Guess what? I’m about to be a pain in the ass.

Not a major one: after all, you’re under no compulsion at all to read anything I write here, much less to answer my questions. Also, Google is my friend and I promise to JFGI before asking the easy questions. Still, there are a lot of cases where opinions from those of you who write would be awfully useful as I start this gig.

1. I’ve already warned Ted that nagging will not increase my productivity (he doesn’t mean to nag; I’m just all-too-easily annoyed, and also he doesn’t have great control of the “tone” he’s conveying). Nonetheless I will need to keep myself accountable. I’ve started a spreadsheet for number of words per day, with space for notes on other things accomplished (for example, today I priced new copies of the ISO standards, did a bit of research on other books in this field, and did a lot of start-up organizational work on file structure and format that I won’t need to do most days). I’ve got over 1000 words today so far (that includes my outline and a list of basic ideas I want to convey) and it’s only 11:30, but I still need to work out. Also, I suspect that this is an initial gush of words I’ve been saving up and that they’ll come harder later on.

I found this discussion from Justine Larbalestier very useful, and I already knew that every writer is different, but I’d still like to hear ballpark ideas of what constitutes a productive writing day, especially from anyone out there who writes nonfiction.

2. Tools: I’ve got MS Word (and Excel for counting words), and I’ve used Google Docs for a few things in the past. Given that John Scalzi refers to Word as his default word processor and Google as his current one, I’m pretty sure those will do for me. Nonetheless, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had good experiences with Scrivener or other word processors for handling large documents. (Don’t bother sharing your horror stories about Word; it’s been the editor of choice for every company I’ve ever worked for (except one that used Word Perfect), and I’ve written a lot of tech documents. I’m pretty sure I’ve already had that bad experience you’re talking about.)

I’d also be interested in tools you find useful for tracking or encouraging productivity.

3. I’ve heard all kind of wonderful stories (and some distinctly not wonderful) about writing groups, from writers of SF and YA (and especially YA SF). Do nonfiction writers do that? I do have some good expert beta readers, for when I get to that point.

4. Again for nonfiction writers: How much do you do before you start querying? I’ve gotten hold of the newest Writer’s Market, so I can see that I need to submit an query, outline and sample chapters, not a whole MS. I think what I should do as a newbie is to get more written anyway, because it would be terribly embarrassing to get an acceptance and then not finish the book, so I’m thinking I ought to have my initial chapter (tentative title “Process: What’s it good for and why bother?” complete and at least skeleton versions (or extremely detailed outlines) of the others. Does that seem sensible?

I’ve also added another task for this week: I need to find the local library and get a card! It appears that I need to read a couple hundred dollars worth of books on similar topics before I get too far, not only for research but also to make sure I’m not just writing a duplicate, and it seems kind of silly to spend that much as background for a book that may never earn it back. (Though those books may come in useful for when I go back to work, if any of them are any good.)

Hmm. 689 words blogged, compared to 1032 written for work and no meters logged on the erg. Time to end the blog entry. (Also, my wrist is a bit better, but blog entries impact it just as much as the ones I’m supposed to be writing. Too risky.)