Posts Tagged ‘word count’

Back In The Saddle

Well, my vacation is over. It was longer than I expected, owing to some unexpected late night adventures with friends and some much needed time spent with my wife. Today, though, I finally got back to writing, and it felt good. It was comfortable, easy, and fun.

I think for now, what I’m most excited about is that the hard part is over. At least the initial hard part is over. I’ve spent the last three weeks focusing on that first goal: fifty thousand words. Once I reached it, there was definitely a time to celebrate, much like every NaNoWriMo winner does. The difference is, though, that I’m not really finished. I reached the first major milestone, but the next leg of the race is longer and harder.

Conservative estimates put the total length of my novel at about 125,000 words, or about 400 or so typed pages. We’ll see for sure when the story is finished, but if I keep on the current pace in the story, that estimate should turn out to be pretty accurate. At the moment, that means I have more in front of me than I do behind. That’s a short-term challenge, however, as I’m now less than 10k words from the halfway point, after my work today. I know that it will be difficult, but I plan to push through and hit 75k by the end of the month. That’s going to require more consistent dedication over the next few days than I’ve averaged to this point, but I feel like I’m ready for it. It’s less than two hours a day, at least, which is better than a part time job.

At any rate, I’m back to work. I’m putting my face back down, and this time, I’m not looking up until I get to ‘The End.’ Or at least until I get to ‘To Be Continued…’

Should be done with that before Christmas Day, and I’m really hoping for a huge celebration then, because I won’t have just written fifty thousand words. I’ll have finished my novel’s first draft.

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My Muse is a Spoiled Child

I came down to the wire on this one tonight.  Ashley and I went out shopping for – you never saw this coming – Christmas decorations right after dinner (Chicken and Asparagus in a Mushroom Cream Sauce – she did well tonight!)  Anyway, I stumbled back in front of my computer at a quarter to ten with nothing written for the day, and just decided to plow through it,  An hour and a half later, I had another supporting character that I was not counting on, and a plot twist that will easily keep me occupied for the next six or seven thousand words.

I read a huge chunk of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ today between calls, which was an adventure given how busy I was at work all day.  I also read some of it during my lunch and breaks, squeezing in a few words wherever I could.  Now, I like Stephen King’s writing, even if I don’t necessarily appreciate all of his stories.  His manipulation of the English language and his easy way of making you relate to his characters is something to be admired.  What I also found interesting was that his ideas about writing seem very much to match my own.  Or rather, mine match his, as I’m sure he came up with it first, and since he’s more than proven his skill with words, it looks better on my part to be the one agreeing with him.

There was a brief surge of despair, mixed with apathy and a tiny bit of internal complaining today.  I had a hard day at work.  I was busy, and I don’t like my job, and it was draining and boring and frustrating all at the same time.  And, at the end of the work day, I was still holding onto a great big goose egg for my daily word count.  I had passed twenty thousand in a single week.  Was I about to let myself crash and burn now?

Turns out, the flesh is willing, but the muse is a cranky, little boy when he doesn’t get his dinner.  All day, I felt out of place, uncomfortable and awkward because I hadn’t been writing, even a bit.

It was fabulous.  I hope that feeling increases over time.  I want to get to a place where writing is like eating, and I can physically feel the discomfort of not doing it.  I think, then, that I’ll be close to feeling legitimate about this.

Things Are Happening

I’m really excited about two things today, but first, an admission.

I only wrote 1,700 words today.

But, David, I hear you protesting, that number is actually more than what you need every day to finish NaNoWriMo.  You would be absolutely correct.  And, if my goal was just one of cranking out a mere fifty thousand words and calling it a month, I’m sure I’d be happy with my result for the day.  But the truth is, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far if that was my goal.

I had time today.  Work was slow, and there was little keeping me from my writing except for my own distraction.  I came up with many reasons why I wasn’t able to write.  I couldn’t focus, always expecting a call to ring in at any moment, but later in the day, I easily had 15 minutes between calls.  I could have done several 5-10 minute surges throughout the day, and probably added an extra two thousand words on top of what I got.

But, that didn’t happen, and I am where I am.

Of the writing I did finish though, I am very happy.  First, because I sat down to write, and I had no idea what to do.  Suddenly, I had this flash.  I wrote a 1000 word dream sequence that not only helped to move the story along, it helped me to flesh out some things I’m working on psychologically with my protagonist.  That was a big step for me, and I’m pumped about it.

The next thing I’m so happy about is this: things are actually happening in my book.  I felt for the first few chapters that I was doing a lot of set-up.  Set-up is important, too, believe me, when you’re introducing a new world and magic and strange technologies and trying to get your readers caught up on the history of the place while still leaving them scratching their heads enough to want to keep reading.  From a plot perspective, though, it’s sort of dull.  A few things happen here and there, but they are very static.  For the first time, now that I’m into the fifth chapter, I feel like I’ve got things moving along, and I’m hoping the carry on at a steady clip right through to the climax of the novel.

As I write, I notice things here and there that I want to improve, and I don’t just mean for this particular novel.  I feel like I have a very strong grasp of characterization and plotting.  I know how to write dialogue, and I can keep the story moving forward.  What I’m not so great at, though, is description and setting the right atmosphere.  I’m not taking notes, because I don’t want to give my inner editor any kind of foothold during my first draft, but I know that’s going to be an area of emphasis during my first rewrite and probably into my second.  I feel good that I recognize those as future steps in the process, though, because it helps me to visualize the entire journey from inception to completion of this novel.

I’m almost 50% ahead of schedule.  I should be at 10,000 words today, and I’m closing in on fifteen.  I might take an extra twenty minutes or so later today and just finish that up.

I Don’t Want to be a Writer

Today is one of those days that worries me while I’m writing a novel.  I don’t have much to do today, other than write.  I worked out this morning, but Ashley is at work all day, and I have the day off, and frankly, I’m bored.  I did, in two separate thirty-minute sessions, crank out a mite over two thousand words so far. I hope to push myself past ten thousand by the end of the day, but we’ll have to see what happens.

Writing a novel generates a lot of questions in those around you. Believe me, if you’re lacking for conversation topics around the dinner table, at the office, or at the bar, just go ahead and throw out there for the crowd the fact that you’re writing a book.  The idea itself conjures up images of mystery and intrigue for the uninitiated, and as most of your acquaintances have little or no concept of what such a task entails, they will bombard you with questions until they get bored of asking, and that can take quite a while.

What I think is interesting is what questions are asked.  After the basics, like “what’s it about” and “why are you doing this crazy thing?” some people start into the really deep aspects of writing.  One question I was asked by a friend is, “do you think you’re a good enough writer to get published?”

I had to stop and think about that one for a moment.  Then two moments.  Something felt very wrong with the question, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. So, I shrugged, gave a vague “who knows” and we carried on with the conversation.

I’ve had a few more moments to think about it, and I think I’ve isolated my issue with the statement.  I don’t want to be a good writer.  Good writers get jobs at newspapers and magazines and write travel brochures.  I’m not interested in just being good with words.  Writing a novel isn’t just about ‘having a way with words.’  Don’t misunderstand, having a comprehensive and working knowledge of the ins and outs of the English language certainly does make things easier, but it isn’t my goal to fascinate anyone with my syntactical brilliance.

I want to tell stories. What I like about novels is that they are stories.  Technical merits rank very low for me on the scale of what makes a good read.  And, I think, that translates into my writing.  When I’m editing, I think I’ll be spending a lot less time on the structure and form of my sentences, and more time on identifying plot holes and shaping up characterization and setting.  If the story is good, the novel is good, even if the writing isn’t perfect.  You can pretend to be a better writing by editing. You can’t pretend to be a better storyteller. It’s either there, or it’s not.

I’m looking forward to telling more of the story I’m working on now.  And I’m excited to see the reactions from people who read it. Not about whether the language was good, but whether the tale itself is compelling and makes you want to read further.

Keeping Ahead of the Curve

Day two is in the bag, and I’ve plunked out another two thousand or so words.  I’m busy for the rest of the evening, so that’s going to do it for me for today.  I’m more than satisfied with my progress so far, too, since I’m about a day and a half ahead of schedule, and I’m actually on track for finishing out the month a shade over seventy-five thousand words.  Since my whole novel will probably range somewhere between 110,000 and 150,000, that’s certainly a good chunk to get out of the way in just 30 days.

Specific to the NaNoWriMo challenge, I think it’s very important to me to keep myself ahead of my goal.  The idea is not so much to give myself a buffer in case I have an off day – but believe me, that’s certainly going to help.  Rather, it serves as sort of a pacer.  Given the option, I’d much rather pace myself ahead of schedule than behind, and I find the challenge of pushing ahead to give me extra motivation also.  I like the idea of knowing that I’m doing more than maybe some other people are. I’m not one to rub that in anyone’s face, but it makes me feel good.

With regard to my actual novel, I am already seeing things that I know are going to cause headaches in the future.  Specifically, my lack of planning is going to be an issue.  While diving headfirst into a novel is definitely the ‘nano’ way to do things, tackling an entirely new planet with it’s new political structures and races and money and social constructs is… well, daunting.  The biggest hurdle I see myself running into is going to be going back, as I’m writing, to be sure that those things are internally consistent.  I’m going to give myself a little license, at least, though, because I know most of those kinks will be worked out as I take notes for my first rewrite.

Characterization has always been my strong suit, and I’m trying to use that to my advantage as I write this novel.  It’s not so much a matter of making sure that I explain every detail of my characters’ thought processes to my readers, but I find that drinking deeply of their motivations and concerns, anxieties and tendencies, really helps me to flesh out the scenes that I’m writing.  I don’t have to wonder what’s coming next, because the story really starts to write itself.

That brings me to my last thought. Scenes. I have tended, in the past, to only break novels down into chapters, which are convenient dividing lines at spaced at approximately even intervals.  What drives a novel, though, I’m finding in the writing, is the individual scenes.  I spend less time worrying about how much of the chapter I have left to write, and I’m focusing on what scenes are coming up.  Some will be longer than others, to be sure, but it really has changed my thinking about what the building blocks of the story are.

All that said, I am falling in love with my protagonist, who is as antihero as they come.  He has just enough charm to be likable, and everything else is grit and gristle.  He’s so much fun to write about.  I’m on the verge of introducing my first major supporting character, too, and I have some great ideas about her as well.  But, that’s all for tomorrow.  Cheers for now!

A Few Choice Nuggets

I don’t really want to share the whole novel on this blog, for a number of reasons.  However, as I progress through, I’ll post a few choice snippets that I enjoyed writing throughout the day.  Here are today’s winners:

A wolf had crept up, unnoticed behind the herd, and waited. And, as Andrin turned his back, the wolf leapt, breaking the neck of the smallest fawn as it landed.  The crunching sound itself was disconcerting, but Andrin knew that was just the way the world was.  The strong always prey on the weak, and if you weren’t going to be the strong one, the best you could do was to not be the weakest.

A few years back, one captain had got it in his head that Andrin was only playing at his skill, wasn’t really an Elementar.  That captain was good with his knives.  Andrin was faster with his fingers.  He was told afterward that the captain’s hands had to be removed surgically.  The metal blades had melted right through his skin and attached themselves to the bone.

“You’re a bloody coward, Earik, you know that? You could have taken a job. You could have left, gone to the country. You could have done anything you wanted, and gotten out of this hole, but instead, you sent your wife to beg for scraps from the table of a man you despise, and now I get sent over here to clean up after you.”

I’m already enjoying myself immensely, and I’m closing out day one with a word count of a whopping 3,587 – more than double the daily quota.  It’s a good start, and, as I have the next two days off, I think I can hit a clean 12,000 by Wednesday evening.  Wish me luck!

Entering the Fray

Well, it’s begun.  I took my lunch today to crank out my ‘quota’ for the day, and already I’m tired.  I did it, though, finishing up just in time with just over 1,700 words. I’ve met my main character. He’s a bit grittier than I suspected, and his sense of morality is somewhat questionable, but I think he and I are going to get along just fine.

The first few paragraphs, I’ll confess, felt more than a little daunting.  My internal editor wasn’t quite finished packing, and tried to make a few ‘helpful suggestions’ as I typed, but I gave him the boot, and after several minutes, my fingers and my imagination picked up a steady rhythm.  I remembered, as I trudged along, that I actually like writing, and each sentence became an adventure, and a new obstacle to conquer.

I suppose what I’ve written so far makes up about half a chapter or so, and I’ve already started identifying key issues with my writing.  I’m choosing, though, to ignore those issues and just keep plodding along.  This month, my goal is productivity.  We can worry about quality later, once the whole store is actually out there.  I’ll have plenty of time for editing, later, and to tell the truth, I’m looking forward to it.  But it’s not time now.

I’m not even finished for the day, I don’t think.  My goal is to pump out another session of 1,667 today, maybe even two if I can find the focus and the energy.  I honestly believe that getting a good healthy start is the key to pushing through those long dry stretches later in the month where I start to hate my novel and my characters and the fact that I ever thought it was a good idea to do this.

Let’s be fair, too. This is only the first day.  I’m already feeling excited about the prospect of reaching word 50,000 and beyond, but I have to reach each goal before then, first.  My first goal is accomplished, and I’m feeling the energy to keep going.  I’ve never felt so excited about a novel before, so I think this is a good thing.  I hope your novels are going well, also, and for those of you not writing, I hope that you’re enjoying this blogging experience so far.