Word Meter for Projects

Word Meter & Exciting Writing Year

Last year I was involved in publishing two anthologies – Lost in the Museum and The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales – which sucked up a lot of my writing  time. This year I have some exciting news. I’ve been asked by a publisher to write a couple of kids’ novels for their You Say Which Way series. These are interactive e-books, similar to Choose Your Own Adventure or Pick a Path stories, where kids choose which way the story goes. I’ll have more exciting news about these soon. I am also finishing a kids’ novel and rewriting a young adult paranormal romance that has been on the back burner for  over a year. So it’s exciting and busy!

I thought I’d keep everyone up to date on my progress with my new word meters in the sidebar – a cool way to let my readers know what I’m up to. These word meters will be updated as I make progress.

Progress as at mid July 2015. To be updated soon!
Progress as at mid July 2015. To be updated soon!

Currently as you’ll see :

Black Belt Bailey – a middle grade martial arts novel for 11-13 year olds – is complete at 38,000 words.

The first draft of Dragon’s Realm the first of my You Say Which Way adventures – is finished at 42,000 words. This was fun to write and I look forward to receiving feedback from the publisher soon.

Nymphyre is a YA paranormal romance that has been brewing in the background for a couple of years. It was at about 92,000 words, and I’m whittling it down to about 80,000 (currently 87,000 and shrinking.) Written in fits and starts between other projects, this novel needs a through rewrite! I usually write a novel from start to finish, not over two years, so it’s been really interesting to rewrite this, bringing all the scenes into line with how I now want to the story to run. Clarkes’ Critique Group have taken my innocent sentences twisting them with their risque humor, making our local library cafe ring with laughter for hours on end as we chortle over possible romantic twists! Luckily most of these ludicrous suggestions will remain in the cafe – although their sound story-crafting ideas have been steadily worked into the novel. What is it about romance that makes people giggle and come up with silly jokes? Monkey Lab, my other critique group have also enjoyed aping around with the story!  Lots of grunting & screeching during those critique sessions – think chimps at the zoo.

Mystic Portal is a project planned for later this year, another You Say Which Way – a mountain biking adventure with a twist! Or several twists, depending on which paths you choose!

My 5 Criteria for a Word Meter

If you’d like to create a word meter, pop by this site to see the one I use. There are many out there, but my criteria were quite specific:

  1. Ability to reflect progress on several projects
  2. Include total word count and names of projects
  3. I did not want the names and word counts to take up too much space on my sidebar, so I decided to have meters with the words and count inside them.
  4. Flexibility with color (I can choose my own)
  5. I wanted to reflect which phase of the writing process I am at with each project , e.g. draft, editing, 2nd draft, rewrite etc.

This site enabled me to do all of the above.

5 Steps to Creating your own Word Meter

Hint: I used the following steps to make my word meters:

  1. I created several word meters with this resource
  2. I inserted the information I wanted (Project phase, name and target word count) inside the caption field.
  3. I decided to use blue for finished phases of projects and red for unfinished phases.
  4. I copied the code into one text box plug-in, in my sidebar, to create the word meters you see now.
  5. I repeated this process for each project, and saved my code in a word document for easy access (so I can edit the source code instead of using the site, next time).

Enjoy popping by the blog to see my progress. It’ll be nice to see you. Now, I’d better get back to writing or I’ll never be able to update the word meter.  See you soon.

Balancing Writing and Family – When a Mess Hits, Keep Smiling.

We try balancing writing and family, but sometimes life just happens! Our family has been extremely busy in the last few weeks. We had a TV crew filming my husband (see my last post about KurtX on New Zealand’s Got Talent) a massive plumbing leak, and lots of kids’ activities. With four kids, we’re always busy. Among all that, I had set myself some writing goals that challenged and extended me.

With a week’s notice, TV said they were coming to film KurtX at home! I decided to do a little spring clean (can you hear my family rolling their eyes?) Then two days before the TV crew arrived, a pipe burst! Yep, a plumbing leak! TV were coming with soggy, stinking carpet, 5 holes in the wet wall downstairs and two more in the ceiling.

Plumbing disaster
Plumbing disaster – dried out!

When the TV crew turned up, there were 4 large industrial fans running and an enormous dehumidifier humming away in the background. One of the fans was in our #HarmonicaHero’s sound studio. Of course we had to turn them off to film, but the carpet was still emitting a pungent aroma, reminiscent of wet dog! Luckily it was only television, not smellavison, so we avoided the soggy areas and the holes in the wall, and kept smiling.

My kids, especially the two youngest, thought the fans were a blast. Here’s a video of them having a ball – at the expense of the poor plumbing, battered walls, and sad carpet! My kids showed me that whatever mess life throws us, we should still have fun. I learned from their sense of hilarity and adventure. Aren’t kids great?

Note for Health and Safety Officers: By the time the kids were allowed downstairs by the fans, the TV cameras were long gone and the carpet was nearly dry!

What has this to do with balancing writing and family? Despite TV, leaks and mad, slapdash family life, I’ve had a productive time, writing-wise. For me, the best way of balancing writing and family, no matter what is going on, is to:

  • take time to exercise, preferably in fresh air (in windy Wellington the air is always fresh!)
  • spend time with my kids and husband

    Get outdoors to exercise - balancing writing and family.
    Get outdoors to exercise – balancing writing and family.
  • see a friend occasionally (often to exercise)
  • do something writing-related most days
  • have a day off from writing occasionally
  • set writing goals to focus me.

Setting goals for writing helps me in balancing writing and family life. My goals need to be challenging enough to keep me motivated, but not unachievable. In one of my former lives, I was a performance measurement consultant for a large IT business, so my old habit of utilising SMART goals, is automatic. SMART goals are:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Achievable,
  • Results-driven
  • and Time-bound.

So what goals have I achieved since last blogging? And why haven’t I blogged for so long? What have I been doing?

  • Firstly, when I set up my blog, I decided not to commit to blogging weekly. I didn’t want my blog to take away my precious writing time. So I’ll blog when I have something cool to share.
  • I’ve sent out my writing newsletter, Write On!, each week. (Sign up in the blue and yellow box if you’d like to receive it.)
  • Completed revising a novel and submitted it.
  • Completed three short stories.
  • Finished a children’s picture book and submitted it.
  • Done some more work on my paranormal romance novel (sizzle, sizzle)
  • Plotted an adventure chapter book for 8-12 year-old children.

But I haven’t blogged. Although I’ve written about 6 blog posts in my head. I had a brilliant post planned about a porcupine we saw attacking a bunch of meerkats at the zoo. We caught the prickly dude on camera. But when we searched for the video, someone had deleted it. So that blog post wont eventuate! (Sigh!)

Write on the ferry.
Write on the ferry.

The key to balancing writing and family is ensuring you write often. I have a friend who has a half-hour commute on a ferry across Auckland harbour each morning and evening. That’s his writing time. He uses it EVERY day. That’s the only time he gets. The rest of his life is for work and his wife & kids.

Write on the bus - balancing writing and family
Write on the bus!

I was speaking to another writer recently who said she only has a two hour block every Sunday and can’t find any other time. I wrote my first novel by becoming a time-thief, stealing minutes everywhere. So I encouraged her to find  a small ten-minute slot each day to churn out a few words.

“Ten minutes?” Her face lit up. “I can do that, even if it’s during my lunch hour, or on the bus.”

So soggy carpets aside, one of the best ways of balancing writing and family is to make sure we write! A novel grows a word at a time. If there are no words, there is no novel. How do we carve time out from our lives to write?

  1. Set manageable goals with time-frames.
  2. Monitor your progress.
  3. Do something small every day. Or five days a week. Or every Saturday. Squeeze it in when you can.
  4. Creative activity makes us feel great. Doing a little in regular bursts sustains that feeling!
  5. Start with EASY goals.
  6. If you don’t achieve them, don’t beat yourself up, they’re there to motivate you, not weigh you down!
  7. Count your successes! I keep an excel sheet of all my milestones and writing activity, so I can see what I’ve done!
  8. Celebrate milestones with your friends and family! Keeping them involved in your successes motivates them to encourage you to write.

Soggy carpets, TV crews, kids leaping in fans, and family commitments non-withstanding, I hope you find some time to write and to enjoy life with those you love most.