Whoa, Randal, that’s way too much. When you said you wanted “so much more,” we didn’t expect your “more” to be that much more than last year.

Okay, yes, I admit this doesn’t look like a run-of-the-mill full plate, but an over-the-top heaping plate. However, I have a plan.

AnalogClock

Daily Routine.
I intend to tackle all of my writing goals this year by splitting my weekdays into two manageable chunks.

I really wanted to work on editing my dialogues last year, but I rarely got around to touching them. I think this is largely due to the fact that I intended to make evenings my editing time. These intentions were thwarted by my enjoyment of evening reading, chores, and spending time with my wonderful wife. So now I know that if I want to actually edit what I’ve written, I need to edit during the day.

The daily routine will consist of half writing and then half editing. I’ll spend half the time working on a new novel and then the other half of the day editing, using lunch as a mental reset button.
Writing_Habit
Specifics.
Starting next week, I’ll begin outlining a new novel. And, yes, I said outlining. I know what I want my next novel to be, and it’s going to require a little more plotting than the last two novels. We’ll see how this goes. I’m a little leery of plotting since I feel that the weakest parts of my last novel were the ones I most heavily outlined. In the end I may just plunge into composition, but I’m going to try and start with a framework if possible.

For editing, my priority is to finish typing up the hand-written zero draft of my recently completed novel. Once I’ve done that, I will set it aside and work on my dialogues, both so I can actually finish editing them and so that I can come back to my novel with fresh eyes.

YouTube Binge
Weekends.
I don’t always utilize weekends to their full advantage. I have a weekend job that—while not exactly a sinecure—gives me a lot of free time to devote to whatever I want. What I want most of the time is to binge YouTube. However, I also read, socialize, and even write during this time. In fact, everything I’ve ever written at work was published within days. So quality doesn’t seem to suffer. Still, the easier pleasure is YouTube, and I have freely indulged.

Adjusting how I use my weekends is perhaps my biggest 2020 author goal. The adjustment to my daily routine is simply a matter of learning to shift focus. Changing how I spend my time while at work on weekends is not just a shift of focus, but will be a total shift in behavior. I’ve trained myself pretty well at seeing weekends as a time to plug into the internet. Outside of livestreaming my writing, I pretty much avoid being online during the weekdays. If I avoid going online at home, I can avoid going online at work, right? Well, we’re about to find out how easy it is to retrain this lazy habit I’ve built for myself.

So what am I going to be doing with my weekends? Answer: I want to try an experiment.

You may have noticed that in my writing goals above I mentioned working on two novels. The experiment involves one of these.

An idea popped into my head shortly before Christmas for an experimental novel built around a refrain. This book is really calling to me to be written. I do feel it’s important to write something a bit more accessible, which is what my weekday novel will be; yet, I don’t think I should ignore this pull I feel towards this strange narrative. So in order to make sure I’m not just writing hard-to-sell experimental works, but also not ignoring my creative impulses, I’ll be working on the refrain book during the weekends.

The experimental part of this weekend project isn’t just the fact that it’s an “experimental” book. I am kind of comfortable with experimental writing at this point. For me, the experiment is to try and write a novel solely on the weekends and to also try and write the zero draft on my work computer, using something like Google Docs perhaps. I’m going digital on this one for convenience’ sake (no lugging my laptop, no forgetting a physical manuscript or flash drive).
creative flow
Social Media. 
To stream or not to stream, that is the question. 

Okay, so I finished writing my latest novel while livestreaming, which was really cool. But I’m not sure I want to continue to stream while I write.

Here’s what I like about streaming while writing:
1) It’s totally motivating to get in as many hours at the desk as possible.
2) I take shorter coffee breaks because I have an audience to entertain.
3) It’s a pretty unique thing to do.
4) By watching me write for hours and hours, I can hopefully inspire other creatives to devote time productively, helping them to quit their own procrastination by joining me while I write.

Here’s what I don’t like about streaming while writing:
1) I haven’t found a feasible way to use my standing desk while livestreaming, though this certainly isn’t an insurmountable problem, just a technical one.
2) The quality of my writing goes down due to distraction from my viewers.
3) While I am grateful for the viewers, especially my regulars, I am not actually reaching the audience of creatives (especially fellow writers) I am specifically creating content for, which in the ends means I am doing more chatting and much less actual writing than I’d like.
4) By far this is the biggest issue: I am struggling to get into the flow or the zone. I don’t think flow is necessary for writing—even good writing. However, flow not only feels good, it is a sign that one is in a state of intense concentration and growth. In some sense, it is necessary to be striving toward flow because this is the main signal of overcoming the obstacles of the kind of striving that makes you grow as a person. I believe that achieving this kind of flow is necessary to living well. But with people dropping by to chat and ask questions (and maybe even to donate a dollar or two), that flow state isn’t reached for me. If I’m not reaching a state of flow ever, it’s possible I’m failing to grow as an author and as a person.

It’s mainly due to the last point that I feel that my experiment with livestreaming while writing on Twitch is probably over. Nonetheless, I am entertaining an attempt at livestreaming on YouTube. The audience may be more receptive of things that failed to garner positive attention on Twitch, such as my silent writing streams. However, even with an audience of authors, I’ll still have an audience to engage with, meaning that flow isn’t likely going to be achieved.

Speaking of YouTube, I still want to keep making YouTube videos (aka: AuthorTube videos). It’s the addition of these kinds of social media projects that start to make my plate feel full. Luckily, I don’t feel like I’ll ever consider my main job to be creating video content, meaning that this can be done on an as-I-desire-to basis.

Mondays are usually a day off for me when it comes to writing. So I think that if I want to make a video, Monday will be great for recording and/or editing. I have a long way to go when it comes to creating good looking and sounding videos. Strangely, the YouTube video I uploaded looks and sounds fine when I play it on my laptop. But it doesn’t seem nearly as good when I play it on my work computer. So I have some more adjustments to make before I do my next recording. And while I don’t expect perfection of myself, I’m hoping that with each new video, the quality will continue to increase.

And, while I’m trying not to overdo it, I’m also still working on an educational YouTube concept. We have multiple people involved in this project, including an amateur filmmaker, so quality won’t be the issue it is with my personal videos. The biggest hurdle we have had is in the script writing.

We started out writing scripts for one conception for the show. The concept was fine, but as we continued to talk, the idea grew and became something else. Me and the other script writer were not satisfied with what we wrote for the new concept, so we tabled the idea for a long while. Well, I recently revamped the idea once again and will be writing a new script and presenting it sometime this month. There’s no guarantee that we’ll all like it and agree to green light the project, but I’m hopeful.

Like I said, this is possibly too much for my little mantra, but at the same time it’s something my best friend and I have wanted to do for a long time, and I can’t pass up the opportunity for collaboration—a rarity for book authors like me.

giving you books

Let’s see, editing two completed books, writing two new novels, plus creating content for two YouTube channels . . . Less is more. But more is also more. I’m giving you four books and (hopefully) some AuthorTube content. And I’m giving myself a reasonable schedule, which is why less is more is still my motto for productivity.

Please do let me know your 2020 author (or creative) goals. How do you manage your time? Have you been successful at reaching your goals in the past? Does the concept of less is more ring true for you? Let me know in the comments.

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Remembering to Celebrate Our Successes

Remembering to Celebrate Our Successes

Dear Blog Reader,

I am not going to troll you. This post is about my latest publication, Remembering to Celebrate Our Successes, which appeared in C.R.Y. yesterday. It’s an enjoyable piece if you read it blind. And I suggest you do. Below I’m going to be writing about the publication, so if you would rather not have spoilers, please click the link above and return here when you’re done.

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In the past month I had around 30 people follow me on Medium. Currently, I try to check out my followers and read something of theirs if they happen to be writers. Almost every single person who followed me was a writer, generally posting their articles rather than submitting to publishers who use Medium, a company that hosts the writings of both publishers and individual bloggers. Some of the authors were quite good. About 20, however, wrote what I can only describe as motivational copypasta. Maybe it is original writing, but the vague feel-good and self-improvement articles certainly lack any original ideas or spin.

I have found that since Medium created a paywall option for articles—meaning that writers are actually paid when their work is read—that tons of articles with clickbait titles, containing little of substance, have exploded on the host’s platform.  Remembering to Celebrate Our Successes is my response to this.

Derailment is the central image of this article. The piece starts out as another pro-tip for positivity, aimed at creatives and entrepreneurs. Your reading expectations are derailed when this motivational article turns into a story about the narrator’s celebration of his recently completed manuscript. Likewise the narrator’s own plans are derailed when his drug and alcohol-fueled night go awry.  In fact, the image of derailment, in the form of dilapidated boxcars sitting off the train tracks, sets the final scene of this story.

By the way, this is a story. I only wrote it to make it seem, at first, like a nonfiction article. The character is not me. He only shares a vague resemblance to me, including a common nickname, just as the story only shares a vague resemblance to all the motivational copypasta inundating Medium’s feed.

Anyway, I appreciate you giving my story a read. And don’t forget to celebrate your success while knowing that perfection in your plans is unattainable, and sometimes what you want is derailed by circumstances both within and out of your control.

Also, don’t write clickbait. Write something original.

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AuthorTube

 

AuthorTube

 

Hey Word Journeyers! I’ve been wanting to test the waters of the writing community on YouTube for some time now (AKA AuthorTube). However, between moving and livestreaming on Twitch while focusing on completing my novel, I just didn’t get around to it until today.

Well, I actually recorded the video yesterday. To be honest, I had some fancy video editing software and it was totally glitchy and broken. It wouldn’t load most of my recordings and those it did load wouldn’t preview my edits. Then suddenly we were shopping for a house, and I just put it off and put it off some more.

Yesterday (because my streaming software updated and wouldn’t work afterward, giving me some free time) I gave the fancy editing software one more try, even using newer recording equipment. Still no dice. So I downloaded the simpliest free video editing software I could find, and it worked. I can’t do anything terribly fancy, but I don’t need fancy for these videos, especially as a new member of the AuthorTube community.

Click here to watch Randal’s YouTube video:
Zero Draft Done

This first video for AuthorTube is on finishing the zero draft of my novel. I had uploaded an unboxing video when Descriptions of Heaven was released, and have since been a fairly active community member, commenting on a lot of my favorite videos.

The kinds of things I might make videos on include:

  • Writing updates
  • Publication announcements
  • Talking about the writing process
  • AuthorTube tags
  • Livestreams

I just want to thank everyone who does go out of their way to watch the video. And I double my thanks to anyone who likes and subscribes. I really appreciate it. I’m branching out beyond writing and getting my stories published because these kinds of things spark my creativity, not to mention it makes this isolated activity just a bit less lonely.

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WIP Wednesday #6: Zero draft DONE

Work in Progress

Ever watch an author finish writing his book?

Watch Literally writing the last pages of my novel. from RandalEldonGreene on www.twitch.tv

If you clicked my video above, now you have. 

Finishing the book took me a bit longer than I expected. Buying a new house, moving in mid-October, setting up the office, and learning how to begin “professional” livestreaming all took time away from actual writing. But actually write I did, and the book was finished yesterday.

writing with pen

My novel technically began in early 2007, as an idea. It had a lengthy seven-year gestation period before the first words of the book were born. I actually started writing it around September of 2014. So it’s been five years in the making, around twelve years total from concept to paper-draft completion. In time since writing began I got a girlfriend, moved into a rental house, got married, wrote a short story collection, became a first time home buyer, had something like 24 short creative pieces published, and saw my first novel printed by a small press.

decluttering desk

The plan today is to begin typing up my zero draft. First, I’m going to tidy up the chaotic mess that is my desk. I think there is such a thing as creative chaos, and the tendency towards this in my writing space seems to affirm it as a fact. But periodic cleaning is a good thing for focus. And a good time for decluttering is the start of a new chapter. This certainly counts as one for me.

I’m still making small adjustments to my process. This includes how and when I livestream my writing to how and when I work on what. For example, I’ve been putting off my dialogues for a long while now. The novel was imperative. And, truly, it still is. But I need to finish editing my collection of creative conversations sooner than later. What I think I will do is set aside certain hours of a specific day to focus on that and other short fiction projects.
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Livestreaming itself has been an interesting experience. I feel like maybe I should move the livestream to YouTube where there is an existent community of authors and writers. I may attempt a trial of  this in the near future. I’d also like to try making some videos for AuthorTube and see how that goes.

As for livestreaming on Twitch, I’ve found that most Twitch people aren’t there to write, even if they want to hang on my stream. For this reason, my most popular streams have been ones where I’m chatting. Chatting while writing is, naturally, distracting. So I’m adjusting my schedule to make sure I consistently do silent writing streams and also give myself more hours of “private” writing sessions (you know, just regular writing, not in front of a camera). So some of my streams are going to be starting later to make sure my writing isn’t overly interrupted by social sessions. In other words, writing comes first; the stream is there to build community by encourage others and myself to keep at it.
whiksey
I’m also encouraging donations with a Whiskey Wednesday stream, where I’ll be imbibing a drink or two during the writing session. There’s a nicely placed whiskey fund tip jar for those willing to subscribe or donate to the cause of writing drunk and editing sober.

How long will this novel take to edit? That is simply something I cannot be sure of at this juncture. Hopefully less than a year. During the writing of this book, I’ve learned not only a lot about how I write, but how my body desires to write and desires to not write. I don’t experience writer’s block, but I do experience distraction, excuses, the easy pleasures the TV screen and of a book (“just one more chapter” becoming an all-morning read). So in the next phase of this novel, I’ll probably be learning a lot about how I edit something this lengthy. Certainly, I have ample experience editing short fiction, and even my first short novel, but this manuscript is sure to both test and teach me.

It’s a test and a learning experience I’m looking forward to.

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Twitch it up this NaNoWriMo

Twitch it up this NaNoWriMo

Hey, bookworms, authors, and NaNoWriMo participants!

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Whether or not you’ll actually be doing NaNoWriMo this month, sometimes having a writing partner is nice. Because of scheduling conflicts, lack of a local writing community, medical issues, or many other reasons, it’s not always possible to find those real life writing partners. One of the alternatives is an online writing community.

We have technology

I’m a huge fan of the YouTube author community (AKA AuthorTube). However, live writing sessions are spotty at best, even if there’s tons of quality entertainment, advice, and inspirational videos for writers. That’s why for many of my mornings these past months, I’ve been chatting live with writers on Twitch. The Twitch writing community is smaller (much smaller), but it’s been giving me something I’ve been wanting: writing partners.

Twitch VS YouTube

I’ve been enjoying it so much, that I spent this week learning how to livestream with Twitch. I took a lot of time before this to think about the Twitch writing community and ponder what I could bring to it. There are streamers who work with their chat to write a story together, streamers who put their screen up so viewers can see exactly what they’re working on, and others (my favorite kind) who chat and do writing sprints.

Writing Sprint

The one major concern I’ve had as I’ve joined in on livestreams is the same exact concern I have every time I’ve decided to boot up the computer while writing: distraction. But I found that the Twitch writing community is, by and large, motivating. Writers actually writing, authors discussing the writing process, book lovers talking about books, and people forming friendships and connections during livestreams have all helped grease my writing gears.

What’s been distracting is the noise.

Noise Noise Noise

By noise, I mean that when I’m really ready to get into it, I have to silence the screen (or at least turn the volume down really low because it’s not nice to mute a Twitch streamer since you won’t count as a viewer on that platform if you mute the stream, and view count is important for streamers). Noise is obviously not a problem for most people who are looking for writing livestreams. But for some (like me) I’m sure it is. I want the community and the company while I write. But I could do without the music many streamers play in the background, plus the auditory chatting from the streamer can become distracting.

While a chatty streamer works for a lot of writers, it doesn’t work for this author. Thus, why I put that volume scroll way down, almost at mute, after a while. But this got me thinking that maybe what I can give to the Twitch writing community is a silent writing stream.

white mute button

So I introduce to you, my Twitch channel. It’s not all silent. Just the middle hours are. There’s author talk time both before and after the writing session.

I’m super excited to see all the NaNoWriMo writers looking for a live (and streamable) writing community while they work on their books. And if you’re not a part of NaNo, that’s great too. I’m not participating myself this year; instead I’ll be finishing up the last sections of my novel-in-progress. So all writers are invited. I stream early mornings to early afternoons. The goal is to be online by 8am, Central Standard Time most Tuesdays through Fridays.

Let me know if you can make it to the stream and comment below with what you’re working on this November. Write on!

Randal Eldon Greene Twitch Stream