Odd Things Non-Writers Say

I know, not everyone writes fiction or non-fiction. Not everyone writes in general. Typing up a comment, an opinion or adding their prospective on a topic of dicussion online, is writing, but…

I’m talking about people who never read or those who do read, but never wrote a collection of short stories or a novel or two for fun. I’m pointing out those who have never written a single document past school years growing up. And after school years, never picked up a book after.

The things these types of people have said to me personally or in public, it blows my mind. (Names are taken out to protect them for obvious reasons)

“Why do you always want books for Christmas? You’re writing one of your own?” – …This one really blows my mind. This statement, spoken in person close to the holidays a few years ago, tells me they don’t read books for pleasure or for learning to expand their mind. All writer types must read diffrent forms of style and process in order to write better. Writers must study the craft. This means, we want more books on the exact craft stubject or books on a genre we are writing ourselves. I want books for Christmas, a gift card from Barns & Noble cause it makes it easier for the gift giver since they don’t know me well enough of the subjects and genre I like, I need books to study from on the craft from those before me. Yes, I can easily borrow books at the library, but a direct book that is not at the library, and if it’s particular to what I need, I can buy at the store. I keep a lot of the books on the craft of writing. I go back to the material over and over for years of study.

“All you need to do is sit down and write.” – …Oh, sweet summer child, you know nothing. It takes far more to place ass in chair, roll up to desk and start typing to pump out a book. I have a few articles I’ve already written on my author blog, that explains the common processes and my own method for myself. But to put it into simple terms here: 1) It takes planning, months or years worth for a novel. …2) It takes problem solving during the planning stages, sometimes months or years on a section to get right. Even a first draft can take some problem solving. …3) Drafts 2 and 3, to go through to flesh out the full form of the story before major edits. This process can take a year or more. …4) 6 to 8 months of major edits with critique partners. Different minds and eyes on the project itself. …5) In between each process, important breaks are needed for the mind to relax in seeing the work with fresh eyes. (These breaks include: cleaning house, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, paying bills, reading, etc) I’ve created nearly 500+ pages worth of notes, character files, diagrams, family trees, world histories and timelines that took me years to gather in the developmental stages. It takes years to finalize a screenplay way before it ever gets looked at by a production company to become a full length movie. To create anything, it takes time and hard work. (Not to mention, the stress of Impostor Syndrome is something all writers who want to be professionally published face. Fighting the demons in her minds, the stresses of it all, lag the process down. So, again it takes time to write a 120,000 words size book.)

“What’s a novelist?” – …There are words I’ve never come across either. That’s how we learn. I use the word ‘novelist’ when I hand someone my business card or when I’m addressed diectly when asked what my job is. This person had said about my thin metal case mistaking it for a wallet, even though I use it as such. The metal container is for business cards, I told him. He then asked what my job was and I said, “I’m a novelist.” I don’t refer to the use of author, since I’m not currently published. So, this person didn’t know what a novelist was. I explained, “It’s another word for author. Someone who writes fiction.” I was abselutely taken a back by his question on the word though. He was obviously in his early 20s, but since he didn’t know the word, I blame the eduational system of the US. When I learned of the word, ‘novel’, in third grade in 1988, the English teacher saying, “We’re going to read a novel today. Novel means ‘new idea’.” I was entranced by the word. I fed off this new fact for decades. It still gives me happy chills when I use it.

I think that’s all of them. There maybe one more, but at this time, it’s slipped my mind. Oh well. To close, if you as a writer of any form come across similiar examples, remember, your book may strike their interest in reading for the first time in decades. Don’t let people who don’t read or don’t write fictions stop you from making your dreams come true. Keep writing and don’t stop.

The Real Cost of Writing Hours

All novelists, authors, writers, however you want to call these folks, they talk about word count. Most write down that glorious word count to keep track of how much work has been done. Yet, once you figure out how many words are put on a page, single spaced (500 per page) you can easily count in your head how many words came after that first page and so on. Once you start doing that, there’s really no need to worry about word count. Unless, you catalog the final current edit amount of words changed. Then you can have a base for comparison as you progress in your work.

But then there’s this…cataloging the hours actually worked on a manuscript. I’ve never heard about that in the years I’ve been surfing the internet. Watching YouTube videos on Booktube, Writertube, Authortube. No one talks about this. If there are some writers who have, post your videos.

Now, I did a bit of calculating the numbers using my own hours worked. I’m going off of the year 2020 for the first quarter since its the most hours I did before the pandemic hit the US. In the month of January – March 2020 I worked 335 hours total. I use two forms of calculating time – First, I’ll check the clock and jot down my start time. Then, I’ll listen to New Bliss ambient white noise videos on YouTube. These videos range from 3 to 8 hours. I’ll usually go for an 8 hour video if I know I’ll be typing a lot. If I take a quick break, say bathroom break or a thirty minute lunch break, I’ll pause the video. When I come back, I play the video where it left off. This way I haven’t really lost time in work. Unlike keeping a direct time schedule by a clock itself. When I’m done for the day, I’ll jot down my end time.

I’ll work 2 hours, 15-30 min break, work 2 hours, 30 min lunch, work 2 hours and finally another 15-30 min break. Then off to bed, or squeeze in another thirty minutes of work before I really go to bed. This way, I’ve worked at least 6 to 8 hours in the day. I’m treating this as I would retail work hours that I’m used to when I worked in retail. The system works perfect.

(Mind, I also take full days off my writing. Usually 2 days per week. Nearly a full week off per month. That is put into my average for this diagram)

I started thinking, how many hours would it be for a full 10 years worth of novel/manuscript work? If I take the average from the first quarter in 2020 of 335 hours….see diagram below. (Mind, these hours are a base average from my hours worked. They are not exact)

335 hrs x 4 wks = 1,340 hrs per month

1,340 hrs per month x 12 mo = 16,080 hrs per year

16,080 hrs per year x 10 yrs = 160,800 hrs for ten years

It’s not just the word count that builds up your experience per page, per manuscript. It’s the hours you put into it. It takes about 10,000 hours of training and practice to be an expert in whatever field of work you want to be in. Yet, to me, I think it takes even more hours of work to achieve expert level in manuscript writing (fiction or nonfiction). These hours include the first draft, second, third, fourth and so on when in the thralls of editing, revision and rewrites, call it what you will. It’s all writing.

So, if you look at it even further with the amount of pay authors don’t get when writing a full novel or work of nonfiction, a full 200 to 300 page book, basically an intern level at home, with or without a paying job….

$15 an hr x 8 hrs per day = $120

$120 x 7 days = $840

$840 x 4 wks = $3,360

$3,360 x 12 mo = $40,320

$40,320 x 10 yrs = 403,200 (that’s the amount of a major advance for a first time book, if you’re damn lucky)

All those hours worked for ten years on ONE manuscript for publication, and you got an advance worth $400k, that averages out nicely. But, its getting that $15 an hour paycheck of it’s full 10 years sum given to you finally.

In the long run, this would be helpful to everyone if a Universal Income was implemented into the US economy. That way, if anyone has a hobby or a long time dream to come true (a full time novelist with a paycheck), getting paid $1,000 a week would be nice to stave off the stress of paying bills, repairs to the house and food on the table while in the thralls of writing a novel. The advance would still apply to the author since it is a product they are making for sale in stores by the publisher’s process. All in all, it’s a total win for everyone.

(Disclaimer, this is not a beg on my part for myself. I’m just pointing out some pitfalls in writing to put it into more concrete prospective. A grounded point to humble myself and others in the craft of writing)

Inner Worries of a Novelist

Nearly ten weeks have been spent on lockdown for self quarantine of the Covid-19 virus for Washington state. The lockdown began for us in Washington state on March 17th, if my memory serves me correct. (The next day my 40th birthday celebrated as best I could) Before then, about early January 2020 I was already watching and learning of the virus online through creditable YouTube channels. Following practicing and licensed doctors that understood how pathology of viruses works. I enjoy studying and keeping up on scientific changes as things like Covid-19 progress. This also made me hyper-focus on nothing but the ever changing findings of the virus as I watched my boyfriend worry about finances in late March as his job slowly closed up shop. This meant he would be in the house every single day starting in late March, early April.

As the changes to the lockdown continued of what we could do to keep active and what we could only do in keeping safe as time passed. Wearing masks and gloves became the norm for us. As the weather got better, with a few days to a full week of sunshine and clear night skies, I was able to take my nightly walks. The walks I call: Writing Walkies. A priceless and cherished time to let my mind focus on the stories I’m writing or trying to write.

With my boyfriend at home all the time, taking his time to be in his office to play video games mostly Sims 4 and at times coming to sit together watching YouTube videos and our favorite shows on Hulu…it has now come to my attention (now that Phase 2 of reopening Washington state begins), I have not had a full comfortable mental process of focuses on Soul’s Little Lie book 1. The times I took to write when my boyfriend would be at work were perfect for me. I was able to think clearly without the mental pull to talk with him, sit next to him on the couch or to do yard work together. (We were able, with help from our neighbor, to attack and kill off the blackberries for seven days worth of hard labor. We are not done by far to make the backyard the way we want it, but those seven days saved us a comparable month or two worth. Thank you Shane!)

Since this revelation has come to the forefront of my mind, this got me to thinking of the psychological aspects to myself of what makes me truly focus as a writer in a healthy way.

First and foremost, growing up in a household that constantly kept me on edge due to my narcissistic, mentally ill abusive mother and the chaos my mentally ill brother brought into our lives and coupled with the few to hardly no friends throughout most of my school years, it was difficult to concentrate on any writing or painting at all. It was only once my mother went to work or when my brother was away from family for monthly stretches or a few years at a time for countless reasons, was I able to do the work I wanted that made me happy. As for my father, who enforced the rules of the house with threat of a belt across my ass (yet mom was the one who beat me) and following the whims of my abusive mother, his wife, I didn’t have much stress over him fogging up my mind.

Once they were all out of the house, even for a weekend trip for themselves when I was old enough to be left alone in the apartment, it would take me a day or two to reset my mind to focus on my arts. This focus would continue for days or weeks until the chaos of the house of my mother’s ravings and gaslighting would flare up again. Then the cycle would continue. I would have to wait until it was safe to concentrate on my work.

The process continued again when I was married to a mentally ill abuser who gaslighted me at every turn. Even when I worked a retail job I wouldn’t calm down to focus until I had a day or two to decompress. Once the husband (now ex-husband for eight years), would be off to work, while I did not work, I was able to focus at will. I would paint, draw, dance or write to my hearts content. It was after all what spawned the first manuscript for Soul’s Little Lie that later was published for a time in 2015.

Now, here it is nearly ten weeks of lockdown quarantine for Washington state and my boyfriend of four years has been in the house constantly cause he can not work at the ice rink until the coast is clear. I’m not pulling my hair out or throwing fits over it. I’m calm and busy studying about the virus and the political changes in the world. Off and on I have been watching YouTube videos about writing, querying, publishing, etc to keep up, but the mental focus to work on rewriting/editing process for book one has slipped away.

All I have to do is type up a new chapter 2 and rewrite from scratch chapter 18 to possibly chapter 20, all these chapters are strictly the point of view of my Frankie Bellington character. Frankie has been difficult to talk to though. It is almost as though my subconscious does not want to see what he has to offer to the story of Soul’s Little Lie of the heartache he feels of what happened. I understand it’s a part of me that’s afraid of failure in a way, but it is also a personification of my inner lack of focus that stems from the past of abusive family and ex-husband’s abuses.

My boyfriend has never been abusive toward me in any fashion, so why am I not able to focus? The full truth could be that – the uncertainty of the future scares me to the core. I’m not alone in these uncertain times of fear and worry. Though, in a way this fear is unfounded. The great saying, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”, comes to mind easily to me, but that inner part of me has been through so much, it makes me hunker down to survival mode.

And yet, the true survival mode that got me through all the years of abuse was directly connected to writing and painting. Writing more helped me flesh out my feelings; my thoughts to the full ability of the English language in which I speak. Though, still, why am I not able to focus on the few chapters I have left in book one during editing draft 3?

Am I yet still afraid of critique partners and new beta readers to come after this? Do I fear what they will say about my work since I was so terribly burned out by my first publisher of the editor they gave me did not help worth a bit.

I linger so in my goals to become the future published novelist I’ve always wanted to be. Even still, Frankie Bellington’s words must be heard, must be spoken at all costs.

Here I am, seated at my computer and I have typed at least this on my author site for all to read. A feeling of relief escapes my lips as I end this entry.

Happy Little Accidents: Lost Chapters

For those who watch Bob Ross’ show – The Joy of Painting on PBS and YouTube, you know his signature saying – “Happy little accidents.” Such a thing happens to me a lot, but in my novel writing.

Currently, I’ve gone through a bout of happy little accidents since 1996 and just late last night I stumbled upon another. Happy little accidents for me as a writer can work like this –

  • Not saving the file I’m working on and the computer glitches to where that section is gone.
  • The whole manuscript (my very first manuscript actually) saved on an old hard floppy disc from 1996 and the whole file is corrupted and disappears cause of technology upgrades or that it’s pointless to try retrieving the file. (Side note: the original first manuscript was printed before it died in hard disc)
  • The printed prologue rewrite is missing some pages and I can’t reprint the missing 5 pages cause the original file is gone due to a virus that also killed the computer.
  • Your favorite laptop dies, but you were lucky to transfer everything over onto thumb drives three months in advance, but you may have still lost some original chapters, but that’s okay because….Happy little accidents.
  • Brooding about the chapter I wrote for weeks and then wanting to rewrite, but that file isn’t on the main computer cause I forgot to transfer it from the laptop so I have to start from scratch.

Now, once I’ve realized that chapter is gone I happily start from scratch, believe it or not. I don’t brood about it any further like I had before when working on that chapter. I lose precious time if I fuss over a lost file that is only 5 to 15 pages long. Don’t get me wrong though, if I’ve lost a total 300pg manuscript, oh you bet I’d be upset.

When I originally lost my first manuscript of 370 pages from the hard disc floppy and then the continuation of it on the desktop computer years ago, I was in such a panic that I had a hard time sleeping. It would usually take me a few weeks to almost a month to get over the shock, but I got over it in good time. Thankfully, I still have the printed version in a red hard bound binder, including half of the prologue pages.

What did I learn from these happy accidents exactly? I learned that starting over is a blessing. That there are reasons to the world that if something is not meant to be, it is not mean to be, period. Writers, just like painters and other artists out there, we are creators. If we lose a creation, that does not mean we’ve lost the ability to create. Therefore we can continue to create even if we start from scratch.

To close, sorry for the long winded time of not posting anything on my journal. The hot summer has kept me from wanting to do much of anything. I’ve barely worked on my third manuscript and once this entry is done, I’m back in the saddle again to start chapter 12 over from scratch.

Thanks for reading. Hope this helps anyone.