Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charting Writing Progress

I've written on and off all my life, but I got serious about writing about four and a half years ago. And by serious I mean I wanted to learn as much about the craft as I possibly could, and made sure to write consistently - if not on a daily basis, then at least on a weekly basis.

I have to admit that at first I was obsessed with word count, including the number of words I generated every time I sat down to write. I kept a word log in which I'd tally how many words I wrote each day, and my goal was at least 800 words, five days a week (so about 4,000 words a week).

Four and a half years later, I have an entirely different approach. I still log my words, just because it's kind of fun and makes me feel like I'm being productive. But in reality I have switched to logging time instead. Because there's so much more to writing than just the words you generate. There's doing research for settings/characters, creating and filling out character sketches, building and fleshing out worlds in separate documents (OK, those last two deal with generating words, but they're a bit different, because a lot of that time is spent brainstorming and the words aren't part of the "official" manuscript), tedious revision (in which you return a tiring amount of times to the words you've already generated and decide to hack them out of existence or add on a whole bunch of new ones), polishing, I could go on.

Point is, I think it's a mistake to calculate your progress in terms of fresh words you write. I used to get frustrated when I didn't meet those 800 words and sometimes I'd even bypass necessary research or something else my manuscript needed at the moment just to squeak them in so I'd meet the quota. But, really, I was fooling myself and causing myself undeserved mental harm (not very severe mental harm, mind you, but you know what I mean). So now I go by time. Two-to-three hours of solid work on my story each day for five days a week, no matter what it needs at the given moment, will bring me ever so much closer to the completed/polished book it needs to be.


Anita said...

Yeah. The process I'm in now requires time, not word count. I have to lay the foundation in these first few chapters, so I keep going back to the beginning over and over and over again...I'm talking the first sentences, the first paragraphs...just trying to get those right takes TIME. The word count thing will probably be necessary next week, though, when I start dropping the nitty gritty of the story onto the page. So...a little of both to consider, I think, time/count.

Chris V said...

Well said, Anita. Good luck with your rewrite, and let me know how it goes!

Anita said...

I'm having my worst writing moment EVER!!!!! I just can't get the opening right. Makes me wonder why I do this. Arrrrggggghhhh!

Anita said...


We stood on the edge of something good, and when he dared me to take a leap of faith, I double-dared him back. We held onto each other those last weeks of summer, and for one season, one frame in my life, everything was beautiful.

And then death found us.

Noah’s hand was slippery, and the canyon—real and unforgiving—loomed below. He begged me to let go, but I wouldn’t give up, not after all we’d been through.

Even in those final seconds, there were no regrets. Here in CaƱon City, I'd discovered everything I ever wanted. It didn’t matter that it was fleeting, because it was true and good.

My muscles quivered, my foothold weakened. I tried to smile at him, to give him back some of the goodness he’d given me. But as his perfect face looked up at mine, I could only cry.

And the canyon, wide and open, waited to swallow us whole.

Chris V said...

HA - don't we all have and utterly hate those moments! Interesting take with the Preface. I'll email you my thoughts, though I'm no expert when it comes to Prefaces.

Anita said...

The whole thing is much improved now. I'm on a rooooollllllll!

Chris V said...

Haha nice! Funny how quick things can change, eh?