Posts Tagged ‘word count’

Satisfying Resolutions

Posted: January 29, 2017 in writing
Tags: , , ,

New Year’s Resolutions are difficult. Every year we hear about people making them and then breaking them. There’s a good reason for that. Changing your life is hard. It’s so easy to fall into the slump of comfort, of the familiar, of returning to old habits.

I wouldn’t call what I’m doing now as “killing it”, but its better than nothing. In the past 29 days I’ve written 2,490 words. This is a little shy of the 100 word a day goal I have set myself this month. Not bad considering I didn’t write 100 words every day. In fact, if I sat down 3 days a week that would have been fantastic, but I didn’t even come close to changing my daily habits.

What has changed is my level of focus. I’ve prioritized writing. Making smaller “to-do” lists has been beneficial as well. I’ve been trying my hardest this year to put three priorities on my list a day. This stops me from succumbing to overwhelm, as in the past I’ve made lists of everything that needs to get done and picking off the list as I went (not to mention adding). By keeping it at three it limits the scope of my focus.

I don’t feel like I have to do everything. It’s made sitting down to write very freeing. By having only three things on my list a day it allows me to feel empowered to write. If it makes my list I feel free to come home and write first.

The low word count requirement takes over the pressure I feel when I sit behind a keyboard. If writing is on the to-do list but I find myself exhausted or mentally taxed from work it’s only 100 words. Every time I sit down I surpass the goal, allowing me to feel satisfied that I’m succeeding.

I’ve made a lot of progress this month. I’m looking forward to making even more next month.

This is a post I wanted to write last night at around 9:30pm but realized my brain was too far gone for anything that seemed even roughly cognizant. There were ideas, but no flow to the thoughts. It is my hope that I can bring some form of clarity to those thoughts today, but I’m just so stoked I may be a bit discombobulated.

I did it.

50,000 words: Finished

A Novel: Finished…more or less. I’m sitting at around 75,000 for the complete rough draft of my Twelve Dancing Princesses novel including what I wrote before and during Nano. Yes, I’ve been working on this story since before CampNano started, for about a year now all things told. Yes, I was working as a rebel spy. It was a trap! But I’m happy I wasn’t starting from the beginning because there’s no way I would have finished the plot in a month’s time and that would have made me sad. As it stands, there’s still some scenes that I have to fill in, timelines that need to be tweaked, dialogue that needs to be fleshed out. (Do you ever find yourself, in the stream of consciousness of writing, that words sometimes escape you and you start typing in expletives as adjectives because you’re too lazy to think of anything better at that moment and don’t want to pause to think of it? Yea, I have some of those going on in the manuscript. They will be going away when not completely appropriate. Okay in dialogue? Perhaps. Okay in narrative? Not so much.)

This is the first time the story has sat in any form of completion. It’s all there more or less. Scenes that haven’t been written have at least been made note of that they need to be added, but nothing that disrupts the actual story is missing. For sure, I need to go through it and rewrite it to something that resembles what I’d like it to be, but for now I bask. I bask in the afterglow of accomplishing something that at times seemed impossible. I bask in the glow of something that I was too close to accomplishing to just sit back and accept defeat. I bask in the glow of being one step further to a finished product.

The plan is to bask for a week and then the writer in me will demand I accomplish something. Already my mind has started to think of edits and additions. I tell my mind to shut up. I want to let it sit and rest and just exist before I toy with it some more. The question is: how long do I let it sit?

Right now I can’t even look at it. The thought of writing so many words (almost 85 pages typed in word) and then diving right into editing them just makes me too sad. The parts that really need to be worked will need more than a few tweaks. Some edits could be massive like Godzilla. After a week I may feel differently, and then it comes into question of what’s best for the story. Is it better to go back at it while everything’s fresh in my mind, to toil onward until I have a manuscript that is very close to finished or do I take a break? I’m not going to lie, I’ve got in mind a storyline about Grim Reapers that is just killing me to get out but I put it on hold until I finished Twelve. I think it might be time to work on a new project, and when that project is finished I can look at Twelve again with a fresh eye and work on that while Reaper sits and chills out.

I kind of like the idea of staggering the work, always having two projects. One to edit, one to create.

We shall see what happens. For now, I BASK!

It’s a wonderful story, right? A small blue engine chugging along the tracks and despite all obstacles his ability to think positively allows him to accomplish his dreams. While I’m sure I read the story as a child, I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I’ve revisited the tale except in the use of metaphor, so we’ll have to stick to the watered down version of the story that I presented within two sentences. It’s a classic, after all, there has to be more to it than that, right? More to the point, this week I’ve felt much like that same little engine as I chugged along on my word count for NaNoWriMo telling myself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Or, to use a more recent metaphor that I read, “I find shark teeth.”

It’s no secret that I’ve fallen seriously behind my word count. I was a little over 12,000 words behind when I woke up yesterday morning. To put that in a different perspective, I was just shy of Day 8 with my word count and we were starting Day 15 here in the real world. As of this evening, I’m at Day 11 with my word count and in the real world we are on Day 16 of the crazy ride of NaNoWriMo. I’ve done a crazy amount of writing in two days. Almost 6,000 words. The goal is to continue trucking along with 3,000 words per day and hope I don’t reach critical mass thus exploding my brain.

Truth be told, there was a moment yesterday when I considered changing my word count goal. It’s a valid choice, and one that was mentioned in the most recent Pep talk. I thought about decreasing the count to 40,000, which is still a lofty goal but much more doable with the time I have left. Accomplishable. Easily attainable with a strict word count that was still well above the needed average per day word count. I talked about it with my boyfriend, mentioning how abysmally behind I was and how it might be better for my sanity to lower my goal. And as I said these words I realized that wasn’t what I wanted at all. If I’m going to win, I want to win with the goal I set out for. If I don’t make it then it just wasn’t meant to be this time. There are other opportunities to win but it’s more important to persevere than lower my expectations. So, here I go, shooting for the moon and hoping I at least land among the stars. (Cliche, I know, but I had to type it.)

I’ve had some wonderful support the past few days, not just from people I know but from other bloggers who are also racing along the tracks towards their own goals. Support means everything in this otherwise solitary endeavor, and it brings to mind just how important being part of a community is. To have people with a common goal rooting for me as I root for them, all of us knowing exactly what the other is going through. It’s fantastic, and I’m lucky to be a part of it.

17,922/50,000

Chasing the Dream

Posted: July 12, 2013 in Twelve
Tags: ,

CampNano is almost two weeks in and by the end of the weekend I will be almost one week behind in word count. Things did not go quite as expected during these past two weeks. First of all, the Fourth of July happened, which meant I went away for a weekend of frolics and fun. I hadn’t fully budgeted for the time away in my original planning of word count, and I was lazy that first week, not quite reaching my extended word count of 2,300 per day. In other words, I lost my lead. Add in that this week I seemed to have a million and one things that required my attention means that I’m also behind nearly two days worth from this week. My goal is to write another thousand words today but even given that, after the weekend is finished I’ll be nearly 6 days behind in word count.

I have to put on some serious speed.

My modified game plan is to stick to the extended word count. I will not accept less than the 2,300 per day. I’ve also realized that given my dog’s need for attention I need to make sure I’m writing before breakfast so I can sneak in a few hundred words before he even realizes I’m awake. (He’s a needy kind of thing that doesn’t bother you for actual things like play or food or exercise -excepting walks- but instead will stare and whine incessantly so you will sit next to him. As I don’t have a laptop this means word count gets reduced to what I decide to hand write, which isn’t what I’m currently typing up. It’s complicated.) This also means that I need to make time in the evening before bed so that worst case scenario I have at least two hours I can focus my energies.

I should be focusing those energies right now, but I’ll tell you, starting a new chapter always sucks. Maybe it doesn’t always suck, but I’ve got a minor time leap between the chapters so it’s almost like starting a story fresh. This drives my brain nuts. As long as I’m on a roll I’m good but as soon as there’s a break in the story I freak myself out.

Anyways, I’m chasing the dream, quite literally. Or…not, depending on your view I suppose. I mean, I’m not actually running to chase down my word count on foot but it’s kind of like that. So for camp we’re broken into cabins. Early on I had the advantage that there were several prolific writers in my group. That meant that even when I was behind I could look to the person who was just a few thousand words ahead of me and say, “I’m going to catch up to that person’s word count.” Well, I’ve run up the ranks and at my current standing I’m only behind one person. That person is closing in on 17,000 and I just broke 12,000. I’ve got a bit of a marathon to catch up, especially if she updates this weekend.

I find short term goals like this very appealing. It’s like when I go jogging and I tell myself, “Just to that next light post, and then if I’m ready to collapse I can,” and then I reach that post and tell myself to focus on getting to the next one. I’ve found word count goals similarly effective, which is why I made myself a chart in Excel breaking down how many words left on any given day. I like to see that I’ve made actual progress and that my goals are small and attainable.

Catching up to the last of my fellow campers seems like a huge stretch. Hopefully I can manage it, but then I have to change my thinking to either A: find a bigger fish to catch up to, or B: focus on staying in the lead.

Any other competitors have tricks for getting to the needed word count after falling behind?

“NaNoWriMo is coming.”

Since rejoining the NaNoWriMo community¬† a year ago I get really excited every time it’s that time. Doesn’t matter if it’s the “real deal” in November or the camp editions; I can’t wait to strut my stuff and prove to myself that I can be a word writing machine. This summer heralded the beginning of my own personal “I write, therefore I am” approach to my craft. I told myself I need to write every workday and crank out that novel I’ve been working on since last August. Writing is easy now that I’m not mentally exhausted, and as I’m at God’s good graces as far as what I do with my time there are no excuse to not make word count. This means during the month of July I have no excuse to not dominate Camp NaNoWriMo. This novel will get finished. Finished novel or bust!

This still will not be an easy task. Typically, NaNoWriMo is divided into 31 days, each day requiring 1,667 words in order to meet quota and stay on the road to victory.

I’m not doing that.

My time is divided up a bit differently because I still need to keep my romantic relationship intact. I’m sticking with work-week only. This means I have 23 days in which to write 50,000 words, basically 2,174 words per day. That’s a metric shit-ton of words. That’s twice what I’m currently churning out per day (but at least it’s not double the NaNo baseline, which would be rough). The plan is to crank out as much as possible that first week in an attempt to reduce the daily goal and/or buy myself a few lazy days. Making up a lost day will not be easy, so it’s best to build a buffer.

Just as a buffer will be important, so will an actual game plan of my plot. I may have mentioned before that I typically fly by the seat of my pants when I write. I start with a basic idea and build as I go. It’s not the most sophisticated of work habits, but it’s worked for me for a long time. However, I’ve recently found that it doesn’t work so well with longer works. Short stories, fine, but not a novel. This realization hit me smack dab in the face yesterday when I sat down after finishing a chapter the previous day and hadn’t a clue what came next. I was stuck.

What are our family’s other words?

“We do not outline.”

Except when we realize we need to.

Today was outlining day. I wrote nothing except outline for how the rest of the book is to proceed. I’m still not completely finished, but I’m mighty close. The finished book will have roughly 30 chapters and probably clock in at a good 75,000 words when I’m done with the first draft. That is possibly a low-ball estimation. I’m not really good with numbers. I do know that I currently sit at 35,000 words with 9 chapters done. If the rest of the chapters follow the same word count pattern then that’s another… whoops, math. 75,000 is certainly a low estimation, as double what I have would bring me to 70,000. Maybe closer to 85,000? At this point in the game I’m not sure if it can be told in fewer words, or if it needs to be. I just know it’s longer than expected. (Just think, when I started this endeavor I thought I would be lucky if it came in around 50,000. Crazy.)

As far as outlining goes, I still need to make a flow chart of a day-by-day list of main events and correlate it to my list of chapters so I can see how it all lines up. The daily schedule within the book is really important, far more important than I originally realized and I need to get everything set up perfectly to coincide with a specific date/event. This has required a lot of thinking (and later will require tweaking of what I already wrote to make it fit). Thus, a simple chapter outline is not enough, I need to see it in another way.

Interestingly enough, this need to outline coincides with the rough outlining of events in the 90-day novel. Coincidence? I think not.

 

We’re at now, now

Posted: June 3, 2013 in Twelve
Tags: , ,

Have you ever caught yourself up in the fantasy of how life would be better if only this one thing happened and then everything else would fall into place perfectly?

I’ve been doing that lately. To be more specific, I’ve been playing that dreaded “What If…” game that everyone plays once in a while. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m not the first writer who has played the game of imagining their story finished, beautifully edited with a stunning cover and rave reviews. Or imagining what life would be like with just a little supplemental income from the story that has been slaved over for what seems like forever.

My theory is that part of this problem of not being able to focus on the here and now is in part caused by being on the cusp of summer. I work as an interpreter in an educational setting, which means summers I am at my leisure to do as I please. The hope is always to take in some extra freelance work but this year I’ve also added “finish my novel” to the docket. Being a habitual planner who loves to make charts and plans for success I’ve already set word count goals for the months of June and July. Based on the knowledge of what I’ve already plotted for in my novel I am firmly of the belief that with my current plan I can be finished by the end of July after CampNano. This brings the goal of a finished book into the realm of “so close I can almost taste it”, at least to the part of the brain in charge of imagination.

Already, the area of imagination soars away with what finishing a first draft means. It means a rewrite, beta readers, another rewrite, and God willing, something that doesn’t suck too much so I can be happy with. Then starts the plans of self-publishing, and if you’ve ever thought of self-publishing you can imagine along with me all the minute details involved in preparing a manuscript for that horse and pony show. I want this book to be the best possible book it can be…and at the same time I’m already craving gratification.

I look back fondly of my younger years when I was highly involved in fanfiction and RPGs (both rants for another day). I finished a chapter, looked it over, and sent it into the interwebs. I then patiently awaited reviews, which typically didn’t take long. I crave feedback. I even enjoyed it when I took writing classes in college and was subjected to the worrisome critique once every two weeks. Granted, all feedback comes with that initial worry and scare that something will be terribly wrong and the whole thing is crap, but I typically knew what I put out there was the best quality I could offer and would be and enjoyable read even if it needed some tweaking (which it always did). Writing this book is the longest I’ve worked on something with almost no feedback at all, and its driving me a little nuts.

In an attempt to focus myself, this is the writing plan for this summer. In the next few months I will look Word Count in the face and force it to submit. This is no small task. Writing 1,000 words per day, week days only seems like a do-able goal. The problem is it requires focus and practice to be able to reach that goal. I’m out of practice. I’ll admit that. I remember a time when I could crank that out no problem and then some. Not anymore. Now I write, stare at the screen until my brain hurts, count it up and feel like I must have done so much more than the 300 words the screen says I have achieved. Hugh Howey mentions in his post to aspiring authors that you need to form the habit of writing everyday and accepting the fact that you have to learn to stare at a blank screen for a long time as you try to force those words into existence. Being able to stare at the blank screen and not become distracted by something else is a great achievement, preparation for being able to actually crank out the story you have inside but are struggling to find the words for.

That stage is where I am currently stuck. 1,000 words seems like so much now. The hope is that after one month I should be in a good place for CampNano to crank out 50,000 words. These word count goals come complete with complicated charts that took what was probably more time than they’re worth in Excel, but they make me so happy. Current word count – starting word count = words written today. And then the chart takes that number and subtracts it from the goal of 1,000 and tells me how much I have left to write. If I stick to my plan of only writing Monday through Friday during June and actually make my word counts I’ll have 20,000 words to add to my current total of 21,000. Succeeding at CampNano adds 50,000 for a grand total of 91,000 in two months. If I’m not finished with the first draft by then, or close to it I cannot put into words how upset I may become. Nor can I fathom how much fluff might have been added in the search for word count if that is the case.