Final Draft

How I Work

Everyone’s got their own unique writing setup.  Everyone has what works for them and prefers to work in a certain manner.

I have a unique setup, as I spend my non-writing days doing a variety of other jobs; building websites, doing tech support, doing voice recording.  I’ve got a unique setup on my desk, so I thought I’d share how I work.

My desk itself is a NextDesk Terra (http://www.nextdesks.com/terra), which is an adjustable height desk.  With the push of a button, I can go from standing to sitting or vise versa.  I tend to stand most of the day because it’s “healthier” than sitting all day.  I use quotes there because it’s not fully proven to be any healthier, but I certainly feel healthier.

On my desk sits a number of technological things, as you can see:

My DeskTo walk you through the whole setup, from left to right we have:

  • A Blue Yeti microphone, for voice recording and online meetings (not shown in the photo.)
  • An empty plastic container that I eat my cereal from.
  • A 2013 model Mac Pro with an external hard drive hiding behind the monitor on the left.
  • 24″ Dell monitor in portrait mode.  This screen contains my email, task manager (Todoist) and a phone panel to accept tech support calls for my day job.
  • My checkbox, letter opener and a roll of stamps.
  • Speakers
  • 30″ Apple Cinema display — with a Logitech camera on top of it, various cables under it, a Sharpie, a pen, soft cloths to clean iOS devices.
  • Landline phone
  • 22″ Samsung LCD TV hooked up to a TiVo in the closet (this TV also swivels over towards where my exercise bike is, so I can enjoy TV while I exercise.)
  • Some junk that has no other home.
  • Vitamins, because you’ve gotta be healthy!
  • 2013 MacBook Air (my work computer that hardly gets used.)

My keyboard and mouse aren’t standard Apple hardware.  The keyboard is a Logitech solar powered keyboard that has the same look and feel of the Mac keyboard (with the short press keys) that I’ve had a few months now.  I wanted to go wireless when I got my new computer, but Apple’s wireless keyboard doesn’t have the number pad and I found myself not able to live without that.

My mouse I’ve had for what feels like decades. It’s a Logitech Performance Pro MX, and is form fitted for a right handed person.  It’s probably the most comfortable and functional mouse I’ve ever owned.  I have two or three of them kicking around for laptops and backups and whatnot.

Both of my screens have specific sets of desktops on them that I use for various tasks.  The monitor on the left is primarily the same with email, tasks, and various day-job related browser windows.

The main screen varies based on the function at hand.

  • If I’m writing, I use a specific desktop that just has Scrivener on it.
  • If I’m working tech support, I have Chrome, Skype, and Adium all open in their appropriate spots (this is what you’re seeing in my image up there.)
  • If I’m doing web development, I have Coda 2, Transmit and Firefox open in a desktop by themselves.

By using OS X’s built in Desktops feature, I’m able to quickly shift gears without having to hide windows, minimize things, and re-organize myself. I just change desktops and I’m ready to go.

While I’m working, I listen to music.  Regardless of what type of “work” I’m doing, I have iTunes always playing.  I use Alfred‘s built in iTunes player to find the tracks or playlist I want without having to actually look through iTunes.  I just open Alfred and type in what playlist I want, like so:

AlfredRight now, I’m listening to The Winery Dogs’ “Criminal”, but since I’ve typed in mellow, I can start my mellow playlist just by pressing enter.  It saves some time in having to go into iTunes and find that playlist.

When I’m writing I like to listen to music without lyrics — either classical or movie scores, as I find it distracts my brain less than if I’m listening to something where my mind might want to sing along.

When I’m doing my every day tasks or working on a website I usually listen to my Rock playlist, that has thousands of songs of my favorite rock bands in it.

My office is usually dark. I have curtains that block out the light and rely on the IKEA “behind TV lights” that are mounted behind my monitor for illumination.  I do this specifically because of where my office is in the building.  It’s on the Southeast corner, so as soon as the sun gets overhead, it beats on the corner wall all afternoon, making it a sweatbox in here.  On any given warm afternoon, it’s +20 degrees from the rest of my apartment.  It makes it tough to focus, so I’ve resorted to blocking out light and having a fan on during the warmer months.

My hope is that once I get out of this apartment (hopefully later this year, over the summer), I’ll find a house with a separate workspace. I’d love a space over a garage so I can have my desk as well as my drums, and still be separate from the main living area.  Some people think it’s a perk to be able to work from home, but it takes a certain discipline.  You need to be able to separate work from home life and sometimes that’s tough.  I think having a separate dwelling where I can do my “work” would help with the daily challenges of working from a home office.

That’s it for how I work. I hope you enjoyed my workspace and learning about how I work on a daily basis.  I’m happy to answer any questions about it, whether they’re technology questions or workflow questions. Fire away in the comments!

 

What I Listen to When I Write

There’s been some discussion over what the “best” music is to listen to when you write — or if you should listen to music at all.

I don’t have the right answer as to whether or not you should listen to music, I can only say that I do.  Though I find myself listening to things that I can completely ignore, but still enjoy.

Most commonly, I listen to movie scores. Not soundtracks, as those can be distracting — I mean, how many more times can I burst into song and sing along with “Let It Go” again? — but instrumental scores from film.  I’ve got an iTunes playlist that comprises of a number of scores from some of my favorite movies.  The Braveheart score is one of the top played, along with Inception.

The melodies inspire creativity in my feeble attempts at creating something that people will enjoy, while not distracting me from the task at hand.  I’ve found that if I’m listening to something with lyrics — regardless of what those lyrics are — I get distracted.  My brain can’t ignore the lyrics and I find myself singing along, not getting anything done as I should be.

What’s right for you to write with is up to you, when the cards fall. There’s no right or wrong thing. Whatever inspires you, whatever helps you be creative, and whatever makes your brain fire on the right cylinders — that’s what’s right for you.

The independent writing community is amazing.

Over the last week, I’ve spent a good amount of time being social.  Not in real life, but on Twitter.  During the week, I’ve learned one very important thing: the independent writing community is fully of amazing, wonderful, and supportive people.

No one’s judging you for wanting to write a book. No one’s trying to pressure you into doing what they did and had luck with. Everyone’s just supportive of one another — offering advice, friendship, asking questions.  It’s been a great experience.  I’m extremely happy with the folks I’ve met through Twitter in the last week. If you’re following me there, thanks!

As for the book – I think I’m done.  I ran through all of Lauren’s edits and finished a week ago.  I then spent hours reading the book as it was, with all of the edits and re-writes and changes, to make sure that I still liked it.  That when I get to the end, I still felt the same way that I felt when I read it the first time.

Since I’m not ready to publish it yet, I’m going to read it once more. I think there’s still a little bit of work that I can do in the early chapters to set the scene a little more appropriately.  I’m still at the mercy of the designer that’s working on the cover art, so I’ve got time before he’ll be ready. (I’m lookin’ at you, Scott!)

All in all, it’s been a pretty inspired week.  Seeing the “final” pages on my iPad and being able to flip through them has been pretty great.  It’s no secret that I was really losing interest in this quest back towards the end of last year when everything sort of came to a screeching halt, but I can honestly say that I’m reinvigorated now by everything that’s happened.

I don’t care if I don’t make any money selling the book — hell, I may even give it away for a while, at first — I just want people to read it.  Though, to be honest, I’m terrified that I’m going to lose my mind at the first negative review I see on Amazon.  I suppose I’ll have to mentally prepare myself for that moment.

The progress continues and I’m inching closer and closer to having this thing be done and on digital shelves through Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble soon.

Total days elapsed since I started writing: 353.

Victory! Editing is done!

Victory!
Victory!

That’s how I feel right now. Victorious. As of approximately 2 hours ago, I’m completely done with all of the editing that came back on the 3rd.

I have to say, the entire editing process was extremely daunting.  I had no idea when I started this thing that it’d be such a chore to read through redline edits and re-incorporate them into my story.  But here we are, approximately 49 weeks after I wrote the first words on March 5th of last year — done.

Well, not fully done.  Done editing.  I have seven chapters that I’m going to rework and add to over the weekend.  Not major edits, but sprucing up a few of the bits within the scenes of those chapters.

If you’ve been following along on my blog here, you know what a monumental day this is for me.  Over the last five or six months I’ve felt somewhat defeated, I ever considered not finishing the book.  But I pressed through, showed patience, and continued to push myself mentally to make sure I finished this thing.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal if you’ve never written a book before, but I can assure you that it’s quite an intense process.  If you’re a ready, I’d suggest thanking your favorite authors — keep buying their books, keep supporting what they love to do.

I thought, a year ago when I started, it’d be so easy to do this.  Just jot some words down on a few pages, click a few buttons, add in some cover art, and call it a day.

If it were that easy, I’d have finished so long ago.

I think, on some level, I actually enjoyed the feedback I got from people about the book — not just my friends and family that read it, but from my editor(s), too.  The hardest bits of constructive criticism to swallow, for me, is trying to figure out why someone doesn’t like one of your characters or plot points.

After spending hours contemplating something so simple — such as the mannerisms of one of your characters — to then have someone tell you that they hate that trait you specifically wrote out in that manner? That’s heartbreaking.  But it’s a good heartbreak. It makes you think of how you could do something better and how you can make that character jump off the page more than he or she already did.

There’s still a long road ahead with this whole thing, but I’m excited to get back on the road.  I don’t anticipate selling millions of copies (heck, I’d be happy selling a hundred). I don’t expect to be on Ellen talking about the book, or have Oprah pick it for book club.  I don’t expect a film to be made. I guess I don’t have any expectations, which means that whatever happens from this point on will have to be viewed in a positive light.

If you’ve been following along here — thanks for coming on this journey with me.  Even though you’ve done nothing but read a blog, it means a lot to me.  Now if I can squeeze a couple of bucks out of you when the book comes out, I’ll be a happy guy.

Stay tuned — we’re almost there!

Back to Editing!

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here!  Sorry, I’m a bit excited.

I got the final edits from my editor over the weekend after what felt like a few days short of eternity.  Now that I’ve seen the complete edits, I understand why they took so long.  To say that Word’s “Track Changes” contained a lot of red would be a drastic understatement. There was red everywhere — and not just grammatical or spelling corrections, but a lot of story critique which was exactly what I wanted (and needed!)

As of yesterday, I’ve started plowing through the edits.  Slashing chapters, merging paragraphs, and destroying my overuse of negativity.

One of the most helpful things in the entire editing process was Lauren’s summary. She pointed out a bunch of flaws with the story, the characters, and my writing habits.  Most of which I’ve been oblivious to.  Having other people read the book has definitely been helpful, but having an editor read the book and point out what I’m doing wrong has been infinitely helpful.

I’ve enjoyed reading the comments, too.  It hasn’t all been negative (which I sort of feared, from the get-go) and some of the comments have been inspiring.  For the first time in a number of months, I’m feeling positive about this whole decision.

According to my notes, I started writing A Sour Chord on March 5th, 2013.  Just over 11 months ago.  My goal is to finish editing and be completely done with all of the rewrites I’ve got laid out for me by that same date of this year.  Thus making the entire process take exactly a year.

After that I just have to have some cover art designed and then publish the book to the various places I plan on selling it. (Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble, to start.)  I don’t expect much in the way of sales, but hopefully someone somewhere will read it and enjoy it.

I’ve said from the get go — I’m not in this to be famous or make a zillion dollars.  It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do and see through to completion.  It’s a bucket list item, if you will. And I’m glad I’m going to finish it.

Process Stalled

The editing process has come to sort of a screeching halt. It seems like that, anyway.  I guess I didn’t anticipate that this would take so long.  I finished the first draft 9 months ago and have been going through the editing process since.

So far, I’ve:

  • Had Austin read through the whole thing and do a rough edit to improve the story and fix any typographical errors.
  • Had a handful of friends and family read it for their feedback
  • Added to the ending a bit and added a few chapters throughout.
  • Began the full edit for the final draft.

It’s the final draft edit that seems to be sucking my will to live.

Honestly, the longer this whole process takes, the more discouraged I get and less likely I am to finish this thing.  Which is pretty terrible, given the time and money I’ve invested into it.  It’s just how I am, though. I lose interest when things take too long to finish.

I’m trying to stick it out, I’m just frustrated with the entire process and myself.  I had hoped to be done by my birthday at the end of September. That slipped and I set the expected end date to December 31st, that clearly won’t happen as we’re only about 10% done with the final edits.  Hopefully now that my editor’s on break from her teaching schedule, we can plow through the rest of it and be done.

Then all that’s left is the artwork (which I should probably have someone get started on) and publishing.

Then I can finally check off “become a published author” from my bucket list.  I’ll likely finish up the second book sometime after that, but I think I’m going to need a break from this whole thing for at least a month or two once this is all done.

Or will I? I haven’t touched My Last Days in nearly 2 months, so perhaps I can just jump right back in there and finish that first draft.  I know that one’s going to be kind of a nightmare to edit though, my thoughts have been all over the place and I recognize that I need some major help with that story.  I’m about 40,000 words in and I still don’t really know what it’s about. I’ve just been typing and thinking like a madman when I was working on it. Hopefully it’ll come to me and won’t end up being about something that’s been beaten to death.

As the year comes to a close, I am thankful for all that I’ve accomplished. Not just in writing a first (and second) draft of something I’ve had kicking around in my head for the better part of my 20s, but also for other things in my life that I’ve finally gotten done.  It’s been a whirlwind year and one that I’m (mostly) proud of.  Here’s hoping that 2014 will be as great for you as I anticipate it will for me. Happy New Year!

Editing Seems to Take Forever

Through no fault of anyone’s, it seems like this whole editing process is taking way longer than I anticipated or want it to.

Six weeks ago, I put work on My Last Days on hold, so I could get back into the mindset of the characters for A Sour Chord, so the editing would be easier as each round of edits (a few chapters at a time) came in from my editor.  From the get go, I had no idea that this process would take so long.  I knew it’d take longer than the amount of time it took me to write the first draft, but I had no idea that it’d be by a factor of 8 or 9.

Since I’ve been feeling stagnant with things, I decided to jump back into My Last Days today and keep writing.  My creative mind needs to keep moving or I’m likely to keep coming up with ideas for more stories to write when I’m done with these first two and seeing as how I have no idea if these’ll even sell, it’s probably not best to put the metaphorical cart before the horse, as they said in olden times.

It’s been six weeks since I last wrote anything in My Last Days, so it took some time this morning to reacquaint myself with the characters and where I was going with the story last time I wrote.  I used iBooks (which is now available on my computer and not just my iPad and iPhone) and read through the first handful of chapters and the last handful that I’d written.

Then I began writing.  I typed and typed and got stuck.  I forced myself to get through close to 500 words before I just wasn’t feeling it anymore.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the lack of writing over the last six weeks, or if I’m just not feeling the story, or what’s happening, but today is not a day where I’ll knock out a few thousand words.

I do feel a little bit better since I’ve written something but not as great as I’d like to feel and not as productive.

I guess I’ll try again tomorrow (or this afternoon if I feel up to it) and continue to chug away at the edits for A Sour Chord as they come in.  I’m hoping that I’ll have the first book done sometime early in 2014 and make it available for sale.  Fingers crossed that it gets done eventually.

My Last Days on Hold, Back to A Sour Chord

I didn’t realize it had been so long since I’d updated the progress blog here.  Over the last three weeks, a bit has changed with things.

My new (wonderful) editor, Lauren, sent me her initial feedback earlier in this month, which I’ve read at least half a dozen times by now.  I agreed on most of what she said and will work a lot of her feedback into the story as we go through the (hopefully) final rewrite in the next month or two.

In order to get back into the mindset of A Sour Chord, I’ve ceased working on My Last Days.  Not for good, just so that I can get my mind back into that of my characters from A Sour Chord.  I don’t know of many (if any) authors that write two books at the same time and it’s probably because it’s so difficult to jump back and forth between sets of characters, stories, locations, etc.

As of now, I’m waiting on Lauren to start sending me detailed feedback on a chapter-by-chapter basis.  That’ll allow me to go through and either edit or flat-out rewrite parts of the book to get to the goal that we’re setting out for the ending.  The overall ending won’t change (I stood my ground on that, despite her recommendation to change it), but the story that gets us there will change a little bit.

What I’ve learned during the editing process

  • It’s difficult to find an editor — I didn’t factor cost into this at all, I’d gladly have spent whatever it took to find someone that I felt would take this seriously — despite just being something I’m doing on a whim.  I counted my emails and I emailed back and forth with 15 editors before finding something that I felt took me seriously enough to want to do the project. Many of them were either outrageous in their pricing, didn’t want to offer me a sample edit (why would you pay someone when you don’t know what their style of editing is?), or said they’d get back to me and never did.  A very frustrating process.
  • Go with your gut — if an editor comes across as pushy or difficult during this process, they’re probably going to be pushy or difficult to work with too.  I’m glad I didn’t go with a handful of them that were really unpleasant via their emails.
  • It takes a long time — I finished writing the book nearly six months ago, hoping to have it published by now.  It’s left me feeling somewhat defeated that I missed my own (admittedly completely arbitrary) goal.  Having friends read it and give me their input as well as the actual editing process has been mentally draining, but hopefully worth it in the long run.

From here, the final edit/draft will be completed. The cover will be designed. The book will be on sale.         And hopefully, just hopefully, at least a couple of people will buy it.

Then I’ll finish My Last Days and start this whole horrible process all over again.

1 2