Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Time to put the feet up for a little while, do some writing, do a little bit of reading, and generally just try and relax.

Hope you can all do the same, wherever you are. Have a happy, fun, love-filled end to 2011 and start to 2012.

Take care all.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Chunking goals

Last time I mentioned the similarities in goal setting between Subplot and Savings Jar.

Subplot naturally splits the planning of your novel or screenplay into the following areas: -
  1. Main Story Details
  2. Characters (Who)
  3. Props (what)
  4. Locations (Where)
  5. Events (when)
  6. Goals (why)
  7. Scenes
If you're getting started with writing a story, breaking the work down into these smaller goals can make the process much less daunting. Please don't think this is the best or only way to go about it - of course it isn't. There are some writers that don't like to plan at all and just see where the page takes them, and if that's you, then go for it. There are also writers who will plan in far more meticulous detail. Do whatever gives you the best results for you - and if Subplot isn't right for how you like to work, then try something else.

Personally, I've been carrying on with my writing sprints in 20 minute chunks, and I've found it incredibly useful and rewarding. Shutting out the world for 20 minutes and just writing has been very liberating - especially if you turn off your inner critic/editor, and just write. Don't think about editing or going back and re-reading at this stage. Just keep writing. Instead of writing 300-500 words per day, I've been writing 2000 - 2300 words per day using this technique. I try and be ready to write on the hour each hour.

What I have found however, is that I need to be prepared for the writing sprint, rather than just having that blank screen to look at. This is where I used Subplot to get the basic story structure outlined. Having the report of the scene breakdown printed and next to me ready for the writing sprint means I can just get on with writing.

Leaving the writing at a point that I can carry straight on from is a good idea too - don't finish at the end of a chapter or scene, always start something new so that you've got a hook to launch you at the start of your next session.

These are just some ways I've approached getting down to actually writing rather than thinking about it or just talking about it. Believe me, I'm no expert, if you find something useful that works for you, go for it.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

It's not where you're going, it's how you get there

When I thought about writing a piece for the blog this week, at first I struggled to think of how to tie Subplot and Savings Jar together – on the surface, they appear to deal with totally different things: -

But, when you look at what each program is actually doing, they’re both very simple: each one is designed to help you achieve a particular goal in a particular way.

It’s that goal setting mentality that I’m going to try and talk about. We all have goals, and some of them are fanciful, some are outrageous, some may seem downright impossible, and some may even be trivial. What makes a goal achievable depends on how we approach it.

You may think “I want to write a novel in a year.” That’s a pretty big task. It’s daunting. In fact, for a lot of people starting out, it’s too daunting. The goal seems too big to overcome, so then what happens?

Well if you’re anything like me, you start out with great intentions, and you go great for a couple of days, then something happens and you deal with a real life problem and you lose focus and you lose momentum, and pretty soon, the goal’s on the back-burner, and then you say to yourself “well I’ve still got a year near enough, so it doesn’t matter if I don’t do something today, I’ll catch up next week.”

The trouble is, once you lose the focus and the momentum, that’s usually it. You’re actually sabotaging yourself by setting yourself up to fail before you start.

Set a more realistic goal to focus on

Instead of saying “I’m going to write a novel in a year”, how about “I’m going to have a first draft of a novel completed in 4 months.” That’s quite a change in timescale, but you’ve got a much smaller window of time to focus on.

With Savings Jar, you set a goal of saving a particular amount in a particular time. The time allowed is deliberately set at a maximum of 99 days - a little over 3 months. Now you may think, “Hey, what if I want to save a particular amount in a year, why can’t I do that?” Well, there’s nothing stopping you trying it in the real world, but once again, it’s quite possible that you’ll start out with a bit of focus, but then you may skip a day, and then maybe two, and then you may think “I’ve got plenty of time, I’ll catch up later” and pretty soon, that momentum and focus is lost again, and you’re not actually achieving the goal.

To combat that, instead of having a goal of £360 in a year, set a smaller goal. Not even £180 in 6 months, nor £90 in 90 days. How about £60 in 60 days. That’s more manageable, because you have a smaller goal to focus on. Go smaller still, how about £30 in 30 days? Just don't go too small, or you run the risk of trivialising the goal to your brain, and you may not focus on it at all!

Once you complete that 30 day goal, create a new one, and a new one after that. In a year, if you achieve each of those goals, you’ll still have gotten to that original target of £360 in 360 days, but the journey along the way won’t have seemed so daunting.

All we’ve done is focus on a smaller piece of the puzzle, but the goal has a much greater chance of being achieved, and it’s that breaking down of a problem into smaller chunks that I’ll talk more about next time.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Writing Sprints

I've been taking the advice of the terrific Jane Espenson on Twitter, who sets up little writing sprints for herself.

If you're not familiar with the term, a writing sprint is where you set aside a small block of time - say 20-30 minutes or an hour, and you write almost continuously in that time, with no distractions.

As part of my own goal to write more, I've taken to doing the same - 20 minutes each hour, with some rainfall meditation sounds on my iPod to help drown out everything else. So far it's worked really well. I finished yesterday with a new daily record for me, and crucially, I was chomping at the bit to do more. I'll gradually increase the time of each sprint as well if I can.

It sounds like a little thing, but when there's the whole of "real life" to get in the way and distract you, having these little islands of time for yourself could be a great way to make sure you get the writing done as well.

Have a great weekend all.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Savings Jar released

Our new Mac app is finally available, Savings Jar. It's a simple program that tries to encourage you to save your loose change and small sums of money towards a larger goal in a colourful and hopefully rewarding manner.

Features: -
- Create a goal with a target amount that you want to save towards
- Add savings and keep track of the total you’ve saved
- Earn bronze, silver and gold stars for your goal depending on how well you save
- Add a picture of your goal to the vision board to help you visualise what you’re saving for
- Give yourself from as little as a week to 99 days to achieve your goal
- Use the Savings Jar reports to see the progress you’re making towards your goal
- See how much you have left to save as well as how much you need to save each day to reach your goal

If you’re a parent, why not create a Savings Jar goal with your children and get them into the saving habit? If you’re saving up for something yourself, use Savings Jar to keep track of how you’re doing.

Try and pick something to go without each day, and put the amount you save towards your Savings Jar goal.

Savings Jar is available from the Apple Mac App Store.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Savings Jar update

Savings Jar is delayed a little, but hopefully it'll be in the App Store soon.

Subplot update news

Although the Black Friday sale is over, Subplot will still be available with a little bit of a discount. It will be available at its original launch price for the rest of the year.