Word Splurge: Measuring Productivity Tool and Tips

Hey there. Fairly short post today, since I need to get writing. I’m past my hour allotted for the day for the internet.

Part of why I’m excited to get writing is because progress has been good. It’s been a long time since I broke the 10k mark in a week, let alone in one day’s worth of writing, but last week I did just that. And I think I owe part of it to a) remembering part of the method that usually works for me but which for some reason I seem to randomly forget, and b) my nifty new word count tracking sheet.

This is something I learned about at the latest conference, and with the hubby’s help, created my own. The original purpose is to track how long it takes you to complete a book by tracking your progress consistently. But, as a side benefit, it also helps you see how you’re meeting your daily and weekly goals, and your progress along the book. I’m not sure why, but seeing that you’ve only completed 35% of the day’s goals rather than just knowing that you haven’t met the daily goal does seem to make a difference.

I’ve included a little picture of it; not sure how it will turn out. Sorry – for some reason, it wants to appear incredibly blurry and tiny. If you click on it, it opens in a new window and is easier to see.

Okay, so the headings you want are: your dates, your starting word count, the end word count for the date, total word count for the day, and then it breaks this down into percentages complete. At the top, you enter the WIP title, along with your goals: daily and “stretch” goals – the “stretch” is, if you’re having a great day, what can you keep pushing for? Then you have the weekly and total goals (the total goal equaling the completed manuscript size).  If you prefer counting pages rather than words, than just change word count to beginning page count, end word count, etc, etc.

What else did I forget to do that I had been doing in previous manuscripts?

  1. slightly more detailed plotting (I can’t just start writing with no direction; it only creates a mess in the end for me.)
  2. music – listening to some favorite music helps speed through the time, I think, as well as distract my brain from … well, distractions. I know I can’t listen to anything with words, but maybe it isn’t a problem for you.
  3. push harder and demand focus. “Good enough” will only get you so far; you have to keep demanding more of yourself, because who else will?

Anyway, sorry again it’s so blurry. If you’re interested in seeing it closer, the file is here for you to check out: Wordcount

Enjoy, and may your word counts be prodigious!

Getting Shifty: On Werewolves and other Shifters

Yes, you can definitely put me down on the werewolf side vs vampires; I’ve always had a quesy thing about blood – especially when it’s my own. And really, are vampires dead or not? “Undead” just doesn’t seem fair, since essentially they’re an animated corpse.

Anyway, I’m not interested in mud-slinging at the vampires – they’re all well and good – but rather, explain my own fascination with the top 10 reasons werewolves and other were-creatures reign supreme in my world.

  1. Warm-blooded.Often, actually hot-blooded. Animals run a bit warmer than we do, and since I’m perpetually chilly, having someone warm to snuggle with totally wins points.
  2. Animal instincts. Whereas vampires can be seen as cold and controlling, werewolves and other weres are more prone to follow their animal instincts, whether this means giving in to lust, fury, you name it; as a control-freak who rarely lets go, this is somewhat appealing to me.
  3. Variety. Yes, there are certainly varieties of vampires, but were-creatures open up a wide spectrum of possibility. There are were-wolves, were-panthers, were-cows (yes, really), were-you-name-it. When you come into some northern european myth, you have the possibility of man connecting with any kind of animal he or she desires … although sometimes they have to be a witch to do so.
  4. Grace. Ever watch a wolf or cat in action? ‘Nuff said.
  5. Muscle. Yes, I write romances, and when you live on only a liquid diet, well, you seem to get all pale and sickly. What about some muscle? Whether bulked or sleek, there’s muscle tone there most of us can only dream of.
  6. Freedom from human society’s rules. Indeed, this can be “to a point,” but have you ever been so infuriated with someone you wish you were young or stupid enough to just smack them? Especially when in animal form, were-creatures don’t have to follow the same rules. Have a beef with someone? Have it out with them (though hopefully only if they’re another were and therefore equal in strength and fury).
  7. Magic.  However your were-creature transforms, there’s definitely more than a touch of magic there; what could be better than that?
  8. Superhuman. Depending on the myth, this could mean simply addition of some animal senses / abilities to a normal human skill-set, or could be as much as immortality because of involvement with the magical world. Either way, pretty darn intriguing.
  9. Re-insertion of equality between man and animal. While not all men are animals (at least, not technically), it doesn’t seem any better than humans hold themselves as better than a much larger variety of creatures who are better able to live and adapt to this planet rather than just destroying and stomping all over it. Just saying.
  10. Examination of what it really means to be human. I know, it’s ironic that my favorite thing about were-creatures is how their humanity affects them, but sometimes humanity is best viewed and interpreted with a bit more of an outsider-viewpoint; after all, we’re all pretty close to it as humans ourselves.

So, what about you – vamps, or werewolves? Something else entirely? Do comment below. Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

A Little Body-Stealing, Please: Possession sans demons

Good morning. Today  I thought I’d share the results of some of my research, since when I originally looked online, I found nadda, nilche, zero for body thieves / jumpers or human possession that didn’t involve demons or spirits. The yield of my research also remains somewhat unsatisfactory, so unless you can provide other hints / suggestions, I’ll probably go with a variation of one of these creatures.

So, while it’s fairly easy to find creatures that either manifest themselves to appear human, and demons and spirits have the greatest reputation for human possession, I wanted something different.

First up are the Spitters. These creatures originate in the Philippines / Pacific Islands. There are said to be 8 of these spirits who take charge of the newly dead. If one of them spits on a healthy person, that person will fall ill with grave disease, probably leprosy. They can be guarded against by two other spirits known as Tudong and Yungayung.

  • these are interesting simply for the idea that they take charge of the newly dead (which fits into a plot concept I’m working with); the problem: not direct possession.

Next we have the Baitel. This is an Indian vampire, and the term baitel succeeded the older term of “Vetala” – which basically translates to vampire. These are supposed to be evil, mischievous spirits that inhabits and reanimates corpses. It’s true form is half man, half bat, and stands about 4-5′ tall.

  • again, not perfect, and I believe there was something about them consuming the energies of the corpse – not sure what’s left of a corpse, but it is human possession … kind of.

Then we have the empusa. This is a Greek demonic vampire spirit, though its actually a demon that takes over a corpse and (somehow) is not considered the walking dead. It has no shape of its own, but appears as a foul phantom in various disguises, sometimes in the form of an alluring young woman. It enters the body of the human prey to consume its flesh and drink blood.

  • still not perfect, but definitely possession. And no, I don’t know either why it isn’t considered the walking dead – if you do know, please share!

Finally, we have the erestun. This is a Russian creature, a variant of the Eretik. It’s an ordinary person who, while dying or just after dying, has his body invaded by an evil, living sorcerer (or heretic – interchangeable in the myth evidently). Don’t worry too much about this happening to you unless you’re a villain, robber, or otherwise depraved, as these are the favored victims. The transformed sorcerer becomes a living vampire after the possession, though maintains the outward appearance of a good peasant, carrying out vampiric activity in secret.

  • this one may have the most potential, since it appears that other than carrying out alleged vampiric activity in secret (really, what other way would you want to do it?), the outward person remains above suspect. Perhaps, if they’re also a “good peasant” and formerly a villain, robber, or depraved individual, this could actually make them better people.

So, what do you think: any good contenders for possession that doesn’t require either demons or ghosts? Please share if you have any other suggestions or know of any other legends.

And, if you’re interested, the sources I used primarily were:

The Dictionary of Mythology. J.A. Coleman

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. Rosemary  Ellen Guiley

Happy hunting, and thanks for reading! 🙂

Inspired and Rearing to Go: Lessons Learned at Conference

As I write this, I’ve only been home from the RWA National conference for one full day, so my brain is still probably a bit mushy. But, I wanted to share some of the lessons that seemed to come across throughout the many workshops and talks I heard. Some of it you may have heard before, but I find sometimes, you just need to hear it again every so often to remind yourself of its validity.

  1. Be Flexible. This means flexible in how you accept and give critique, as well as flexible in what it means to be successful or fulfill your dreams; have you always felt that traditional publication was the best way? Who says? Perhaps e-books could be a great path you’re neglecting. Either way, be flexible enough to allow yourself freedom to see the opportunities instead of viewing the world through self-imposed blinders.
  2. Be Kind. Author Robyn Carr, in her luncheon speech, said that she felt about 50% of her success could be attributed to being patient and kind, whereas her agent felt it was more like 90%. We can help ourselves and control some of our success merely by being consistent, turning work in on or before deadline, and being kind and patient. To paraphrase Ms. Carr, we often think that the squeaky-wheel gets ahead with snark and breaking the rules; usually, the squeaky-wheel just gets replaced. We also have a tendency to be especially unkind to ourselves; often no one is meaner to you that your own inner voice. Treat yourself as you would your closest friend, with care and love.
  3. Be Consistent. This means consistent in the tone and type of books you deliver so you don’t disappoint your readers, as well as being consistent in your branding and interactions.
  4. Be Optimistic. While just a short time ago (and sometimes still if you look now), the news about the publishing world is all doom and gloom, this doesn’t have to be the case. Rather, as Stephanie Laurens described in her speech, this is an incredibly exciting time for writers. New modes of transmission – how we get our stories to readers – are opening up all the time, and so long as we continue to tell the best story we can, things are looking up for us. Indeed, so long as we continue to cherish and push for a positive version of our own success, how can it be otherwise?
  5. Be Innovative. As new worlds and methods of transmission of our words mature, and the internet and social networking become ever more a part of our lives, there are so many opportunities for innovation. We can be innovative in how we interact with readers and consumers, and we can continue to innovate in our writing itself, writing the book we most want to read.
  6. Be Brave. Sometimes this means continuing to submit or to put ourselves out there (especially if we’re still trying to go the traditional publication route), but it also takes incredible courage to put your work out there in the first place, no matter how you choose to do it. Be brave in continuing to write the story that you love, written because you had fun and you love it – because if you don’t, no one else will either.
  7. Be Professional. Writing may be an art, but publication is a business. The sooner you remember this – and demonstrate a business-like attitude in your dealings with other professionals, the better your chance at success. Use things like the S.W.O.T. Business Assessment, goal setting, and formal business plans to help you achieve your dreams.
  8. Be Realistic. Yes, you’re reaching for your dreams, but what are those? If you don’t ever become a NY Times Bestseller, will it be enough for you? Certainly we like to continue to expand our goals and visions, but what will it take for you to believe in your own success? If you don’t ever achieve your most lofty of goals, will that be okay? Reach for the stars, but decide what it means if you don’t quite reach them.
  9. Be Self-Aware. We often like to consider the readers’ and characters’ emotions and reactions, but what of our own? If you’re not feeling it as the writer, your reader won’t either. Translate your own emotions to the reader through use of language, tone, imagery, and subtext.
  10. Have Fun. This business is hard, no matter what your path or decisions. Maintaining a sense of humor will help. Again, paraphrasing Robyn Carr: “Take your writing seriously; yourself – not so much.”

So, what other lessons have you been learning recently? Is my list missing a few? Please, do share and comment below. Otherwise, have a great week, and happy writing!