Monday, January 7, 2019

2019 Writing Blog

This is a continuation from my 2018 writing blog:

July 8th

I took 25 days to finish the 7th draft of "Being An Astronomer" (2nd edition). I made 23 changes, so I feel like I'm going backwards.

July 1st

Progress on "Being An Astronomer" has been slow. I updated "2019 An Astronomer's Year" with the June entries and updated the Tools and Techniques section.

June 17th

19 pages into the 7th draft and I've found the first error.

June 11th

I managed quite a few hours on "Being An Astronomer" and decided to give it another day before starting the 7th draft.

June 10th

I had a day off, which seemed to disappear in a sea of chores. I DID manage to get round to write the May entry for "2019 An Astronomer's Year", the sequel to 2018 An Astronomer's Year.

I made a small contribution to "Being An Astronomer".

June 2nd

The 6th draft of "Being An Astronomer" is now over 50% complete.I was not at work, so I did a few pages at a time. Editing is so error-prone and I know this from my work as well. I have found enough errors on 6th draft to know that it needs to go to 7th. I'm glad that I have not promised anybody, not even myself, a completion date.

May 29th

After a week or so, I have finally got Microsoft Office back and am back editing Being An Astronomer, 2nd edition.

May 2nd

I did more editing on BeingAnAstronomer and finally finished the 5th draft. On a visit to the kitchen, I put in some outline modifications to my fantasy. I felt the need to write them down, as I would not be able to concentrate on my editing.

May 2nd

As is quite normal, I have not been writing yet today. I have had some chores to do and been engaging on Twitter. Quite honestly, many (including myself - at times!) over-indulge in this. Yet, there is a useful side to this, as I see a lot of ideas. Some I don't agree with but others I think may have some merit.

Many writers are full-time. Many of us aspire to be full-time but, honestly, I have my doubts. It's just like many of us idealise about working from home and avoiding the morning/evening rush. I hate commuting as much as anybody else but I think if one is working or full-time at home (writing, retired, chiuldcare, etc), it becomes very isolating. In my case, despite having been a very social person through my 20s and early 30s, I am socially disconnected. When our daughter was born, we prioritised her over our own needs. Although I don't regret it and neither does my wife, it has left us with no social life. I fear that if I wrote full-time, I would hardly leave the house.

Now, OK as an #astronomy writer who writes and blogs extensively about what I see and photograph from my home, maybe it doesn't matter. However, as I have been known to write fiction and my next major work will be fictional, I hope to do more than just create a fictional reality that is close only to my own and very distant from everyone else's.

So I sometimes wonder how much other writers socialise, especially if they don't have a day job that brings them into contact with people outside their immediate family circle. I interact a lot online, mostly about astronomy and writing but I wonder, at times, whether it actually helps me to understand how other people think.

May 1st

After making more edits to Being an Astronomer on the 5th draft than the 4th, I was feeling rather pessimistic. I updated 2019 An Astronomer's Year with my April summary and finished some proof-reading for the International Meteor Association.

I has a few thoughts for my fantasy novel but did not manage to add to it. Unfortunately, sometimes in life, I concentrate on the important and neglect the urgent. I often think that a day job is a necessity for me, even if it wasn't for the money but I sometimes don't get around to many everyday life chores, like checking the mail. On that note ...

April 28th

I have had to deal with many non-writing activities and worked a full day on Saturday. I have reached the end of the 3rd chapter of the 5th draft of Being an Astronomer. I think checking later drafts is slow and painful but, if you rush it, you either find you need an extra draft or release a poor book.

April 25th

I wanted to detach from Being an Astronomer for a few days. I started my fantasy novel, which is a major rewrite of an abandoned project.

April 24th

I finally finished my 4th draft of Being an Astronomer, 2nd edition. I found enough to suggest that it would go to at least a 6th draft, as I found plenty of corrections. I was also starting to formulate some ideas for my next project.

April 22nd

After getting half-way through the 4th draft, few mistakes had been found. The writer decided, with great reluctance, that the waiting public would have to wait, even though they were almost certainly more tolerant than the pernickety writer!

April 20th

So it came to pass on this day, in a small insignificant town, in an obscure part of a country that had seen better days, that the fourth draft of the iconic "Being An Astronomer" was started. The writer, like his country of birth and residence, had also seen better days. He had the hope, but little expectancy, that this fourth draft would become the finished work. 

April 14th

Progress was slow on the third draft but I was not concerned. This was not a stage of the book to rush. I took seven drafts on the first edition and was hoping to do the second in five. I added a new photo:

April 11th

I had finished the second draft of Being An Astronomer. I did not add any words but added the moon inage from the evening before.

April 8th on daily word counts

One of the problems with Twitter is that sometimes needs more than a few words to give an accurate reply. There has been a lot of controversy about daily word counts and even shaming of people who don't write daily! Now if you find it helps to have a daily word count or write every day, by all means do it. However, in my opinion, it can be less than helpful.

My first thought is this: One word read by a million people is better than a million words read by one person. There are loads of words out there. Many people no longer buy books, newspapers or magazines. They get their information online. If they can get it free, they are less likely to read something that they have to pay for, unless it is very good. I have written loads of words that have never been read, simply because I have pitched them at publishers who have rejected them. Sometimes the feedback has encouraged me to re-work them but, more often than not, their feedback tells me that the project simply won't "fly" and I've got loads of other projects that are potentially more successful.

Secondly, nearly every person is not just a writer, nor do they have servants to do household chores. We may also be sons, daughters, mums, dads, etc. I don't honestly think being a full-time writer to the total exclusion of everything else would make me a healthy person nor would it make me a good writer.

Thirdly, writers do not just write. We revise, edit, spell-check and do a million and one other writing-related activities, All non-fiction writers and a large number of fiction writers research. In my case, I spend a lot of time taking and processing astronomy photos. We also need to promote our work by various means. Even if you have a publisher, they do not promote your book as well as you would like. Also many non-fiction writers do further editions as their subject matters change.

No where word counts are relevant is if you have a publishing contract and a deadline. Most novels are around 120 000 words long and that is what you should aim for. Non-fiction books are not so constrained but need to be around 200 pages to be considered a "good read". You can take today's date, estimate how many words it would take to finish then multiply by two. This will give you time for editing and revision. Even then, this word count is only an average. Some days you may have more time to write and others not so much. On the shorter less-productive days, it may pay to have a rest entirely, or simply read, edit and decide what you need to revise.

For self-published products, I no longer have a fixed date for release. Last year, I shelved my book to write some magazine articles. For one thing, they were bringing in money more quickly. Some projects are time-dependent. It would be daft to publish a yearly summary the following November, so I wanted out as soon after January 1st as I could. As I'm now writing for Kindle, the number of pages I fill is less important than the quality of information.

Some people may choose to have a daily word count as it motivates them. It is OK, as long as you plan in some time for editing and re-writes. My choice is they are neither relevant to myself or my writing.

April 7th

Despite having a busy day with chores, I made good progress with "Being an Astronomer". I am now on the later sections writing about cameras. I am getting near the end of the second draft.

April 6th Daytime

I did a bit of writing in the afternoon and revised by Saturn section. Here are the photos:

April 6th Before Bedtime

I revisited my book just before midnight and added a couple of shots of Jupiter with its moons. I only made minor adjustments to the text.

April 5th, Later

I added a few more Moon photos.

April 5th

I was back on "Being an Astronomer". On Draft 2 of the second edition, I decided to include a map of the moon, just showing the major features.

April 3rd

I took a break from "Being An Astronomer". Last year I wrote 2018 an Astronomer's Year:

I completed my March entry for this year. It is a summary of the year, including photographs. I am now back to editing "Being An Astronomer".

Apart from my yearly summary, I'm pondering my next project. Do I go back to re-work my novel or write another astronomy booklet?

March 29th

Writers will know what this means! Today I reached a key milestone in writing the second edition of "Being An Astronomer". I have finished my first draft and "completed" all content. Naturally, I will find something that just cannot wait for a 3rd edition but it is unlikely that I will add any new sections.

Unlike fiction writers, most of the new content I am likely to add is related to photos and diagrams drawn from photographs. I then need to make sure that all new sections are correctly cross-referenced from the older ones.

The main feature of the second edition is that the first edition was written soley with astronomers with an internet connection and the second edition includes a lot of information that may be difficult to obtain without the use of an internet or a public library.

March 27th

I had not added many words but had some successful and some less successful photo sessions, primarily aimed at obtaining pictures for Being an Astronomer. One of the most notable was my picture showing Regulus (the brightest star in Leo) as a double star.

March 23rd

I finished the first draft of my Constellations chapter and started on solar system data. Best of all, I showed that the Sun is in a totally different place from the "signs of the zodiac" as shown in newspapers!

Dates (approx.)
December 15th to January 21st
January 22nd to February 15th
February 15th to March 12th
March 12th to April 20th
April 20th to May 13th
May 13th to June 21st
June 21st to July 20th
July 20th to August 11th
August 11th to September 17th
September 18th to November 2nd
November 2nd to November 26th
November 26th to November 29th
November 29th to December 15th

March 22nd

I added a section on Ursa Minor.

March 21st

I was at home with a stomach bug but otherwise felt fine. My day job involves a lot of driving and visiting people in their homes. I completed my section on Aquila and included some of the surrounding features, such as Delphinus.

I've now finished Cygnus, which contains the beautiful double star Albireo.

I dug out an old photo of Grus from a photo I took from Aruba. Unfortunately, my Chapter 8 is very northern hemisphere biased because that's where I do most of my observations and photography from.

I finished off with Scorpius.

March 20th

Again, it was a busy day but managed to complete my section on Taurus. I also completed Perseus.

I finished with Lyra and included a diagram of how to find the elusive M56.

March 17th

Although it was my day off from the day jobs, I got bogged down in non-writing activities. However, I added a lot more substance to my section on Orion. Here's the annotated photo:

March 16th

I didn't do a lot of writing today but drew two small diagrams showing the relative sizes and positions of the galaxies in Leo. I don't have the right equipment to photograph them but, if I did, it would negate the idea that Being An Astronomer is a beginner book. I have seen the galaxies but each of them look like small, fuzzy patches of light where a galaxy is supposed to be.

I also re-arranged my constellations chapter into alphabetical order and realised that I need to write a lot more detail on each constellation.

Overall, I'm thinking that my book will have several editions and I will probably release the second in summer or autumn. 

March 15th

I used a recent photo of Leo and annotated it with the bright stars and the positions of galaxies. Hard work but well worth it.

March  7th

Sometimes I wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew! I'm writing the second edition of "Being an Astronomer" ( My plan is to write some detailed descriptions of constellations. I am including real photos, instead of the usual line drawings and adding some descriptions and photos of deep sky objects.

I am not planning to include all constellations, just a selection.

February 11th

I revised the solar section but did not change many words.I added a lot of photos instead.

February 6th

I revisited the planetary section of "Being an Astronomer" and added a few newer photos and tweaked a few details. The next section is about the Sun.

I also read a lot of discussion about being a writer. There are many writers and there are almost as many types of writer as there are writers. Most of us never get published and the overwhelming majority of those that do cannot make a full-time living from it. Some writers have fixed ideas about how many words they should write and/or how many hours they should spend a day. That may be fine for full-time writers who would probably spend all day most days procrastinating. At the time of writing, I had two day jobs and some days were too busy to even think of writing.

Many writers tend to blog about writing and some are active on social platforms. Some of this time is valuably spent. Networking with other authors about how to go about work is fine but you can overdo it and it can become another excuse not to get on with the business of writing. Time spent promoting yourself or your publications is time well-spent, especially if you find out which media channels generate your most purchases. Also, time spent looking at your genre or intended genre of other ideas is not wasted. There is little point in competing in already-crowded space, unless you really are able to offer something unique.

As my writing time (like everybody else's) is limited, I like to make sure I am not wasting too much. Before launching a lengthy project, I like to have some idea of whether people will actually read the end product. In addition, as well as writing, there is editing, re-writing some sections, researching (especially in my genre of specialist interest) and images. This probably takes 2 to 3 times more time than first drafting.

This (to my mind) rather makes judging productivity by numbers of words rather meaningless.

February 1st

I haven't spent much time writing but am making steady progress on the second edition of "Being an Astronomer":

I have corrected some minor errors, added some clarifications and replaced/added more photographs.

January 31st

I'm starting on my 2019 report, which will be finished when the year is over. January was a more active month than past Januarys, despite missing the lunar eclipse.

January 27th/28th

Although my photo session failed to produce any images that I could use. I made a good start on the second edition of "Being An Astronomer".

January 26th

Well, I have my roadmap sort of sorted-out. Any activities that make money outside of writing will naturally take priority, unless I really get in the Amazon Top 100. Actually, "2018 an Astronomer's Year" has reached the dizzy heights of 12 512:

Most writers, apart from J.K.Rowling, William Shakespeare and the like will be rather impressed by that.

I'm not planning on anything completely new for 2019. I'm going to at least start the 2nd edition of "Being an Astronomer". The main change will be a lot more illustrations of constellations. Naturally, I'll also add any new photos to other sections. Apart from the usual reasons for delay, it depends on the British weather, which has delayed previous projects.

The other plan is not quite new. The original idea is about 6 years old. I revisited it last year but lots of things (including paid magazine work) pushed it to the back burner. The current working title is "The Quantum God". See last year's blog for details.

January 23rd

I finally finished my Webcamming booklet, which I had postponed to keep my previous booklet current:

So, an interesting challenge! I have several project ideas but not sure which one to go with. Nothing in the pipeline.

January 15th

"2018 an Astronomer's Year" has finally hit the bookshelf: 

January 7th

As it was my day off, I made good progress with my 2018 retrospective and have called it "2018 an Astronomer's Year". I was going to do a similar one on 2001 but didn't get many results. I'm glad I waited, as it would have made some rather dry reading without my photographs. I had a couple of sections to finish, then the final refining and checking.

January 1st

I started the year with just two projects on the go and both were part of the Phil's Scribblings series of articles and booklets. I had started writing "Webcamming" but decided to include some step-by-step instructions, so I had shelved it for the time being, due to weather.

Being the end of the year, I wanted to finish my retrospective but wanted to consider a new, catchy title. Unlike previous end-of-year reports, I decided to include an outline of how I achieved what I did, to make it more interesting for the readers.

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