A white sign with a black border against a wooden wall. The sign reads in black letters #DONOTDISTURB

11 weeks in and I am still very beyond on my word count as well as these updates. My word count and productivity levels look like a rollercoaster if they were charted out and I’ve been wondering why.

I guess the ‘why’ probably goes back to the pandemic, like most things do these days. After just about a year of quarantines, lockdowns, and general stay-in-place orders, I have found every single possible distraction present in my house. Some are relatively easy to put aside while others are nightmares that can derail a whole day of productivity.

I, like many creatives, used to be able to go and sit in libraries and coffee shops. A change of scenery or getting together with a writing group always helped me immensely. It took me away from the distractions of my daily life and allowed me to fully focus on my work.

With the global pandemic, not looking to be subsiding anytime soon I’ve had time to reflect on my biggest distractions and have learned to keep them from impacting my work as much as any one person possibly can.

Here are my top three worse distractions and how I deal with them, ordered least to greatest.

A stylized shot of a phone with all the social media apps together.

Social media. I think this goes for a lot of people but as a small business owner and an author, there’s a fine line between ‘mindlessly scrolling’ and networking. It’s hard to balance especially since mindlessly scrolling is perfect for my executive dysfunction to latch on to.

One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with over scrolling is using apps and chrome extensions like Forest that block off all unwanted websites for however long you want. I used another one for a little while that I can’t remember the name of anymore but I stopped after only six months of use. The reason I stopped was that there was no way to turn the timer off, no safeguards. Even if you uninstalled it and had thirty minutes left on the clock, it’d still block everything for thirty minutes. All great in theory but there had been a few times that I needed to stop the timer early and the inability to do so led to some bad situations.

With Forest, you can stop it whenever you want but there is a catch. How Forest works is that with every period of productivity you gain coins that can be used to buy more virtual plants or save up to buy real trees, meaning they partner with organizations to plant real trees in the world. So, with the timer, you can cancel it but if you do you’ll be ‘killing’ the virtual tree and won’t get the coins. This makes it so unless I have to, I do not want to kill that virtual tree and will keep it going. It’s been a useful tool. I even have it on my phone.

A man in a stripped shirt looking at a full wall of pinned papers with various graphs and notes on them. The man is in focus while the wall is slightly blurred.

Over researching or wiki rabbit holes. These are deadly in my opinion since at the end of it all you learn stuff and learning stuff is awesome but it’s been three hours and you’ve completed nothing. Earlier today I went down a rabbit hole starting with American football player Dave Duerson, then moved to WWE’s Chris Benoit which then gave way to Christopher Nowinski before landing somewhere in wiki pages on brain trauma. Wikipedia is the worst but I’ve done similar things with just google. This also goes for over planning. I can spend weeks planning something out only to just fizzle out afterwards.

How I’ve learned to fix this? I’ve been making a list of things I want to look up and why. If it has to do with a part that I’m writing then I put something there and move on. Usually, it’s a random word I would expect to ever be in whatever I’m writing. My last one used was ‘bumfuzzle’, to confuse or fluster. It’s not 100% fixed and never will be. My ADHD also means I have horrible impulse control so sometimes my brain just tells me to do the thing Right. Now. When it does work, I can then dedicate time to my lookup list and not have it impede on productivity time. The most important ones get researched first.

As with the whole using up my creative energies planning and having none left to actually write it out, I’m still learning a balance between the two. If I ever achieve it, I’ll report back.

Two cats cuddled together close in a white Monster Energy box. One cat is all black with a paw out and hugging the other cat, with their head on top of the other cat. The other cat is an orange tiger cat with their head tucked under the black cat's head.
They may look innocent here but it’s a lie. The ginger’s name is Vax’ildan or Vax for short and the void cat is Percival or Percy for short.

My cats. My extremely loud, extremely co-dependent, and extremely mischievous cats. I have two and they don’t even have a brain cell to share between them but the trouble they get up to is legendary. Some days they alternate between who bugs me. Sometimes, Percy, our void cat bugs me in the morning, and Vax, our ginger, bugs me throughout the afternoon. Both yowl, cry, and chirp constantly as well as having no reservations about getting into my face. Sometimes they bug me together which you’d think would be the better days. That way I get to tire them out at the same time then back to work I go. I wish. They hype each other up. If they are both hyper and want attention then it’s never-ending. Vax has a habit of literally climbing the walls if he wants attention and gets into everything. Percy just zooms around yelling and using me as a wall to parkour off of. If Vax gets into something, Percy is right behind him.

How do I deal with this? Well, not as well as I’d like, for starters. Some days when I have the spoons, I try to wear them down. Vax LOVES being chased but only if you say on repeat ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.’ I can say it without moving and he’ll start trotting. His whole walk changes but if you don’t follow through with the chase he will let you know his displeasure.

Percy loves toys, springs especially, and will drop them on my keyboard if he wants me to play with him which consists of tugging, throwing, and getting them out from under the couch.

They’re still young. Vax will be three in May and Percy is a little over 18 months old. There’s a chance that they might mellow out with age. I’m holding on to that hope but for now, wearing them out isn’t an option. Some days I’m able to ignore them until they figure out that I have to get work done. On those lucky days, they come into my office and nap in the boxes we have on the bookcase next to my desk until my husband comes home. Those days are rare.

What are your common distractions and why are they your animals?

Two cats wedged into a destroyed Monster Energy drink box. The black cat has both front paws around the orange tiger cat's neck and shoulders. They have their faces pressed together.

While editing this article and readying it to be published, this is how my cats are at this very moment. They are aggressively cleaning each other and fighting over this box. I have saved them from flipping that box three times in the past twenty minutes. Top distractions right there. If anyone is curious, there is another box three inches to their left, two on the bed behind me, and a full cat tree to my right.

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Look at that, it’s an actual #onemillionword update posted on Friday and everything.

Two hands typing aware at a laptop, wearing black long sleeves. The laptop has a bunch of stickers on it and they are sitting at a marble grey and white table.

We are now at the end of week 8 which almost lines up with the end of February. A month that I am all too happy to say a proper farewell to. Over here in New England we’ve seen a lot of cold temps and a lot of snow which usually I’m fine with when I can also leave the house. This year with the quarantining, I don’t get any vitamin D during the week and I can’t wait for spring because of that. The ever so slightly warmer days that are slowly passing by have given me a little extra pep in my step in most aspects of my life. For one, I’ve already started our spring cleaning. The amount of tumbleweeds made out of cat hair my two make in a week is astounding.

Now, between the spurts of cleaning and trying to hit my word goal I’ve neglected a big part of my life; reading and video games. My husband and I haven’t been able to play WoW at all this winter which is when we usually hunker down for some good ol’ fashion raiding. This is because of my work and his plus homework. It’s been a busy pandemic.

As of right now, I am in the middle of four different books and three different video games with no progress made in any of them for weeks. What I’m getting at here is, I am horrible at the whole work/life balance thing. It’s not a horrible shock since I’ve been like this my whole life. Just comes with the territory of being ADHD. Though it did take me two months into the year to realize it too.

So the problem has been identified, now I need to fix it as much as I can. First, as of next week, I’ll be seeing an ADHD specialist which is great. I work best with structure and accountability. Regular check-ins to keep meds going does exactly that. Just being accountable to my husband doesn’t cut it, no matter how much he tries to be the hardass in the relationship.

From there I plan to try and write 6,000 words a day but only Monday through Thursday. Friday the goal is 4,000 words. Saturday and Sunday the goal is 500 words. Dividing it up like this should allow me to catch up as well as relax, regularly. If done correctly, I should have 29k new words a week which is 7k more than what I’d need just to stay afloat.

Some might ask, why write at all on the weekends? Shouldn’t I use those two days for a real day of relaxation? Especially since my husband works a regular 9-5. It’d give us more time to just hang out with each other. I’d 100% agree if I didn’t use a website called 4thewords.com to write and I have to keep my streak going. If you don’t know what 4thewords is, I’ll explain it below.

A cartoon colorful middle eastern style city.

4thewords.com is a website that is an infusion of a word processor and a flash video game. You start at level one with a basic avatar and level up by completing quests and ‘fighting’ monsters as you go. It has all the usual trappings of a fantasy video game so you may ask, where does the whole writing thing come into play? Well, to fight the monsters you have to beat them with word counts. Right now, I’m fighting a monster called a Nitana. Sort of looks like a toucan. To defeat the Nitana, I have to write 700 words in 130 minutes. How am I doing right now in this battle? I’m just under the two-hour mark and have written 289 words. Some battles are a lot tighter. For example, there’s an Assassin that you have to defeat by writing 1,400 words in 130 minutes. The largest monster I’ve encountered so far needs 2k words to defeat it.

There are probably bigger monsters in the newer areas but I haven’t done any quests there yet even though I’ve had those areas opened for months. The reason for this is because I’m a completist. I’ve slowly been going through and finishing up all the quests in the first 4 areas before moving on. Granted, right now I’m stuck in the desert area since I used up my last 20 coins to travel. I could wait ten minutes to slow travel for free but who has patience like that?

In addition to just writing, you can dress up your avatar in two different ways; aesthetic and battle gear. I used to raid ICC three times a week during the Lich King expansion so I am a huge fan of gear grinding. Feels nostalgic since no raid has lived up to ICC yet. Sorry, Blizzard. All battle gear has at least one of three stats; attack, defense, and luck. Attack gives you extra words. Having a +10 in attack will get you 1 extra word for every 10 you write. This lets you whittle away the monster’s health faster. Attack is a great stat to build up when going against the 2k monsters. Defense gives you more time. Not too sure about the ratio but with my attention span, more time is always good. Lastly, there’s Luck. Luck affects what items will drop when you defeat the monster. The higher your Luck means the more likely the monsters will drop rare items.

There’s even crafting and some great lore to round this all out. Not to mention the art is cute and well done. They’ve even introduced reaction emojis for the forums that use the same art style the monsters and world are in.

This all sounds wonderful, right? There is a catch. As you’ve probably guessed, it costs money. The good thing though it’s not that expensive, only $4 a month or less if you buy the crystals needed to get the subscription in bulk. It takes 44 crystals to buy one month. The largest bundle they offer is 2250 for $150. That makes it about .06 a crystal instead of the normal .09 cents. If you don’t have the money all the time, there are two ways to get a month or two free. One, they have a pool you can opt into that helps those without the means get subscription time donated to them. The other way is that there are quests that give you crystals. If you are smart and don’t spend them on some of the aesthetic items you can save those up easily to use on months that you don’t have the money.

Don’t be like me and waste them on boots and a kickass top the first minute of playing.

If you are at all interested in trying 4thewords, I’d really recommend it. They have a free trial is 30 days and allows you complete access to the game. If you decide not to pay after that then you can still access your work, you just can’t add or edit it on the site. You can copy and paste to another word processor.

Also, if you use my referral, we both get cool stuff; VNMLP95872.

Until I can find a better balance between work and play, this will probably be my only video gaming for the time for a little while.

Seven weeks in and things are coming together, finally.

One more week completed of #onemillionwords 2021. For those who don’t know what this click here to read my very first #onemillionword update where I explain it all.
As stated above, things are finally starting to come together.

In the beginning, all my projects were completely disorganized, words slapped together just to hit the goal. Now after finding my stride, things are coming together. There is a point in constructing a story where it takes shape and isn’t just fragments, or beginnings, or introductions, but actual stories. I’ve hit that point on some of mine. Not all of my projects since some are sitting pretty in the problem project piles, but that’s okay. The few that have started to morph into actual stories and novels are still cause for celebration.

Let me do a deep dive into each project.

Chained Heavens – I’m at a little over 30k words. According to my charts- that sounds so nerdy, I love it- my word count for this project is supposed to be 55,743 words as of today. As you can see I’m a bit behind and I’m trying not to let it get me down. I love writing this character and this world. It’s been a very long time since I had down anything in a High Fantasy setting. It’s been a lot of fun to just build a world from scratch, with a few nods to DnD 5e here and there.

The big thing about this project is it’s a collection of short stories and I’ve now completed two of them. The completion of the stories has been huge since I’ve been working with this character on and off, getting her just right, going on almost five years yet I have never completed one of her short stories. That’s my whole problem no matter what the project is; seeing it through. I have a few completed manuscripts and a dozen or so short stories under my belt. I had completed the original Merranyssa trilogy a few years ago only to realize it was all wrong and had to start again but for all the years I’ve been writing, it’s not a lot. Or, to be honest, not as much as I’d like to show for it all.

This time around, not even two months in, I have things to show for it. Two completed stories totaling almost 15k words with a third one less than 500 words away from being done. That’s what I have to show after seven weeks of writing and that’s amazing to me.

What’s my plan for these two short stories? Well, once I have at least five stories completed, I plan on taking time off from the general word count to revise and edit. I know both are rough right now but if I get all five done and edited then I have a full first volume of stories.

VeL Posts – I wish I could say these were coming together as well since blogging has always been hard for me. After finishing this post, I’m at 11,429 words but the number I should be at is 20910. At some point my hope to get caught up with a mad stroke of genius, pumping out great blog posts one right after the other. Realistically, that probably won’t happen but at least these updates will be helping. I do find writing each update has helped make blogging just a little bit easier for me. By the end of the year, I hope to get better at it. I used to write editorials all the time for my college paper and even got a degree in journalism but I wasn’t willing to work in the field after being confronted with some cold hard truths about the industry. Funny that I’m not trying it all over again ten years later.

My plan to improve these roadblocks is to spend some time at the end of the month to just plot and plan out actual article topics ahead of time. I’ll start back up with the book reviews as well as maybe a bi-monthly post of writing advice I’ve found helpful. If any of my readers would like to see anything else specific whether it be about books or writing or even geek culture, comment below.

Cloaked Rites – This has been one of the projects that have been hopping back in forth from good to a problem. As of today, I am a little over half what I should be at but I have almost 11k words written in it. Again, I’m not where I should be but I’m a lot better than if I had never started this. At 11k words in, I’ve barely got past the introduction of the world but we’re getting there. Part of the reason why I think this one has been hopping back and forth is that I might have to do that dreaded outline for this one.

I’m the worst at outlining but it has to happen. I’ve known this for a while so I started watching tutorials on the Snowflake Method. Don’t know what that is? Click this link here and it’ll take you to the blog post of the guy who created it. Or if you work better off videos, like me, click here for a great breakdown of the method.
I plan on sitting down, hopefully, this weekend, and spending the day outlining Cloaked Rites with this method. I’ll let you all know next week if a. I even did it. and b. how it went.

The Stormbloods Saga – This is the only project that is actually on track with the overall word goal. I’m even ahead by a bit. I’m just shy of 15k in this project yet the word goal for today is only 13,700. The goal for this project at the end of the year was to have 3-4 novellas finished. This whole story is being structured like a multi-season show but instead of 48 minutes on the CW, there’ll be a novella published every 3-4 months and every calendar year would be seen as a completed season. This one because the structure is so different will be a bit challenging in the editing stages which makes my progress look so much better.

I hope that we can complete the first season this year and have the first ‘episode’ published in January 2022 under VeL.

DLPSW – This project, I’ve realized would probably also benefit from outlining. It’s a little behind on its word count coming in at just under 10k when I should be at 13,700. This is probably one of the shortest gaps of all my projects that are behind but this is also the project that sits just right outside my comfort zone. I have huge appreciation and respect for those that write romance and write it well. I have never been one of those people. Hell, I wasn’t even into the genre as a whole until a few years ago. Mostly because I do like supernatural and fantasy elements in my story almost exclusively. In the last handful of years, the genre of paranormal romance has exploded, from what I’ve noticed.

There are now more and more romance stories that are more up my alley. We’re even getting a whole new wave of queer paranormal romance. I am in love and have added a bunch to my TPR over the last year or two.

The goal going forward, sit down and do the same as Cloaked Rites. Both need a plan moving forward. I am just about finished with the beginning parts of both and will need that outline once I dive deep into the actual plot.

The Keeper Chronicles – It seems this is my most forgotten and hardest project of them all. It’s also supposed to be a series of short stories but lately, I’ve been thinking if it also wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw in a few full-length novels to this series and if that’s the case, what will I do for the plots? As of now, the current word count stands at 5268 and the goal as of today is 13,700. Not much to report on this one since I’ve barely been able to get any done in it.

My goal going forward is to decide what to do with it. Originally it was supposed to be a series of short stories that were posted on our companies patron weekly. Possibly even broken up into parts, depending on story length and I still like that idea but thinking up short story ideas is hard enough with one project, doubling that makes it seem almost impossible. I think, for the time being, I’ll keep trying to produce short stories in this universe. Maybe even sit down and plan some out ahead of time.
Seems I have a lot of planning to do. Guess I should start doing that now.

Happy writing!

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