Some small progress

I was getting tired of only researching, and feeling like I had nothing to show for it, so yesterday I worked a bit on writing for a change.  I've been reading some books about the time period, but I'm only reading/researching about an hour a day, and I feel like it's not enough.  I also feel like I needed to write a little more, to keep the spark of interest alive as much as to add to my word count.

Once I got started writing, I couldn't stop.  I wrote a bit toward the end of the day, then again at Barnes & Noble, and again after a late-evening ride.  In the end, I added more than 1700 words to my word count, and updated the word count meter in my sidebar.  Eighty thousand words is kind of a rough goal — I actually have no idea yet how long this novel will be, or even what it should be.  Further research is needed in that area, too.

I still have background research to do for the novel's setting and some of the details of the plot, but I'm thinking it would also be a good idea to start writing here and there, sketching out scenes as they come into my head, and fleshing out an outline.  Not all of this requires a lot of research to make it right, and it would be good to feel like I'm making some quantifiable progress on my novel.

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, July 27, 2011 At 12:30 PM 0 comments

In need of a timer app

Last week I finished one of the books I was reading to research my novel, and so far I haven't picked anything else up yet.  I've had a couple of freelance deadlines the last few days, so that's taking precedence.  I might, however, do a little online research today, if I can carve out 30 minutes or so.

I read an interesting blog post last week about how to write 2,000 words a day.  You could substitute any number of words you want — the point of the blog post is that it's more manageable if you set aside several 30-minute time blocks, instead of trying to carve out 2 consecutive hours.  It makes sense.

I like the idea of setting aside 30 minutes at a time to work on my novel — or to work on anything, really.  I think it would help me stay focused if I decide that for the next 30 minutes I'm going to work straight through, and then I'll take a break.  I tried some years ago to use a little kitchen timer to do this, but I found that it didn't work as well to have the timer on my desk.  So a couple of days ago, I started looking for a timer app for my computer.

Unfortunately, Windows computers don't seem to have as many software options, though I'm sure there is probably exactly the app I need for a Mac.  I did find this online timer, which so far is working pretty well.  I can set the timer, switch my windows, and it'll make a gong-like sound when it finishes its countdown.

What I really want, however, is software that will put a small timer, perhaps the size of iTunes's mini player, always on top of all my other windows.  That way I can see how much time is remaining without having to switch windows.  I think it would really help me to stay focused if I can tell myself, "Just 10 more minutes, and then I can check email/get a drink/take a break."

Does anyone know of a software tool like that for Windows-based computers?  I have Firefox, but so far I haven't seen that any of their add-ons will do what I want (though they do have a lovely add-on called LeechBlock to block or limit your use of websites that distract you while you are working).  I'd love to hear about any software apps or add-ons you've tried, and how well they worked!

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, July 19, 2011 At 1:35 PM 0 comments

Writing vs. research

One of the concepts that I'm struggling with right now regarding my transition to writing fiction part-time is whether research counts.  As I said in my last post, I'm somewhat disappointed with the reality that this will be a slow transition, rather than an abrupt change.  Right now I'm spending roughly an hour every day researching the time period I'll be writing about — I've been reading a nonfiction book on the subject, and have one or two more I want to read, as well as some other research to do.

The logical part of me knows that reading and researching counts toward working on my novel, because it does have to be done.  But at the same time, it's work on my novel that's hard to quantify — I can't update my word count in the sidebar, for instance.  (I do have a small word count, from when I got inspired during my week off, as you can see now in the sidebar; but I feel like most of the writing should be done after I finish my research.)

Being able to quantify my research would be nice not only because it would allow me something to update in my sidebar, but also because it would give me a way to measure my progress, and feel good about what I've accomplished so far.  I could just get a final count on the books I want to read, and measure my progress as the percentage of reading material that I've finished.  Any other ideas?

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, July 15, 2011 At 1:37 PM 0 comments

New progress bar in the sidebar

I finally got a progress bar up in the sidebar for the novel I'm starting on.  I've only written the prologue and jotted down a few scenes that were burning holes in my brain, so the word count isn't high yet.  I have a title in mind, but didn't put it in the sidebar yet — I think I want to have a more official unveiling once I'm sure it's going to stick.  For now, it'll be a mystery.

I have some thoughts on writing vs. research that I'll blog about in a couple of days — I hate that the word count is not really going to move for a while, until I finish the research I'm working on.

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, July 13, 2011 At 12:01 PM 0 comments

Easier said than done

Even though I made my decision to start splitting my time between freelancing and fiction writing a couple of weeks ago, I'm struggling with the realization that nothing has changed yet.  I'm still doing a lot of freelance work, and I'm still struggling with motivation.  About the only thing that has changed is that I've started doing some research, which basically consists of reading a few chapters here and there of a nonfiction book on the time period I'll be writing about.

What I'm struggling with is giving myself "permission" to take my time with my transition.  I should have known that I wouldn't be able to switch to part-time novel writing overnight, yet somehow that's what I had pictured.  (And of course, in my fantasy, it fixed my motivation problems right away, too.)  I still have some deadlines to meet, and therefore, some work to get out of the way before I start working on fiction in earnest.

The tough thing to get my head around is that, since I will still be freelancing part-time, the presence of client deadlines won't change — I'm going to have to get used to setting aside time to work on fiction, despite the deadlines.  I feel like it is going to take some time to transition to a half-and-half schedule, and to learn how to juggle both freelancing and fiction at the same time, and that frustrates me a little.

Obviously, the first step needs to be to meet all the current deadlines; from there, I need to make sure I consider my workload every time I accept a freelance assignment.  Staying on top of my freelance deadlines will also be important, in order to preserve the balance in my workload.

What I'm realizing is that it's going to be a tougher road than snapping my fingers and saying, "I'm going to write fiction now!"  I'll keep you posted on my progress, and hopefully pretty soon here you'll see some updates on my sidebar.

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, July 12, 2011 At 12:00 PM 0 comments

My big decision

I mentioned last week that over the course of my vacation, I did some cleaning house, in both a literal and figurative sense: I rearranged my workspace, but I also rearranged my career plans, as well.

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I've been really struggling with my productivity and time management for probably the past couple of years.  Every once and a while, I'll come up with something — a new way of taking breaks or motivating myself, a new chair, etc. — that seems to solve the problem for a little while, but it never lasts long.

Some time ago — maybe a few weeks or even a month or two — I had an epiphany: My productivity is suffering because I'm not doing what I most want to do.  It's not that I don't enjoy my work — once I stop procrastinating, I usually do enjoy it, and am able to finish articles and other work quickly.  But I also tend to feel really burnt out all the time, and it makes it difficult to get stuff done.

The thing is, I love freelancing and the freedom it offers me, but I also set out to be a writer with one ultimate goal in mind: to write fiction.  And I haven't been making time for that.  A couple of years ago, I tried to devote an hour a day to my own projects, but it didn't work out very well.  I was trying to assign time I didn't have in my day, essentially.

So here's my decision: I'm going to essentially go part-time with my freelancing business.  I want to try to divide my time pretty evenly: half to client work, and half to fiction (research and writing) and other projects of my own choosing (blogging, some ebooks of my own, etc.).  This means cutting back somewhat on the amount of work I take, as well as the amount of time I spend marketing (or should spend marketing — I've been a bit lax about that).  I've talked it over with my husband, and he is supportive; plus I was able to reduce my bills a little recently, so I can afford to make a little less.

I'm still only in the initial stages of the transition, but I've already started doing some research on a novel idea has been burning a hole in my head since November (I thought of it last year during NaNoWriMo).  I'll blog about it some more as I make the transition to half-freelancer, half-novelist, and I'll start updating my "Current Project" section in the sidebar again once I start working on the new novel (the old one will get shelved for now, to be finished at a later date).

It's a major change to both my mindset and my career, and I'm very excited; hopefully this excitement is what I need to make me want to work again!

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, July 05, 2011 At 1:47 PM 3 comments

Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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