All Is Not Lost

The darkest part of every story is also the most essential.

There comes a time in every story, about 75% of the way through, where the heroine gives up. She feels utterly defeated because try as she might, she can’t find a way to achieve her goal. She’s beaten and knows she’s beaten.

This is called the all-is-lost moment.

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It’s the moment in ET: The Extra-terrestrial when the little alien dies. It’s the moment in Inside Out when Joy is lost in the memory dump. It’s the moment in Mad Max Fury Road when Furiosa discovers the Green Place is gone.

It’s in every novel, every movie, every short story. Even children’s books include it. Three-quarters of the way through Where the Wild Things Are, Max discovers that being with the monsters doesn’t make him happy, and he longs to be where someone loves him most of all.

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This is a necessary part of every story. It’s the dark before the dawn. There is an important reason the heroine needs to be brought to this low, low point. She has tried, and failed (so far) in her quest because she hasn’t changed. She’s still trying to solve her problems using old methods, and they aren’t working anymore. She can’t achieve victory until she learns the lessons the plot is trying to teach her. Heroes don’t want to change. All-is-lost moments force them to change.

Can you imagine a novel or movie without the all-is-lost moment? It would be terrible. The heroine would either achieve her goal without any self-reflection or internal change, which would be trite, or she’d keep using the same old methods and never get anywhere, which would be pointless. In fact, the entire story would be pointless without that crucial moment of character change.

And of course, right after this dark night of the soul, a plot twist happens, the heroine finds a new way of dealing with the problem, and faces it head-on. The more horrible the all-is-lost moment feels, the better the climax of the book. Overcoming that failure is huge. It means the victory wasn’t handed to the heroine. She earned it.

I’ve been experiencing an all-is-lost moment myself lately. Here we are 75% of the way through the year, so it’s arrived right on schedule. I made an ambitious goal for myself this year: I would write 2017 pages in the year 2017 (which is 504,250 words). And for the first and second quarters, I was right on track. And then I tried to shoehorn a bunch of big projects into my already-full life. I took on several freelance editing jobs at once, ramped up hours at my volunteer job, tried to edit a couple of my own manuscripts, all while doing home improvement and social activism and working around my kids’ strange summer schedules and staying glued to the 24/7 news cycle.

And, like any plucky fictional heroine, I decided I could do that without making any changes to my life. In addition to writing, I would edit, teach, volunteer, and parent. I would also still have coffee with my friends and socialize on the internet and read the newspaper and ride my unicycle. I’m not exactly sure where I thought the extra hours would come from. Something had to give, and I stole time from the two places that could least afford to lose it: writing and sleep.

I got cranky, and my daily word counts got smaller and smaller. I slid further from my writing goals with every passing day. My editing jobs went really well and I’m proud of the other work I did but the cost was high because I gave up the wrong things in order to achieve it. I should have cut down on house cleaning and Twitter, not on writing and sleep.

I’m staring my quarterly word count total in the face and I don’t like what I see. I only wrote 458 pages this quarter, which is 46 pages short. 458 pages is a ton of writing, and I know I should be proud (I am!) but I also know I could have made my goal if I’d spent my time wisely.

Things aren’t hopeless. I still have three months to make up the difference. But I’m seeing what a blessing the all-is-lost moment can be. It’s forcing me to change. The next time a big project comes in, I’ll have to make better choices, because the world keeps turning and we all have 24 hours in a day. How I use those hours is up to me.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She is learning how to prioritize writing and sleep.

[Photo credits: Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow pictures and Harper & Row]

Alex’s Three Rules for Life

Three no-bullshit rules for happier living.

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Do you have rules for life? I have a lot, although most of them are common sense and many are more like guidelines than actual rules. But I have three unbreakable ones.

1. Leave useless lectures

I love a good informative presentation. I seek out opportunities to hear smart people say smart things, and TED talks are my jam. But I’ll leave any presentation that consists of the speaker reading the slides out loud. I’ve walked out of three important meetings this year and will happily walk out of more. These meetings were billed as “essential” and “attendance mandatory,” like the one about college scholarships and the one about a big field trip for my kid.

But this is a hard limit for me. If the presenter is doing PowerPoint Karaoke, I’m leaving. I know how to read. I don’t need anyone to do it for me. But what about the question-and-answer period that always comes at the end? Isn’t that valuable? No. The questions are always super specific and come from people seeking an exception to the rules. No one asks a question seeking clarification. They all want a dispensation.

Fun fact: one hundred percent of the time, the lecture I’ve left has either included a handout or a website with all the information on it. There is never any downside to walking out of a purely informational meeting because the information is always available elsewhere.

2. Never keep a folder of papers

People love to give me those shiny cardboard folders filled with papers. I got my taxes done with a new accountant. She gave me a folder. I hired a realtor to sell my house. She gave me a folder. I got a new insurance policy. It came with a folder. My doctor, my banker, my lawyer…in fact, it seems that anytime I hire someone, trying to deal with them adult-to-adult, I’m given a folder, as if I were a child still in school.

I have my own filing cabinet and folders don’t fit in it. Besides, ninety percent of what’s in the folder is crap and the other ten percent can be found online. I can’t stop people from giving me folders, but I don’t have to keep them. I take out anything with my signature on it, file it in my own filing cabinet, and immediately recycle the rest of the papers and the stupid folder too.

3. Don’t photograph events

Every time I go to a show, a play or a concert, especially one my child is in, my phone/camera is powered off and in my pocket. I came to the event to experience it, not to document it.

I’m a parent of two musicians. My kids have been in multiple concerts every year since fifth grade and I’ve adored every single one of them. But I don’t have photos to prove it. What would be the point? Music is auditory. Plays are a story told in time. They can’t be captured by a static image. Besides, studies have shown that taking photographs can keep us from forming detailed memories. Do I want to hear the music, or do I want to stare through a three-inch screen trying to get the perfect picture that I’ll post to Facebook and never look at again?

I take photos of my children after the show. They look amazing in their band tuxedos and after the concert, they are relaxed and happy. But during the show, I sit down, shut up, and listen to the music.

These three rules for life have eased my way and made me happier. I’m thinking of adding a fourth rule: delete all voicemails without listening to them. My mom still calls me sometimes, so that one isn’t absolute. But for everyone else? Text me.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. The first of the re-issued books will be out this fall.

[Photo by Sholeh used under a creative commons 2.0 license]

Five Books for Writers that Aren’t About Writing

Sometimes the best how-to books don’t look like how-to books.

On my other blog, I review how-to books for writers. I learn a ton from them, and I love sharing what I’ve learned. But there’s another kind of book I review: the ones not written for writers that writers can learn a lot from anyway.

Here are my five favorites.

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Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
This book explains all the different ways humans justify our actions. Our brains can trick us into thinking everything from bickering with our spouse to going to war is perfectly rational. We all work very hard to maintain our positive self-image, and when we do something that’s not in keeping with the great person we think we are, we are quick to think up excuses that make perfect sense in our own heads. This book taught me how to write convincing villains who do all the wrong things for what they think are the right reasons.

 

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The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney
Introverts may have the perfect temperament for writing, but we do not have the perfect temperament to deal with the rest of the world. Our culture values extroversion to such an extent, it’s considered the norm, and introverts are considered oddballs. We can’t quiet the whole world, but we can cope with it, and even thrive.

 

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Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
This is a book about change. Most writers want to change something about their writing life, whether it’s working at a different time of day, trying a different genre, or simply turning off the internet and putting butt-in-chair. It turns out, change is driven by three different things: planning, motivation, and the environment. People can achieve remarkable changes by working on just one of these, but lasting success relies on all three.

 

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Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
I’m interested in anything that can help me be more productive, and cultivating better habits is the number one way to do it. I have often said that it’s not inspiration that makes a writer. Nor do you have to have a lot of free time, a set schedule, or a deadline. Those things help, but are nothing without the consistent output of words, day after day. In other words, what a writer needs is a habit. This book takes you through every step of habit formation, from initial inspiration to follow-through.

 

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Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy
Years spent trying to cram writing into overstuffed days has led me to read dozens of time management and organization books. This is my favorite. It’s less a time-management book and more an anti-procrastination book. By focusing on priorities instead of to-dos, I’m able to get the most important things done without over-scheduling myself.

 

I love diving deeply into the craft of writing, and that’s where I focus most of my attention when reading how-to books. But these five books have helped me become a happier, more productive, and better writer, even though they had nothing to do with writing itself.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. The first of the re-issued books will be out this fall.

Killing MH Mead

Goodbye pen name, hello real names.

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I used to share a pen name with my co-author, Harry Campion. We released four novels in the Detroit Next series under the name MH Mead. However, it’s not working for us anymore. In fact, we’re not sure it ever did. Starting this fall, we’re killing the pen name and re-issuing the novels under our real names.

A shared pen name seemed to make sense at the time. Back in 2010 when we were starting our collaboration, indie publishing hadn’t taken off yet, and traditional publishing was still an author’s best choice. But when we approached editors and agents, they said, “Readers don’t like co-authored books.” A trip to any bookstore would show how false that was, but we were still told that over and over.

When we started submitting our co-authored novel under a single pseudonym, we quickly got several offers of representation from agents. So we started to think that maybe there was something to this idea of a single pen name. Our agent was cool with a co-authored novel, but he still thought it was better to submit it under a single name.

Within a year, we’d fired our agent and turned our back on traditional publishing, but some of the bad advice we’d been given along the way stuck with us, including the idea of a shared pen name.

Four novels later, we’ve come to see that a shared author name comes with numerous downsides and few—if any—upsides.

A shared name makes it harder to promote the books, since any blog posts or social media we engage in has to make it clear who the author is. Guest blogs and interviews always start with a long paragraph of explanation about our co-authorship. Readers had to figure out who we were before they could hear what we had to say. The short stories we’ve written by ourselves aren’t linked to the novels in Amazon’s system, so no cross selling is possible. Even hand-selling books to people we know has a barrier, since readers can’t readily identify with an author who doesn’t actually exist. We also lost street cred with our students. Teaching is a huge part of our identities, and having books with our names on them helps our credibility.

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I’m not exactly sorry that we tried this experiment. Now that we know what doesn’t work, we can try rebranding the books with our own names in hopes that it works better. The timing is good, too. Harry and I have a new novel ready to go, and we’ll be able to reissue the older books quickly. We hope to get some momentum for the series by publishing the novels every few months.

We’ll be updating the covers as well. We’ve got our cover artist working on them now, and we’re excited to share. Look for a new novel in the Detroit Next series by Alex Kourvo and Harry R. Campion coming to (virtual) bookshelves this fall.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. The first of the re-issued books will be out this fall.

 

Second Quarter Check in

Please play along as I give my quarterly update.

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Back in January, I made a pact with my brother. We each committed to doing 2017 of something in the year 2017.  For him, it was running 2017 kilometers. For me, it was writing 2017 pages.

We did the math. To reach our goals, he would have to run 5.5 km per day and I’d have to write 5.5 pages per day. If you figure an industry-standard 250 words per page. It’s about 1400 words every day.

My brother is keeping me accountable, but public accountability helps too. So I need you to ask me all the tough questions about how I did this quarter. Ready?

You: Did you reach your goal or what?

Me: Close. Sooooo close. I wrote 125,318 words, which is less than 750 words (3 pages) short. But I had a cushion from the first quarter, so I’m still ahead for the year.

Of that, 80 percent was fiction (short stories, progress on the novel, writing exercises) and 20 percent was nonfiction (blog posts, book reviews, class materials for my writing workshop).

You: Was the second quarter easier or harder?

Me: It was harder. A lot harder. I was busier, for one thing. My volunteer job needed me almost every day in May and my basement flooded and generally, life happened. I didn’t use that as an excuse. I still got my words done, but some nights I didn’t start writing until 9:00 at night.

Also, this wasn’t new anymore. The first quarter was a fun challenge. By March, the newness wore off and reality set in. I realized that woke up every single morning already 1400 words behind.

You: So why not give up?

Me: Oh, hell no. I’m in it to win it.

From now on, I will allow myself a deliberate day off once a week. I’ll have to increase my word count on other days to make it up, but it will be worth it. I think that by taking a day off once a week, I’ll feel more in control of my output, and less like I’m always scrambling to catch up.

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You: So you wrote your little exercises or whatever, but readers only care about finished, edited work. Did you publish anything this quarter?

Me: I published two more stories under my super-secret penname. The rest of my word count went toward progress on two new novels, which are nowhere near finished.

You: You’re still not sharing your secret pen name with anyone?

Me: Nope. Taking that to my grave.

You: How many words in this blog post?

Me: 455 words, and I’m totally counting them toward next quarter.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She is writing half a million words this year. 

This One’s for you, Dad

Thirty years ago, I made a promise. I’ve kept it ever since.

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I hate wearing a bike helmet. When I wheel my bike out of the garage, I always pause with the helmet in my hand, fantasizing about riding with a bare head, arriving at my destination without a sweaty neck and flat hair.

But every time I go somewhere on my bike, I plop the helmet on my head. Not because I think it will save my life. It probably won’t. Not because of peer pressure. In the college town where I live, hardly anyone wears a bike helmet. But still, I wear mine each and every time I ride my bike.

Because of this guy.

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That’s my dad, holding me as a baby. I bet he’d still hold me that tenderly if he could.

When I was in college, we worked together one summer painting houses. I loved hanging out with him, working side by side, listening to the radio and chatting. One day, I mentioned that a few months earlier, while biking to class, I’d fallen off my bike and hurt my knee and elbow. Dad expressed sympathy, but didn’t say anything else about it until the next afternoon.

“You know, I’ve been thinking.” He dipped his brush into the can for more paint and expertly applied a line. “If I bought you a bike helmet, would you wear it?”

“Sure, Dad.”

I could tell by his expression that this meant a lot to him.

“I’ll wear it every time,” I added. This was the late 80’s. Nobody on my college campus wore a bike helmet. I’d certainly never worn one growing up. I had no idea how hot and uncomfortable it would be.

I wore it anyway. And when I went back to college, I got teased for it. The girls mostly left me alone, but the guys always had something to say.

“Are you wearing that so your brains don’t fall out?”

“Do you just walk around with that on all day like a special ed kid?”

“Did you leave your motorcycle somewhere?”

My campus was ninety miles from home. My dad would never know if I rode without a helmet. I could take it off, ride bare-headed, be cool, fit in.

I didn’t. I kept it on. Every ride. Every time. I didn’t care what the other kids said. I wasn’t wearing the helmet for them.

I was wearing it for someone more important.

And I still do.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She hopes her dad has a wonderful father’s day.

A Woman Who Can Ride a Unicycle Can Do Anything

No matter what you got your mom for mother’s day, it’s not as cool as what my kids got me.

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I have wanted a unicycle for years. I was always delighted to see one-wheel riders in parades and shows. Seeing a unicycle for sale made me sigh wistfully. I watched videos on YouTube and thought “someday…”

Then I came across this quote.

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It made me think about what I was capable of. And then I realized why I’d never bought myself a unicycle and why I’d never tried to ride one.

For twenty-five years, I lived with a partner who didn’t think I was capable of anything. He didn’t think I could be a successful writer, or a good mother, or a skilled editor, or an inspiring teacher. Even when I clearly was all those things, I was told I wasn’t. He second-guessed every independent decision I made and never once told me he was proud of me. When we divorced, I told him I’d be fine. He snorted, “No, you won’t.”

But I am. I am more than fine. In the past few years, I’ve learned just how capable I am on my own. I sold my house and bought another. I dealt with evil realtors and surly bankers and the odd rules of court. My son needed surgery at a special clinic in another state, so I arranged it and financed it. I launched my oldest kid into college. I held my little family together.

Turns out my kids were watching the whole time. And they always knew what I was capable of. So when I asked for a unicycle for mother’s day, they didn’t try to talk me out of it. They didn’t undermine my confidence by asking, “are you sure?” Without any hesitation or debate, they pooled their money and bought me the exact model I wanted.

They gave me more than a unicycle. They gave me a symbol. Every time I ride it, I’ll know how much my kids believe in me. No matter how many times I fall off, they expect me to get right back on again.

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I’ve been practicing twenty minutes a day, wobbling up and down the driveway, clinging to the garden wall. Losing my balance, falling off, getting on again. But I’m not giving up.

I’m going to learn to ride this unicycle.

Because I can do anything.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She is finding her balance.

How to Make a Protest Sign That Doesn’t Suck

You don’t have to be an artist to make your sign a work of art.

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Marches are a regular part of my life these days, and every good protester needs a sign. I used to just grab a piece of cardboard from the recycling bin and throw some words on it. My signs were legible, and my message sincere, but my designs left a lot be desired.

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With three protests in April, I needed to up my sign-making game. After all, if I care enough to march, I care enough to make a good sign. The problem? I don’t have much free time, I refuse to buy any new materials like stencils or paints, and I’m terrible at art.

So I had to figure out a way to make a decent sign in less than an hour, for less than a dollar, with zero artistic ability. I’m not saying my method—or my sign—is the best. But it is a cut above my recycled cardboard ones, and looks quite good for the amount of time/money/effort I put into it. Want to make one too?

Here’s what you’ll need:
Poster board (One sheet cut in half to make two signs)
An index card
A ruler or yardstick
Markers, pencil, and scissors

I had all these things on hand except for the poster board. That cost me 79 cents.

Here are some optional things:
Tape
Artwork printed off the internet
glue

Here’s how to do it in ten easy steps:

1. Decide what your sign will say.  Shorter is better! The experts say fewer than seven words is ideal. My sign for the tax march says “No one is above the law.” That’s a message I think we can all agree on!

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2. Measure your space. Now that you know what you want to say, you know how many letters per line you’ll be writing. Be sure to count the space between words! In my case, I was doing two words per line, so my longest string was “is above.” I’d need eight spaces for that.

3. Do the math to figure out how big each letter should be. My poster board was 14 inches wide. Therefore, each letter could only be 1.5 inches wide. (8 x 1.5 = 12 inches, plus .25 inches between each letter for a total of 14 inches.)

4. Make a rectangular stencil out of your index card. I made mine 1.5 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall. That’s the orange rectangle in my photo.

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5. Very lightly, in pencil, trace around the index card as many times as you have letters. For me, that was 6 boxes for line one, 8 boxes for line two, and 7 boxes for line three. Remember that the space between the words counts as a box! (Also: I discovered that with fewer letters on lines one and three, I could make those boxes slightly bigger. But let’s pretend for this tutorial that they were the same.)

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6. Now you have neat little boxes to make your letters in. Every letter will be the same size and you won’t run out of room. A good artist would simply freehand the letters at this point, but I am not a good artist. I penciled in every letter. It didn’t take long and made me more confident with the markers. Make your letters really thick! Thin ones can’t be read from far away.

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7. Color in the words with markers. This is always my favorite part. I love to color.

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8. Erase the pencil lines. Also my favorite part.

9. How about some artwork? Here’s my big secret. I simply found an image I liked on the internet, printed it, cut it out and glued it to my sign with glue stick. Done! The sign is ready to be carried to the march. But what about that second piece of poster board?

10. If you want to, you can use the other piece of poster board to make a second sign. Tape the signs back to back, and put a yardstick (or a cardboard tube) in the middle for a handle. Your sign will be more visible if you carry it above your head.

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Have a good march! Make new friends. Yell really loudly. Connect with important local organizations. Remember to stay hydrated and always clean up your trash. Peaceful assembly is your constitutional right and speaking truth to power is one of the very best things Americans can do.

Especially when our signs don’t suck.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She finds protesting an important part of being a good American citizen.

Hitting my Writing Goals

Please play along as I give my quarterly update.

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Back in January, I made an ambitious goal. I would write 2017 pages this year. At 250 words per page, that’s 504,250 words in one calendar year.

This isn’t a big deal to anyone but me. A writer’s secret scribbling doesn’t matter much. Only output matters. At the end of a year, how many books are in reader’s hands? That’s what counts.  My brother has been an awesome accountability buddy, but talking about my goals in public helps me a lot, so please play along and ask me all the hard questions about what I’ve been up to the last three months. Thanks.

You: 500k words a year equals only 1400 words a day. Isn’t that low for a professional?

Me: A professional writer would scoff at this, thinking it was way too easy, but I’m not doing this full time. I’m still squeezing writing time around my part time jobs and volunteer work. To make things worse, I’m trying out a new genre, which means I’m a beginner all over again.

You: Okay, so you should be at 126,063 words by March 31. Did you hit your first quarter goal or what?

Me: Yes, I did.

I wrote 126,749 words, which puts me over my goal by nearly 700 words. I had a few days in January where I didn’t write at all, but I put my fingers to the keyboard every single day in February and March.

 

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You: What did you write?

Me: I wrote 107,778 words of fiction plus 18,971 words of nonfiction. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final numbers, because I was afraid I was spending too much time on nonfiction, but it came out to 15%, which seems just right.

You: Nonfiction? That counts?

Me: That totally counts. I bring a ton of creativity to my nonfiction. Blog posts, book reviews, and class materials for my writing workshops all count toward my goal. So do editing letters. (Those are the three or four page letters I write for my editing clients, telling them what’s working in their books and what isn’t.)

Some nonfiction doesn’t count, though. I don’t count social media updates or emails. But that other stuff? I bring my A game to things like book reviews and editing letters, using every bit of my creativity, so I add them to my daily total.

You: But editing your own books doesn’t count as new words, right?

Me: Right. I’m only tracking raw output, which is why on some days, I can work for hours and hours and have only a few hundred words to show for it. Editing is time-consuming, but it’s not something that I can skip in favor of new words. That’s not how books happen.

You: But I haven’t seen any of these things. Are you sure you’re not just a poser?

Me: Some of the nonfiction went on this blog and my book review blog. The materials for my writing workshops went to the attendees. The editing letters went directly to my editing clients. Writing doesn’t have to be published to be considered worthy.

You: But what of all this fiction you supposedly wrote? 100k words is more fiction than many writers write in a whole year. Where did it all go? Why isn’t anyone reading it?

Me: People are reading it. They just don’t know I wrote it.

Some of those 107,778 words are still work-in-progress, which will be published later. Some was just for practice, and I won’t be publishing it at all.

But most of it was published. So far this year, I’ve published eleven short stories (about 9k each) under a super secret pen name. The stories were experimental, trying out a new genre, and I’m not comfortable revealing this pen name. So you might have read some of my short stories without knowing it.

I loved writing them. Those stories mean a lot to me and I’m happy that I brought them into the world, even if I can’t claim them.

And by the way? This blog post has 706 words in it. I’m adding those my total for next quarter.

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She likes sticking to her goals.

Unexpected Tools for Writers

Some non-writing things that help me write better

Most writers use the same tools to get the job done. We all have a library of how-to books, both inspirational and instructional. We all have computers with useful software. Many of us also have things like kitchen timers for writing sprints. But I use three tools that most other writers don’t. I’ve been using each one less than a year, but in that short time, they’ve become essential.

1. Alphasmart Neo.

Remember these from the 1990s? Before laptop computers became affordable, these little word processors were state of the art. I thought they were outdated, but after hearing my friends rave about them, I decided to try one myself.

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The Alphasmart has a keyboard and a tiny screen. You type, the Alphasmart saves your text, and when you’re done, you use a USB cord to transfer the words to your computer for editing. It weighs almost nothing and runs on three AAA batteries that last about six months.

I love it because literally all I can do with an Alphasmart is type. That means no Twitter, no Google to “just look up one little thing” (that leads to hours of browsing), no email. Even better: I can’t really edit on the Alphasmart. Scrolling backward is tedious, and not worth it for more than a few sentences. It’s much easier to just write myself a note in the text, telling myself to fix it later, and then push forward.

You can’t imagine what this has done for my productivity. I’ve gone from 1000 words an hour on the computer to 1500 an hour on the Alphasmart. And I think they are better words, too.

Back in the day, when these were new, they were a couple hundred dollars. Now you can get them used for $35. Amazon and eBay always seem to have a dozen or so, but they aren’t being made anymore, so the supply is finite.

2. Fitdesk

Writing is appallingly sedentary. People always tell beginning writers that the secret to success is “butt in chair.” Unfortunately, that’s also the secret to numerous health problems. But what choice do writers have? We need our fingers on a keyboard, which means we need to be sitting still. Some people use a standing desk, but that doesn’t incorporate movement.

Even worse, I live in Michigan, where the winters are cold and dark. If I want to get out for a walk, I have to use limited daytime hours, which are also prime writing hours.

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A Fitdesk solved that problem neatly. It’s an exercise bike with a desk on it. Now I sit and pedal and the more I write, the fitter I am. The pedals are silent, and not at all distracting. I’ve had my Fitdesk for six months, I weigh five pounds less than I did when I got it, and I feel amazing. I’m no longer thinking about what I’m missing by not exercising outside. I just pedal and write.

3. Gunnar Glasses

Although I write on the Alphasmart, I edit on the computer, staring at a screen for hours at a time. My eyes always gave out before my creativity did.

Until I got Gunnar Glasses.

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They look ridiculous. I don’t care.

The glasses block the blue light and glare that can cause “computer vision syndrome.” When I wear my Gunnars, I can edit for a full day without eye strain. Plus, I think they are a subconscious signal to my mind. Glasses on? It must be time to work.

I don’t need these three things to write. Give me a pen and a piece of paper and I will happily write anywhere. But I like having these tools.

One helps me write faster.

One helps me edit longer.

And one makes me happier while I do it.

Who wouldn’t want that?

About the Author: Alex Kourvo writes short stories and is working on a science fiction series. She is not a sponsored spokesperson for any of these products.