Posts Tagged ‘Word Count’

Rounding second, on my way to third…

November 12, 2011

Last night was productive. Sure, the night ended sometime after 2 a.m., but by the end of it, I realized that I was closing in on 30,000 words for the month and had already surpassed 3,000 words for the night/morning.

Last night, I achieved a goal when I finished the suite of chapters that I had been working on, but I was wired. I could’ve written 3,000 more words without tiring. While satisfying, I will probably be unable to finish all of the suites of chapters at this rate. 29,4xx words to complete two suites that were supposed to be 7,500 each. I have 19 days if I want to wrap everything up by the end of November. Whoa. This may hurt a little!

There was a lot that came out of my characters last night, particularly an old man (perhaps the wise old man trope comes into play here) and the thorn in my main character’s side.

Today and tomorrow will likely be the first days in which I haven’t written (aside from this blog.) I wonder if I’ll feel antsy by the end of them, or if I’ll feel wholly recharged.


In the meantime, I’m hoping for a miracle when it comes to my other obsession.  Take the poll.


Belated Week One Update

November 9, 2011

Last night I completed what is effectively Day 8 of NaNoWriMo, making it over a quarter of the way through the chronological challenge. With 23 more days left until the challenge ends, I am in pretty good shape, chalking over 40% of the minimum word count in that time. As far as the outlining that I’ve done, my actual first draft is by far outpacing what I expected. An outline that should’ve taken me an estimated 7,500 words instead brought me all of the way up to 19,000. The next suite of chapters is going faster than that, but I haven’t yet reached some of the meatier sections. Though I was hoping that this month would lead to me finishing Novel #2, I’m reading these numbers as an ultimatum: “either increase the story’s pace or increase the word count pace.” That’s the problem.

Though I I’ve seen mention of others who are writing at faster rates, some of which I view with a degree of incredulity, I am quite pleased (surprised, actually) that I’ve been able to keep ahead of the NaNoWriMo prescribed curve. I’ve spent anywhere from two to four hours per night trying to get through the first two suites. With seven total suites of 7,500 words (or that’s what they should’ve been), I should be starting Suite #3 today. No such luck. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to start Suite #3 this weekend, but I’m having too much fun elevating one of my secondary characters.

At any rate, sorry for the numbers session. At least I haven’t noticed if some guy from the Indian subcontinent is again at half a million words after a week.

1,667 Words…

October 29, 2011

I can do it in twenty-five minutes! Eighteen! Forty-five!

No, I am not talking about a 10k race—though watching someone do 6.2 miles in 18 minutes would be a sight to behold. Nor am I talking about fishing stories or measuring contests of ill repute.

No, no, no. Let’s talk about the NaNoWriMo daily goal. 1,667 words. Not bad? Eh? That’s, give or take, a six page essay, typed and double spaced, or ten pages when you try to make the fonts that much bigger and the spaces two and a quarter rather than a simple double space. The wholly holy 1,667. It’s the sign of the beast meets Scheherazade; it’s the truly answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything; and, over the course of the past few weeks, I have seen people make various estimates, many of them well under an hour, of how long it will take them to meet that goal.

Can it be done in under an hour? I’m sure. After all, it is under 28 words per minute for an entire hour, without stopping. I’m not a particularly fast typist, but I know that I can type at that rate. However, what happens when people claim forty-five minutes? Twenty-five? Eighteen? Those who estimate that they do it in eighteen minutes write at a rate of 93 words per minute. That’s 1.6 words per second, 1,080 consecutive times. Sure, it’s still doable. Time yourself. Write anything. Go ahead. Sure, you can type that fast, but can you sustain it?

NaNoWriMo has these mini-challenges, called Word Sprints. In a Word Sprint, the goal is to beat the other person’s speed as a typist. At the end of a predetermined period of time, the two (or more) combatants then have their word counts checked by a judge of some sort (or not), and one of them is proclaimed the winner. I have no objection on the grounds of fair play or morals or anything like that, but I wonder what the experience does for someone that can conceivably finish NaNoWriMo in 25 hours or less. Philosophically, it isn’t what I strive for as a writer, and I don’t think that I’d be able to maintain the rate of speed to do something like that, let alone the presence of mind to write something cohesive and coherent.

Stephen King—who is, let’s face it—my idol, said that he could sometimes get his 2,000 word per day quota before lunch, but that he would sometimes get stuck in his study until tea time. Assuming he took his sweet time to get up in the morning, we’re probably talking about 3 hours of ass time devoted to writing. I’d have to go back and research it, but I don’t think that he was particularly writing to meet that quota, either. Instead, I think it was more along the lines of a way of meeting an arbitrary count to say that he had been productive on that given day.

When I wrote my first novel, I found that I’d sometimes pass that 2,000 word mark before lunch—sometimes overwhelmingly so–, but that my lunch would sometimes fall around 1pm. On other occasions, I would set the text aside and return to it in the evening, after my wife fell asleep. The problem was, I was no more a master of the amount of time it took me to write 1,000 words than I was the master of the time that it took me to commute to Morgan Hill during my first year of teaching. In theory, an hour is doable—especially, in the case of driving, if the trucks in the slow lane are still going 10% over the speed limit.

However, there’s always that potential that you’re not paying close enough attention, that you get in an accident, that you slip into a bit of a lull, that you have to pull off to the side to dial your buddy about Baron Davis’s missed three, or that there’s a roadblock ahead. I could be talking about writing or I could be talking about driving over the hill here, but the principle is still the same. Sometimes, what they have to say on the radio is so much infinitely more interesting than keeping that constant speed or rhythm throughout your journey—and the TV, well, good luck meeting your quota with that thing on! Sometimes, you’re looking at a nearly blank computer screen with the same line repeating over and over again (if not actually on the screen, then perhaps in your imagination): Willy Wonka traveled to Oompa-Loompa Land… Willy Wonka traveled to Oompa-Loompa Land… Willy Wonka traveled in the fourth quarter… As a writer, you have little more control over this than you would over a semi overturned at the Summit before the Woodwardia Highway. Tough breaks, commuters!

But, that isn’t to say that it couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be done. There’s always Soquel-San Jose Road, or 152, or 129, or (Heaven forbid) Salinas Road. Similarly, there’s always that little side trek that can boost your word count, or always that walk to the beach that will make you come back to the keyboard with fresh fingers. Twenty-eight words per minute is not half bad. A dozen years ago, I witnessed someone triple that rate without even breaking a sweat. If I have any luck, he’s reading this right now. However, it’s quite easy to write quickly when you’re typing from a script that has been spell-checked and proof-read and planned. What happens when there is no script, there are no players, and God only knows where there’s a stage?

I propose that writing is like driving through a completely foreign town, city, state, or country. Of course, you have to go at the rate of traffic, and sometimes thoughts are running so rampant that you wish you are Ganesh, or Shiva, or some multi-armed deity, but sometimes you just have to sit back and take it all in. Was that your stop, or is it the next one?

Over a month ago, my wife and I drove into Monterey. We were late for a function on Cannery Row, and I was driving, so we were getting later by the millisecond. I, of course, missed what may have been the only turn to get from Highway 1 to Cannery Row, so we instead tried working our way through the surface streets to get back on course. If you’ve never had the chance to visit Monterey, then you’re really missing out. On our way through the town, we went up and down hills, saw plenty of “one way” signs that were pointed the wrong way, and plenty of other dead ends. We saw old cars, new cars, expensive cars, and do-it-yourself custom cars. We even saw a guy on a tryke that was make up to look like a great white shark. However, the one thing that we did not see was a way of getting from up by the Presidio to down by the Aquarium. Since we had been to the aquarium before, and since I was in the mood for a wicked strolling buffet, we were both eager to get to our destination.

The aquarium would ultimately provide a lot of memorable experiences. Of course there was the food, the people, the food, and the giant octopus that woke up to say hello. However, what I took away from that little driving miscue was also memorable, if not entertaining, in its own way, and I wasn’t necessarily peeved that it cost us precious face time with the clam chowder.

All of those side-steps, those missed turns and trips down roads that had a Clippers’ chance in hell of being winners, and those people who were wondering what the hell we were doing, were the atmosphere that helped pull the Aquarium out of a vacuum. Similarly, all of the missteps in writing are just means of rummaging around, finding what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes adding to the atmosphere of your main plot points. Does it matter that underage bit player Jack is drinking beer at work? No. Does it add to the atmosphere? It sure does.

Though I have sat here on my soap box—okay, my wife’s piano bench—for over a thousand words at this point and have spoken as if I am some sort of font of knowledge on the subject, I’d like to think that, having written one book, I can speak with the voice of someone who has at least experienced a bit of the writer’s process and the writer’s struggles. Out of curiosity, I once tried calculating the amount of time that it took for me to actually write my first novel, and I came up with between 75 and 100 hours. Considering that it took me roughly a year to complete, I doubted the truth in my calculations. After all, my average speed is 30 wpm (at least, it was 12 years ago), and my novel was somewhere upwards of 183,000 words. Assuming that my rate has stayed the same, that would be 101 hours minimum. Assuming a 10 wpm increase, and… well, you get the picture. Not that it matters.

With that theory thrown out the window, I thought about it from a different perspective. When I was jobless, I treated my writing like my work. No, not the long, sleepless nights of my teaching career, but the forty hours per week that the average person works in an average week in their lifetime. Of course, I couldn’t write for forty hours a week, but my 7am to 12pm (roughly) sessions did amount to 25 hours a week. When you throw in the hours that I spent thinking about what I was going to write, researching the Michocan Indians, the terrain around Landers, and the roles that the Franciscans (Order of Friars Minor) play in the Catholic Church, it is quite possible that I tallied a 40 hour work week. Not that it matters.

I want to end on these three points. First, paraphrased by a video game (and thus cementing my sustained nerd-dom), it isn’t the amount of hours you put into the words, it’s what you put into the words. Secondly, amended to Mark Twain’s commentary, golf is a good walk ruined, but keeping score is a good golf game ruined. Thirdly and finally, I am finishing this as of 12:25 on Saturday morning. It has taken me about 66 minutes, and I have written almost 1,800 words. I guess that means that I can write 1,667 words in an hour. However, these words are not fiction, they are not part of my narrative, and they are not as coherent as I’d like. Not that it matters.

Squick Moment #1

October 16, 2011

As of tomorrow, I will have two weeks to prepare for this year’s NaNoWriMo. As of today, I realized that close to seven hundred words from the fourth section of my book have disappeared. That’s about a page and a half that no longer exists. I don’t know exactly what happened to it, but I’ve gone through my backups and realized that my last back-up was on July 5. I completed that section on July 14. In other words, I should’ve backed up sooner. Oh well, maybe it will be better the second time around! By the way, I backed up today. And the moral of the story, with apologies to Mr. Hawthorne and Ms. Weigel:

“Back up, back up, back up. Click freely on that save button, if not to your thumb drive, yet some other means where everything can be repaired!”

70k Milestone Passed

October 7, 2011

Last night, I passed 70,000 words on my current project.  That leaves my project at somewhere between 140 and 230 pages, depending on pitch and typeface.  I told myself that I would budget my words carefully, though this book is growing like a wave that has not yet reached its crest.  Every time I try to place the story in a moment of rising action, climax, or falling action, I carve out another little niche, and must check to see if it jives with my overall outline.  Who knows what happened with my original outline, but my current outline is a lot more dynamic than I thought it would be at this point in time.

All told, I have passed 250,000 words of fiction since returning to novel writing.  For those of you who haven’t been keeping track, that was sometime after parting ways with my friends at Pioneer.  However, 250,000 words is still short of the estimate for Stephen King’s The Stand, and he has written several books of comparable length to that!  The irony of passing this little milestone is that I have no idea when it happened.  Given my most recent little break from writing, it could have happened a month ago and I wouldn’t have known any different.  I better get back to that old word count.  Then again, I should also reacquaint myself with my pillow.

Has anybody else ventured into fiction writing recently?  How far have you gone?