Monday, August 13, 2012

Visual Storyboarding: Accountability

So - I am woefully behind on my last installment of the Visual Storyboarding series. I'll spare you the excuses, or if you want to know precisely why I haven't done more than flash fiction here in a good while, you can visit my Beauty of Painful Grit post.

Recently, I've tried to practice what I've been preaching to all of you since my blog first started in late September 2011. After months of lecturing on how to write, what to do, and not do, I've made it a priority to put my money where my mouth is. I've been writing - serious rewrites on Castle 8, and expanding my suddenly-hello-here-I-am-you-ought-to-write-me manuscript idea for Welsan.

But it's easy to get discouraged when you're writing bits and pieces every day, and your characters argue with you, or simply won't cooperate. So I figured out a way to help me overcome the doubt that so often bogs us down.

This is what I would rather be doing all day.

I have so many jobs, and so many demands on my time, that making time to write is difficult. Of course, we could all say that - life in the 21st century is an ongoing cautionary lesson on the cannibalistic principle of busy-ness. Our lives eat us alive, and with it most (if not all) of our creative energy. That's the very real threat, at any rate.

My writing funk came from knowing that I was doing a lot of writing - A LOT of writing - and yet very little of it was showing up in my manuscript. It was a horrible feeling to think that I was writing my fingers off and had "nothing" to show for it.

I was also discouraged because, a couple years ago, I and a few writing friends made it our mantra to write a minimum of 500 words a day. The ugly truth finally hit home: 500/day just wasn't a feasible goal for me. It felt more like a hollow ritual that somehow had me by the neck.

So one day in mid-May I stopped, and took inventory of my writing life.

I thought about how much blogging I do. That I had been trying to get back into more flash fiction. That I was spending a chunk of time each month beta-reading for friends who are on the same road to publication that I am.

It wasn't that I hadn't invested in my love, I realized. I had lost track of how I invested in that love.

My accountability calendar. This is now as routine for me as brushing my teeth.

Pictured above is my personal solution to that quandry - and, as you might expect, it's a very visual way to keep track. But I am a very visual person, so this is what works for me.

If you study the above photograph, you will detect several patterns to how I "keep track":

     * I always note the starting word count, and ending word count on my manuscript each day.
     * I then figure the difference and note the total word count in the box at the top of the day.
     * Negative word counts are considered progress 
     * Other things noted as writing progress:
          - flash fiction opportunities (Menage Monday, Five Sentence Fiction, Write4Ten)
          - posting said flash fiction on my blog, or other blog posting activity
          - beta-reading for someone else
          - those evenings spent doing significant networking on Twitter

Keeping track of my writing in this fashion didn't make a lot of sense for the first few weeks, but now that I've been at it a couple months I'm detecting distinct patterns. I've learned that:

     * Up to three non-writing days in a week is fairly average for me. 
     * I tend to write more toward the end of the week.
     * Getting anything written on Monday is nothing short of miraculous most weeks.
     * When I make time to read, I am more likely to make time to write

In recent weeks I've seen several bloggers sound off on the "Don't count your words - make your words count" saying, and similar axioms. I must say I am inclined to agree. I also think the age-old advice to "write every day, regardless" is also worth its weight in gold.

Obviously writing isn't going to happen EVERY day - see my calendar as proof of this - but if the habit of writing every day is there, and the accountability to boot - then the dream moves forward.

Not by leaps and bounds, perhaps, but forward movement is all any writer ultimately needs.

How do you make your words count? How do you hold yourself accountable for your dream?
Let me know in the comments!

And as always - thanks for reading!!

If you missed the earlier Visual Storyboarding episodes, you can follow these links to catch up:

     PART ONE: Storyboarding vs Mere Plotting

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