Monday, February 24, 2014

Word Counts and Time Limits

Good Morning. There are some people who say we must write every day. There are others who say write when the spirit strikes. Then there are those of us who write when we can.

Unless you're a million dollar author who employs outside help, or have no children, no friends, no life other than the one you imagine, writers have time limits on what they can and cannot do. Writing full time is a luxury. It will also kill you if you're not careful.

Numerous studies have shown that sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen for several hours a day, leads to eye strain, plantar fasciitis, obesity, poor blood circulation, shoulder and neck pain, and other various ailments. It has been suggested that we get up from our arses at least once an hour for at least ten minutes to improve the circulatory system.

I have maintained I'm a full-time writer. However, that's my job description for my IRS filing. I can't write 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I have a child, I have laundry, I have housework, I have a life. So, I need to be able to fit writing in AROUND those other things. And sometimes writing has to take a back seat to life. Other times it's just the opposite.

Since August 16, 2013, I have been writing my latest Regency. I finished it on February 14, 2014. That's 6 months. I bemoaned the writing process throughout because in my head I thought it should have been finished sooner. I wrote every day, I edited as I went, (because that's the way I write), I ignored Thanksgiving, Christmas, school vacation to write. I gave up on all good things to write. I pushed and pushed and pushed through to finish this story.

And you know up my LIFE, didn't help my word count. I still got stuck in places, I got blocked, I had research to figure out before I could finish. There's only so much writing one can do in a 24 hour period.

I decided to do an experiment. I kept track of my word count for the latter half of this book. The results were enlightening. I'm not a full-time writer as I so proudly claim. I'm a spastic-write-when-I-can-get-as-much-in-as-time-will-allow kind of writer. However, what I took away from this exercise is that the book still got written. I'm a little disappointed that it took so long (because I thought it should have only taken me 3 months), but it's done and I'm satisfied with the end result.

I'm going to share those counts with you so you can see that you don't have to feel guilty about finding time to fit in your writing.

Here is just a sampling of my word counts for my latest book. (Because if I shared it all with you we could be here until next year.)

Start  1.26.14

53,186  begin Sun 7:30 am
55,478  end 10:43 am          Note I took breaks
55,734  end 11:22 am          throughout the day
57,294  end 6:06 pm           all day = 4000 words

57,375  begin Mon 10:10      Note the decreased word count
57,025  end 2:00                  I obviously cut 300 words
57,382  begin 4:00 pm          I rewrote those cut words
57,550  end 7:45 pm            3 hours = 200 words

57,550  begin Tues 10:12 am  1.25 hours = 500 words
58,010  end  11:48
58,017  begin Tues 2:00 pm     3.75 hours = 600 words
58,647  end Tues 5:45 pm

58,662  begin Weds 9:36 am
59,135  end 11:20 am             2 hours = 500 words
59,350  end 4:04 pm          
59,350  begin 5:58 pm            2 hours = 200 words
59,574  end 7:58 pm

59,574  begin Thurs 5:35 pm     3 hours = 1,570 words
61,147  end 8:14 pm

61,147  begin Fri 12:00 pm
61,727  end Fri  1:49 pm         1.5 hours = 580 words
61,727  begin Fri 5:03 pm
62,667  end Fri 8:15 pm
62,753  end Fri 9:17 pm           4 hours = 1,025 words

62,753  begin Sat 9:00 am   5 hours = 1,016 words
63,769  end Sat 2:07 pm    

64,636  end Sun 6:11 pm   on and off all day

66,462  begin Mon 10:00 am
66,604  end Mon 1:17 pm         3 hours = 200 words
66,604  begin Mon 4:00 pm
66,863  end Mon 5:38 pm         1.5 hours = 260 words

Without bogging this post down with numbers, let's just notice how many time slots are filled with thousands of words in a sitting, and others I could barely make 200. Some two hour slots are better than others. Some all day slots barely moved the word count. Some after supper words counts were mind blowing, others I barely hit 200.

And as I said, I edit as I go (read what I previously wrote and edit before I begin another writing session.) This makes it easier for me when the book is finished. I'm not a proponent of just banging it out and fixing it at the end. NaNo writing doesn't work for me.

For the most part, what this post boils down to is, you don't have to chain yourself to a computer all day. During the school day I fit it in as I can. After school, after supper. I'm sure you have your sweet spots as well.

Tell me -- Do you keep track of your word counts? Do you have a set time to write? Do you have a sweet spot (time frame) when you blow your word counts out of the water? Do word counts really matter as long as the book finally reads THE END?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

PS I just found out that a good Blogger friend Roland Yeomans was operated on for cancer on Feb.19. If you pray, could you say a prayer that he recovers quickly. Roland is an amazing writer, blogger, friend. His posts are fantastic and if you don't know him, you should.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

No, don't adjust your blog. I know it's Monday. However, for the last few years I used to do interviews on Fridays, thus the name of the post. Anyway, here we are today with Bish Denham and her new book ANANSI and Company.

 Anansi, the spider, is like Coyote, the Trickster, (in some Native American cultures). Anansi only thinks about himself and what he can get out of life. However, sometimes his tricks backfire and he's worse off, but most times he's just a very sweet psychopath.

Bish has combined ten or so short stories with riddles intermixed in the
pages, and let me tell you, I didn't get one answer to the riddles. (Go ahead, try them, I dare you.)

I found the stories reminiscent or Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit, but only because these stories landed in the islands first before coming to America. I don't want to say they're the same, because they're not, so I'll use the word similar.

A few short questions for Bish --

Thanks, Anne, for taking time out from your busy schedule to let me and Anansi hang out with you for a while. Ever since Anansi found out you were once a chef, he’s been looking forward to a High Tea. I told him not to get his hopes up, but I have to tell you, he really would like to try some scones with strawberry preserves! (Anytime.)

Now, on to your questions.

Why did you decide to publish this book? (I know you have others you've been working on.)

Several years ago I entered my Anansi story, “Why Dogs Beg,” into the Children’s Writer Folktale and Fantasy Contest. To my complete surprise, I won first place. That win gave me the needed push to continue writing more stories. I tried peddling them around as a collection but no one seemed interested. When I seriously began to consider self-publishing, I thought the Anansi stories would be a good place to start. My critique partners and beta readers all seemed to really enjoy them which gave me a lot of confidence. Then, when I saw Adrienne Saldivar’s cover and her illustrations, I knew I’d made the right decision.

You can read, “Why Dogs Beg,” at:

How has your self-publishing experience been? Anything you'd wish you'd known before you started that no one told you?

The experience has been challenging. I’ve never been entirely sure I’m doing it right. I’m still not sure. Were it not for you, who has patiently answered every question I’ve sent you, I don’t know if I would have taken the plunge. Even if you couldn’t answer a question (which was rare) you have been incredibly supportive and encouraging. I don’t think there’s anything anyone could have told me before I started. But I do wish I’d had someone sitting with me at my computer, walking me through the process step by step. It might not have taken me so long. There is still so much I don’t know how to do and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to learn. BUT… I have help in the blogging community, people I can turn to when I get into areas where I feel I’m in over my head.

(This was my experience too, and three years later, I'm still not sure I'm self-publishing the right way. However, it has also been my experience that the blogging community is made of win.)

What are you working on now? (Bish and her sister Erva have been working on a cookbook of authentic island foods for the last few years that I'm just dying to read.)

The cookbook is a pretty big project and is on hold for a while because my sister is exceptionally busy. It was written by my grandmother and the time it will take to review, revise, edit, etc. just isn’t there at the moment.
In the mean time there are other stories of mine waiting to be published. Once I make Anansi available in print, which shouldn’t be too long now, I’ll be working on A LIZARD’S TAIL, an exciting animal adventure for lower middle grade.
Here’s what it’s about.
From the moment he hatches, Marvin P. Tinkleberry knows he is destined for greatness. For one, he has a marvelous, well-groomed tail. For another he can puff out his throat pouch in the most spectacular way. Maybe the other lizards in his colony don’t take him seriously, but he knows the truth. It lives in the marrow of his bones; he’s going to be a hero.

When a feral cat threatens the lives of all who live at Stone Wall in the Garden by the Sea, Marvin knows it’s HIS destiny to get rid of the fearsome beast. Travelling Over the Hill to find help should be as easy as snapping up a sleeping moth. But it doesn’t take long for Marvin to see that the world beyond Stone Wall is not the same as his pampered life back at the garden. From the Sucker Cactus Forest to deadly mongooses, danger lurks around every corner and Marvin will have to decide if he’s willing to be the hero he’s long bragged about being.

Oh yes, that sounds fantastic. Who doesn't love a lizard who can puff out his throat pouch?

About Anansi and Company

How do you escape a hungry tiger? Why do ram-goats smell? What happens if you get too greedy? In this collection of ten retold Jamaican stories, Anansi the spider tricks, sings, and dances his way into and out of trouble.

But who is Anansi? It was the Ashanti of West Africa who brought the spider into the Caribbean. He clung tight to the web he wove in the minds of those who had been captured, surviving not only the harrowing passage across the Atlantic Ocean, but hundreds of years of slavery.

As a trickster, Anansi has both good and bad traits, which makes him very human. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses. When he wins he dances and sings for joy. When he loses, he shakes it off and keeps on living, a lesson for us all.

About the Author -- Bish Denham

Bish Denham, whose mother's side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there and visits them regularly.

She says, "Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named them, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. Pirates plied the waters and hundred of years of slavery left its indelible mark. It was within this atmosphere of magic and wonder that I grew up. My hope is to pass some of that magic and wonder on to my readers."

You can learn more about Bish by visiting her blog:

She can also be found on


Thanks everyone for stopping by and supporting Bish.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thoughts on Structure in Writing

Good morning. I recently sent off a short story to a very brilliant writer friend of mine. I was very excited as I was going to submit that story to a magazine. Unfortunately, she wrote back that the story had no structure. It wasn't what I expected to hear. I expected to hear that perhaps my humor wasn't conveyed the right way, the adverbs needed to be culled, the POV was a little 'iffy' in chapter three. But structure? Who knew.

We all have had it drummed into our heads since we were little kids --  a story has a beginning, middle, and end. Pretty much all you need to know when you're nine. As we progress through school, we learn about dangling modifiers, adjectives, clauses, punctuation, etc. We get the difference between fiction, non-fiction and essays by the time we graduate high school. In college we "learn the rules" of how to write and hope we do not get a D. There's a formula for writing well no matter what you do in life. From resumes, law contracts, complaints to HR or customer services, doctor charts and reports, or just a simple thank you note -- there's a way to write it correctly. Beginning, middle, end. You know what I'm talking about.

To get back to my short story. Seems it was all middle. My friend likened it to a private conversation with no quotation marks so you never knew who was speaking. It had nothing to stand up to, nothing to push back against. No beginning, no end.

Hmm. I thought about. I thought about it some more. I reread the story. *face palm* She was right.

Flash forward to now. I'm finally at the end of my latest WiP. I am about to finish the first/tenth draft (I edit as I go) and send it off to my beta readers. (Once that comes back, I adjust and send to my critters.) I was thinking (as I was writing) "Gee, this book is taking an awfully long time to finish, but I still have so much left to say." And I did. I had five threads that needed to be tied up. So why weren't they?

Please, bear with me as I try and explain.

As we all know, different genres have different formulas. In cozy mysteries, the dead body is usually off stage. In romance, the hero and heroine must meet within the first five pages. In science fiction it's all in the world building. We also know, that in the back of any writing endeavor, we have  beginning, middle, and end. That small, simple fact is encoded into our DNA.

In any kind of fiction writing there is a definite formula. So many climactic scenes per act. The longer the word count, the more climaxes you could fit in. With three acts, you have the minimum of three dramatic climaxes with all the lose ends being tied up at the close of the book. Within each act there could be one or two other threads (sub-plots) running as well with their own drama. Within each act the tension must rise until the final culmination or climax where everything is resolved. (Including all sub-plots, unless you're leaving room to write a sequel.)

Okay, so you with me so far. (If not, Anne R. Allen had as her guest yesterday, Paul Fahey, a very distinct short form writer. However, he also has the exact diagram of what I tried to explain above. If you haven't read the post yet, you should. Step 4.)

In thinking on the structure of this novel THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE before I began writing, I presumed it would have a beginning, middle, and end. After reading it through the other day, I think I've written beginning, end, middle. My hero's journey ends smack dab in the middle of the book with this huge daring rescue/sea battle. (Plot spoiler ahead) The villain dies. After that, nothing. No more "big" moments or discoveries. As a matter of fact, this is where I'm tying up my loose ends. However, here's the kicker -- the hero and heroine are apart. And my reason why

-- I short changed the heroine in almost the entire book. However, there's more at stake for her now.  So over the course of the last three chapters in trying to give her POV more consideration (as well as tying up those threads) I have a long drawn out waiting game for the heroine -- will he or won't he return to her.

Not the way it's supposed to go. We MEET at the BEGINNING. We WAIT in the MIDDLE (because generally in a romance, something has to keep the hero/heroine apart). BIG stuff (like daring rescues and sea battles) usually happen at the END.

Hmm. What is it with me and middles?

I'm not restructuring the story to fit the formula. I don't think the story would work that way. I don't know what my readers will think. I guess I'll find out. As for the short story I wrote, I know what she means now about it being all middle and I know what I need to do to fix it. (Yes, the obvious, write a beginning and end.)

Tell me -- Do you ever think about structure when writing? Or do you just write and see where it takes you? Do you write beginning, middle, end? Do you ever find the occasion to chuck the formulas?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Do join me next Monday when Bish Denham is here to talk about her new book.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Under Pressure

Good morning. Let me just say how much I miss you all. I've tried getting around to the blogs every so often, but it's a hit or miss proposition. Trying to get the latest book wrapped up, starting on the new one, dealing with school... it's just been too much.


I know a lot of you are dealing with enormous pressure on an everyday basis -- kids, jobs, husbands, housework. It's enough to make you explode.

But then, on top of all that, you're writing, revising, submitting, querying, polishing, beta-reading, all for the sake of the thing inside your soul that if you gave it up you would die.

Now there are some bloggers out there who blog every day, with phenomenal content, who have thousands of followers, who get tweeted and retweeted, and are just the bomb. They also have kids and lives, and their own reality to deal with. I envy those people who can do it all.

I'm not one of those people. I can barely keep up with the blogs I read, never mind write a coherent post for one day. Then there is the pressure to Tweet, keep up with LinkedIn and Goodreads, keep up with the marketing and publicity for my books.

And now that I have so many books out, that pressure becomes ten-fold. The guru's say to get a lot of content out there, keep writing, keep producing, more more more. That's the only way to make a name for yourself. And on top of all that, market, publicize, get your name out there, keep it up, more more more.

It's hard. Damn hard. And let me tell you how many times I thought about chucking it all. Just giving up writing and going out and getting a "real" job. A LOT.

But I didn't, and I can't, because I love writing so much.

Tell me -- Do you feel the need to "keep up"? How do you handle the pressure? What do you give up first?