Count the Ways to Count the Story

With NaNo right around the corner–less than two weeks to go now–one of the key points that comes up again and again is, “How do I track my word count?”  It’s an important thing with NaNo, because you gotta run that 1,667 words a day count every day, or you’ll fall behind quickly.  The reality it, however, that when you write you usually have a need to know about how much you’re writing every day, and how big your story is becoming–or how many more words you need to write to turn a novelette into a novella.

Keeping track of your word count in easy in Scrivener, and there is a great deal of flexibility when it come to knowing the counts of scenes, chapters, parts, and even the whole novel. I do that to track my current novel, and I’ve used it with all my other works.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

The easiest way to keep track of your progress come from using your Project Targets.  This is done from the menu, using Project>Project Target, or by selecting Ctrl-,.  I show these all the time on my screen shots, and here is my current view.

I know, it feels like I'm bragging.

I know, it feels like I’m bragging.

Project Targets allow you to set the size of your story–the Manuscript Target–and how much you want to write while Scrivener is running–the Session Target.  Something to keep in mind here:  a session is the time that Scrivener is up and running.  If you bring the program up, type in 800 words, then close it and bring it up again later, the session bar resets:  it doesn’t track what you type in a day.

You can see that the pop-up window allows you to define your targets for both the full manuscript and how much you want to write.  Now, there is a bit of a cheat with the Manuscript Target:  notice the check box, “Documents Included in Compile Only”?  Yeah, that’s an important item.

Let’s first look at this screen, which is of one of my chapters in the recently concluded Part Seven:

I don't miss you, you monster.

I don’t miss you, you monster.

Over on the right you’ll see the column, “Include in Compile.”  Compile is the function that Scrivener uses to take all the stuff I have on the screen in front of me and turns it into a document of your choosing.  Such as–

I take all of Part Seven--

I take all of Part Seven–

Press the “Compile” button . . .

To 149 pages of awesome.

And turn it into 149 pages of awesome.

Whatever you have ticked off as “Include in Compile” will be converted into whatever you like by Scrivener.  It’s a great way to not only control what you print and create, but track your wordage.

But if you’ll notice, that’s a check box under your Manuscript Target.  With my story I have everything in Act Two–the part of my novel I’m currently developing–checked for Include in Compile, but everything in Act One is turned off.  Why?  Because I want to check my progress for Act Two only.  However, if I uncheck that box–

Now it really feels like bragging--

Now it really feels like bragging–

Everything in the manuscript–see the very top left of the Binder–is included.  And you can see how my progress bar jumped from the orange of Act Two–which is only about half way to the three hundred thousand total of the manuscript–to the bright green of “I’m almost to the end.”  Numbers and colors help you visualize where you are in the writing process.

You can see that even better when you are tracking the progress of your document.  Let’s look at the last scene I completed and check out the lower right hand corner of the screen.

Right down here.  See?

Right down here. See?

Click on that little dot and you’ll get another pop-up that allows you to set the total wordage for the document you’re working upon at the moment.

Three thousand seems like a good number.

Three thousand seems like a good number.

Hit Ok and you’ll see the following pop up at the bottom of your screen:

Look--new stuff!

Look–new stuff!

That first number–the 2,152–that number id always there–just look at the picture above.  Now you have your target number to the right of what you’ve written, and there is a progress bar next to the button, which is now red to indicate you haven’t reached your goal.  Once you do, that dot turns green:  trust me, it does.

This is also a great thing for keeping track of your progress if you’re bring up Scrivener and closing it several times during a day.  You can either keep everything in one document that you’re working on for the day, or adjust the target number as you go from document to document.  Easy Peasy.

Last of all, we can look at our Project Statistics, which you can find on the menu under Project>Project Statistics, or by selecting Ctrl-..  Scrivener will give you a snapshot of your identified manuscript–using your Compile and how you set up things under your Option tab–and what you may have selected in your Binder.  Here I’m identifying Act Two as the manuscript, and I’ve selected Part Eight.  So I bring up my stats, and . . .

Act Two seems quite the page turner.

Act Two seems quite the page turner.

Just so you know, I have my pages set up on my Option tab as three hundred and fifty words per page, so that’s how Scrivener figures that my Act Two is 370 pages long once you figure in the page breaks for Act, Part, and Chapter headings.  Not quite A Dance With Dragons, but I’m getting there–with fewer deaths, too.

There you have it:  so many ways to watch your counts.  Now all you gotta do is write.

Matters of Imaginary Life and Death

If you’re expecting to find stories here today, you’re sadly mistaken.  Yesterday–and last night–were some of the strangest there were, believe me.  It seemed as if I spent part of the day busting urban myths–which, by the way, I love doing, particularly when they’re of the heinous and vile kind–before getting into a discussion at the end of the evening where the term “Moving the Goalposts” became not so much an expression as a spectator sport.

"No, seriously, you win.  You've already expanded the argument past three stadium and a cricket pitch!"

“No, seriously, you win. You’ve already expanded the argument past three stadiums and a cricket pitch!”

At least the most interesting thing I learned last night if that if you have uncontrollable hiccups, the only way to stop them is by internal digital massage of your rectum.  Yes, that means exactly what it says.  You’re welcome.

"Go to the other room; I'll be in shortly.  That's a little nurse's humor!"

“Go to the other room; I’ll be in shortly. That’s a little nurse’s humor!”

Since tonight is “Go Out to Eat and Write Night,” I promise to finish up the current scene and start on the next.  I mean, I should be able to rip off over a thousand words tonight, I promise I’ll get cracking on the last scene in Chapter Twenty Three.  I wouldn’t lie.  Mostly wouldn’t.

However, I was working on a few things last night, if only in my head and talking scenes out loud.  One of them had to do with characters having babies–yes, that does happen, particularly to characters in my world.  It seems as if a few people have children:  the Headmistress does, as does Professors Simplen, Salomon, and Kishna.  Though the families don’t live at the school, some of the instructors teleport home and visit when they can–Professor Simplen does this a lot of Sundays.

I was imagining two of my characters discovering they were in a family way, and how they were affected by their feelings, and how they found themselves at that point.  That’s actually what a large part of my non-computer evening was about, and it was fun to be able to do something like that once more, because I’ve been away from doing things like that for the last month, and I need to get back into doing these things.

And then there were my dreams . . .

For some reason I had an extremely vivid dream last night, and it seemed to have something to do with an end of the world event–or maybe it was just the state of Pennsylvania finally running out of money and being unable to do anything.  I know part of it happened down on Second Street here in The Burg, because I recognized a few of the restaurants–one of which was on fire.  Someone must have been displeased with their appetizers.

But a large part of it had to do with getting a family out of the area and to–somewhere else.  I think Boston, because I heard that name come up a few times, and I knew we were heading east. The only problem was no one seemed to be in much of a hurry to get their asses in gear.  It appeared I was the only one with an agenda, and everyone else was like, “Eh, end of the world, let me finish this email.”  Really strange situation, and I couldn’t understand why I was there for a group of strangers who didn’t seem to care that I was there.

Had to be a group of editors.  Just had to be.

Back to the Character Boards

Before getting to all the Abomination nastiness–of which I wrote close to five hundred words last night, but it was the boring setup so no need to worry–I realized that I’m doing a quick post because today is one of those days where I’m out doing stuff again–you know, things . . .   And really, I am.  Oh, the things and stuff I’m doing . . .

But that’s beside the point.  Here’s the point of this post . . .

'Yes, Cassidy, enthrall us with you wisdom of stuff and things . . .

“Yes, Cassidy, enthrall us with you wisdom of stuff and things . . .”

I have a couple of ongoing projects this coming week.  I have to finish a book I’m reading, and . . . I have a make a character.

Let me explain that last.

I’m back to writing with someone.  It’s a strange sort of experimental thing, because we’re going to speak epistolary story.  If you don’t know what that means, our characters are telling a story through letters.  Which we are really doing, because we’re sending the story to each other in letter form, but ass our characters.

You fallow?

Like I said, a strange and interesting, and perhaps wonderful thing.  And considering I haven’t done anything hand-written in a long time, I’ll probably have to send along a decipher key so my friend will be able to understand my chicken scratch.

The thing I’ve started this week is developing the character.  There was a time when I used to knock this out in no time back in the old days, but today I know a little bit more about creating characters that are real, who have real body and interest and desires.

How I usually do that is by walking around my apartment and talking to myself.  Seriously.  That’s usually how I create all my characters.  I get an idea, and then I start talking.  Yeah, I know:  I sound like the eponymous character from last night’s Doctor Who episode, but that’s pretty much how I do it.

Or I do it while I’m driving.  I’m blogged before how I’ve worked out scenes for my stories–particularly this story I’m working on–where I’ll just “speak out” the character’s dialog while I’m zipping down the road at 80 mile an hour.  I’ve worked out many a scene that way, and there’s a good chance that I’ll do that today.

See, I already know what this character is like; I already have some ground rules for her, and I have an image in my head for how she looks.  That’s always important, because I need to see them and feel them before I can write them.  When that doesn’t happen, it shows.

I don’t want it to show here, because this has the ability of being something great.  I hope.

It’s always a writer’s hope that when they start off on something, it’s going to be good, and there is always the outlying possibility that it’s going to be great.  I would settle for good, but what I really want is magical, because that comes oh, so rarely with every and anything.

And magical is, really, what I love.

A Different Kind of Magic

There are times when you need to step away from your confines and move out into the public, because it’s necessary to remind yourself that, yes, there is one out there.  Which was the point of getting out yesterday–because it was there.

I did a drive down from The Burg to one of the easternmost points of the State of Maryland.  In fact, the person I was with and I headed over into Delaware for a little shopping, making that my first visit to that state.  But I was out on the road early, heading south at 6:30 AM, the live recording of The Wall in Berlin blasting from the car stereo.  It was such that just as I was heading north up I-95 out of Baltimore that Comfortably Numb came on, and the combination of the sun shinning, the light traffic, and the sensation of being all wrapped up in my little warm cocoon produced one of those moments that you don’t forget soon, or ever.

And remember the talk that I was getting a makeover?  Yeah, I had some work done on my eyes, and tried a new shade of lipstick.  I also combined that with the first wig I ever owned, and it brought about a radical change in my appearance?  How radical?

Don't mind me; I'm just showing off my pretty face.

Don’t mind the Lady Writer; I’m just showing off my pretty face.

Yeah, pink nails and eyes, and it’s really a good look for me.  The smile helps as well:  I was having such a good time yesterday that smiling came easy.  A few of my friends even pointed out that I appeared “radiant”, and for the first time I saw that in this and another picture.  As for the people who mentioned that I looked a bit like a suburban soccer mom:  I do, and I don’t mind one bit.  It’s better that I look like millions of other women and not someone trying to relive their twenties.  That would be the disco era for me–well, I do have some platform sandals . . .

During the two hour drive two and from Maryland and The Burg, I did think about my story.  I thought about a lot of things, and for anyone reading this that happened to be on the I-695/I-83 junction and saw some crazy blond in a CR-V singing as loud as she could, bobbing her head and doing a lot of arm motions like she was performing–that was me listening to Paradise by the Dashboard Light.  Yeah, I do that sometimes when I’m in the car.

The upshot of all this is after making it home, after checking updates and loading pictures and the like, after saying hi to people I hadn’t seen online all day–I tried to write and found myself just too damn pooped to do more than start the next scene and produce about two hundred words.  I was tired, sure, but the subject had to do with the death of people at my fictional school, and the mind simple didn’t want to wrap around that nastiness.

It had been a good day filled with life.

I’ll leave the talk of death for later.

Living Beyond the Walls

I’ll tell you, I had every intention of getting into writing last night.  Computer was ready, I was ready, there was nothing on television, I was ready for music and typing out words.

But life never lets you do what you want to do, right?

As I’m leaving work I check my phone and find I missed a call.  I check it, and it’s from the place where I was getting my new glasses from, and they tell me they’re it.  So I get home, get ready–just to even go out a have to get ready a little–and head out.  Fortunately traffic isn’t bad, but I still have to make a run to somewhere on the north side of the city.  And I notice that traffic going into the city is bad because of a wreck.  Not something good, particularly when things are backed up for miles.

I get my glasses–yeah, they look great . . .

Oh, and new earrings, too.  Wonderful.

Oh, and new earrings, too. Wonderful.

. . . and after picking them up I decides I need to pick up a few things at Target, and then get something to eat.  I wasn’t planing on staying out long, but I didn’t want to try and fight my way back through the traffic, so I took my time with my dinner.

By the time I rolled back to the apartment to snap the above picture, it was about eight PM.

Then I had to roll out and do something on Facebook, because I’m hosting a book club this month, and I had to set up which three books people can choose from.  Since I’d made my selections months ago it was just a matter of doing the ol’ cut and paste and getting things in place before setting up a poll, but it still took time to get that and the notifications together.  And as soon as I finished getting that set up–

The questions came.

Because they always do when there’s a new book.  Because people want to know things, they have interests in what you’re presenting.  I should have known, but sometimes I can be . . . clueless.  It’s not an easy feeling.

Oh, and I didn’t mention the PMs from people wanting to get together in a couple of weeks.  Did I mention that?  No.  I have now.

This is life, and it’s something I haven’t experienced in a bit.  It’s where unexpected things jump out at you and you do what is necessary to handle them.  My plan had been to come home, start dinner, get the book club stuff set up, eat, then write.  Silly me:  what did I know?

It’s a nice change up to be able to do something unexpected–and I had been waiting for my glasses for a few days, so there was a bit of excitement there.  I just didn’t expect it all to happen like . . . this.

Writing tonight, I promise.  I’ve got Isis trying to explain a school break-in where there shouldn’t be one, and gargoyles hiding in the wall.  I’ll get back into my fantasy . . .

And hope that life doesn’t throw a curve at me tonight.

Return of the Last Week

Does that seem cryptic?  Like, oh, god, what sort of “Last Week” are you describing?  Hummm, maybe a little cryptic, but that because I come from a different time and place, not unlike a certain traveler who was on over the weekend.

A week from today is Labor Day, or as some people think of it, the traditional marking of the end of summer.  After that day women aren’t supposed to wear white shoes, men are suppose to stop wearing shorts, and everyone’s suppose to adapt to the idea that fall is here and winter’s around the corner.  It was also, in some places the start of the school year, and depending on the calendar, school either started today, or it started next Tuesday.

That simply isn’t the case any longer.  Today we start school like the first week of August, people don’t much give a damn about what they wear well into fall (something I’ve noticed as I’ve adapted my change in clothing and watched how other women to the same), and winter is now a meme to tell people to brace themselves for some life-changing shit.

And my head was chopped off a few years or over a decade ago, so totally not a spoiler.

And his head was chopped off a few years or over a decade ago, depending on the medium of your choice, so totally not a spoiler.

So we are in the last week of summer.  It’s here, and soon it’ll be Friday, and summer is going . . . well, it’s not going anywhere.  Fall doesn’t officially come for almost another month, and looking ahead for the weeks to come, I doubt that we’re going to see fall-like weather soon.  Which is good, because I don’t have all my winter clothes together yet.  I can get through fall okay, but winter–it’s gonna be a tough one in The Burg.

The only true season I ever used to pay attention to was summer, and that was because I grew up in a house with no air conditioning until about 1970, and so summer was as time of dread.  It was hot and sweaty and miserable, and I couldn’t wait for cooler weather so I could sleep and enjoy going outside without enduring the sensation that I was melting.

The summer’s been mild this year, and where it was super sweltering I’ve manage to stay out of the direct rays and stay comfortable.  Winter is suppose to be a total pain in the ass this year, and that only bothers me in the sense that it’s necessary to go out and share the road with hundreds of drivers who lose their minds whenever there’s the smallest amount of snow on the ground.

However, it’s not the weather going away that I’ll think about this year.  The summer was one of dramatic change for me, and in this last week I meet with my therapist and talk about all the stuff that’s happened in the month since I last saw her.  I’m sure they’ll be a lot of discussion about what’s going to happen at work this winter, and not a few mentions of my emotional state over the month of August.

And then we can talk about what’s coming in the fall.

All-in-all, it’s not been a bad summer,

Maybe I need to get out and enjoy what their is of my new life in the fall.

message

Changing seasons, changing gender appearance–pretty much the same, don’t you think?  It can still make for a good hike on a nice day.

 

Letting the Rest Roll

Let it be known that I’ve been slacking off.  Really, I have.  I feel it.  Because I’ve needed to slack off, to be honest.

One, I’ve been tired a lot.  The last couple of nights I’ve taken sleeping pills–just one each night–to help me get through the night and not wake up at three-thirty AM with no chance of getting back to bed.  I’ve managed to get some sleep out of these nights, and even though I was awake at four AM needing to use the bathroom, I went right back to sleep and woke up only moments before the alarm went off.

Two, I’ve been distracted of late by wanting to do things, be it watch TV, read, get out of the house and travel–anything.  I’ve needed to change up my routine for some time now, and it’s great for recharging.  Tonight I’ll go out and do a little grocery shopping, and when that’s over I’m going to stop at Panera, get something to eat–probably a big bowl of soup–and then set up my computer and write.  I did this last week and plopped down a thousand words; I want to finish this scene I’m in, start on the next, and maybe finish it as well.  Because I’m moving ahead.

Annie's letting me know I better get her scene finished, because . . . well, because.

Annie’s letting me know I better get her scene finished, because . . . well, because.

And, admittedly, I enjoy the break.  Which leads into–

Three:  I’ve been feeling a lot burned out.  I’m two hundred and thirty thousand words into the novel, maybe two-thirds of the way through, and after ten months I’m ready for something else.  This is the doldrums part of the story, where you want to keep pushing, but you also want to do something else.  You’ve lived with these people for so long it’s like having guests who never go away, and just like you want the Guests Who Wouldn’t Leave to pack up their shit and move on, I’m ready for another project.

Not that I hate what I’m doing, but like anything else where you do it over and over every day, it starts to wear you down.  I feel that what may be needed is an adjustment of schedules.  Set aside the time I need to do something, and do it then.  I’m thinking Wednesday afternoon is going to become a new writing time for me for the next few months.  After that I’ll find something else to help with the time.

My fear is taking a break from writing for a week or two.  I’ve done that in the past, and when I have I’ve managed to take a month off and get back into things without a problem.  Then again, I’ve also taken a break that lasted years, and I don’t want that to happen.  Because I’ve got the story where I want it, and I don’t have time to take a year off from this project.  Sure, I might be able to get other things done, but I want to finish this story.

Let me correct that:  I need to finish this.

Because it’s too damn important to put to the side.  No matter how I feel right now.