Friday, September 12, 2008

Goals, Word Counts, and The Writing Process

What I'm reading: Hit Man by Lawrence Block

What I'm writing: Chapter 20

From my Quote of the Day file:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
~William Strunk

This makes me feel a little better. I've been working conscientiously to finish my manuscript. I'm over halfway through the first draft, and I know where it's going, so it's a matter of finding the best route to get it there. Without a deadline, it's important to find the right motivation to keep going, especially when there seems to be a huge mud puddle and a fallen tree along the path you thought your characters were going. You can see the goal on the other side, but you have to pick your way through the underbrush, careful not to trip on rocks or step on snakes in order to get there.

I set daily minimum goals for the writing, and try to do other 'writing' stuff if I'm not actually at the keyboard. I've got a book signing on the 20th (Winter Park Borders if anyone's around—details on my website), so I have some giveaways to put together. That counts as "writing" but it doesn't get words on the page.

At any rate, at the end of the day, I have numbers in my spreadsheet. I click the word count tool in my manuscript, plug it into my spreadsheet, and the program tells me how many more words there are since the last entry. Admittedly, I find that I click that dozens of times a day, sometimes seeing my count go up by 25 words, others by 250, and the really good ones where I've written 500+ words without stopping to think. If I hit 1000 on a day, my minimum, I feel that the rest will be gravy. I hit that point at noon yesterday, so I treated myself to some reading time and even watched an episode of The Closers I'd taped way back when.

The next morning, however, is another matter. My routine most mornings is to get up, deal with email, then go to the Y. This morning I added a phone call to Universal Studios complaining that they'd started testing their roller coasters at 06:20 and that's NOT the way I like to be awakened. The darn things sound like Dorothy and Toto ought to be flying by, and we're 2 miles away. But I (as always) digress.

Once I get back, have my coffee, go visit a few blogs, I'll look at the scenes I wrote the day before. When I finish, before I move forward, I'll check my word count again. All too often, it's less than the night before. Most of the time, I find that I've put in way too many unnecessary details, had my characters babble on about nonsense (dialog in fiction isn't the same as listening to 2 people talk and transcribing it word for word). But, as Mr. Strunk has pointed out above, less is more.

And so, with that said, I'm off to look at what I wrote yesterday. My count was 1987 words. We'll see what it is in an hour.

Have a great weekend.


Dara said...

Great word count. You're right about writing without a deadline. You have to be even more disciplined because there's no one peeking over your shoulder looking for that MS.

Terry Odell said...

So, let's not talk about today. :-)

Although the day's not over, and I may get back to the story. Or I'll just take the day off and read. I spent way too much time trying to research what Torie would be wearing. I'm out of touch with the 20-30 year old set. Have to ask my kids for help on things like that.

80s Queen said...

Do you find that going back to see what you wrote the previous day slows you down? I have come to that conclusion for my own writing. When I went back to read it, the urge to edit was way too strong and that's what I ended up doing.

Terry Odell said...

Good question, 80's queen.
Yes and no. I edit in the morning, my first 'writing' of the day. Depending on what "brilliant" thoughts I've had overnight, it might take me 30 minutes or 2 hours, but I can't move ahead unless I'm comfortable with what I wrote the night before. It also means that when I'm doing final edits, I have a cleaner manuscript.

But that's MY process, and there are others who write draft one straight through and then go back and edit. I can't. And since I'm still meeting my word count goals, it seems to work for me.

Don't ever let anyone tell you you're doing it "wrong." You do what works.

Diana M. Raab said...

Hi Terry ~

It's great to hear what you are up to and that you have such a regular routine with your writing!

Keep up the good work!
Come visit my new blog sometime

Diana Raab

Terry Odell said...

Hi, Diana -- good to see you here. We met when i was on the ground floor with my writing. I admire your approach to writing. I've never been able to journal. When I need to get in the mood, I put a couple of characters on the page and let them talk. Eventually, they say something worthwhile.