Word count has become my biggest obstacle

My daily word count has become my biggest obstacle over the last few years. I’m not sure exactly when it started to overtake every other writing concern I have, but it has and I’m not feeling great about that. I know my daily word counts are important. They’re intricately tied to success as measured by revenue because you can’t sell what isn’t written.

However, I’m also feeling a bit like the excessive focus on word count has had some side effects that I’m not really happy with, the biggest and scariest of which is a diminishing enjoyment of writing.

I know I need something to keep me going in the right direction, but … some days this need to measure everything just gets old. I want to love writing so much that I can’t wait to get started and hate to have to stop. Some days I still feel like this. Less so lately though. It’s hard for me to love writing when I’m constantly disappointed in myself because of writing.

Still, although I’ve axed my timer and my time data (archived it, to be exact), I won’t be abandoning my daily log of my word count. I love having that list of numbers. What I don’t love is looking at it and feeling bad about myself when there’s a blip where the numbers drop or a zero shows up.

On the other hand, I do love a good writing streak. For the moment, I’m going to focus on writing every day (that getting started thing is really important) and worry less about the actual quota. I want to end up with a nice average, but “average” means I don’t have to be so hard on myself for any particular day’s word count if I have a reasonable mix of bad days and good days.

What I’m learning: Consistency is important, but it’s probably better if I’m not rigid about it. I want to write every day, but some days are going to be more fun than others and it’s going to be easier to stay at it longer. We’ll see where that gets me in April.

32 day streak

I’m now at 32 days of writing fiction every day. Unlike with previous streaks, this one has no quotas, time or words. My plan is simply to see how many consecutive days I can make it writing fiction every day.

Really and truly, getting started is the hardest part for me. When I do get started, I usually do better than I expect. Like last night. I thought I’d get nothing, but then I decided I wanted to keep my streak alive, want, in fact, to create the best streak I’ve ever had, so I started writing. 439 really decent words later I stopped and went to bed because time had gotten away from me. (A really good thing when it comes to writing.)

I’ve said before, if I eliminate all the zero word days I’ve had in the past and replace them with as little as 50 words, I could have written 15,000 words more than I have since I started writing to publish. If that number had averaged 200 words, that’s an entire extra novel.

Averages are powerful things and I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine I could average 200 words a day for all those days that might be zero word days otherwise.

My ultimate goal is still to reach and maintain a 2,000 word a day average, but these small steps are helping me get there. After a really bad streak of low productivity that lasted more than a year, I’m happy to see improvement.

Why I don’t offer writing tips (most of the time)

I’ve been writing for about twenty-five years. It’s really funny that fifteen years ago, I had a site devoted to giving out writing tips. Nowadays I don’t feel qualified to give out writing tips, despite the length of time I’ve been writing fiction. Or maybe it’s that I’ve learned in the meantime that writing tips are a bit worthless. I only discovered true happiness with writing when I finally tossed aside all the tips that had taken up residence inside my head and wrote what I wanted, how I wanted. Sadly, that’s only been in the last ten years or so.

I freely admit that maybe I needed those tips at the time so that I could become the writer I am today. Then again, maybe they delayed my development as a writer. I’ll likely never know.

I also freely admit that I am far from done learning how to write. The difference these days is that I learn from reading others and practicing my own craft, trying to find ways to get the words out so they translate best to the biggest portion of my reading audience. (You can never please everyone, and you’ll go mad if you try.) That’s not to say I don’t read select craft books, because I do. But I avoid the kind of tips that proliferate online in favor of in-depth discussions of topics meant to help writers write good stories.

How can I offer advice to others when I still have so much to learn?

Still, sometimes I want to say to some writers I see scouring the forums and blogs for the secret to better writing: Stop! Just write. Write and write and write, and complete things. Even the terrible things. Finish those stories you start, because that’s how I learned. I took a giant leap forward when I finally started finishing the stories I started.

In the end, though, I have no idea if what worked for me will work for them. Maybe they need those tips. Or maybe they’re just delaying their own development as writers. We’ll likely never know.

I don’t offer writing tips because I don’t feel qualified. I know only what works for me as a reader and a writer. And I use adverbs when I want and I write run on sentences and I quite often mix my metaphors. But it’s what I want and how I want and my writing hasn’t been the same since. It’s lovely to own your art as uniquely yours.

248 words today and a posting hiatus

I wrote 248 words today and I think that’s it for me today. I won’t be writing any more tonight. That headachy feeling has never gone away today and I’m calling it a night early to see if some extra rest can knock it out before tomorrow.

To meet my personal deadline for this book I need to up my daily quota for the next several days. Not by a lot but just enough to catch up a few off days.

I also think I’m about to stop these daily posts. They’ve been great but I’m letting them take up more time than I really should be. So… hiatus! I might return to posting after I finish this book. We’ll see. :D

Trying not to fall back into old habits

I cut my morning session short. I’m trying not to fall back into old habits here but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish the last hour and seven minutes of writing this morning. Afternoon really, since the writing started late and I broke for lunch and that was what got me. I watched the new episode of Castle as a treat during lunch and … that led to more tv because tv is always more appealing that trying to get through a tough spot in my book. :(

Anyway, I’m back at it for my evening session. I’m just starting fresh with the 2h 5m and trying to finish that—maybe I’ll be lucky enough to really get moving on this book. I can catch up without having to finish that extra hour tonight if I can write 765 wph tonight. I won’t be caught up with yesterday’s missing words but I’ll at least not be any further behind. To catch up totally, I’ll have to write 1,025 wph tonight. I’m going to try, I mean why not?, but it might take more inspiration than I’ve got at the moment!

Trying anyway. :D

1,605 words yesterday

I’m trying not to be disappointed! I wrote 1,605 words yesterday. At the halfway point, after I’d completed my morning session, it looked like I’d reach 2,000 for the day, even though I had to work for that morning word count a little too hard. By the time I finished up the evening session, however, my pace had slowed considerably and I just couldn’t make it. I’m trying to loosen up this morning, think positively and all that, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m feeling a bit … stuck, for lack of a better word, and the writing involved an awful lot of deleting yesterday! I’m hoping there won’t be an encore.

Novel feels like it’s going to go long

I aim for about 50,000 words when I write a novel. I can’t say I have a lot of luck keeping to that word count. The story usually ends up bigger because I don’t like to let my characters have wild changes of heart without a darn good reason. I believe change is hard and honestly, I believe most people never change and those who do fight for it tooth and nail.

Now, since I can’t really divorce myself completely from my characters, when I’m writing one that has to change in a big way before his story is done, I end up having to write more to make it happen. This seems to be what’s happening in this book. My main character has taken the first steps to change, but the fact is, he’s not there yet and I have a LOT of story left to squeeze into 20,000 words. :o

I’m going to try, because I always do, but I have a feeling this one’s going to get away from me.

464 words yesterday

I wrote more than 464 words yesterday, but alas, this morning I deleted some stuff I’d been hanging onto at the end of the doc because I’m not going to be using it. Since I didn’t want to start from a negative position this morning, I knocked those words off yesterday’s count.

I mean, I haven’t started writing yet, so why not? :D

Who cares anyway, right? I had a positive yesterday, and I’m about to start writing the moment I close this window in about 10 seconds. ;)