LivinginCyn.com announced the series’ cover redesign in August. We also interviewed the author earlier in the year. And now we’re pleased to see readers are getting in on the literary action! Her book, Sanyare: The Last Descendant (US | UK) recently topped Amazon’s sales charts and is enjoying Amazon’s highly coveted “Best Seller” flag. Make sure you visit Amazon and start reading this delightful fantasy series!
There is still time to vote, my friends — And in case you didn’t know… this blog you’re following (Living in Cyn) is listed as Cynthia T. Luna under Best Newcomer category!
You’ve all been asking for it… and now you’re gonna get it! The Bloggers Bash Agenda, that is. I can’t believe that it’s already nearly a year since the very first Blo…
This week’s #TWHST features a quote from The English Spy, written by the international bestselling author, Daniel Silva. Even though I have been working on business non-fiction for the past few months, I am slowly turning my attentions back to my fiction, the rough draft of which has an espionage element in it.
As you might have guessed, I know absolutely nothing about spying. I had intended my debut novel to be more of a chick lit rom com (commercial women’s literature, romantic comedy) featuring a cutesy Bridget Jones or a Becky Bloomwood (characters of Helen Fielding and Sophie Kinsella, respectively), but somewhere along the way, another story swooped in and took over and–well, it involves spies, secrecy and murder. Intrigue that I hadn’t at all planned on writing into my book!
The resulting first draft of my story has me turning to research, which means, I get to read! That explains the #TWHST quote from a few weeks’ back. But that was then. Let’s get back to this week’s quote, shall we?
Is the English Spy an English Assassin?
The book opens up with a mysterious character in the Caribbean. No one on the island knows who he is, except that he goes by the peculiar name “Colin Hernandez” and says he comes from Venezuela. Given that the book’s title is “The English Spy” and the first character we meet is called “Colin” the question that first sprang to my mind was whether this Colin fellow, is the title character.
Until, this line.
This quote happens quite early in the novel (by page 19 in the paperback, so whatever I tell you here will serve rather as a teaser than a spoiler) and happens just moments after Colin wakes up from a post coital doze next to Amelia List, and just moments before he wrenches her neck.
And, thus, we learn that Colin Hernandez is a man, unstoppable in his mission–and quite possibly not the English spy, but rather an English assassin.
So, who is the English spy?
That I will tell you in next week’s “That’s What He Said Thursday”, by which time I will have hopefully finished the book, and gotten a clue about how I will handle an espionage theme in my chicklit fiction!
What’s your “That’s What He Said” Thursday quote?
There’s a meme going around on Thursdays, called “That’s What He Said Thursdays” or #TWHST. I found out about it more than a month ago and participated nearly right away. (Check out my other entries.) What I love about it, is that it makes reading, and sharing what you’re reading, social!
HOW TO PLAY (JOIN THE FUN!)
The rules of participation are simple: Pick “a favorite line from your book boyfriend to his heroine. Keep in mind these are direct quotes from dialogue in a book.” Chapter Break — the masterminds behind this fabulous idea — has a whole list of quotes that date back to 2013!
You can add add your favorite line in the comments below this post–or add a link to your own blog post in the comment below.
(Actually, it’s day two of testing dictation, but yesterday was such a mess that I don’t count it.) Dictation is an interesting concept. It conjures up memories of grade school exercises with my teacher walking up and down the classroom enunciating words loudly and clearly. She was reading, remembering to pause and say “comma”, “colon” or “full stop” at the appropriate times.
Here I am today, on the train, my dictation exercise cut short by a couple of guys who parked themselves next to me. My self-consciousness in overdrive. I have resorted to tapping my blog post into my phone.
Regardless of my shyness, dictation comes with clear benefits. The first of which is its hands-free words inputting system. Second, because of this, you can end up being extremely productive when normally you wouldn’t get anything done. (Because tapping into my phone has become so cumbersome, I have forced myself past my shyness hump, and I am back to dictating again–nevermind the two guys who parked next to me on the train. (Who knows, maybe it will actually scare them off?))
One of the drawbacks of dictation, is that you have to think about punctuation as you go along. For instance, right now, I am actually saying out my sentences thinking them as if they were appearing on a computer screen. The dictation software I am currently using, Dragon Dictate (a free app available online for those of us with smart phones) is actually very good. I haven’t conducted any introductory tests with this program and it seems to be able to understand the words that I’m using very easily.
Another drawback of using dictation software, is really having to know what it is that you want to say. I am used to editing as I type. So I’ll punch in a few words and then delete a word and replace it with something new. With dictation, you have to know what it is you wish to say and edit or punctuate as you go along. Or maybe you have to have a good visual image of your words so that you can be edit on the screen in your mind as you go along.
All in all, the drawbacks of using dictation software is far outweighed by its greatest benefit, namely productivity. For example, right now I am actually dictating a blog post that I wouldn’t get around to writing if I were simply on my morning commute. And by the time I would have hit my desk, I would have forgotten what it was that I wanted to express.
I do think, though, that this will be kind of difficult for introverts as I am. At this very moment, for example, my train is just pulling up to my stop and I am basically talking to myself. On the other hand, I am pretty impressed not only with the dictation software, but also my productivity. I don’t think I have ever written a blog post on the train that, for the most part, is ready to post.
P.S. For those of you curious about writing your books via dictation, you might be interested in my word per hour result with this first attempt. This blog post clocks in at around 515 words (before the post-script) and it took me the whole 40 minute train ride to dictate, tap and edit it on my smartphone. Basically, it clocks around 769 words per hour, which isn’t bad for a first run.
Living a daily writing discipline is the only way that any writer can realistically become an author. So, an aspiring author’s main task is laying words on a page/screen daily. But…
But I also have a full-time day job, and I also spend 2.5 hours a day getting there and back, and I also have a relationship with my husband whom I love and cherish. So, the end and the beginning of the day, and the weekends, are all the “free” time I have for writing.
Still, butt-in-chair time is the difference between getting a novel or a book done or not. It’s just, my butt-in-chair time is limited to half an hour. And during the week, it’s twice in the day (before leaving the house in the morning) and after getting back home in the evening.
Speed writing is critical for optimizing on this limited time segment. And given that I am also writing on my blog, any writing is writing — and supports the cause of “living my dream”.
I don’t see it as a coincidence that I discovered Monica Leonelle and her book, “Write Better, Faster“. She basically breaks down her speed writing formula into four parts; but the single, most important item for me was “time-tracking”. And this is mainly because I really had no baseline or knowledge of how fast I write and how much I write.
The first thing I did was fashion a time tracker for my writing, modelled on the one Ms. Leonelle created for herself. (If you sign up for my emails, you will get one auto-magically (as well as other freebies…).)
Week 1 in Review.
Now, a little more than a week into measuring, I can see that my writing speeds can range from a low (first writing segment) 687 average words per hour to a high 2306 average words per hour. That’s a pretty wide range.
I started with this baseline during an uncustomary time, Christmas week, when I didn’t have to go to work. There are plusses and minuses that come with that. On the one hand, I can test out good times of days for my writing habit. On the other hand, is it realistic for me to know that 4 pm in the afternoon (highest average word count) is my optimal writing time, when I will practically never get to enjoy that writing time? (It conflicts with my work schedule…)
Still, it’s nice to have the general statistics, so I can create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals for my speedwriting and for meeting my dream of publishing several books in 2016.
It will be interesting to see how my word tracker will look once I start heading into the office and changing my life schedule. I am a lot more strict with my time, because I only can allow a half hour in the mornings, before heading into work and in the evenings, after I’ve come home, but before I sit down to dinner with my loved one.
What I learned in Week 1. A quick table of results
Day 1, Avg. Word/Hr: 1018.94, Words: 1767
Day 2, Avg. Word/Hr: 1405.81, Words: 1789
Day 3, Avg. Word/Hr: 0.00, Words: 0 (Xmas Eve)
Day 4, Avg. Word/Hr: 0.00, Words: 0 (Xmas Day)
Day 5, Avg. Word/Hr: 2210.36, Words: 961 (Boxing day)
Day 6, Avg. Word/Hr: 1464.52, Words: 8965 (Sunday)
Day 7, Avg. Word/Hr: 1553.43, Words: 1576 (Went out w/ a girl friend)
Totals: Avg. Word/Hr: 1093.29, Total Words W1: 15,058
Total Time all week: 12:45:00
My overall Average Word/Hour is just a little over 1,000. I would love to get up to an average of 2,000 to 3,000 words per hour. This way, I think it would be reasonable to get in 10,000 – 15,000 words down per week — whether it’s on fiction or non-fiction. On that note, nearly 100% of these words were generated for non-fiction.
Forgetting to log my writing times and word counts during Week 2.
So, I was riding high on a non-fiction book that I completed during this week. I knew that I wanted to get all the words on the screen, so that I could get the book edited by the end of January and published for a first round by the end of January.
Given that it would be my first published work ever, I was really nervous and excited about writing. I kept forgetting to take a break between Pomodoros, or marking the word count where I started up or left off. Very frustrating from a metrics standpoint; but extremely rewarding from a writing perspective, because I completed the rough draft, compiled it in Scrivener to edit, and shared it with a really lovely beta-reader who totally fits the target audience for this non-fiction book.
I would really like to look at my fiction work right now, because I have time (but I am struggling with editing, outlining after-the-fact and going through rewrites–both psychologically, and actually).
Feeling sorry for myself during Week Three.
Week three was decidedly worse from a productivity standpoint. (You can see that I clocked a little more than 300 words.) The main reason for this is because I fell ill and I returned to the office. I’m dealing with issues of being annoyed with myself, because after two days of struggling with the flu at the office, I went to visit a doctor who yanked me away from going to the office all week. Even though I wanted to write, I could barely muster the energy to get myself out of bed, let alone to think. So, I feel like I wimped out.
I did manage to get some reading in, though, but not as much as I feel I should during a week that I’m “off” and actually have time.
It’s also frustrating to see how hard on myself I can be when I’m ill…
Week Four: Back in the saddle and experiencing some serious chafing!
Even though I’m back at work and back to my routine life, my writing hasn’t really ramped back to where it was while on Christmas holiday. It’s frustrating, but also understandable–I mean, I knew that I wouldn’t have endless days forever, right?
Still: New Year, New Me, Right?
I signed up to be a part of a year-long Mastermind group for writers. Being in Europe time when everybody else is in U.S. time can be really overwhelming — in good and bad ways. The good way is that people are damned inspiring and have so many goodies to share. The bad way is that when I am on the train during my 40-minute commute, I burn the ride reading everybody’s updates on my way to work: time that I intend(ed) to use for blog dictation. Which leads to my next point.
I wanted to use this week to experiment with dictating blog posts to my phone. I only had one successful session (out of two). My big realisation is that I’m really going to have to up my outlining game. Dictation is not like typing (not yet anyway), so I have to practice, practice, practice. (Feel free to share or comment if you have any experience with improving your writing speed!)
On the fiction side of things, I have picked up a great book by Libbie Hawker called, Take Off Your Pants! It’s basically about the general outline of a novel and its plot elements. This has been the book I have been looking for, because it’s about the overarching structural needs of a story, and not just a sequence of actions that move characters from one chapter of the book to another! But even applying elements of my novel to this new outline isn’t really writing — it’s pre-production and post-production… not production.
On the non-fiction side of things, I have made some tweaks and adjustments to a booklet I’m gearing up to self-publish–but I’m nearing the point where I need to don my “design hat” and pull together a couple of worksheets.
Week 4: Results Roundup
All in all, I haven’t been doing any real writing (except for the blog) because I seem to be trapped in pre-production mode on my fiction and in post-production mode for my non-fiction.
I have made a note to self that I need to get an outline down for another book, so I can really get back in the writing saddle!
P.S. The idea is to write a weekly “Writing Discipline” post in this space on Saturdays. (Another one of my million goals for 2016…) I’m hopeful that by putting it in public like this I’ll hold myself accountable!