Don’t You Just Love Cats? Guest Post by Dean Wesley Smith

The 2022 Cattitude Bundle – Curated by Dean Wesley Smith

Don't You Just Love Cats?

I have always been owned by cats. Actually all my adult life except for a few years when I was traveling too much. And being a writer, it seems almost like a requirement for the job description.

What do you do for a living? Fiction Writer.

Owned by cats? Yup.

And one of the great elements of cats and writers is that writers tend to write stories with cats in the story. Logical. The cats are always just there, so we add them into all kinds of stories. From mystery to science fiction to high fantasy. Every type of story imaginable, a writer has put a cat in it.

And yes, I am no exception to that rule.

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Personal Log: Changes (a 2022 Planning Blog, pt. 1)

Sitting down to write as the last thing that I do before bed isn’t great. I’d rather be doing it first thing. Somehow, I keep letting that habit slip away from me. It’s something to work on as we approach the new year. I can take 15 minutes or so early in the morning and write. Then I can go about the rest of the day secure in the knowledge that my writing streak has continued even if I don't write more. Instead, it nags at me.

Today, for example. It was a work day and I updated visualizations, answered employee questions, and edited the website. I also spent time on my breaks working on courses and learning. Despite all of that, the day felt more incomplete because I hadn’t written. I want to address that. I’m happier if I write.

What I often find, though, is that my thoughts go to other things that I need to do each day. Often that’s work. I’m a fulltime librarian. For most of my career, I’ve been in supervisory or managerial positions. Now I'm making a big change and moving over to the IT side of the library. It means giving up pay increases and the status of my current position. In return, I’m gaining an increased focus, less stress, and so many opportunities to learn and serve the library patrons and staff. Even though the job remains mentally demanding, I think it’ll also free up my thoughts enough to make more room for my writing, learning, and other projects.

I love learning. That’s often a distraction from my writing. I have a ton of courses that I want to work through right now. I’ve purchased many of the courses. Many of the creators use Teachable as their platform. Others are on Udemy. I also have courses that I’m doing through library-offered platforms like LinkedIn Learning (formerly

One course that I’m working on right now is Learning Python taught by Joe Marini. I have some experience with Python and have posted a bit about using Python before on my blog to generate titles. I haven’t gained mastery of Python and decided to work through the Python Learning Path on LinkedIn Learning. If you haven’t checked, I recommend you see what online learning options are offered by your local library for patrons. Many do offer access to such learning platforms covering a wide range of topics.

Many of the courses I’m taking are on digital art, 3D modeling, and writing. I’ve also got courses I’m doing to improve my data and visualization expertise. And other developer courses. A focus on learning is a key part of my 2022 plan. There’s always more to learn.

I’m reading a book recommended at work, Think Again by Adam Grant. “The power of knowing what you don’t know.” Even when I’m doing well at something, I don’t cease in striving to learn more. There’s no end. That's the fun. Whether it is through books, courses, or working with mentors—I continue to learn and rethink what I'm doing.

The last two years have been the first two parts of the COVID-19 trilogy. We ended 2020 with the bright hope of vaccines. Hope that crashed down in the long middle of 2021, which now ends with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly in our communities.

I don’t know what 2022 will bring. Maybe there’ll be a second trilogy that follows the first. Whatever happens, I want to share what I’m learning and my progress in my journey as a librarian who writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and more. I hope you’ll join me.

© grandfailure

The Death of 2020

We’ve had an impossible, rock-bottom kind of year. If anyone had pitched a story with everything that has happened in 2020, they probably would have been told to cut it back. Not have so much happening in a single year.

I have a lot that I want to say about the year, more than I can possibly write in a single post. I’m sure people are and will be writing books about the New Twenties for a long time to come.

Why the New Twenties? Because it isn’t over. Not by a long shot. We’ve seen the inciting incident in 2020. That’s all. Now we’re about to step over the threshold into 2021 and find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.


Tomorrow, as I write this, is the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year. Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, It’s already dark outside. We had rain and wind yesterday that brought down trees across roads and scattered branches from the Douglas Firs. I’m fortunate. We have a home. A regular pay check. Our health. People we know have caught covid-19 and recovered, but we’ve been okay. I’ve had a couple false alarms when I thought I might have covid-19, but the tests came back negative.

Right now, this very moment, I’m sitting in my office. My dog is asleep on the other chair in front of my desk. I’m using a Freewrite Traveler on my lap to write while he snores. Before this I finished writing a scene on my current novel.

Out in the other room we have a tree set up, presents beneath it.

I know how fortunate we are. Despite what we have, we also have debts. As the income-provider, if I had gotten seriously sick it could jeopardize everything. We’re not prepared for months without income. We’ve managed this year, skating on very thin ice, seeing it break for so many people.

The end of the year suggests a fresh beginning. I always find it a hopeful time of the year as I make plans for the year ahead.

This year isn’t going down without a fight. Even with the hope of vaccines to help with the pandemic, the scope of the crisis means that people are dying in unthinkable numbers every day. Here in the United States we have an outgoing administration that has behaved terribly in ways that threaten our democracy and each day brings previously unthinkable actions that seemed aimed at causing the most destruction possible.

These are the death throes of this year. The criminal actions of this administration. There are people who want civil war in this country. It’s terrifying. The slow roll-out of vaccinations means that the pandemic will continue to claim lives for many months ahead. The damage to our institutions will also take a long time to address. It feels as if the gains that were made when I was young have been pushed back.

I’ve been fortunate, but I don’t know what is going to happen in 2021. I’m not sure that it’ll be a better year. I hope so, but I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen this year. Not really.

Given that I don’t know, I’m going to take the hopeful view that things will improve. I’m setting ambitious goals for next year. A lot more stories, books, and artwork is coming.

Because when it comes to a year like 2020 (or any year, really), I need to focus on the things that I can do, that I have control over.

Those are the goals that matter. When it comes to our financial situation, I’m working to budget ahead. It’ll take time, but I’m working to try and get to the point where we have everything covered a month ahead. Then two months, then more. I’ve worked 27 years for the library district, but it doesn’t mean that things won’t change. A lot of libraries were forced to lay people off this year.

I’m writing more. It’s not only fun, but it’s a priority. I’m aiming to write one million words next year.

New Year Dreams

So, one million words next year. It won’t all be fiction, but I do want to write much more fiction. I’ve only just finished the first draft of a new novel that is about 131,000 words long. It’s the longest book I’ve written. The final word count will change after edits, but it will remain a long book. The first in the series. And I plan to write more books in the series in 2021.

I have multiple series books to write, or finish for publication. Including book 5 in my Moreau Society series. I don’t have a release date yet, but Synthetic Pain will be coming out in 2021.

I want to write more short fiction next year too, and you’ll see some of that appear here and on Patreon along with other stories that I’ve written.

Novels and short stories will account for most of the one million words planned, but there will be posts like this one too, journaling, marketing copy, and other projects. It’ll be a big jump in productivity if I can pull it off. And I’m sure that I’ll do better than I would setting a goal that doesn’t require me to stretch as much.

Thanks as always, for your support on Patreon. I love to hear from you. Your support makes it possible for me to push to reach new goals like this.

Big Time Bundle

Big Time Bundle

Remember the excitement of starting a new year, a decade ago when 2020 began?

Reading gives us all a gateway to a different reality. Maybe it's a scary reality. Or an alternate reality. And couldn't we all use an alternate reality about now?

Librarians love recommending books. Book talks are in our DNA. Our go-to question whether we're with a close friend, at a dinner party, on a first date, or with anyone of any age at any time, is “what are you reading?” Our second is, “have you read…?”

Have you read books by Kristine Kathryn Rusch? Robert J. Sawyer? Lisa Silverthorne? What about DeAnna Knippling, or Dean Wesley Smith?

Check out the Big Time bundle from StoryBundle before the offer ends. It includes all of those—and more—amazing authors. I've also got a book in the bundle. Ten excellent books to escape into for the last few months of the year.

Support the Big Time Bundle



Visit the Big Time Bundle page and check out the books by these fantastic writers.



Decide what you pay for the bundle, how much goes to the writers and Storybundle.



Buy the bundle and enjoy the escape into different worlds, times, and realities.

For so many of us this year, it's hard to escape the awful reality. We've seen homes destroyed by fires, people displaced, everything lost. With this bundle you also have the opportunity to support the Oregon Food Bank to help people on the ground in need in a specific location. I spent days breathing the smoke from the fires, but that's nothing compared to what people have been through who were directly impacted. You can help those people.

All e-books are DRM-free. Put them on your favorite reading device. Settle back with a favorite beverage and enjoy a timeless escape.

Writer’s Tech Toolbox: Timeular Effortless Time Tracking

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Stephen King

One strategy for improving at something is to have data, information, to help develop an understanding of what you are doing. When it comes to writing there are numerous metrics that I use to look at what I’m doing. One of those is simply tracking the time that I spend on writing and related tasks. For that purpose I’ve started using an app Timeular and it’s eight-sided tracker.

The Software

The software makes Timeular work. Without it the tracker is nothing more than an oversized eight-sided die exiled from Dungeons & Dragons. Of course the tracker is more than that, but I’ll come back to it later.

The core functionality is with the software. It is a cross-platform application that tracks your work on different projects or categories of work (all depending on how you use it). Run it on the desktop or your phone.


Timeular is divided into spaces. Your personal space and spaces for teams or other collaborations. I’m not using that functionality right now, so I’m only going to talk about the personal space. This is where you create your various projects or categories. I use it to track categories of work. Right now those are:

  • Artwork
  • Editing
  • Emails
  • Marketing
  • Publishing
  • Studying / Reading
  • Website
  • Writing (Fiction)
  • Writing (Other)

Each of these can be assigned to a face on the tracker. It isn’t required, you can start tracking time on any of them within the app.


Since I’m using broad categories, I use tags to track specific projects. These are hashtags that Timeular remembers. Simply type the ‘#’ in the notes field and type the tag. Next time you can select it from the drop-down list after a few keystrokes. You can add other notes within the field, and ‘@’ people as well in a collaborative environment.


So you have the app set up with projects or categories. There’s a simple switch button to add those to a particular face on the tracker. This is the fun part.

The tracker comes with stickers and a pen to customize each face—I plan to refresh mine soon with new stickers.

To start tracking, simply put the tracker on the desk with face up that you’re working on.

Switching tasks? Turn the tracker to a new face.

It’s a simple and effective way to bring the task tracking and focus into a physical object. It makes starting or stopping a task a visible and physical action. If you stop tracking, you put the tracker back on its base, balanced on the pointy end.

The tracker communicates via bluetooth to your computer or phone. The app tracks the time spent on the task, then syncs that to the cloud servers so that the same data is available on whichever device you’re using.

The current generation tracker is rechargeable with a c-type USB connection (just like my phone) which makes it handy to rechange. It lasts several days (at least) for me.


Whether tracked with the tracker or directly in the apps, time is recorded and you can use the reporting features to analyze how much time you’re spending by project, category, or hashtag. For example, I’ll track novels with a #title hashtag as well as #novel within my Writing Fiction category. That lets me see time spent writing fiction, spent on writing novels, or spent on a specific novel.

I also record the word counts for each session in the notes, so I can always go back and see what I worked on in any particular writing session.


Recently, Timeular added a weekly target to the mix. You can set a target amount of time and Timeular will show how you’re doing meeting that goal. You can select which activities are included in meeting that goal.

My Use

I can track words written, pages edited, or projects published. Timeular adds time-tracking regardless of where I am. I can track writing time while I’m working on my Freewrite at a state park or a break at work. When I’m out I don’t take the tracker with me. Instead I use the app on my phone.

The reports and information collected allow me to see patterns in my work. I can see what times and days are my best. How much time I spend on different categories. Timeular also emails a weekly summary.

The tools in the reporting section allow you to view different time periods, filter, and explore what you’ve done in the past. It can be a surprise sometimes to see how much or how little time is actually spent on some tasks. Timeular helps me see what I’ve done so I can plan what to do in the future.


Writer’s Tech Toolbox: Novlr 3.0 Novel Writing Software

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

I’ve used Novlr since October 2015. Not always consistently, but I’ve come back to it this year following the Novlr 3.0 release back in December 2019. It brought a bunch of big changes that I wanted to touch on along with how Novlr 3.0 fits into my process.

Look and Feel

A big part of the 3.0 upgrade was to the look and feel of Novlr. It is a lovely distraction-free writing program. The environment is carefully designed to provide an excellent writing experience. Your novel text is the main thing on the screen. I really appreciate the fact that it remembers your location in the book so you’re instantly right back to where you were working.

With focus mode turned on everything else fades away as you’re writing, leaving you with nothing but the text. If you’ve got your browser in full screen then that’s all that you see. It’s a nice effect that hides the panels and status bar until you move the mouse.

The Novlr screen also leaves a healthy margin at the bottom of the screen so you’re not typing right on the very bottom of the window all the time. It’s typewriter scrolling and another feature that makes writing in the program enjoyable. There’s a lot of thought put into the design of Novlr.


The panel on the left shows your chapters or scenes and notes files. Scenes or chapters can be dragged to reorder them or to add scenes to a chapter, for example, indented. There’s an option to include chapter numbers automatically and any scenes in a chapter are numbered with a decimal, i.e., 3.1, 3.2, etc.

The notes section provides an option to create files for research, character sheets, or whatever else you want to take notes on.

Use the panel on the write to change options for the writing screen. That includes themes, paragraph indents, font, and what controls show in the formatting toolbar. At a top it has a link to the Novlr dashboard.


The Novlr dashboard is where you’ll create and manage your novels, view analytics, set goals, set up integrations with other cloud services, or export your novel in a variety of formats including epub. Novlr also has a learning tool built in which currently offers a course “Tim Clare’s Couch to 80K.”

I’m not going to spend a lot of time going over every screen in the dashboard as it’s pretty self-explanatory. As with the chapter panel, Novels can be dragged to reorder the display. It’s the little things that sometimes matter and that’s one I appreciate. In a previous version the novels were in the order created, which meant scrolling down to get to your latest book. Much better now.

I do want to touch on goals and word counts in Novlr.

Novlr currently lets you set a daily goal and a monthly goal. It’ll also track your streak if you achieve your goal over multiple days. The Analytics tab provides additional information about your writing habits.

Because of how I use Novlr, the goals and analytics don't work well for me. Nothing wrong with the features—I just don't use the app how it's designed.

How I Use Novlr

My writing process evolves and changes over time. Since getting the Freewrite, I prefer to write on it. It’s quick, responsive, and distraction-free. Novlr does a good job with that except that it is in a web browser, either on a desktop or mobile phone. That makes it very handy if you want to write on those devices. I don’t.

Instead I use Novlr for subsequent drafts. After finishing the first draft of a scene on the Freewrite, I open the Word document and copy the text into Novlr. Key formats like italics are retained in the process. If I remember, I try to do that each day after writing so that the Novlr copy of the the book is current.

This is how I can cycle through the book while working on the Freewrite. I can open my Novlr copy and read over previous work and make any corrections needed. It also gives me yet another backup of the book so I always have multiple backups.

Speaking of backups, Novlr also has automatic backups and versioning. View other versions by clicking the arrows icon in the status bar.

I’m writing my current book in individual scene files. Later, I’ll go through the book in Novlr and create chapters, adding scenes to the chapters to create the final structure for the book.

Working with someone else? In “Manage Novels” on the dashboard (or the Novels tab), click the share button to send them a link to view your book.

You’ve also got options here to export the book as a .docx, .pdf, or .odt files. This is different than the Publishing section which creates an e-book (.epub) file that can include cover art of your novel. Oddly, the .epub export doesn’t have the same options as export, which allows you to choose whether or not to include notes or show sub-chapter headings. I’m not sure why the .epub format is in the publishing tab instead of simply as another format option in export. It does have a couple metadata fields (author, subtitle) and the cover art option, but those could be document properties in the other formats so it doesn’t make much sense. And the lack of being able to exclude the notes and sub-chapter headings makes the .epub less useful.

I think at this point it’s a basic start that will probably be enhanced in the future. I’d recommend simply having export and offer more control over what gets exported. And for .epub I’d recommend including other key metadata fields like identifier, publisher, and description. Controls to format the CSS for the .epub would also be nice and could make Novlr more effective it it produced clean .epub files. Integrated validation would also be nice. Novlr’s focus is on writing, not being an e-book editor, but it could be improved to create a useable .epub file.

All that aside, I’m using the Word export format to produce a document. Then I print the book out and go back over it with pen in hand. I find looking at the printed page and reading over it that way very helpful. Once I have my changes, I make those corrections back in Novlr before producing the final copy for the next steps in publishing the book.

Final Thoughts

Novlr has come a long ways since it started back in 2013. It’s created by writers with user-driven features. It’s $8.33/month if paid yearly, or $10/month if paid monthly. With mobile support and ongoing improvements, it’s a good choice for writers who want a program dedicated to writing novels (or short fiction).

Writer’s Tech Toolbox: Trello Organize Your Projects

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

– Toni Morrison

I use a variety of tools to organize my time and tasks. One of those is Trello, the popular list / Kanban tool. There are many use cases for the popular tool. Writers have used to it organize and plan novels, track the development of projects, organize marketing campaigns, and much more.

I first started using Trello regularly while pursing my master’s degree. This is a short look at how I’m currently using the tool for my writing.

Scheduling Writing Projects

With multiple book series and a plan to write several books per year, one of my favorite boards is my Novel Writing Plan (pictured above)

It’s a simple board with lists labeled for each year (currently 2020-2024), a list for series, and a final list for ideas.

Recent improvements to cards in Trello makes it possible to create full-color cards that can serve as headers to divide a list into sections. For each of the lists I have three headers defined:

  • Writing – section that lists current WIP
  • Planned – section for planned projects
  • Finished – section for completed projects

Within each section I have cards for the individual novels. These include the title, custom fields for estimated word count and series, and genre labels.

This structure makes it easy to drag cards around to play with the order and number of novels to write each year. My current ambition is to complete six novels per year, averaging two months per book. Generally I plan to write new books in existing series and sometimes introduce books in new series.

This structure allows me to see basically five years of planned books at a glance. If I want to change the order I can easily drag and drop the cards. I don’t have due dates assigned to any of the cards.

Card Links

Each of the novel cards is connected back to the series card in that list. The series card includes information about the series, including a checklist of the planned titles. In some cases I have a lot of titles already mapped out for a series, in others I only have placeholders right now.

Powerups on Trello cards add additional features. I’m using one for the custom fields. This extension makes it possible to have fields for the word count, series, whatever else you might want, and options to show it on the front of the card or not.

Tracking Submissions

Another board I created features lists of short story markets. Each magazine gets its own list. The first card shows the cover art of the magazine and contains information about the guidelines, submission links, and a checklist of stories submitted to the magazine.

The first list in the submission board is an outbox with cards for each short story I’m currently submitting for publication. When submitting a story, I drag the story card to the market and add a comment with the submission details and cover letter text used. Each story card also has its own checklist with the markets where I’ve submitted the story.

Additional Features

Trello now offers templates, automation features, many integrations, and collaboration features. It’s available across platforms, web, and mobile.

I primarily use Trello boards to create visual overviews for my planning with more specialized tools for specific needs, such as Plottr for outlines and the Freewrite and Novlr for writing. You could use Trello for all of that if you wanted. It’s certainly flexible enough, especially with the many extensions available.


Trello offers some features to print or export your boards, including export to JSON. Although great for someone used to working with the data format, you might prefer using an extension like Board Export which exports to Excel, CSV, and PDF formats.

Writer’s Tech Toolbox: Plottr 2.0 Visually Plan and Organize Your Books

“Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.”

Stephen King

I enjoy writing into the dark. I like discovering my story through my characters. I've written books with nothing but a title and a vague concept, having fun the whole time. Or at least most of the time.

Every writer is different. I'm not a writer that sits down and plans out a book down to detailed beats before writing it. If it works for you, that's great. Use what works. No matter what your style of writing, I think that Plottr 2.0 can help.

Creating Visual Timelines

Let's get clear right at the start: Plottr isn't Scrivener and isn't trying to be Scrivener. It isn't trying to be the application that you use to write your novel. It is focused on a few areas of writing a novel.

  • Creating visual timelines of plot points.
  • Capturing your notes for the book.
  • Reviewing and exporting an outline.

The first point, creating visual timelines, drew me to the program. I wanted something that I could simply and visually lay out timelines for different characters. I could use a bunch of different tools for the job. Anything from Scrivener to creating the timeline in InDesign or Illustrator. But I wanted it to be easy. I didn't want to spend a lot of time on it. 

And I didn't want to program it myself.

Cameron Sutter did it instead. He created a program with versions across platforms that makes it easy to create the timelines. Click to add a heading (such as a character name, chapter, scene, etc.). Then click to create cards. Each card can be opened to add additional text and details.

The resulting timeline can be viewed horizontally or vertically, toggling between views. You can filter it, export it, and view it all in an outline mode.

Horizontal timeline showing hover text.

Vertical timeline

Edit card view

Story Bibles and Notes

Additionally, Plottr provides sections for notes, characters, and places. This provides a place to note all those details that come up about a character. You can add pictures, custom fields, and then attach those characters and places to the cards created on the timeline.

All of those details can be export along with the outline and used in Word, Scrivener, or other programs.

How I'm Using Plottr

As I said, I enjoy writing into the dark. That said, I have written brief notes about books. That can be a couple paragraphs or some notes about what I expect to see in the book. For my current WIP, I created a brief outline. It's entirely subject to change as I write and characters go off in different directions.

What I do then in Plottr, is go back in and fill out the timeline and notes in more detail based on what I've written. By the time the book is finished this gives me a complete outline of the book that I can review. If I discover I skipped something, I can see that and write new material.

It also becomes more useful when writing sequels and a series. In the 2.0 upgrade, Plottr added a series view. Like the timeline for a book, this makes it possible to create a series timeline. I'm excited to work with that and build the outlines and notes for my series.

Story Analysis 

I also plan to use Plottr for story analysis. Basically, after reading for enjoyment, going back over a book or story I enjoyed and outlining it and taking notes with Plottr to study and learn what the author did. Why did that opening catch my attention? What is it about the character that I like? Besides helping me with my own books and series, Plottr can serve as a study tool to help me continue to grow and learn as a writer.

Freewrite Blank

Writer’s Tech Toolbox: Freewrite and Traveler Smart Typewriters

I don't have a computer. A computer's a typewriter. I already have a typewriter.

– Ray Bradbury

I don't know if Mr. Bradbury would approve of a Freewrite or the forthcoming Traveler. I've written about both before and thought it was a good time to revisit and kick off this series of blog posts about the tech tools I use in my toolbox. It isn't necessary to read those earlier posts, but you can read about the Traveler or my earlier experience with the Freewrite.

What is a Smart Typewriter?

Astrohaus billed the Freewrite as a “smart typewriter” when it launched the first Kickstarter campaign back in 2014. The idea was a distraction-free tool for writers. Similar in some respects to earlier devices from Alphasmart but upgraded with an e-ink screen, high-quality keyboard, and cloud-syncing capabilities. Unlike a computer, or even a word processor, the Freewrite aims to do one thing only: write. 

This focus on distraction-free writing means that the Freewrite lacks editing capabilities. It isn't an oversight. It's a deliberate design decision to keep you moving forward on your document. No spell check or grammar check to distract you. No way to go back and edit what you've written short of deleting the words. At first it feels incredibly strange but then it becomes very freeing when you realize that all of those distractions are gone.

The Freewrite does support paging back over what you've written. You can read over what you wrote and instantly begin writing by starting to type. 

How I use the Freewrite

As with any good writing device, the Freewrite supports different keyboard layouts. You can't see it looking at the picture of my Freewrite above, but I use the Dvorak keyboard layout when I write. A standard Freewrite comes with white keys labeled with the letters like you're used to seeing. Personally, I think that doesn't help people be better typists. Switching to a different layout like Dvorak means most of the labels are useless. Replacing the keys with a blank key set is even better.

I purchased the blank keys when I purchased my Freewrite. I like the clean look of the device with the black keys and no labels. I kept the red special keys instead of going entirely black.

The Freewrite has two switches on either side of the screen. The one on the left switches between folders, A, B, and C. The one of the right controls the Wi-Fi. A large round red power button turns the Freewrite on and off. It’ll also shut off automatically if you’re not writing.

I use the A folder for my primary project, typically the novel that I’m writing. The Freewrite instantly switches to your current document in the folder you select. You can use a keyboard shortcut to move between files within the folder.

I write my current scene or chapter in the active file. When I get to the end of that scene or chapter, I hit the red keys to create a new document, type the name as the first line, and continue to write. Behind the scenes the Freewrite syncs my work automatically to their Postbox service and to Dropbox.

If I don’t have a connection it’ll sync once it reconnects.

Back at my computer, I open the Word-compatible file, copy the contents, and paste it into Novlr, a web-based writing app. That’s where I’ll do my initial edits and organize scenes and chapters. I’ve written about Novlr before, and will be writing a new post about the new Novlr 3.0 version.

Secondary work is written in the folder. I use the folder for everything else.

I find the Freewrite a joy to use. I push the button and it is exactly where I stopped the last time I was writing. No waiting for applications to launch, opening files, scrolling to the end, or any of that.

And no distractions.

I can write anywhere. The Freewrite isn’t exactly light, however, or slim in its design. It is portable—it even has a handle—but not the easiest device to pack around. Not that it stops me! But that’s what the Traveler is meant to address.

Traveler: Simply Write Wherever You Go

The Traveler is the portable Freewrite. If you check out the Indiegogo page it'll suggest that the Traveler will ship in July. It won't. If things go well, it might ship before the end of the year. This is a rage-inducing fact for many backers and those that have preordered the Traveler.

The project launched in October 2018. It may ship by October of this year. The production has faced its share of challenges with manufacturers in China, a pandemic, and other setbacks common in projects like this creating novel, niche hardware.

If you want to feel safe about ordering a Traveler, wait until it’s out.

I backed the project as soon as it launched. It’s very nearly the ideal device that I imagined when thinking of the writing tool I wanted. It works pretty much the same as the Freewrite, with some software improvements planned. It syncs with Postbox, so you can write on the Traveler, come home and continue writing on your Freewrite (if you have both). Because of the design of the Traveler keyboard, I won’t be able to do the trick of replacing the keys for a blank keyboard. I’ll live.

I understand the reasons for the frustrations expressed in comments on the page, but it really doesn’t bother me. I backed the project understanding the risks. I’ve followed the updates and continue to look forward to the day when I can take the Traveler on the road, dramatically decreasing my load, and use my Freewrite at home.

The Right Tech?

The Freewrite is carefully designed for the writer who wants a distraction-free experience. 

It succeeds in eliminating even minor distractions that you don’t normally think about (such as navigating to get back to where you were last working on a project). It’s not going to save you on its own. You still need to focus enough to use the Freewrite. That’s something else I’m going to post about in the weeks ahead. I talk to you again.

Week 4: How’d It Go Wrong?

I changed the week numbering and updated the previous post titles. I'm writing these posts to report on the previous week, but I was numbering them as if it was the current week. The image would show the correct week number but it didn't match the post title. That's all fixed now.

How'd this week go so wrong​​​​? Read on to find out.

Writing Successes

I'd adjusted my priorities last week and…

  • Sunday. Errands and lunch took up a chunk of the day. I sat down and wrote last week's blog post. I didn't get around to writing until late and only added 250 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Monday. Nothing going on today. I spent time playing Minecraft and watching TV. I ended up adding 496 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Tuesday. Back to work today. I ended up so focused on my work I kept going through breaks. I did stop for a little while to eat lunch and write 370 words on Synthetic Pain.
  • Wednesday.  I went out to visit folks at our Ocean Park library on the coast. The day was wet and very rainy. I took some breaks, though, stopped on the way out (it's almost 3 hours to drive to the library) at a historic marker on the coast to write for a few minutes. I spent more time writing on my lunch break. I ended up with 872 words for the day on Synthetic Pain, but was exhausted by the end of the day.
  • Thursday. Normal day, except my energy was very low. I added 192 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Friday. Teleworked for the first part of the day, until I needed to use my computer at the office. Focused on my data work. I never did take time to write.
  • Saturday. Another day visiting libraries, in Raymond and Westport. Skipped breaks, and didn't write.

So what went wrong? It isn't accurate to say that I lacked energy. I focused my energy into work and other activities instead of writing. When I skip breaks that doesn't help either. I get tired. It's a challenge balancing it all.

OKR Confidence Ratings

My lack of progress this week hasn't helped my confidence in my OKRs. It makes me think that I need to refocus and reconsider what I'm doing. I've tended to only focus on writing (when I have time to do anything). I haven't spent much time working on any of the other OKRs. Maybe I need to revisit my objectives and set an OKR for the quarter? A single focus might help. I might do other things as time allows.

The OKRs I'd come up with before were all annual objectives. An OKR should be hard but not impossible. I get caught up with what I think I should do and should is a dangerous word. My ambition exceeds my available energy. It's difficult to let that go, but I think it's necessary. I've been working on Synthetic Pain for a long time, at least it seems that way. I should focus on getting it done and allow other things to happen as time and energy allows.

With that in mind, I'm going to list my new OKR for this quarter and stick to that. Let's see if I can finish the book before April.

Finish Writing Synthetic Pain

Key Results

  • Write each daily, minimum 500 words per day.
  • Completed novel is at least 80,000 words long.
  • Write final cover copy.
  • Create final cover artwork.

I'm keeping my confidence ratings at the 50/50 point or close to it right now. I have 65 days until the end of the quarter. If I only hit the minimum that'll be 32,500 words added to my existing word count (~50,000). That'd get the novel at the length I'm targeting. Let's see if I can stick to that right now. If I can finish the novel by the end of the quarter and have the cover copy and artwork, that'll be great.

I'm not setting priorities for the week—the new OKR does that. I'll still review how I'm doing each week.