“Finish the Book!” Challenge Revisited—Day 1

Feeling better this morning. If I don’t write today, then I’m just making excuses. Yes, still coughing, but the nose is better by a significant degree and I actually have some energy this morning. I’m going to nap after my first session if I’m still sleepy (I am right now) but I want to get an early start and get some words down before I do. I did get my 100 words last night so my 100 words a day streak* is still alive.

I’m starting the day at 0 words. But wouldn’t it be cheating to start it any other way? :D

1:43 pm: 55 ← That’s not a typo.
9:50 pm: 214

Yeah, whatever. It stayed one of those days. I had about as much energy after I sat down at 8 am this morning as I had three days ago. I never did get going.

I tried getting some sun today during a cloudless fifteen minutes, thinking that might help, but it really didn’t. All I can do is try again tomorrow! And hope the pressure in my chest clears up some in the meantime.

*That little streak is a powerful motivator. I didn’t want to do anything last night, and yet I wrote because I didn’t want my streak to die over a measly 100 words. Since getting started writing is always the hardest part for me, my efficiency has been terrible for those 100 words. I don’t think I’ve managed one night where it didn’t take me over 45 minutes to get them. (I could blame the cold and my fatigue, but I don’t honestly think that was the problem with efficiency. I think it was the getting back into the story and trying to remember where I was going and how to get there.)

A Better Way of Looking at the Numbers

I read an interesting blog post by David Haywood Young a couple of days ago and saved it in Evernote to read again when I could, because I wanted to think about it for a while. It was a really great post about writing processes and goals that you can control. This morning, I reread the post.

While I’ve been sick with this cold, I’ve been mulling over how to discipline myself to write in a way that’s going to sustain my career. I’ve tried lots of stuff over the last year and a half, the most usual being variations of different word count goals. The one thing I haven’t stuck to is a daily time goal that takes word counts out of the equation. My problem is I like math. I like my spreadsheets, and word count goals have always seemed like the only real way to track productivity and production. And maybe they are.

But as David Haywood Young says:

…some days I could write 5000 words or more, and other days I wrote nothing at all (which generally involved a lot of pacing and cursing), and…I might as well say my goal is to “sell 1000 copies of my next novel in its first month without advertising”…that’s more of a dream than a goal.

Later, he says:

You know what I can control? Whether my butt’s in my chair.

His words really brought home to me that I’ve been chasing something out of my control.

Now, I know I generally average 500–600 words an hour and that this average is something I’ve calculated based on timed writing sessions over 338.85 hours. ;) I no longer track this because it was  dejecting to see that average never really budge. It is what it is and I’ve accepted that for the time being. After another 500,000 words I’m going to revisit that average, but I don’t see a lot of point until then.

Some days I just don’t write fast, maybe 200 words an hour if I’m lucky. My spreadsheet proves that. Some days I really get on a roll and write 1,000 words an hour and manage 3,000–4,000 or even 5,000 words in a day. And again, my spreadsheet has data that proves that.

Word count goals aren’t working well for me. I don’t meet them most of the time, for various reasons, not the least of which is that if I’m doing really well, I stop too soon because I’ve hit my goal. When I’m doing badly, I end up working long hours to try to meet that number. And although I know my average, I can’t really predict how much extra I should write on the days I’m doing well, to keep ahead of the curve.

So I always end up feeling like I’m behind—and frankly it’s because I usually am behind.

What it comes down to is that I keep going at this all wrong.

If I set a time goal, I’m going to end up with a fairly predictable word count over time. Maybe not on a day-to-day basis, but weekly, and definitely monthly.

So I did the math.

At four hours a day of writing (and nothing but writing during that time), I’ll end up with plenty of words to fill one of my average-sized novels, which is more than double what I’ve averaged in the last year.

So that’s my new goal. Write 4 hours every day.  I don’t see a need to worry about whether I do 30 minute sessions, or 25 minutes, or 1 hour blocks. It’s all irrelevant. The goal is to write 4 hours every day. Simple as that.

Thank you, David Haywood Young. I don’t know you, but your blog post was just the spark I needed. ;D