How to track your writing sprints

Have you ever done a writing sprint? This is when you write intensely for a certain number of minutes, hoping to increase your project’s word count. Many writers, such as Monica Leonelle and Chris Fox, recommend writing sprints both to build up a daily writing habit, and to learn to write more quickly. After all, much writing failure and abandoning of books takes place because we can’t get our brilliant ideas down on the page before we lose all interest in the project.

But doing your writing sprints isn’t enough. Both Monica Leonelle and Chris Fox recommend recording your writing sprints, to see how you are making progress. Chris Fox has a downloadable spreadsheet you can get at: https://www.chrisfoxwrites.com/5kwph/. I have used this on both my old Windows computer and my current Mac.

The spreadsheet can work for sprints of any length of time— 5 minutes, 8 minutes, 10 minutes, 25 minutes. It gives you your words-per-hour so you can compare how you are progressing, if you write more in shorter sprints, and so on.

Monica Leonelle recommends doing 8 minute sprints. Why? Because 8 minutes feels like a tiny time commitment. You can’t always work in time for an hour of writing, but 8 minutes? You can quick sit down and do that without much fuss. And if you start doing an 8 minute sprint every single writing day, and you learn to write a bit faster, you will in time be able to finish your writing project.

My most recent sprints
Yesterday I did an 8 minute session, writing by means of my dictation software. And then did 2 more 8 minute sessions. Dictation can be helpful if only because it can make us separate the first-draft writing process from the editing/fixing process, but I must admit that when I’m dictating, I do make corrections when I am afraid the interesting mistakes that my Mac’s Enhanced Dictation makes will mean that I will forget the clever words I actually said. When I do today’s sprint, I am going to try to minimize the corrections. My word counts on the 3 sprints were: 203, 125 and 185.

The spreadsheet gives you several choices to characterize the KIND of sprint you are doing: writing, editing, ‘other’… Since I do both dictation and keyboard writing, I use ‘writing’ to mean keyboard writing, and ‘other’ to mean dictation. I haven’t done any editing sprints yet.

What about you?

If you want to work on your writing habit using writing sprints, here are your assignments for today:

    1. Buy and download Monica Leonelle’s book ‘8-minute writing habit.‘ Start reading the book.
    2. Download Chris Fox’s spreadsheet. It’s free. https://www.chrisfoxwrites.com/5kwph/
    3. Do at least 1 writing sprint of 8 minutes. Use either keyboard writing or dictation. Or you can do one session of each. Record your word counts for each sprint and enter them into your spreadsheet.
    4. BONUS: buy Chris Fox’s 5000 Words Per Hour. Read that when you have finished the Monica Leonelle book.
    5. Accountability step: mention your word counts for today on your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter. Anyplace you can have a fairly supportive crowd.

Are you happy with the current state of your daily writing habit and your writing speed? If not, are you doing anything to improve your situation? Why aren’t you doing an 8-minute writing sprint RIGHT NOW? Go do one, I’ll wait. And brag about your word count for the sprint in a comment!

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Avoiding anti-male bigotry with the Reverse Bechdel Test

International symbol of masculinity

In the July/August 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest, on page 8, is an article called ‘Girl Talk’ which touts the ‘Bechdel Test’ as a way to write more feminist fiction. Yeah, ick.

The Bechdel test is actually familiar to me. It originated in a Lesbian comic strip, ‘Dykes to Watch Out For,’ that I used to read at a time I was not a Christian. I must confess it’s hard for me to take a comic-inspired test seriously.

Now, the common feminist belief is that the writing world is actively hostile to women. But there are actual genres out there that are JUST for women readers and women writers. Romance novels, chick-lit, Lesbian fiction…. there’s nothing quite like that just-for-guys. And anti-male sexism is rampant in these women-only forms of literature.

 

How many works of WOMEN’S fiction would pass a reverse Bechdel test? Here are the rules:
1. The work must have two men in it.
2. They must speak to one another.
3. They must speak about something other than a woman.

 

OK, think about the last women’s romance novel you read (traditional or Lesbian.) Who were the men in it? Did they talk to each other? About something other than a woman? I think a lot of romances wouldn’t measure up as masculinist fiction. (And if all women need to be feminists, why shouldn’t all males have to be ‘masculinist’ and let a men’s movement shape all their opinions for them?)

 

Most of the time, the men in a romance novel talk about the fictional heroine. The talk may be complimentary, or it may be harsh. If harsh, the man is probably either a villain, or the love interest who is destined to change his mind. All males in women’s fiction are destined to serve the pleasure of the female reader. Quite literally the pleasure, in the case of the misnamed ‘sexy romance’ novel. (It’s actually not romance at all, but sex fiction with a requirement for 3 full-on sex scenes per novel.)

As for Lesbian romances? Many might as well take place on a planet with an all-female population. In fact, one of the Lesbian novels I own DOES take place on a planet with an all-female population. That one would flunk the Reverse Bechdel Test bigtime.

 

But wait a minute. There are much more important tests your fiction REALLY has to pass that are about more important things than if your work rigidly conforms to this year’s ideas about ‘diversity.’ (No one has suggested a test to create ‘diverse’ fiction which portrays political conservatives, American Republicans, or prolife persons as human beings entitled to respect and a lack of bullying.)

The real test of your novel’s plot is this: Are all the actions, characters and conversations in the plot furthering the plot? If you put in a scene with two unconnected women in your thriller novel discussing how much they want Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren for our next president, it may help your novel pass the Bechdel Test, but if it doesn’t help any of your characters find the terrorist nuclear device hidden in the center of Washington, DC, that conversation has no real place in your novel. Cut it, unless you have a readership that demands feminist ideology and doesn’t care about plot. (Sadly, there probably are no readerships that don’t care about plot.)

Science Fiction: Space Colonization stories

When we watch science-fiction series like Star Trek and Star Wars, it is assumed that somewhere in the universe there are Terran space colonies. There are Earth-type worlds were Earth human people grow crops and manufacture goods. These worlds support the larger culture of the series.

But where do these colonies come from? How were they formed? What kind of people went to the colonies? Did they go voluntarily, or were they required to? These are the kind of questions you must answer when writing a space colonization story.

One of the first questions is that of government involvement. Are the first colonists on the new world subject to an all-ruling government? Or are they, once they arrive, able to form their own government? We can look at examples of colonization from our own world and, in the United States, from our own history.

The Pilgrims that came on the Mayflower took it for granted that they could make some of their own governmental rules. They did not believe that they had to enforce the primacy of the Anglican Church. They were of course dissenters from the Anglican Church, and they built dissenting church communities, feeling they had the freedom to do so.

Some space colonies might be heavily supported by the home planet. Goods from the home planet might be brought to make the colonists’ lives easier. On other colonies, the colonists might be dumped with a handful of primitive tools, and allowed to survive or not by their own efforts period

Medical support is one thing that colonists may need to live without. On our own world and in our own culture, hospitals are available both for emergencies, and for routine events like childbirth. Women tend to expect high levels of medical care during pregnancy. They expect advanced interventions in cases where something goes wrong. In some cases, they expect genetic screening, followed by the termination of the lives of imperfect unborn infants. On a space colony world, women may not be given much medical support at all. Pregnancy terminations may be considered taboo, especially if done for the limitation of family size. Colonies must have an expanding population to survive. Routine abortions might make this impossible.

A big question is whether the colonists are volunteers, exiles, or draftees. Volunteer colonists may seen as the ideal, but very many people might wish to avoid giving up their whole lives to come to a primitive world. If life is made hard for certain minority groups, such as practicing Christians or Jews, these groups maybe willing to leave Earth to gain the right to practice their religion in peace. If colonists are drafted and taken against their will, they will be very disaffected, but will not choose two fail to survive just to spite those who ordered them there.

A big part of any space colonization story is the surprises. A planet is a very large place. There may be lifeforms or other dangers which have not been detected prior to the arrival of the colonists. The colonists will have to cope with these dangers on their own, whether they like it or not.

Many space colonization stories start with the very first days of colonization. Others may start years or generations after the beginning of the colony. It all depends on what the authors’ interests are. And the readers. What kind of colonization might you like to read or write?

This blog post has been written using the Enhanced Dictation available on a Mac computer. It is considered a good practice to use the dictation software on blog posts, emails and note taking, to make it easier to dictate the novel. Dictating is a skill that must be practiced.

The Great Novel-Dictating Experiment

This is day two of my experiment in dictating my novel. I am using the dictation software that came with my Mac. It is a secondhand Mac that I bought a few years ago. There is similar voice dictation software built into the old Windows computer I had previously, but I didn’t use it. Whether you have a Mac or a PC, Google around to find info on the voice dictation software that came with your computer.

So far I have done 1000 words on each of the two days I have been working this way. There are a few little difficulties but I am overcoming them.

You may think that you have to memorize a lot of commands in order to use the dictation. That’s not so. Since you’re going to be editing anyway, you can add many features such as additional punctuation, quotation marks, and other things. You can start out just saying ‘period’ and ‘comma’ to add the most essential punctuation, and saying ‘new line’ or ‘new paragraph’ to add line or paragraph breaks. Actually, using the Extended Dictation on Mac, you are supposed to say “Press return key.”

One problem that dictation software has is with proper names. If your main character is named Tom, Harry or Adolph, dictation can spell it. But if you have strange character or place names, as an fantasy or science fiction novels, dictation cannot handle these names. The solution is to add a placeholder name. Use common names as substitutes for your characters strange real names, or the names of your fantasy cities and planets. Yes, it is silly to have a planet named Iowa when its real name is Glariniafini. But it’s a good workaround. You can just do a find-and-replace during the edit phase.

Fast flow writing

You may have heard about the importance of fast flow writing. This is writing really fast, without worrying about spelling, punctuation or getting all the details right. Dictation was made for fast flow writing. You can produce a lot more text with the fast flow than with more careful writing. Since correction is required in either case, you might as well write faster in the first draft phase. Forget those commas and semicolons! Just write!

I am currently writing this blog post with Extended Dictation, directly on to  WordPress. It’s not as easy as writing it on Scrivener first, and then cutting and pasting. But it is far easier than typing it.

A little trick

Sometimes when I’m dictating a sentence, it clearly misspells a word. Or it gets my words wrong. Often it’s because I didn’t speak clearly enough. When I see this, I just dictate the sentence again more clearly. I can just delete the sentence that did not come out well. Sometimes I’ve said a phrase or sentence three times before Extended Dictation came up with the best that it could do with the sentence in question.

I am still using the dictation that came with my Mac,. I downloaded something called Extended Dictation, which means I can dictate without being connected to the Internet. It works fairly well. At this point I don’t think it’s worthwhile to spend $300 on DragonDictate since I don’t know how long I am going to continue to write this way. The Extended Dictation works well enough for my current purposes.

And so that is my blog post for the day. I hope it will inspire anyone who’s experimenting with dictation software on their own. Please share your experiences in a comment.

 

Link

Use your voice to enter text on your Mac

Dictating your Novel

A number of authors of books on how to write faster have suggested using dictation software to write your novel. Is this really a good idea? Isn’t writing supposed to be about, well, writing? Or could dictating help you write faster or better or overcome Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

I have thought for some time of buying DragonDictate. This is a software which allows you to dictate your text. But I have discovered that both Macs and PCs come with dictation software built in these days. I am dictating this blog post with the dictation that comes on my Mac.

It is awkward. It is a new skill that I have to master if I want to write this way. So far, my work tends to be more prosaic and boring if I dictate it. But I’ve only been doing this for two days.

I have written a post in my personal writing diary using this method. It’s awkward. I think I said that already. I have also started a new WIP using only dictation. I did about 800 words this morning, and after revising, I ended up with over 1000. I feel like it might work for me.

Using dictation is one way a writer with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can continue to write. By dictating, you can avoid having to use your poor abused hands.

You also have to learn a few voice commands. For example, you have to use the words ‘period’ and ’comma’ to add punctuation to your text. (The dictation software did not handle this previous sentence very well.)

Is this worth doing? Even if you don’t have any physical disabilities that make typing hard?

It could be, if only as a change of pace. It’s doing something different. If you feel like a failure when writing the normal way, dictation might be a way to revive your interest in writing.

Can it increase your writing speed? It can be fast, but you have to wait for the software to catch up with your words. And you have to go over to make corrections. But I think I composed this blog post in a shorter amount of time than normal.

Have you ever tried writing with dictation? Did it work for you? If you want to give it a try, do an Internet search on ‘dictation’ or ‘voice to text’. You will find something that will explain how to activate dictation on your own computer. Practice a while. It may be something that is useful for you.