Benefits of Measuring Word Count

For some time I only measured my word count when writing a piece of a specific length, or taking part in a challenge such as National Novel Writing Month or Book-in-a-Week. Recently I have begun to explore how measuring word count on a day-to-day basis encourages me to write more and better.

Measuring Word Count

There are many benefits to being able to track what you are writing and when, but here are the three which have proved most significant to me.

Motivation

I am not always a very visual person but when taking part in National Novel Writing Month I fell in love with the “progress bar”, a clever widget which shows your completed word count as a proportion of your target. Since then I have discovered an Android app called Writeometer which provides a similar function for the other eleven months of the year. The fun of watching the bar gradually approach the target encourages me to sit down and add a few more words on days when I might otherwise have set my writing aside altogether.

Time Management

Setting targets and breaking them down into a daily word count goal makes it much easier to know early on when you need to adjust your targets, or your strategies for meeting them. Again, I have found Writeometer very helpful for managing complete projects in this way, but I also use the excellent Write or Die desktop edition to track my word count across several writing sessions within a day. Using both together recently helped me complete a novella in just under two weeks, which was a record for me.

Knowing What Works

Time management is not always just about fitting everything in. If you record not only your writing goals and completed word count, but also some details of your writing sessions, such as where you worked and how long you wrote for at a stretch, it becomes easier to see what habits are contributing to your successes, and which are keeping you from peak performance.

Rachel Aarons has an excellent post about how she increased her word count from 2,000 to up to 10,000 a day using simple techniques which included monitoring word count. Her results, and mine, certainly suggest that measuring your output is an important part of writing more and better.

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Topic Links
* Get the Writometer from Guavabot.
* Learn more about Write or Die.
* Read Rachel Aarons post on increasing your word count.

About Stephanie Cage

Stephanie Cage is a British romance writer with books published by The Wild Rose Press and Crimson Romance. She loves dance and musical theatre, and her first full-length novel, Perfect Partners, has a dancing theme. Learn more from her contributor page.

One Fictitious Moment — Writing Tidbits

Angela Misri is the up-and-coming Canadian author of the new mystery series, A Portia Adams Adventure. The first book in the series is called Jewel of the Thames and is actually featured on Kindle at the moment for $4.60. But what I really wanted to share with you is the adorable Fiction Writing series that Angela has started on YouTube. The one minute videos feature in-motion illustrations along with her writing tidbits commentary. These are an excellent way to introduce new skills on writing and the writing craft in your already busy lifestyle. The channel is called One Fictitious Moment and it looks like she uploads a new video every few weeks. Here are the first four to get you started. If you subscribe to her channel then you will get an email update when she uploads a new one:

Episode 1: Writing Detective Fiction

Episode 2: Writing a Great Villain

Episode 3: Writing Dialogue

Episode 4: Creating Tension

There you have it! Four minutes of writing tidbits in 1 minute intervals and don’t you feel a little smarter already?

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Topic Links
* Subscribe to Angela Misri’s One Fictitious Moment
* Purchase Jewel of the Thames on Amazon

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.

The Query

It is incredible how everything you dream about depends on a one page letter. You could write the greatest novel ever but if your query stinks, no one will ever read your novel.

What Is It?

The sole purpose of the query is to “hook” the agent into requesting the first three chapters or better yet, the entire manuscript. If it takes you longer than a page to get your point across as to why they should read your book, then you are doing something wrong.

too many emailsAgents are inundated with queries: hundreds come through their inbox everyday. They want you to get to the point. Every word counts and there is no room for being superfluous.

The query letter to an agent should be divided into three parts.

The Hook

The first part is the hook. It is one sentence and it tells what your book is about. If you cannot come up with a one sentence hook about your book, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

The Blurb

The second paragraph will mention the title, the genre and the word count followed by a brief description of your book. This is basically the blurb, or what you would see on the back cover of a book. It should mention some kind of conflict.

Experience

Finally the third paragraph will list all of your publishing history from magazine articles, to previous books published to your blog to contests won. Include it all, it counts. Where possible, post links to where you can be found on the web (makes it easy for the agent to find you).

The Importance of Research

Do not forget to research the website of the agent you are querying. Follow their directions explicitly. Spell their name right. Check that they are accepting submissions at the time that you are querying. Make sure they represent the genre you are writing in. Do they want snail mail or email queries? Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors; the last thing you want is your query rejected due to grammar mistakes and misspellings. The thought is that if the query is riddled with mistakes, then so will the manuscript.

Here are some links to queries that opened the doors for their writers:

If you follow the basic directions, do your research, proofread your letter and study winning query letters, there is no reason why you cannot write one yourself. You are a writer after all.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Creating Your Fanbase Before Publication

A writer friend of mine, Keris Stainton has just released her third book, Emma Loves LA. What is so amazing about Keris is that prior to publication of her first book, she had already established a wide fan base using social media. I interviewed her for Writers Forum UK two years ago on this very topic.Facebook Logo

On this side of the millennium, we can no longer escape social media or the impact it has had on our lives. Whether it is posting pics on Facebook, creating boards on Pinterest or writing 140 characters max on Twitter, it is practically a full-time job to navigate the internet. But navigate it you must, if you are serious about becoming a published writer.

When I submitted my first novel three years ago, all the agents wanted were my publication credits. Now both agents and e-publishers are not only demanding writing credits but they want links as well as to where they can find you on the web!

Social media is the venue in which writers can be in the driver’s seat in regards to marketing themselves and their books.

Twitter LogoOn Facebook you can create an author page. At Twitter you can create an account and just jump into the stream of conversation and hope you do not sink. Have interests and hobbies? Then try creating boards on Pinterest. There is Linked In which is a professional social networking site. And if you can really find the time, there is blogging. Everybody blogs these days, the trick is to blog regularly to establish a presence and a following.

This is where I fall down. I have two blogs that have been *clears throat* untended. It is on my to-do list with a gazillion other things. I have to admit that I struggle with all of this. I think it is hard enough to be working and having a life while trying to find the time to write your novel without having to add to that the pressure of creating a consistent online presence. But I have come to the conclusion that if I am serious about my writing then it has to be done.

In the publishing climate of today, not only do you have to write a cracker of a story but you have to be involved in selling yourself and your product and the easiest way to do this is through social media.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

The Basic Rules

Grammar and Punctuation

Recently, while sending out my current work-in–progress (WIP) to the round of agents, I came across an agent’s blog that was downright scary. The spelling and punctuation were atrocious. She even violated a basic rule of using a plural verb form with a singular noun. It was quite annoying; after all, are we not told ad nauseum that a query full of punctuation and grammatical errors is sure to result in a rejection?

geek scratching headI passed on this agent feeling that if she could not even be bothered to proof read her own writing, then how could I be sure she’d go over my own manuscript with a fine-toothed comb? Also, I thought it was high time that I reviewed my own knowledge of punctuation and grammar rules.

There are two things in relation to grammar and punctuation that I am certain of:

1) “I” before “e” except after “c” (that is branded on my brain) and
2) I am pretty sure I was sick the day the teacher went over the whole lay/lie thing.

Like the new math that is part of the curriculum these days (isn’t 2 + 2 still 4?), there seems to be a slightly different approach to punctuation and grammar.

Semi-colons, a personal favorite of mine, are just about vilified among some writers and I noticed that they are shying away from calling a “period” a “period.” Now it is a “full stop.” My boys are learning it as a “full stop” in primary school and when I called it a “period” they looked at me like I had just grown a second head.

There is a joke circling the internet about how a comma (or lack of one) can be deadly:

“Let’s eat Grandma.
Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Twenty years ago when my sister and her then boyfriend used to fight (which was often), they would exchange notes. My sister and I would then go over his notes, correcting his grammar and circling his misspellings with a red pen, (I am sure he loved that) which reminds me of another quote I have seen floating around the internet:

“If you’re losing an argument, start correcting their grammar.”

Correct grammar and punctuation are essential for if your manuscript is riddled with misspellings and basic grammar mistakes, it will detract from even the greatest of stories.

To brush up on who/whom, of/have, between/among, than/then, who/that/which, and a lot of other good rules, check out GrammarBook.com. For rules on punctuation, I found Grammar.About.com really helpful.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Utilizing Facebook

Like Twitter, Facebook (FB) is another social networking site. It was recently reported to have 600 million users worldwide. It is a little more in depth than Twitter in that you can create your own profile which can include DOB, status (married, single, etc), level of education and where you went to college to religious and political views. You also decide who views your wall from FB friends only to all Internet users. Your wall is where you post your comments which can be from what you had for breakfast, to what you are currently reading, to posting a link. Most people seem to go by their real names rather than “handles” like on Twitter (although more and more people are using their real names on Twitter).

You can “friend” people  on FB and once they confirm you as a “friend” then you can post messages on their walls as well.  You will know everything from what charities they follow to what FB games and applications they are using.

Two years ago I attended my 25th high school reunion (I was 10 when I graduated ;)) and I reconnected with all those girls I went to high school with. We had such a great time that we all now keep in touch via FB.

If you want to keep your personal life separate from your written life, then you can create a “fan page” on FB. Once you have logged into FB simply go to the bottom of the FB page and double click the “create a page” icon. From there you will get step by step instructions of how to set up your own page as a writer. You will see different boxes to click on ranging from cause or community to local business or place to artist, band or public figure. Some of the writers that I follow then upload a photo of their book cover on their page. When FB users “like” your page (and they do this by clicking the “like” button on your page), it will appear on their own wall and that is how the word gets out.

FB like Twitter is a huge social phenomenon. I have to admit that I love both for the simple reason that as I live abroad it helps me keep in touch with my family and friends back home, if even on a peripheral level. It also keeps me in the loop of “what’s going on” culturally. Used wisely, it can be a great way to get your name out there. But it is a double edged sword: it can be the greatest time waster known to man with all the messages, links, games and applications. It is important to manage your time there and make sure you do not get caught up in all the bells and whistles. Approach it with an open mind.

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Topic Links

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Insanity Writing

Interview with Don Britt

The ultimate act of writing insanity: that’s what Don Britt calls his attempt to produce twenty-four novels over the course of the next year, beginning this month.

Don got the idea after he participated in The 3 Day Novel Writing Contest this past September. That planted the seed for him to try to produce twenty-four 3-day novels in the next twelve months. All his entries will be live for viewers to follow along and he will use a countdown timer.

I spoke to Don about his ultimate act of insanity this week:

Michele: Tell us a little bit about yourself: background, family, where you live, etc.

Don Britt, WriterDon Britt: I was born in California to Canadian parents, and brought up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. From an early age words and music defined me, and both served me well when I felt called into ministry. After ten years I left the pulpit to pursue my heart’s desire, writing. I wrote full time until I ran out of money and then returned to the ranks of the employed, which I’ve been trying to escape ever since. My wife’s name is Georgia, a health care professional and fanatical lover of animals, and we have two children, Crystal and Caley. We live in W.O. Mitchell country, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Michele: On your blog you mention that the ‘genesis’ for this idea was a 3 Day Novel Writing Contest –what was that about and how does one go about writing a novel in 3 days? Is there a standard length or word count? And how did you come up with the number 24?

Don Britt: The 3-Day Novel Contest is an event held each September over Labour Day weekend. It gives each contestant 72 hours to write a story that comes in around 100 pages in length. I took this to mean properly formatted, double spaced manuscript pages. It works on the honor system – you send in a statement with your submission attesting that you obeyed the rules. I’m very grateful to the organizers, and especially to Melissa Edwards, the managing editor, who gave me permission to use their trademark ’3-Day Novel’ in my project. The contest was a great kick in the pants for me. It inspired me to do something I’ve done all too infrequently in my life as a writer. That’s finish what I start. (Please check out their website for more details on their contest.)

As for the number 24, I considered a more sensible goal, say twelve 3-Day novels in a year. But that just didn’t seem gimmicky enough to me. This is a shameless publicity stunt. 24 struck me as a number that’s over the top enough to garner attention.

Michele: How do you plan to complete this around your work schedule and family commitments?

Don Britt: I’m billing this as an act of insanity. I’m hoping that will excuse the fact that I’ve really made no practical plans of any kind. I’m mainly hoping that my family and the people I work with will be forgiving.

The only real preparation I can cite is a conversation with my wife, who offered me her unconditional support, thank God. Without it this would not be possible.

Michele: How are you going to come up with 24 ideas for the novels? How many ideas do you have now going into it?

Don Britt: I’m a big believer in brain storming. I sat in our local diner recently and wrote out some story ideas, just a sentence or so for each one. Most of them were beyond horrid. Like “Guy gets trapped in car that’s surrounded by zombies – entitled ‘THEY NEVER SLEEP!’” Feel free to steal that one. I’ll never use it. I might have eight or ten workable ideas, at best. So I’m hoping inspiration will strike as things roll along.

Michele: Will you have a routine or plan to follow for the 72 hours? If so, what is it?

Don Britt: When I took part in the 3-Day Novel Contest, I managed to get forty pages in the tank on day one. Fatigue set in after that, and my page count dropped each day. If I didn’t open with a ‘big serve’ I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished my project. So that will be my main goal for each entry. Come hell or high water, get forty pages in the tank on the first day, and go from there.

As for the rest of my routine, I’m afraid it won’t be kind to an already bulging waistline. I wrote my first 3-Day novel while eating cold chicken, pizza and ice cream, and drinking lots of coffee. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. So there will likely be a big weight loss resolution heading into 2012.

Michele: How will you prevent novel fatigue or burnout over the course of the next year?

Don Britt: Julia Cameron recommends ‘artist’s dates’. Nice walks in the woods, hanging out in a favorite cafe. That sort of thing. Living in rural Saskatchewan poses some challenges in that regard, but there’s no end of scenic wonders grand here in The Land of the Living Sky. Hopefully, I’ll find my rest and inspiration along the way.

Michele: Aside from publication, what else do you hope to accomplish from this endeavor?

Don Britt: I guess I’m pretty conventional in this regard. Authors talk about that delicious moment when they first see someone reading their book. I’m hoping to get the same rush from this enterprise. What blows me away is the thought of my characters and ideas literally coming to life inside another mind, in the engrams and firing neurons of another living soul. That’s my dream, that my work will continue to leap between the synapses of the human brain long after I’m gone.

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Topic Links

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Learning from Noah Lukeman

One of my favorite books is The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. Recently I received an email from his website letting me know about a couple of free items available there. I’d like to share them with you:

  • How to Write a Great Query Letter is available as a free download.
  • Ask a Literary Agent, is filled with valuable advice to help aspiring authors in their careers.
  • Free monthly ezine with tips for authors.
  • Free excerpts from all of his books are available on his official website.

Noah Lukeman’s books are one of the most common books I turn to for book giveaways during BIW. They offer concrete advice and are affordable. I highly recommend checking out his websites and his books.

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.

Vicki Kissinger

BIW Member Interview

Vicki Kissinger lives in Erie, Pennsylvania with her best friend and husband James, his four cats and her two German Shepherd Dogs. Burned out after working eighteen years as a registered nurse she started a new career as a canine obedience instructor working with pet dogs and problem behaviors. Recently disabled due to severe arthritis and other health issues she has been combining her knowledge of dog behavior and care with her writing and has had canine or training related articles published in local magazines and websites.

Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Vicki Kissinger, writerVicki Kissinger: I started writing very young. As soon as I started reading I thought it would be fun to make up my own stories and I began to write them down. Looking back I will admit that my first attempts were often my version of stories that I had read. It did not take me long to start finding my own ideas. I discovered early that I am a perfectionist and I would spend hours rewriting the same paragraph over and over so that writing a short story or poem was a long and painful process.

Writing and reading were not considered to be “useful” activities by my mother so I often had to hide what I was doing. Fortunately I had many supportive teachers that appreciated my writing and encouraged me to keep up with my endeavors. I put off my writing for several years while I pursued a career in other areas but my regrets and the very strong urge to write have finally come together so that I am writing seriously now.

Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?

Vicki Kissinger: The most important lesson that I have learned about writing is that you have to write! Excuses and procrastination do not make you a writer. Writing is learned and improved by writing. The second thing that I have learned is that letting your internal editor run loose while you are writing makes it difficult if not impossible to get any words down on paper. So lock him up tight and ignore him while you get words down on the page. Once the words are down you can take the time to turn your editor loose and let him do his thing. The third thing I have learned is that ideas can be found everywhere and at anytime. I always carry a notebook with me so that I can jot down ideas as they pop into my head, observations of the people and places around me, quotes, etc. I never want to be in the situation of having a great idea and having it fade away before I can get it written down.

Moe: What are you working on now?

Vicki Kissinger: I am working on a few different projects. One is writing a monthly column for “Front and Finish” magazine about training dogs for competition while disabled. Since becoming disabled I have discovered a need to become a strong advocate and protestor for disabled rights with my service dog Kai. My mantra has become, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”. My experiences have given me a great idea for a mystery novel that is now under construction. I continue to send out queries with article ideas to various magazines. I am also doing research and putting together a proposal for a non-fiction book.

Moe: Do you have a favourite writing related book?

Vicki Kissinger: It is not fair to make me pick only one writing related book! I would have to say that one of my favorites is The Power to Write by Caroline Joy Adams.

Moe: What is your favourite writing website?

Vicki Kissinger: There are so many writing websites that I check out at regular intervals. Of course one of my favorites is the BIW site. If I had to pick a favorite it would probably be the Toasted Cheese website. You can find a monthly calendar of writing prompts, writing contests and a supportive community of other writers.

Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?

Vicki Kissinger: The best thing that BIW has taught me is to get my butt in the chair and write something. I can be the world’s best procrastinator. The discipline of setting a goal and working to achieve it or better it is something I have carried over to the rest of the month. I have a goal set for every day of the week and I set aside time every day to achieve that goal.

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.

Cynthia Hudson

BIW Member Interview

Cynthia Hudson is a freelance writer and novelist originally from New England. She has completed two fiction novels, dozens of short stories, and several non-fiction articles that can be found on the web. She is also working on an online novella that will be completed this fall.

Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Cynthia Hudson: I actually started writing when I was about ten years old. When other young girls were playing with their fashion dolls, I was writing ghost stories and mystery plays that I would con my nieces and nephews to take part in. I’ve never really wanted to be anything else.

Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?

Cindy Hudson, writerCynthia Hudson: First, that no one can make you sit down and write every day, you have to be self-motivating. Unless you are a famous, published writer no one is waiting with baited breath for your next work.

Second, I treat my writing as a job. When I am working on a book I get up every morning and get ready for the day as if I was expected at work. I try to be at my desk at 9:00 a.m., coffee in hand, ready to go.

Third, that writing is a gift you give yourself. It really doesn’t matter if anyone buys what you have written; although all of us would love a best seller that is not what makes you a “writer”. When you put the words on a page and love what you have written, you are a writer.

Moe: What are you working on now?

Cynthia Hudson: I just finished my second novel and while I am working through my second draft I am writing some short stories for publication on the web.

Moe: Do you have a favourite writing related book?

Cynthia Hudson: I have two but if I can only pick one it would be Stephen King’s On Writing. Practical advice and it makes me smile.

Moe: What is your favourite writing website?

Cynthia Hudson: I love Writer’s Digest. They offer many of their how-to articles from the magazine for free online. There is a free newsletter that you can subscribe to, links, prompts, online conferences, and a bookstore that offers many writing related books at discounted rates. It’s also how I found BIW and NaNoWriMo!

Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?

Cynthia Hudson: I always try to figure out what I need to get done for the week, whatever project I am working on, and then set my goal. I also find it easier for me to set my goal a little low so I am not constantly beating myself up for not getting enough done which is simply wasted energy.

Visit Cynthia’s official website.

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.