Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Weekly Word Post

by Elizabeth

About a week ago I taped a piece of paper on the wall over my computer. I opened up my WIP, checked the current word count, and set goals over the next few weeks for weekly word goals. Not "do this many words each day" but instead, a total number of words the manuscript should have by each Monday. I took into account some busy days I have during that time (road trip! kids off school!), giving myself a little break knowing that I might not get a chance to write some days.

As of the first Monday, I was short by about two thousand words, but the next day, I was caught up and 600 words into the next week's quota. So while I didn't make my goal precisely, I am definitely on track. Not perfect, but close enough for me. Especially since if I hadn't set that goal, it's pretty certain I would have written considerably less.

By the end of this month, if all goes according to paper, I should have a decent word-count for a first draft and be ready to print it up, tear it apart, and with luck--make that hard work, and really aren't they the same thing?--the manuscript might be in the hands of beta readers come retreat time. If I'm very lucky, I'll be able to work on some early revisions during that long weekend.

We've all been tortured or encouraged by the word count gods, haven't we? From hearing what other writers set out for themselves as goals, from Stephen King's two thousand words a day--yikes!--but recently amended to 1500 I believe; to Elizabeth Strout's three hours or three pages; to Karen Harrington's wonderful "I try to get a thousand words a day" statement; to musing with  Pamela that a simple five hundred words a day would yield two reasonably hefty novels a year. But for all that, this is the first time I've set myself a word count goal--not write this many words, but be here by then--thinking in terms of weeks instead of days. (I'm not counting my NaNoWriMo year, which was both technically successful and completely beastly.)

Me, after NaNoWriMo. Not really.
I'm going to be interested to see how it goes. I'm pretty excellent at justifying the past for the future. Telling myself yes, I didn't write what I had hoped, but the month is still young, and I can still do X or Y or Z beginning tomorrow and be done with the manuscript by whenever.

And I've finished manuscripts. But to tell you the truth, a non-secret is that that first draft takes me a long time. I'm wondering now if it's because, rather than life getting in the way, it's because of my mind-set getting in the way. Thinking in terms of today or bust, which if the pilgrims or western settlers or movie makers or really anyone else thought of in that way, California might still be populated more by Joshua trees than people and not even The Kid would yet be available to view.

Of course, I've set out many times to conquer my not-getting-around-to-actually-writing problem. Lately, I've done much better. Not perfectly, if there is such a thing, or even my current definition of it, but closer. I've made a lot of progress, some of it simply transcribing handwritten sections of the novel, but that's work that must be done so of course it counts. (I have questioned this, feeling unproductive even as my fingers pour words onto the monitor, but that's bad magic thinking, isn't it?)

I'm due to post the day before Halloween. My novel should, if I keep to my goal--and if I fall behind a week, there's time to catch up--if I keep to my goal, I should have a first draft, or at least a first draft word count. I'll let you know. Assuming I've done it, or brave enough to admit if I haven't.

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