Did anyone read that article of Chris’s I linked to last week? If you did, you might have noticed his writing goals for 2010. The overall word count blew my mind: 300,000 words! This guy has become something of a role model for me, so I felt like I should aim in that general direction, but three hundred thousand words seemed like a lot.

But is it really? I haven’t gone back to add up the total, but I was keeping track of my word count on this blog in the spring, and I also kept notes on my progress during the day on my desk calendar. I have that calendar beside me now, and I’m wondering why I was so hard on myself. I know I fell short of my goals more often than not, but, criminy! In April I wrote 19 days out of 30, which, if I’d been sensible about it, could have been the weekdays. You know: the work days. I’m seeing numbers like 116 and 152, but also 1493 and 1848. If I write 240 days per year, and write April’s average (660) on each of those days, I’ll be more than halfway to someone else’s really ambitious goal.

I kicked myself every time I didn’t hit my targets last spring. Now that I look back, I realize that just the attempt left me with something I wouldn’t have otherwise had. A blog, for example, although that’s just part of it. I also have a record that proves I tried to do something that was important to me, and that I met with at least partial success.

That means a lot to me as I set goals for next year. I’m married now, so I have these new things called “shared goals”, which take up a lot of my time. Also: “obligations.” Balancing those two and my personal goals is likely to be my biggest challenge in 2010. It’s heartening to see that just setting (and tracking progress on) a personal goal can help me do that… even if I don’t succeed.

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Close, but No Seegar

May 15, 2009

…not that I wanted a cigar, anyway. 12,291 is my word count total for the week, and 4,351 of that was background, character bios and scenes for my novel. So close. Not quite there, though, so I’ll give it one more week.

After that, I may try a story goal instead of word count. For example: a scene, one chapter of the novel, or a complete short story.

Word Count 6

May 1, 2009

9140 words since last Friday, with a high of 2119.

This could mean that it takes six weeks to establish a habit, or that I can do it in one, but only if I know it’s the last one. I’m not going to push it; there are four more Fridays between now and the end of May. What I do next I will schedule into that time frame.

I managed to meet my goal this week by allowing myself a free write every day. No set topic, no real purpose to the writing except to get coherent thoughts from my brain to the screen. I wandered into a couple of good ideas that way, and I may continue the practice. Towards the end I also tried to write some fiction every day, and was not as successful. I wasn’t always “in the mood.” While I know one published author who only writes “when the mood is there,” I don’t think I can trust myself to produce anything if I operate that way.

It’s time to write a novel.

There are five novels, in various stages of outline and completion, on my hard drive. The next big step is to finish one of them. NaNo notwithstanding, I don’t think I can do it in one month. By all accounts, taking a novel from Once-upon-a-time to submission should take at least 6 months, with 12 or 24 being more likely.

I’m going to start with something easy: the oldest unfinished novel in my files. Long, long ago, I wrote about the characters and what each one’s approach to the story’s main problem would be. I’ve been revisiting them in the past week, and I’ve realized that I don’t like them much anymore. During May, I will rewrite these characters so that I can enjoy being with them for the many months to follow. I will also check on the plot and subplots, and make sure they all make sense, first, and then see if there’s anything I can do to make them more engaging.

My goal for May is to put 1,000 words towards this new project per day, focusing (but not exclusively) on preparatory work such as character biographies. 1,000 more can go anywhere: blog, free write, another story, etc.

I’m not trying to work myself to death. I just know that lack of variety will bore me, and I want to make noticeable progress on the novel. If last month is any indication, I am going to struggle or hit a snag somewhere. Even if I can achieve this one consistently from the start, it may take more than one month to finish the prep. I’ll keep you up to date.

I have a correction to my post on April 22. I misunderstood my fiance when he said it took him only 6 days to level up to 60 in Warcraft. “It took me about 10 weeks to get a character to 60, not 1 week. 6 days played means 144 hours at the computer.” And we still had about two dates per week during that time. My computer nerd has mad romance skillz.

Word Count 5

April 24, 2009

Numbers are down for the second week in a row. 2654 total; high of 696.

I’m tempted to say “woof” again and call it done, but there is some good news. I gave myself a new schedule this week. I have some time set aside for fiction every day. On the days that I missed a fiction slot, I canceled something else to make it up. Even if I only managed a couple paragraphs each day, that added up to more fiction than I wrote last week, or the week before.

It’s too early for analysis (by one week), but, as you may have noticed, I really like doing it.

Maybe I jumped the gun a little bit. The original plan was to focus on word count this month, see how I did, and possibly add new requirements in May. Now, with one week to go in April, I’m trying for word count, type-of-writing restrictions, and scheduled time slots for everything.

Achieving all of these goals by the end of April would certainly be good for my new career. However, it would be hubristic of me to claim that I will. It might be silly to think that I can… at least, not by the deadline I have given myself. I’m starting to wonder if 1500/day was a reasonable starting point. That’s almost NaNo territory, and NaNo advertises its insanity.

I asked a writer’s group what they thought about it. As it turns out, none of the respondents measure progress this way. The most detailed reply suggested dropping the count to 1000, or ignoring word count altogether and writing one scene per day.

If nothing else, I’ve learned that changing (and adding new) goals mid-month is not wise. It takes about a month to form a new habit, and it helps if you don’t try to form too many at once. I’m going to spend some time next week thinking about which writing habit should be given highest priority. Adherence to a schedule? Dedication to the mastery of… plotting, dialogue, etc.? Word count again, with the caveat that I should also learn to stick to one habit for the entire month?  I’ll include whatever it turns out to be with the last word count report.

Thank you for following my progress so far. If there are any writers out there with insight, or questions a relative newbie like me might answer, feel free to chime in!

Word Count 4

April 17, 2009

3315 words; high of 1136. There goes my trend. I’m not worried yet; I had some holiday obligations over the weekend. On the upside, I worked six days this week, not five, including about a hundred words on Easter Sunday. Dedication up; production down. Okay. For now, that’s okay. April isn’t over yet.

I have updated the About page. I’m still on my way from accountant to writer, but I am no longer aiming for freelance commercial writing. For anyone who follows this blog because you want information about becoming a FLCW, I apologize, I recommend this guy and his book, and I’ll post the story later this weekend.

I was thinking of putting that post up today, but I’m on rewrite #3 and it’s still not saying what I want it to say. As frustrating as that is, I’m glad to have discovered a powerful interest in getting it just right.

Word Count 3

April 10, 2009

6140 words since Friday, with a high of 1838. That’s better. It’s not 1500 a day, but I like the trend. I think I will reach my goal by the end of the month, if not sooner, and then I can set another one. I’m considering increased word count and a required minimum for fiction writing, not just writing in general.

I have four novels outlined or written to various extents, including a NaNo novel. For those who haven’t heard about it: NaNoWriMo refers to National Novel Writing Month. Every November, this guy named Chris Baty invites everyone with a web connection to join an online community of novelists bent on writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I tried twice, and failed twice. On November 30th,  2007, I uploaded my 50,005th word and got the certificate. Woot! Palindromes are so cool.

So I have the NaNo, some outlines, one or two chapters, and a handful of scenes, none of which adds up to anything I could submit to a publisher. At least, not at my current level of discipline. Eventually, I will have to pick one story to finish, completely finish, and get into shape for submission. Meanwhile, my good writing habits are still under construction.

I think I have about a dozen readers left after my February slump. You guys stick with me and I’ll stick with it. Deal?

Word Count 2

April 3, 2009

2477 Friday-Thursday, 860 high. One day missed in addition to “weekend”. Woof.

Next week: same goal. 1500 words per day, five out of seven days.