When they aren’t
maddeningly silent,
as they often pretend,
I sit and I listen
trying to hear
what they have to say.
I write it down
and twist it
this way
and that,
trying to shape it
in to something
for their purposes.
I try to finish
before the irriating
little fellow
with the attitude arrives –
with his motion
and noise –
and forces me
in to myself
where there’s nothing to hear
except my own

© 2016, Gavin Zanker.

Photo by Sean MacEntee licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.


Fallout Stole My Life

Fallout 4 Power Armour

Apologies for not keeping to my posting schedule this week. I bought Fallout 4 and today I woke up to find I’d lost a whole week of my life. Bad for productivity I know, but damn if it isn’t fun. I should give up computer games entirely at some point – it would free up so much more time for me to focus on my writing. That said, there is a lot I’ve learned about writing from playing games.

I’ve always enjoyed the heavy emphasis on environmental storytelling in Fallout games. The way you stumble over little scenes and have to put the pieces together yourself to figure out what unfolded. Like finding a couple of skeletons locked together in an embrace on a bed, with discarded syringes scattered around. I’d like to figure out how to incorporate more environmental storytelling in to my novel writing as I think it’s an incredibly effective method of storytelling. I should do some proper research and write an article on it at some point. (Rhianna Pratchett mentions the concept briefly in this TED talk).

Anyway, time to get back to work on my book again. Being my own boss is great for being able to take time off to pursue any interests, but the guilt. Oh the guilt.

© 2016, Gavin Zanker. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Photo by Midhras licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic.

Writing Productivity And Word Counts

Pen Writing

When I first started writing, I decided it was important to develop the habit and follow the repeated advice to ‘write every day’. To begin with I would time myself by setting an alarm on my phone to make sure I spent at least a few hours a day writing. This quickly became a chore for me though. Every writer knows that some days it comes easy and some days it feels like drawing blood from a stone. Forcing myself to sit there for hours at a time on those bad days, desperately trying not to watch the clock while I tortuously got nowhere was unproductive, and more importantly made me unhappy with what I was doing. I love writing and somehow I had managed to turn it in to a chore.

So after a few weeks of struggling, I decided to change my approach. I stopped writing for set amounts of time and instead gave myself a target word count every day. I mentioned in one of my posts last month (A Writer’s Daily Word Count) that Stephen King writes 2,000 words per day without fail. Well, that seemed doable so I stole his goal and made it my own. I quickly found that without time pressure I was having fun again and enjoying putting pen to paper. If I wanted to take a break or do something else for a bit then I could it without feeling lazy because I knew I could come back to it later and still hit my target by the end of the day.

I’ve found that writing 2,000 words in one sitting can sometimes be a slog. By the last few hundred words my wrist is killing me, my handwriting is illegible, and I’m scrawling as quickly as I can just so I can finish and take a break. So now instead, I split my writing up in to smaller chunks. I’ll write about 1,000 words per sitting, which roughly works out to about the length of each scene in my book. This is a comfortable measure for me – I’ve found I can easily get past 5,000 decent quality words per day without fatigue while taking this approach. If I sat down and tried to write that amount in one sitting I would inevitably burn out, write rubbish, and feel drained.

So it took me a while, but I seem to have found my stride when it comes to balancing productive writing. How do you choose to measure your writing – do you use a timer and write for a certain amount of time, or instead opt for a target word count? If so, how much do you aim for per day? Do you break it up or blast through it all in one sitting?

© 2015, Gavin Zanker. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Photo by Ramiro Ramirez licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.