Tag Archives: word count

The Weekly Re-Motivator: The Occasional Boost


Know what has two thumbs and had a thousand-word day yesterday?

This guy.

I sort of hate to spend time talking about a productive writing day or writing in any way about my daily word count. Such things are interesting only to a really tiny sliver of whatever readership my blarg might have. (Maybe only to me!) But it feels like an accomplishment, and I’ve become a real firm believer in claiming your accomplishments of late (after all, if you don’t crow about the things you’ve done, who’s going to do it for you?).

1000 words in a session might not seem like a lot, and in fact, it might objectively not be a lot. Browse some writers’ sites on the net and you’ll see that lots of them like to get in 2000 words before breakfast. Which is well and good for them. But a lot of them are paid writers, which I am not (yet), and several of them are even full-time writers, which I am definitely not (yet). Which means they have the time in their day to devote to such things.

Me, I’ve been subsisting on about 500 words a day over the past few months working on my current novel. That, hacked out in thirty-minute sessions at the beginning of my work morning before the day properly gets started. It ain’t much, but those 500 words are mine, and I defend them pretty stridently, even if the force I’m most often defending them from is myself. There are always other things I could be doing, maybe even should be doing, with those thirty minutes. But I also know that a week of 500 words a day turns into 2500 words a week. And a month of 2500 words a week turns into 10,000 words a month. And the math from there is pretty easy: 10,000 words a month turns into a full 80-90,000 word novel in eight or nine months, and I’m pretty much on schedule for that, notwithstanding the loss of about twenty thousand words a month or so ago.

So needless to say, a 1000-word day is a not-insignificant drop in the not-insignificant bucket.

(Oh yeah, after my 1000 word session, I was a good little soldier and backed up my work. Won’t be making that mistake again.)

Even still, consistent or not, the 500 words a day still feels like a struggle a lot of mornings. More than a few mornings a week, I spend about half of that time staring at the screen, wondering just what the hell these characters are supposed to be doing, just how the hell they’re going to solve the dilemmas they’ve found themselves in, just where the hell the whole crazy train is going.

But every once in a while, I don’t struggle.

Every once in a while, the right idea floats past my neurons, makes its way down to my fingertips and crackles like static lightning out onto the page.

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When that happens, the whole “writing” thing feels less like creating a story and more like transcribing it; less like building the thing from scratch and spare parts and more like just watching it happen and making a record of it.

And in that way, you get a thousand-word morning in the same space of time that it usually takes to get a five hundred-word morning.

Of course, there are caveats. Most of these words are probably crap, and will need massive rewrites when it’s time to revise. I have a sneaking suspicion that the big mini-climax I’m writing now, coming in at the 2/3 point of the novel, actually belongs at the 1/3 point of the novel, with much of the first third of the novel going on the scrap heap.

But those, as I like to say, are problems for future me.

Right now, the novel is alive and kicking. The 500-word days pave the way for the occasional 1000-word day, and the 1000-word days keep me motivated to keep pushing the thing forward.

Even if “forward” carries it right off the edge of a cliff.

Whee!

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Soldiering On


A short SOCS post today, because I’m totally fried from this murderous week at work.

I’m back in the swing of my novel this week, despite the crazy hours at work. I got probably about 2400 words written — not quite what I aim for, but considering the loss of planning time and how scattered I’ve been, I’ll take it. But I’m not here to kvetch about word count (or lack thereof).

See, a few weeks ago I suffered what I could only, at the time, call a catastrophic setback: the loss of my un-backed-up flash drive, and hence the loss of a good twenty- to twenty-five thousand words on my latest project. That’s about two months worth of words, if you’re counting, AND I CERTAINLY WAS.

And, after the storm and the swearing and the self-abuse subsided, what was there left to do? Either quit the project, accepting the loss as too great to recoup, or soldier on and keep writing on the project anyway. And considering that this novel just happens to be one I’ve wanted to write for about three years, throwing in the towel was not a thing I was willing to swallow (argh, too many cliches).

So I took a day to outline the story I had written so far from memory, and then I started fresh with a blank page.

And man, that first day sucked, because returning to what was an essentially blank page was intimidating as hell (the perfect white expanse of the unblemished page — or, okay, word-processor window — is a thing you can only screw up with your first draft word-vomit). But a few days in, the momentum kicked in again, and all of a sudden I was churning along just like before I shot my foot off.

And the weird thing is? I actually feel really liberated. Losing the old project has allowed me to divorce myself from some of the preconceived notions and lame patterns that had cropped up in the writing. Now I can not only pretend they didn’t exist; they actually, literally don’t exist any more. I’m messing with new POVs, experimenting more with the narrative sequence, and generally having a lot more fun with the project than I had been for a while.

What’s that thing they say about relationships? Sometimes you have to lose something to learn what you really had? Maybe that’s a little too trite for the current situation, but one way or another, the project is moving ahead at a healthy clip again, and that’s damned encouraging.

Tomorrow: a third and final entry to the October horror flash-fiction challenge that’s kicking around over at Terrible Minds. (I hope.)

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Panning for Gold


I remember, when I was in school, learning about how during the gold rush — you know, old west, Manifest Destiny times — people would pan for gold. Scoop some water out of the river, sift through it, see if any nuggets were floating in the runoff. Or they’d just take big handfuls of dirt, toss them on these screens, and slowly sift away the big rocks, then the little ones, and so on, in hopes of separating out something priceless from the junk.

And I always thought that was kind of BS. You dunk your little pan into the river, hoping to get rich off some crumbs floating downstream? You dig up your backyard, hoping that in there among the rocks and the sand, there’s a gold nugget, just waiting to be discovered?

It’s the sort of ridiculous hope that keeps people buying lottery tickets. The overwhelming odds are that not only will you not find gold, but you will have wasted hours — if not days or weeks or worse — of time which you could have used for, you know, useful things otherwise.

Not incidentally, one of my favorite snippets from Sam Harris (a prominent atheist/philosopher/neurologist and pretty smart guy) has to do with a guy who spends his weekends digging in his backyard for an enormous diamond. “It gives me great pleasure, seeking this diamond,” the guy claims, though there’s no evidence that the diamond exists, nor is there any good reason to believe that it might. And regardless of whether this diamond does exist, the believer “wouldn’t want to live in a world where there wasn’t an enormous diamond buried in my backyard.”

Panning for gold in that way takes something maybe even stronger than an act of faith.

But lately, that metaphor strikes me in another way.

If the first draft is the rushing mountain stream, then there are definitely some gold flakes floating in it, lost amid the smashing rapids and festering cesspools of word vomit. (This is, incidentally, why I’m not totally soul-crushed after losing about twenty thousand words of my latest project; because I know that most of it is crap.) Problem is, there’s no knowing where they are ahead of time. And there’s no guarantee that, if I dive into that stream of bland, meandering word salad, I’ll come away with anything approaching usefulness.

But I keep doing it. Every day I wade into the waters and pan for gold, screening the water and the dust and the lumps of calcified cow crap in hopes that somewhere among the detritus is a nugget that I might one day parlay into a car payment.

You know. The sort of blind, hopeless faith that I usually rail against.

But with one key difference.

The poor saps panning and sifting for gold or digging for diamonds in their backyards are putting their faith in things they can’t see or touch or know in any way. The gold is either flowing in the river, or it’s not. It’s either mixed in the dirt, or it isn’t. The diamond is either buried in the earth to be found, or there is no such diamond. But the words I churn out every day? It may not be much, but at least I’m in control of those words. And I know that, even though most of them may be crap, the potential is there, hiding behind fossilized feces or drifting downstream.

The faith a writer has to have is a faith in himself (or herself!). Some would argue that it takes a hell of a lot of faith to return to the blank page, day after day, to deface it with your imperfection. There’s certainly something of the devotional in it.

But I don’t think it actually takes much faith at all. The stories we’re sifting for are there, hiding just below the surface, winking at us from behind the river of crap.

We just have to have the patience to screen out the garbage.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Lost


I have a confession.

A writer’s confession, which should be taken with all the appropriate hand-wavings and grains of salt. When you look at the real problems of the world, my meager problems mean little. But it’s weighing on me nonetheless.

I haven’t worked on my novel in almost two weeks.

On the one hand, I feel okay about that, but on the other hand, I feel very much not okay about that, because I know I’m not going to be able to work on it today, and it’s dubious whether I’ll be able to get to it later this week either. The excuses for this are twofold:

One, it was vacation last week, and as much as writing is a release and an adventure in pink unicorn land, there are days when it’s work, too. And of late, the writing has felt more like work than like a unicorn frolic. As such, a little vacation from it is, I think, warranted, and what better time than when I’m on a vacation from actual work? I got to turn the ol’ brain off, veg out and watch some TV, take the kids and the wife on a few day trips … it was good. Didn’t have to worry about how to get my protagonist out of his latest scrape. Didn’t have to construct the machinations of the villain working behind the scenes. Didn’t have to batter my brain against the Rube Goldberg machine of gears and spindles and flywheels that constitutes the plot of this thing.

Still, I felt guilty about leaving that creative garden untended for the week, sort of the same way I feel about letting my lawn continue to grow, sprouting weeds and dandelions and the occasional mushroom, while my neighbors keep their lawns neatly trimmed.

Sidenote: there’s a new show out called Speechless, about this deadbeat family with a handicapped, mute son. No idea if the show has any staying power or not — the first few episodes have been pretty funny, but who knows — but I at least resonate with the family. Not because they’re jerks — the mother proudly drives in the emergency lane, runs stop signs, and flings bluster and righteous indignation and her son’s handicap at anybody who even looks sideways at her. And I have a hard time getting down with that. What I totally get, though, is that they just don’t give a sharknado what other people think of them. Lawn is overgrown? Paint is peeling? Car’s looking a little dumpy? Yeah, no, we’re not going to fix those things. They just don’t matter to us; we have only so many fargos to give. To that, I give a deep, sonorous AMEN.

So I returned to work on Monday, all set to hunker down and return to the love-hate relationship I have with my current novel. Which brings me to…

Two: I can’t find my flash drive.

Now, before you say anything, know that I’ve already said every possible thing to myself, mostly inside my own head, occasionally in raging, fists-pounding-on-the-desk angry shouts. How can you be so stupid? Haven’t you heard of backups? How could you possibly lose it? Dunce! Idiot! Disorganized, sloppy, careless!

And my excuses are like the rain in Arizona: woefully inadequate, but all there is. I write the novel mostly at my job, so keeping it on the flash drive makes sense for taking it home, back and forth. But I have to steal time at work to write, so I don’t exactly have a routine, and, well, backing up is the last thing I’m thinking about, because usually I’ve either got parent calls to make or meetings to get to or students coming to my room and …

Well, here’s my other dirty confession. I haven’t backed up outside of the flash drive in over a month.

Sigh.

And of course, with the whole of the novel missing (or at least my recent work on it), I can’t re-read to get inspired to write the next bit. Not to mention the soul-crushing stupidity I feel when I think about the project at all, which pushes every creative thought right out of my ears.

But I’m going to have to face up sooner or later. If the drive doesn’t turn up in the next few days, it probably never will; there’s only so many places it could reasonably be, and considering all the places we went over the break … well. That little piece of plastic and silicon could be anywhere in a fifty-mile radius, which means it might as well be on the moon for my likelihood of stumbling across it again.

Luckily, the weather is changing. Morning runs have been downright pleasant — sixty degrees or so with the stars twinkling overhead — and have done good things for my blood, which on Monday was boiling, and which today is only simmering. Further, when I think about it, the beginning of the novel was going to need massive re-working anyway, probably a complete re-write in lots of places, so the first 40,000 words were hardly carved in stone.

Still, for the moment, they’re not carved anywhere, and that’s tough to see around.

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Our Voices Reach Far


The focus of this blarg has never been to rack up huge numbers of readers or views. Those things are nice — it’s nifty to watch the spinning wheels of the virtual odometer on the wall click over and reach new heights — but, even almost two years after I laid down the first lexile brick here on my corner of the net, the purpose is the same as it was: to think and write about the process of my “real” writing, and to serve as a release valve to vent my spleen from time to time.

Still, it’s neat to see those numbers grow. And while it would be hard to call my readership a horde, there’s an uptick that’s measurable. 1000 more views from my first year to my second. I’ve already had as many unique visitors this year as in last year, with three months to go. Which means that my little imprint here is growing, that more people are reading what I’m shouting into what I so often think of as the void.

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I went to pixabay.com for an image of an odometer and found this picture instead. You’re welcome.

 

And that inevitably causes me to wonder how people end up at my site, and for those that end up clicking around a little bit, what makes them stay. Usually I have no idea. WordPress reveals my “trends” and my most popular posts to me, but there’s little rhyme or reason there. This year, the top of the pops has been my “Do You Wanna Go To Target” bit of fluff, composed after listening to the Frozen soundtrack for roughly the three-thousandth time when my wife and I were making a day run to Target. Then there’s a little muser of a piece I popped off about the symbolism and the ubiquity of light and dark in literature, which gets a handful of hits every week. And then, it’s been a constant head-scratcher ever since I penned it, but the story I didn’t write about giving my son an enema never seems to leave the top five.

Still, trends seem to balance out and I have a more-or-less regular crew of readers, I think. Unless I go crazy and write four or five posts a week, I usually get about ten reads a day. And while that’s not shattering any internet records or anything — I mean, if I wanted views and clicks, I’d go spout profanity about Donald Trump while wearing a fire helmet and slathering myself in chocolate sauce on youtube or something — it’s an extra little kick in the pants to keep me writing, knowing that there are people out in the cyberverse picking up what I’m putting down.

But then there are the outlier days, like this wekend, that strike like lightning and with about as much explanation. Saturday, my website was accessed from eleven countries. Eleven! Imagine, the drivel I penned while sitting on my couch with my lazy golden retriever sitting next to me and my kids strewing Legos across the living room floor (setting traps for my tender feet), somehow made it, literally, to the far corners of the globe. Wild. And then, Sunday, my website had over 100 views. A hundred! That’s never happened, and I have no idea why it happened. I can hope that some doppelganger, some kindred spirit, read some old post of mine and spent hours plumbing the depths of my site, nodding his (or her!) head in silent, shocked agreement and wonder. Equally possible, I guess, is that it was a gaggle of readers whose cats fell asleep on their keyboards and kept hitting the refresh key.

Who can figure these things out? Determining what will resonate with readers is about as easy as reading your future in the entrails of the hobo you killed and buried in the crawl space. Which is to say, tricky at the very least.

As usual, the only thing to do is keep writing.

Thanks for reading.

Or, maybe, thanks to your cat for falling asleep on the keys.


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