The Back Up Game

How often do I back up my work?

It’s like the game.

And you just lost the game.

If you don’t know the game, do yourself a favor and don’t start. But if you must:

If you think about the game, you lost the game.

If you are thinking about doing a back up of your work, do it.


So I got startled awake this morning. It was nothing. But the first thought I had was not about my own safety. It was that my laptop was in the front room. I don’t care if a burglar runs off with my TV or whatever other valuables they can find in the front room, but don’t dare take my stories!

Remember the writer who ran back into his burning house to rescue his laptop. I think we can all relate.

So make a back up.

New to back ups?

There are are many options for both where to make your back up, what to back up and how.

There are three common places to store your back up:

Hard copies

Personal devices

The cloud

Hard copies

The old school solution is a hard copy. That means printed on paper for the younger writers. I know, it seems so antiquated. And in ways, it is.

My old hard copies.

Where you store your back ups say a lot about what you fear happening to your precious writing. If you worry about theft or hacking, hard copies are safest. No thief is carrying off reams of paper from your house and hackers can’t get to it.

If you are worried about a fire or some other disaster, you hard copies will be as vulnerable.

If you are paranoid, do a hard copy and then another version.

Personal device

Personal devices can range from a simple thumb drive to your own personal cloud device. They can range in price from a few bucks to a couple hundred dollars for a top of the line external hard drive.

A USB drive in the wild???

Again it depends a lot on what your biggest fears are. An electronic device is easily put in an out of way place, and won’t likely be sought out by a thief. But it won’t survive a house fire or similar disaster.

They can be invaluable in the event of a catastrophic computer failure, though. Unlike hard copies, which require you to retype thousands of words, you can plug the thumb drive into a new computer and copy all the files with the click of a mouse.

How far you want to go depends on how paranoid you are, and believe me I won’t judge. About once a year I back up everything to a thumb drive and put it in my lock box at the bank. But that’s my low grade paranoia at work and probably excessive.

Heck you might even want to shove an extra thumb drive in your bug out bag in case you are forced on the run by the zombie apocalypse. The survivors, trapped in some bunker somewhere, will make great beta readers! 😉

There might be beta readers, um, I mean survivors inside.

And I’m only half joking. My paranoia for back ups does include thinking about a major disaster. I don’t think the zombie apocalypse will happen, but a natural disaster or war could turn you into a refugee. Be prepared.

The Cloud

Many of my writer friends, being luddites, fear the cloud. They shouldn’t. It’s the best, easiest way to ensure the safety of your work. “The Cloud” is really just a fancy way to say storing stuff on the internet. Or at an even more basic level, storing stuff on someone else’s computer.

“The Cloud” includes many options, including some household names. Google Drive and Dropbox are both cloud services. Amazon offers a similar service.

The cloud is about the easiest, safest way to back up your work. Big companies spend a huge amount of money and effort on back ups and protections. The odds that Google or Amazon’s data farm crashes and takes your writing with it is infinitesimal compared with the odds of your laptop doing the same. If and when you laptop or home computer crashes, it’s as easy as signing into Google Drive or Dropbox and syncing your files to get them back. If you should have a house fire or similar disaster, you don’t have to go hunting through the wreckage for your thumb drive either.

What about hackers? Hackers are an ever present threat on the internet. But I think the average writer has an overblown sense of caution about this.

People don’t steal writers ideas, or their writing. Unless your name is J. K. Rowling, no hacker is interested in your new novel.

(If your name is J. K. Rowling — Oh my god, I can’t believe you are reading my blog! I am such a huge fan!)

The rest of you should get your head out of the clouds, and your writing into it. An unpublished novel takes so much work to publish and market that no hacker is interested in it. If you already have a successful career, they will be interested in your bank account, not your writing.

That said you should take reasonable precautions, things like strong passwords and two factor authentication. But beyond that I don’t think writers need to take special precautions around their writing. And the benefits of having it safe outweigh the slight risks.


There are literally hundreds of possible formats you could use to save your work and build an archive. I will recommend one and dis one. You can research other options if you are not satisfied with my opinion.

I have an archive folder on Dropbox, in Google Drive and on my Amazon cloud. (I’m not really that paranoid. I happen to have an Amazon cloud, so it’s easy. I use the other two regularly.) I compile my writing out of scrivener as an rtf file.

Why rtf? Because I am old and I am cheap.

I don’t use word docs for my archive because I am old. I have a pile of floppy disks from last century in a drawer somewhere. I don’t have a floppy disk reader. Who does these days? And they are very old doc formats.

Which is the real problem with doc formats. Word changes its format every few years and they have little backwards compatibility. Which means that even if I had means to access those old files, I doubt Word would read them anyway.

Rtf is an older but far more stable formate. There isn’t a word processor, text program or writing program that can’t read rtf. So I stick to it.

Besides I’m cheap. Rtf is so stable because it strips the majority of the formatting and extraneous code from the file, leaving just the words. Because of that, rtf files tend to be small files, even if there are a lot of words in it. For example I have a hundred and some thousand word novel that is a mere 626 kb rtf file.  The scrivener file is several megabytes.

That might not seem like much, but as your writing grows it adds up. How much does it add up? My documents folder is just over one gigabyte. My archive is closer to 65 mb. That’s a pretty big difference. Using rtf I can comfortably stick to free options on most sites even with other files (like pictures) in them. (One of the reasons I use multiple sites, they are all free. So I can have extra back ups at no cost.)

So that’s it. When you think of the game, you lose the game.

When you think of back ups, check them. It’s an relatively easy process to set up a dropbox folder and check it regularly to make sure everything is there. If you use scrivener it’s a matter of minutes to compile an rtf. And if something should happen to your computer or your home it will one less worry.

The One Rule for Writing


There is a lot of writing advice out there on the web, in books and from various writing groups. I’ve been around for awhile and had literally hundreds of people tell me the “rules” for writing. I’ve finally distilled them down to one master rule.

Don’t argue with success.

Every writer has their own process of planning (or not planning) their writing. Everyone has tips on mastering writers block, low motivation, and all those things that make writing hard some days. There are millions of opinions about what you should write, how you should write it and what you should do with it when it’s done.

I am a firm believer that anyone can write. You can write short stories, novels and even series successfully. You just have to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. When writers tell me that they can’t finish their story, I think they just haven’t found their process.

If you are a seat of the pants writers, planning may well kill your creativity. But if you aren’t a seat of the pants writers, being told to “just write” will kill your creativity just as effectively. I love storyboarding, but then again I am a visual thinker. For others, a storyboard just makes their eyes cross. The Snowflake Method is great for some people, some stories. Many veteran writers have worked out a system that is a hodgepodge of theories and ideas, but it works for them.

And that is the gold standard; it works for them. If the words are getting down on paper at a satisfying rate and you are happy with those words, you are on the right track. This technique or that might help, and it’s worth keeping an open mind about new advice, but no one can tell you that you’re doing it wrong if you are getting the writing done.

I see this rule broken all the time. “But you can’t write that way,” a first time author will say to a veteran writer. Sorry, but obviously they can write that way, they’ve done it. I’ve seen planners slam seat of the pants writers in conferences and vice versus. And they’re both published authors.

It’s not just novel planning that gets treated to this sort of hubris. So many writers are certain that their personal opinion on writing, grammar, point of view or story structure are the last words on the subject. And yet for almost every piece of advice on what constitutes good writing, there is an example of best sellers or great literature that breaks said rules.

First person is “such a beginners mistake” I’ve been told. Guess what, Twilight, Hunger Games and many other best sellers are first person. Many examples of great literature are not only first person, they feature unreliable or even unlikable narrators.

Your story should be x number of words long. Even though most of the rules on length were based on publishers wanting to publish print books of a certain size, and never had anything to do with the stories writers wanted to write, or readers to read. Never use a prologue. Unless it’s a great prologue that makes the novel better. And so forth and so on.

My personal one is finish what you write. It’s great advice for most people. If you intend to be writer, you need to finish what you start. But it doesn’t work for me.

I have ADHD. I’ve struggled my whole life with starting but not finishing things. I’ve tried many approaches or organizing and dealing with my ADHD. The only thing that seems to work for me is to embrace my ADHD.

I jump around a lot. I write everyday, but I don’t write on the same thing every day. More organized writers are aghast when they see how I work. I write like mad on projects for days or weeks, only to abandon them, temporarily or permanently. I write more than one book at the same time.

I will write a scene for book A, take break. Then edit book B. Then write a couple scenes for book C. It’s a crazy way to write and I know it.

But you know what? I have nine full length novels on the market. A science fiction serial I release monthly. Four novels ready to be published this year. Several more in progress. So apparently even though it defies all common sense, this approach works for me. I’m not going to sabotage my own success because someone else is certain this is the wrong way to write.

I’m not saying you should throw every rule out the window or disregard all advice, especially if you are struggling. But filter it all through the first rule, don’t argue with success, yours or others. If another writer is getting words on paper and those words are good, don’t try to correct their technique just because. Will a change really make their writing better? Then it’s a good critique. But changing things to make them more “correct” according to some book, isn’t worth it.

By the same token, if you are getting your words on paper, don’t let someone tell you you are doing it wrong. If those words set you on fire, who cares if they could be more “correct.” Don’t kill your voice to make it sound like everyone else out there. Write your stuff, your way. Do you.

Bad Reviews of Good Books

Every author gets bad reviews. It’s a fact of life. You should never, ever respond to a bad review.

So what do you do? I like to remind myself that everyone gets bad reviews from time to time. When that’s not enough, I go on Amazon or Goodreads and check out bad reviews my favorite authors have gotten. It helps me to realize that some of the writers I admire most have been called far worse things than I have.

(A note to reviewers: It is not my intention in this piece to attack anyone who reviews fiction or to perpetuate any bad blood between writers and reviewers. Rather I hope to do the opposite, to get some writers to lighten up about their own bad reviews. We are all entitled to our opinion, even if that means we hate on books that everyone else loves. Peace brothers.)


The Hobbit

With over 780,000 five star reviews on Goodreads, calling the Hobbit the most beloved children’s tale of all time wouldn’t seem a stretch. And yet it also has over 38,000 one star reviews. Reviews that say things like, plodding, ponderous, pretentious and yes, perfunctory”. One reviewer even suggests that Tolkien had a very good idea, yet he did not execute it in a way most readers will enjoy.”

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and on Goodreads Tolkien has fared pretty well, a lot of people just didn’t like the book. Check out Amazon for some amazing vitriol, from fans even. Tolkien’s problem on Amazon is how long he’s been around and how many versions/editions of book like the Hobbit there are. There is no wrath like a that of a Tolkien fan who ordered the classic 1973 edition and got a crappy 1976 reprint of the classic 1973 edition. Wow, some of those reviews really sting.


The Lorax

What’s not to like about Dr. Seuss’s classic book the Lorax? Apparently “stupid words.” Snark aside, I don’t think this particular reviewer deserves to be attacked for their opinion. Let the drama go, people.

The Lorax has picked up some interesting one star reviews on Amazon as well. This guy calls the book’s environmental message “brainwashing.”


War and Peace

Predictably the negative reviews of War and Peace focus primarily on two facets of the work, it’s length and it’s number of characters. However I feel obligated to point out that both things are often praised by modern readers of the Game of Thrones saga. Still it’s true, War and Peace is a long work and it has a lot of characters to keep track of. Historical fiction is not everyone’s forte and I will give critics a pass on this one, whatever my own opinion is.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Harry Potter series has been one of the biggest sellers of our generation. Like the Hobbit it has legions of five star reviews singing it’s praise. J. K. Rowling hasn’t just been embraced by fans, she has plenty of awards from various publishing and literary groups, including a lifetime achievement award from the British Book Awards.

That doesn’t mean she’s escaped criticism by any stretch of the imagination. One reader can sum up their feeling about the book in one word, “poop.” This Amazon reviewer admits that he’s not (sic) intelligencia and might have missed the whole point of Harry Potter. Given his comments about Pokemon, I suspect sarcasm. I am not really sure what this reviewer is suggesting we do with Harry Potter, but I suspect it’s not particularly favorable.


Atlas Shrugged

To prove that I am not out to attack reviewers for not liking my favorite books, I am going to throw out one of my own doozies. Atlas Shrugged hit the bestsellers list a mere three days after it’s release. It has over 75,000 five star reviews. Many begin with the phrase, “this book changed my life.” One reviewer called it “the holy grail of how to live your life.”

But it’s one of those books you either love or hate. I am in the second category. In many cases the fault line for this book is political. Ayn Rand has been enormously influential to Libertarian philosophy. Depending on how you view that philosophy, you will likely love or hate the book. And I admit, my personal politics are far to the left of Rand’s. Yet, that is not my major complaint with Atlas Shrugged. I struggled to see her characters as real, not mouthpieces for her philosophy. By the same token the plot seemed contrived and convenient, just an excuse to give those mouthpieces a chance to spout her various views.

Atlas Shrugged did spawn my favorite snarky, negative review in all of history. Writer Dorothy Parker reportedly said of Atlas Shrugged:

“This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly, but rather thrown with great force.”


Dear Authors,

I think I have proven my point. Any book with more than a couple dozen reviews is bound to have some bad ones. Any book with more than a hundred reviews will have some out and out clunkers, reviewers who think J. R. R. Tolkien ripped off J. K. Rowling or that Stephenie Meyers invited vampire lore and all other vampire novels are plagiarism. People dislike books for all kinds of reasons and that’s okay.

If you don’t feel better about your bad review yet, you can look up any other book on Amazon or Goodreads and see that they, too, have bad reviews. Likely their bad reviews are just as bad, snarky and unfair as yours. So relax. Embrace your fans, ignore the haters and write on.

Yoik and a very Cryptic Clue about Bear Naked Four

What is Yoik?

Yoik is Sami singing. Though maybe it’s easier to show than tell.

The Sami are an indigenous people from Northern Europe. The more familiar term Lapp, or Laplander is actually offensive. Lapp is Swedish for patch, a reference to the patched clothing of the poorer northern people. They are most commonly known for being the reindeer herders of the far north.

The Sami people have a long rich history and culture of their own. Their traditional homeland spans Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of Russia. Some of these countries treat the Sami well, in other places they still struggle for their rights, particularly to maintain their traditional herding, hunting and fishing grounds.

Singing and drumming are vital parts of the Sami’s heritage and in recent years there has been a movement to revitalize the ancient tradition of yoik.

I’ve posted my soundtrack for previous Bear Naked books. As I start in on Bear Naked Four, yoik has joined the playlist, including Sofia Jannock’s White.

What does Sami singing have to do with the plot of Bear Naked? Remember from Bear Naked 2, Jay has agreed to train as a Noaidi, a pathfinder, which is a kind of Sami shaman or medicine man with Corey’s uncle. So while the wolves have their big council to deal with, Jay’s got a subplot of his own in this installment.

For now I will leave you with another example of yoik:

Sometimes it’s the Little Things, and That’s Okay.

When I am trying to stay motivated on a big project, I will start tracking little things. The little things are mile markers on the journey to big things. When writing I look at word counts, scenes written, plot points passed to see how far along I really am. When marketing I celebrate small victories, like a new review, a solitary sale or even pageviews on a blog.

We all know the glib aphorism, don’t sweat the small stuff. But you know what? I want to sweat the small stuff. The small stuff keeps me engaged when the big stuff looks overwhelming. One could almost say, just sweat the small stuff, and let the big stuff take care of itself.

It’s November first and Nanowrimo begins today. I am going to my regions kick off party in another hour or so, and I will begin my novel then. In the meantime I am working on my profile and doing some last minute prep work.

I have a bunch of badges on my profile page. I’ve got all of my participation badges. Yeah, it was so worth the donation to get that final one. Go donate to Nanowrimo right now and you’ll see.

I intend to earn those writing badges, too. Right now I am yearning for the Participation Pep badge. That’s why I am writing this blog. When I am done I will post it on my website and cross post in the forums and get that badge.


Because that’s how I motivate myself to write. You can, too. Is this your first Nano? Have you failed in the past? Don’t worry, you can do this. Just take one step at a time. Find some small marker, five hundred words written, a thousand words, one scene, whatever works for you. And then do it. Celebrate. Repeat. And repeat.

If your family thinks it’s silly to take a dance break, or have a cookie, every time you write five hundred words, or meet your daily goal, screw them. They don’t get a cookie. You do. Because no matter how silly the goal, or the reward, it works for you and that’s all that matters. So embrace the little things and let the big job take care of itself.


p.s. I’ve even made a goofy working cover, just for my nanowrimo page.


Endings, Beginnings, and the Middle of a Big Project.

I finished another rough draft this week. It’s the third in my apocalypse series. You can check out Home for the Holidays here. Zoey and the Zombies is nearly through self edits. A Fishy End is now resting, I will come back in a month or two and re-read it. My plan is to take all three manuscripts and submit them to my editor over the winter sometime and publish them next year. I’m excited about getting this series out.

Home for the holidays web

My next project, the one I am doing for Nanowrimo is Bear Naked Four: the Wolf Council. I have been trying to focus on series, in particular having most of a series done before I try to publish and promote them. In that vein, writing the rough draft to Bear Naked Four means I should go on to write five and six immediately after, wrapping up the entire story arc.

I say should because I wrote a while ago about Big Project Blues. Book four of a six book series, now that’s big project blues. Novels have become old hat to me now. But this series is stretching out of my comfort zone. Hopefully writing book four will bring me back some of the passion of the series, I really love the characters and I love where the story is going. It’s just getting it there.

I can’t complain, though. I love writing. It’s what keeps me going when the rest of life gets hard.

In the meantime I am expecting to get back the second episode of my Sci-fi serial, The Girl in the Tank today and start working on prepping it for publication. Episode two: A Shaky Start should be available at the start of the month, on multiple platforms.

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October Prep-Mo and Good News for Bear Naked Fans

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

November is Nanowrimo, National Novel Writer’s Month. I am intending to participate again. As more and more writers join the Nanowrimo fun, October has become prep-mo, a period of prepping your Nano project and getting ready to write. What that means depends on the writer. Some do extensive planning, others sketch some notes and are ready to go.

I’ve been trying to decide what to do. I have my third apocalypse novel and it should be finished before the month is out. I have been debating what to do next.

There is one novel that is mostly planned but unwritten, Bear Naked 4: The Wolf Council. With renewed interest in the series now that Bear Naked 3 is out, it’s time to write book four.

The Hunted

Book four covers a relatively short period of time, the council between the werewolf tribes. However there is a lot of action in that short period. I am probably going to end up giving almost every character some POV time. It should be an interesting challenge to write and I am looking forward to starting it.

In the meanwhile you can get the first three in print from the Wordverve or in ebook from Amazon. Check the series out.

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Fighting in Armor

A couple of interesting things have floated through my social media feed in the last couple weeks that have me thinking about fighting in armor, what it would be like, how it changes things for the fighters involved.

This is apparently a thing in Russia:

They are using steel swords in that video. They aren’t sharpened, but honestly, that wouldn’t make as much difference as you might think. Movies often portray knights fighting in armor in the most unrealistic ways, swords chopping straight through metal plates and hacking off limbs. Other knights with limbs hacked off still managing to fight some how.

That’s not how it happened at all. Battles between knights in plate armor in medieval times wouldn’t have been so different from what you see in the video, a battle of endurance as much as skill. A properly armored knight was pretty impenetrable, without specialized weapons. That was the other thing that crossed my stream this last week.

Thick wool tunics and leggings were often wore underneath armor to help absorb some of the force. Chainmail came next, deflecting cutting blades but still allowing for movement. Over that protective plates. Steel gorgets protected the neck, helmets protected the head. Once the knight was encased in armor, he seemed pretty unstoppable.

The one factor they don’t mention in either video is socio-economics. Plate mail armor was expensive to buy and maintained. The knights and men at arms that wore it had to be trained to move and fight in it. For most of the medieval period, knights were a privileged social class.

Socio-economics was both a source of great power for the knights, and ultimately their undoing. Foot soldiers in the early medieval period simply didn’t stand a chance. They might be armed with spears, short bows, swords and axes. Their armor was little more than thick leather, or if they were lucky, pieces of chainmail. A small band of heavily armored knights in plate armor could easily dominate the battlefield. I can almost imagine how terrifying it must have been for the peasant foot soldier, their weapons would bounce off the knight with no effect. Meanwhile one false move on your part and the knight would hack you to pieces.

Many of the strange weapons we see in the second video were designed by and for the peasant foot soldier, in a desperate attempt to even the odds against the better armored knight and man at arms. And as they appeared, the flipside of socio-economics appeared. Knights were expensive to maintain. Forget what you’ve seen in Lord of the Rings or even on the TV version of Game of Thrones, armies composed entirely of heavily armored knights and men at arms are works of fiction. Knights were elite forces.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that the age of knights was ended by the development of firearms, which blasted through the plate. The truth is that a) early firearms were difficult to use, slow to reload and incredibly inaccurate and b) the age of knights was already fading.

What really ended the knights reign of the battlefield was a new generation of foot soldiers. Soldiers with specialized weapons and training. The English longbow decimated the French knights at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. The second video mentions the Flemish Gottentag, a peasant weapon that successfully held French knights at bay as well. Swiss Mercenaries armed with pickaxes, working in phalanxes, could withstand a charge of knights on horseback.

This all has me thinking about a story I want to write someday. It’s in the Gilded Empire saga. The only problem is that it’s nearly a generation ahead of where I’m at right now in the saga, so I probably shouldn’t write it yet, not until I have finished the books I am on anyway.

This story creates a powerful three way conflict between one of the noble houses, with a huge private army of men at arms, the church, with a strong force of it’s own, and a group of elvish peasants. The peasants are being driven from their ancestral home. The lord hopes to open the woods to logging, and the church wishes to enforce its beliefs on the elvish people. However the two powers quickly come into conflict with each other over who ultimately holds sway in the land, the lords or the church.

It’s a long way from being written, let alone published. But for now it’s interesting to research and plan.

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WIP Wednesday — Mondamin Court

About a year ago, I had this idea for a series. It’s set in a quiet neighborhood in Des Moines, though it could easily be any midsized Midwestern series. I know everyone in the neighborhood, what skills they posses and what they own. In each book, an apocalyptic event occurs and the neighborhood must respond. Each novel starts with the same characters in the same time and place, but how each novel plays out is very different.

I love this series for two reasons. The first reason is that most of these characters are not genre cliches. This isn’t a story about how a trained survivalist, ex special forces heroes will survive (or not survive) the apocalypse. It’s about how ordinary individuals with relatively few skills will cope.

The other thing I love is that changing the apocalypse and pressures they face, changes the entire story. Skills that might make someone essential in one storyline, might be a liability in another. Circumstances might force two characters together in one story and keep them apart in another.

In order to make sure the apocalypse isn’t the only drama going on, I’ve created a neighborhood with a fairly diverse cross section of people. A conservative fundamentalist couple lives next door to a lesbian couple. An African American man lives down the street from a racist. An ex-cop lives in one corner, two young men deal pot in another.

I made the marketing decision awhile back to focus more on series. Specifically I want to focus on getting more series done and out. I’ve too many series and possible series up in the air. So I want to have at least three of these Mondamin Court novels done and out before I really start pushing them, or judging their success.

You can read the first novel, Home for the Holidays on Wattpad right now.

Home for the Holidays is about a flu virus that kills over ninety percent of those infected. That means that the lion’s share of my characters simply die at the outset of the book. But it did allow me to put two of the most opposite characters together, which was a blast to write. Zoey Scott is a nineteen year old transgender woman and Darren Thames is a redneck pizza delivery man. When the two are left alone with three young girls to raise, it’s anything but an easy adjustment.

The second Mondamin book is a Zoey and the Zombies. Zombie hordes are threatening Des Moines. All that stands between Mondamin Court and the hordes are an ex cop, a petty drug dealer and a transgender girl with a sword. What could possible go wrong? It’s in editing stages now.

The third installment is my current WIP. I’m barely a few thousand words in, but I tend to be prolific once I get going. Hopefully all three can be close to ready and this series can go on my production calendar for next year.

Mondamin #3? It’s an homage to H. P. Lovecraft. A Fishy End is proving to be a fun book to write and I hope eventually, to read.


Do You Count Words? Check out Wordkeeperalpha

One of the most pervasive pieces of writing advice is to have a regular writing habit. It’s also one of the best. There are so many reasons why writing regularly, every day if possible, is the best thing you can do as a writer.

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Slow, regular writers will quickly outpace writers who make mad dashes when inspiration strikes, and not any other time. Chuck Wendig was a NSFW foul mouthed, but very solid plan for how to write your first novel in a year, writing a mere 350 words a day. If you don’t like his language or attitude the break down is simple. Write 350 words a day, at least. By the end of the year you will have written 91,000 words.

Writing is critical to learning how to write. I’ve written about that before. I firmly believe that you can’t actually learn to write without writing regularly. If you read books on writing, take courses, but never write, all you are doing is collecting trivia. Writers write.

Writing regularly beats writers block. Writers block is the bane of beginners, but many serious writers claim they never suffer it. That’s because they write regularly, whether they feel like it or not. In doing so, they learn how to deal with those days when the inspiration tank is running on empty.

We all know we need to write regularly. What is regularly? And how much should we write?

The most common answer to the first question seems to be daily. If your schedule allows, and you wish to be serious about writing, that’s a good answer. However not everyone has the luxury of schedule that allows daily writing. Twice a week, on this day and that, is much better than “when I can” in my opinion. Any sort of schedule is beneficial. Leaving it to chance almost guarantees it won’t happen.

How much you should write is a stickier question. There are several ways to measure your progress and each of them have their merits. Back in my day (god, I feel old just typing that) we measured progress in pages. Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones said to fill a wirebound notebook (75 pages) every month.

Today most writing is done on the computer and word counting tools are a common way to measure progress. I’ve counted words on and off throughout the years. A fellow writer recently posted about new web tool for word count. I’ve been using it for a couple weeks and I’d love to give it a shout out.

It’s simple and easy use. You can register for free. It tracks your progress from day to day, allows you to create projects and set goals. I’m loving it. A huge thanks to developer Seth Swanson for putting together such a great tool.

Here is my Wordkeeper progress for the month. It looks good laid out like this.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 12.04.47 AM

Just keep in mind that alpha, in software refers to early versions. The occasional glitch is to be expected from time to time.

p.s. What else can do besides count words? I also track my time spent on writing. There are stages in writing when that is a more accurate reflection of your work, especially when you are doing a lot of editing. If I am working on tough, emotional writing, I will count a scene as good enough regardless of the word count.