Episode 6 – My stress levels are building big time


Intro

[00:00:00]

Welcome to the In All Jest podcast.

I'm Darryl, your host, and each week I take you on a hero's journey.

I leave my safe, normal world and face many obstacles on my quest to publish not just one but six epic fantasy novels. .

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

You can find out more information at kingdarryl.com/podcast.

Episode six August the seventh, 2020. My stress levels are building big time. Man, I can feel the heat.

Since Last Time

[00:00:43]

Yes, stress is getting on top of me. Just under five weeks to my deadline, which is one week less than I said last week, because I didn't pay proper attention to the details. Of course, that means I set up my spreadsheet properly this week and had a look. 76 chapters to go, 2.3 chapters a day, which is basically 16 per week.

Which is a little bit more than I had planned, but that's because I didn't stick to two a day on average, early on in the process. So of course now it's building.

The good news is though I did 13 chapters this week, one more than the week before, so that's good progress, but I will have to lift my game even further to get to the target that I want to achieve, or should I say the deadline date that I want to achieve in September to allow me to publish A Fool's Errand on October the 16th this year. It means I am really feeling the heat.

I am feeling the stress, not only from that. Of course in my working life, it's turned up the heat big time with lots of projects and work going on all at the same time. So there isn't the flexibility to claim back time, in my working days. I literally have to do it outside of any working hours. What that has meant is I've stopped any weekday exercising over the last three or four weeks.

I'm feeling that. I don't have that relief and break, but I'm going to try and make sure that I at least exercise properly over the weekends and reset brain and body together. I need to exercise. It's an important part of who I am. So giving that up,has been hard, , but it has allowed me to use that early morning time to get through more chapters.

 

I pretty much get up at 5:00 AM and make a cup of tea and sit down and get on with the next chapter that needs editing.  It's worked pretty well over these last few weeks and this last week worked really well. On the weekend days I get through more, which means I'm not doing as much other fun stuff, but with only five weeks to go, it's not that long until I can take a bit of a break from that. And this is more pressing than writing the novel. The writing process is less stressful I would say. I have a word count. I sit down, I write words every day.  I don't have a big problem doing that.

 

in this last week I had a new chapter that I needed to write. I knew what it was all about. That was all part of the work I did with my editor and the fixes I came up with on paper. So having that outlined plan of what I needed to achieve made it really easy to do.  I wrote 2,400 words in an hour and a quarter. Went back and did a little bit of editing, but didn't need to do a massive amount, which I found  was very encouraging. That was a great mornings work. And I enjoyed that. So when I'm normally just writing chapters first draft, particularly,  I can knock out a chapter a day of the days that I sit down to do it.

This editing process, where I have a deadline that I need to get to has really upped the ante on me.  But that's OK. I just have to work through that. It's a new process for me. It's a new stage in the book production cycle, and I think trying to balance,  the work of it with the enjoyment of it is a critical part. But also it's something that professional, full time writers do every day, every week, they have the enjoyment of what they write, but it is a job.

It's a work activity that you need to do and you need to turn up and write. Steven Pressfield talks about this as do other accomplished authors, that you turn up and you write, whether you write one word, you write a thousand words or 10,000 words every day you go through your routines, you turn up and you write and that's no different to your day job.

If you're doing something else, you have to turn up. Yes, you get sick days. Yes, you can take weekends or holidays from that, but you have to get back to it and you have to maintain a discipline about it.  This is a different discipline to  writing, the first draft it's still writing.

As I said, I wrote a whole chapter,  one morning, very happy with that. But it is this focus on, there is a time that I need to get this done, and I haven't had that before. That wasn't part of my process. But that's okay. I've got to fit some other things in as well. Like the marketing and the prep for it, release of the cover of the release of the map.

I really need to do work on building my email list and other channels that I want to use, but got to fit that all in. So back to the story, uh, I needed to add in a chapter, which was the next stage in one of the key, pieces of the plot that my protagonist needs to have accompanying them through the story.

And I talked on this previously that there were some fixes I needed to do that would help the story evolve. Get things more on paper, but also enhance the complexity of her journey, of the challenges she was going to face. So I knew what that was going to be. I sat down, I wrote it. , I introduced a new character and I killed a new character all in one chapter.

 

So I felt very much like George RR, Martin, that I brought in this character and then got rid of them. It's not normal in my book. There's not massive amounts of people dying. There are a few deaths I will say, but this one was fun. I enjoyed the character, albeit they only had a short time on stage, but I did enjoy what I did with it.

I felt more accomplished, more skilled in approaching the chapter and what I needed to do. I knew from the day before what was coming up, I knew what I needed to do. And I think that really helped sitting down and just writing it. Which is going to be really interesting when I get back to  book 2, looking at what comes next and that process has been different anyway, because I do have more of an outline of book two than I did when I started the whole series originally, but that's going to be really, really interesting, cause it might facilitate me producing book two and book three, et cetera. quicker and with a better quality of first draft. Albeit they'll still need this cycle of editing multiple steps, multiple reviews, revisions.

But I think I can see how,  what I am now and what I will be in the future as a writer has definitely progressed and is going to progress. It was,  quite enjoyable actually, to reflect on what I've been doing on the other chapters this week as well. In that I've already naturally started changing my sentence structures and some of the little elements that popped up regularly in the editorial feedback that I got from Fleetwood.

Just little things here and there, but I'm seeing them myself now. And in writing sentences, I'm tending not to do that thing that I was doing. So that was , really encouraging as well, that I can already see myself 32 chapters in 33 chapters into the editing process, having progressed in the way that I'm working and the skill that I have around it.

I liked that. That was an unintended consequence, I guess, or unexpected immediate consequence from that editorial process. I knew, that I would get better as a writer progressively over time, but this one seems quite a quick, immediate change, that's just crept up on me from paying attention and respecting the feedback that I've received and, moving forward letting it just, , become part of me. Sort of absorbing it through osmosis into what I'm doing. The  learning has just crept into my work automatically from paying attention to what was being changed, noticing the patterns, seeing the commentary. I did shoot the editor, Fleetwood, the editor my editor Fleetwood a note this week via email to say, like, I just really enjoyed the way he delivered that feedback.

And it's been the most powerful thing for me in having that edit done. I think I mentioned it last week as well, but the way he delivered his feedback, the constructive criticisms, the method that he used to do it. Worked for me and that, and I think that's why it was so easy for me to pick up on these skill changes, these observations, because I never felt threatened or attacked about it.

They were just simply fixes that became very obvious with little suggestions, you know, adjust the way you structure this, here's what it could be, you know, this or this versus that. So that was really, really good. I am. I like learning. I like observing that I've learnt, , which is fun too. , so yeah, 13 chapters.

I won't bore you by talking through all of the chapters. A lot of them were quite simply working through some minor fixes, shuffling a few sentences and paragraphs around in order or eliminating things I did. Kill off another chapter as well, but I don't think I'm reducing the overall word count very much, particularly when I'm adding in content.

And I am mostly through another chapter already this morning where I added a significant amount of content to it, to enhance one of my secondary primary characters, , journeys. . So there's definitely  new words going in. , albeit that we did take out 25,000 words right up front. Not so sure we're going to end up with overall much less than the 200,000, the general word count that the book has.

Anyway, that's the, since last time segment for this episode.

Some Back Story

[00:12.19]

I think I'm going to talk about how I go about writing and the way I fit it in to my working life. In the segment before I talked about how I do it currently, the way that I get up early in the morning and sit down and I do that around the dining room table. And there's a reason for that. I have a studio separate to the house. I've had a dedicated office for me to work in for a number of years, both at the previous property. And then in this property, we built this about eight or 10 months after we moved in here. It's a four by four meter custom built studio.  The front face that I look out through is all glass ranch, sliding doors.

I have a window behind me. The Westerly and  Easterly sides are solid walls, which are covered in pictures and framed sporting memorabilia, and printouts of book covers, and. Items and positive slogans and a white board. And behind me, I have two book shelves that wrap around the window. And it's a really nice place. And if you can hear the birds in the background, it's because the studio is covered on two sides by some big trees.

So it's a really nice place. I look at the back of our property across the gardens and backyard.  And it was built to exactly the spec that I wanted. At the moment, because I'm doing a lot of my day work in the web design development strategy fields, I do spend a fair number of hours in the studio and I've found that being in the same place. For riding has a negative connotation for me at the moment. When I was doing the first draft, I had no problem  with writing in here on weekends and things, or even when I did it at a different time of the day.

And I reset the way the desk was set up at that time. So typically I'm at a standing desk during the day when I'm doing my technical work and I have a draftsman's chair which sits pretty high. So I have a slightly lower desk height if I want to sit down. So I alternate standing and sitting, but it's not ground sitting on the ground with my feet on the ground.

So I use the on the ground setting exclusively for writing. So that was a way that I, I could distance myself from work. Kind of use it as a gimmick to say, Hey, I'm in a different mode. Now I do also find that having the massive screen that I use for day to day work is a bit of a problem for me writing, because it allows me to see extra space on the screen, which tends to draw me off to, Oh, I wonder what's happening elsewhere, which is not great.

So what I do now is I just work on the laptop exclusively for writing. I don't use the big screen. And because of the hours I'm spending working during the day, I do the writing and editing in the house, put on noise canceling headphones, and work. And that's how I wrote the first draft. I had the laptop.

I have noise canceling headphones and for probably the first year, year and a half, I did it in the evening. And what I would do is I would sit down after dinner when everyone else was around still but they were washing dishes, chatting around lounge rooms and things like that. I sat at the dining room table, put the headphones on, put some music on, so I didn't hear them per se, but I felt like I was still around everyone.

And I just zoned in writing,  used Scrivener, had the daily word count -- that kept me accountable. And I just pumped through writing the story as best I could. And I had chunks of that writing time that went really well.  then I might get to a sticking point where I needed to do something. In most cases, it was research where I wanted to handle something within the story well.  so I would go off and into a little research rabbit hole, find myself lost for days on end. But most of the time I would write, four days a week. Other times it was five or six, but I always allowed myself in theory, a weekend where I didn't do it now. Because of other work commitments it might be that I wrote two days of the weekend and three days of the week or two days of the week.

I mixed it up, but I did try to get four or five days done almost every week. That went on for just over a year. It was roughly a year writing the first draft of writing time. And then I moved into the editing phase.  During that, I had big chunks of time where I was lost. I didn't quite know what to do next.

And so I would go away and research. Some of my research was listening to podcasts. I got a lot out of Sean Coyne's story grid, podcast, the story grid book, and some related podcasts and things that I felt were really really good. I found that at the right time for me, and it was already, I don't know, maybe six months to a year into the podcast, so I could start at the beginning and just crammed my way through it.

And what I used to do was I'd get up in the morning, listen to the podcast while I worked out in the gym, work during the day, and then I would write at night or edit at night, but I got to a point where the editing was quite hard work mentally. I found it harder than writing, and I also was a lot busier than I had planned in other activities, particularly daytime work.

At the suggestion of my wife, I changed up a little bit of what I was doing. And I moved the editing to the morning as well, which meant I got up earlier to work out, then I would eat and then I would edit and then start my day. That was really one of the best things I ever did because in my planning and I do do a lot of daily, weekly planning around my life.

What I found was I was carrying the stress of wanting to get this done every day, all day long. And I didn't get relief from it until eight o'clock, nine o'clock at night when I finished, Oh, finally, I've done my chapter or I've edited a chapter today, or I've done that research. So all day, the thing I most wanted to do, I didn't get done until the end of the day.

So I didn't get the satisfaction around it. When I moved everything to the morning and that included religiously working out many mornings or going for a walk, I ticked off two of my daily behaviors that I wanted to do, which was exercise and edit. And that was really rewarding. Cos I actually, it felt like I had achieved two of the most important things on my day before I even walked into the office.

So I think that was a really successful change for me. And I'll certainly trying to do, keep that up, albeit that in the opening sequence, I said that I've dropped my exercising. I think that's why I'm feeling the stress a little bit as well, because I don't get the reward of saying - the exercise is something I like, it's something important to me, I did it this morning. Tick that box, move on grunt through the day, put your feet up at night, get some sleep. Everything's going great. At the moment. I'm carrying a little bit of guilt about that and feeling that I'm not getting the physical benefits as well as the mental benefit. But that's been the process for quite a few years, four and a half years now.

I think of refining it really, really well, but that I guess his backstory element that, you know, what's involved in getting to this point.  it's that process that anyone that has a side hustle of any sort has to fit in. When do you fit it in? A really good friend and colleague that is now full time author. I know she used to do it on her lap, on the train to and from work every day, she used to be riding her early novels. And that commitment that we all have to give is how we get to the end point, which is getting these things out in the world. And, , she was really successful at it and still is. And while mine's taking plenty of time to get there, I know that the future books will be well served from refining, how I've been working through this over these years.

Outro

[00:21:36]

Thanks for listening to this chapter of the In All Jest podcast. For the show notes and more about this podcast, visit kingdarryl.com/podcast. You can contact me through that site and find me on Twitter @ireckon. If you enjoy the show please tell others, share my posts and review it on your favorite podcast platform. Till next time.