Making Writing a Habit With Gamification

woman-typing-writing-windowsI love writing. Writing energizes me. Why, then do I have so much trouble making the time to do it?

Sound familiar? If you’re like me and juggling writing and another career, it probably does. I don’t do formal New Year’s Resolutions, but I did set a goal to be more consistent in my writing this year. My release schedule was slipping to about 18 months, and I want to tighten that up, which means I need to finish the current book before the end of the year.

Fortunately, an excellent tool crossed my path. It’s Habitica, which makes keeping habits into a game. I wrote about it on my business blog. (If you didn’t know I had one, this is a great time to check it out.) In brief, the idea is that your habits become like quests in an role playing game. Do you habits and you earn gold and experience. Don’t do your habits, and you lose health. Lose enough health and you die. 🙁

Don’t worry. I’m still alive. I’m one of those people who responds well to this sort of motivation, and Habitica has helped keep me consistent with my writing. I made “Write 500 words” a weekday habit. I get bonus credit for each additional 250 words.

Starting this has done a couple of things. First, I’ve been consistently meeting my goal, and I’ve written around 30K words this year so far. While that’s not going to break any records, I’ve completed one novella and am well into the next novel. So far, I’m on track to publish the novel by the end of the year. Oh, and I have written on holidays. Or written ahead so I could take a day off. The game aspect has kept me committed because I don’t want to take damage. My husband thinks it’s silly, but it works for me.

Not surprisingly, the more I write, the faster and easier it becomes. Last year, when I wrote only sporadically, it was hard work most of the time. (Part of that was the story I was working on.) This year, yes, I have tough days, but mostly it’s going smoothly. It’s not uncommon for me to reach 1K words or more in a session.

Setting the goal had one other, unexpected effect. By setting a specific word goal, I know when I’m done. On days I just don’t feel like writing, I can tell myself “It’s only 500 words. You can do that.” And I can. And I allow myself to quit as soon as I hit the 500 mark. Previously, I just had a vague goal to “write when I could.” You can imagine how well that worked. In hindsight, it’s amazing I’ve published as much I have.

I know that word count goals don’t work for everyone. I recently read an article on reasons not to track word count, but the system and Habitica works for me. (Sorry, can’t find the article.)

What about you? What keeps you motivated to write consistently?

Interview with Dafydd Smith, Main Character of the Warlock Case Files

This is an old post from my former Blogger site. Most of them aren’t evergreen, but this one still is. Keep in mind, however, that some of the answers were from several years ago, before certain story events happened. I decided to leave it “as is,” though, so you can see how Dafydd looked at things around the time of Werewolf Puppy.


J: I have to ask. What’s with the name? It’s kind of odd.

D: It’s a mom thing. There was this series of books she liked, set in Wales, where one of the characters had his name spelled like that. She restrained herself with my six older brothers, but I guess by the time I came along, she couldn’t take it any longer. It’s pronounced like “David,” by the way.

J: Gotta love moms. So, how did you become a warlock?

D: It’s not really that I “became a warlock.” I was born to it. You see, I’m a seventh son of a seventh son, and we have magic. It’s in our blood. *laughs* You know, once I jokingly asked my grandfather and dad if the family bred for magical talent. The look they gave me shut me up fast, but I think it answered the question.

J: How did that feel?

D: Kind of weird, but no big deal. Someone needs to do what we do, and I like practicing magic.

J: What’s it like?

D: To do magic? It’s kind of hard to explain to the non-talented. It’s not something you do. It’s part of who you are. For me, doing a spell or creating a potion is just so…right. When it all comes together, there’s this feeling of accomplishment. It’s partly that I’m doing something most people can’t, but it’s more that I just love the feeling of power going through me that I can direct the way I want.

J: What’s the difference between warlock, witch, wizard and all that? Don’t warlocks kind of have a bad rap?

D: Isn’t it funny that they all start with “w?” But I’ll start with warlocks and their reputation. Warlock literally is a male witch. And yeah, witches had a bad rep down through history. Salem and all that. People said we got our powers from the devil. But I didn’t make any deals. Like I said earlier, I was born to do magic.

Witches are just female magical practitioners, and I’m afraid wizards only exist in fiction. Gandalf is awesome, and I love him as a character, but his kind of magic is just for fantasy novels.

J: So you don’t have a spell book?

D: Not really. I was taught ways to do magic and ingredients to help focus the power, but each ritual or potion is a little different for me. Like today a red candle feels right for a finding spell and next week, I might feel that green is better.

J: Depends on your mood?

D: Or time of day. Phase of moon. Or sometimes something I can’t exactly point a finger to. Like I said, it’s hard to explain if you’ve never done it.

J: How do you like hanging out with a hot vampire?

D: Uh, is there any way to answer that which won’t get me in trouble?

Yeah, Paul is easy on the eyes, but I really respect him for what he knows and what he can do. He’s strong and can do the physical stuff. And he’s smart and has a lot of knowledge about the supernatural. I mean, I knew about ghosts and demons, but he’s showed me lots more. Most of it icky, which isn’t so cool, but it’s okay. We make a good team.

J: But you are gay and think he’s hot, right?

D: Well, yes and yeah.

J: When did you realize you were gay?

D: More like when didn’t I? I pretty much knew when I was little.

J: What was it like coming out to your family?

D: I didn’t. They all knew about the same time I did. You have to know yourself really well to do magic, and my dad, who did most of my teaching, knew from how my energies balanced. And it was no big deal to all of them.

Plus mom loved to dress me up and adored that I loved to shop and stuff. None of my other brothers liked it.

J: Do you have a boyfriend?

D: Not now.

J: But you’re looking?

D: Sure, but it’s not a priority right now. Any anyway, you’re writing me. Don’t you know that better than I do?

J: Sure, I do, but the rest of the readers don’t. If you are interesting to them, I’ll make money and keep writing you. Bore them, and you go back into the drawer to gather (virtual) dust.

D: Well, if you put it that way…

J: Do you make a living as a warlock?

D: Hardly. I sell nutritional supplements to make money. Multi-level marketing also runs in the family. Mom is an awesome Mary Kay Director.

J: Hence the loving to dress you up.

D: Yep!

Thanks, Dafydd, for that insight into what it’s like to practice magic and hang out with the undead. Dafydd’s willing to answer some follow up questions. Leave them in the comments, and we’ll get answers back.

Thanks for reading!

Audiobook Review: My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart

24693755A few months ago, I reviewed Give Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell by Martin Rose, and I mentioned the sequel was coming out soon. I was fortunate to receive a review copy of the audiobook version of My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart, and I’m excited to be writing my first audiobook review.

Because the reader makes the book, I’ll start with him. Christian Rummel was the perfect reader for this book. He had a scratchy, world-weary, sarcastic tone which matched my mental image of Vitus’ voice. Since the book is written in first person, having the right reader was critical, and Rummel nailed it. He was great with all the other characters, but his Vitus just shone. I just checked him on Audible, and it looks like Brandon Sanderson uses him for his self-published works, which is a testament to his ability as a reader. I also see that he reads the various Lost Fleet books, which I have been meaning to catch up on. Lucky me. I have two free Audible credits coming in the next couple of months.

Enough about the reader. What about the book? It’s an odd one. When we last saw Vitus, he had recovered from being a zombie, so I wasn’t certain what to expect in this book. Turns out recovery has a price. He’s in a new body, but he’s in jail for murdering his brother. Some sketchy government types who have some connection to Vitus’ father offer to get him released in exchange for some investigative work.

The book went in several different directions and tossed out lots of twists, red herrings, action sequences and some not inconsiderable body horror. You have been warned.

I have two complaints with the writing. First, we spend way too much time in Vitus’ head. I get that the guy has had a rough life. I do. However, I would have enjoyed the book more if he had done more and whined less. Second, he was stupidly blind to the motivations of one of the characters. To reveal which one would be a spoiler, although I’m pretty confident readers will know which one I meant.

Of course, he was on drugs through most of the book, so maybe I should cut him a big of slack.

The afore-mentioned drug, atroxipine, which was how Vitus controlled his zombie instincts in the previous book, plays a surprising role in this one. Honestly, I can say I didn’t see where Rose was going with the drug until I got there.

The plot behind the plot was entertaining and intriguing and, without spoiling anything, took me back to one of my favorite movies from the 80s. (Email me, and I’ll let you know which one, if you’re curious. Revealing it here really would spoil the entire book.)

Rose has created an interesting cast of characters, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them in future books, at least, the ones who survived this one. Vitus is a worthy character, although I’d still like to see him do more and whine less. I think if I had read the book, I’d give it 3 1/2 stars like I gave the previous one. However, considering how good Rummell was as a reader, I’m adding another 1/2 star to my rating. It’s worth a listen just to hear his narration.