Monday, February 24, 2014

Word Counts and Time Limits

Good Morning. There are some people who say we must write every day. There are others who say write when the spirit strikes. Then there are those of us who write when we can.

Unless you're a million dollar author who employs outside help, or have no children, no friends, no life other than the one you imagine, writers have time limits on what they can and cannot do. Writing full time is a luxury. It will also kill you if you're not careful.

Numerous studies have shown that sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen for several hours a day, leads to eye strain, plantar fasciitis, obesity, poor blood circulation, shoulder and neck pain, and other various ailments. It has been suggested that we get up from our arses at least once an hour for at least ten minutes to improve the circulatory system.

I have maintained I'm a full-time writer. However, that's my job description for my IRS filing. I can't write 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I have a child, I have laundry, I have housework, I have a life. So, I need to be able to fit writing in AROUND those other things. And sometimes writing has to take a back seat to life. Other times it's just the opposite.

Since August 16, 2013, I have been writing my latest Regency. I finished it on February 14, 2014. That's 6 months. I bemoaned the writing process throughout because in my head I thought it should have been finished sooner. I wrote every day, I edited as I went, (because that's the way I write), I ignored Thanksgiving, Christmas, school vacation to write. I gave up on all good things to write. I pushed and pushed and pushed through to finish this story.

And you know up my LIFE, didn't help my word count. I still got stuck in places, I got blocked, I had research to figure out before I could finish. There's only so much writing one can do in a 24 hour period.

I decided to do an experiment. I kept track of my word count for the latter half of this book. The results were enlightening. I'm not a full-time writer as I so proudly claim. I'm a spastic-write-when-I-can-get-as-much-in-as-time-will-allow kind of writer. However, what I took away from this exercise is that the book still got written. I'm a little disappointed that it took so long (because I thought it should have only taken me 3 months), but it's done and I'm satisfied with the end result.

I'm going to share those counts with you so you can see that you don't have to feel guilty about finding time to fit in your writing.

Here is just a sampling of my word counts for my latest book. (Because if I shared it all with you we could be here until next year.)

Start  1.26.14

53,186  begin Sun 7:30 am
55,478  end 10:43 am          Note I took breaks
55,734  end 11:22 am          throughout the day
57,294  end 6:06 pm           all day = 4000 words

57,375  begin Mon 10:10      Note the decreased word count
57,025  end 2:00                  I obviously cut 300 words
57,382  begin 4:00 pm          I rewrote those cut words
57,550  end 7:45 pm            3 hours = 200 words

57,550  begin Tues 10:12 am  1.25 hours = 500 words
58,010  end  11:48
58,017  begin Tues 2:00 pm     3.75 hours = 600 words
58,647  end Tues 5:45 pm

58,662  begin Weds 9:36 am
59,135  end 11:20 am             2 hours = 500 words
59,350  end 4:04 pm          
59,350  begin 5:58 pm            2 hours = 200 words
59,574  end 7:58 pm

59,574  begin Thurs 5:35 pm     3 hours = 1,570 words
61,147  end 8:14 pm

61,147  begin Fri 12:00 pm
61,727  end Fri  1:49 pm         1.5 hours = 580 words
61,727  begin Fri 5:03 pm
62,667  end Fri 8:15 pm
62,753  end Fri 9:17 pm           4 hours = 1,025 words

62,753  begin Sat 9:00 am   5 hours = 1,016 words
63,769  end Sat 2:07 pm    

64,636  end Sun 6:11 pm   on and off all day

66,462  begin Mon 10:00 am
66,604  end Mon 1:17 pm         3 hours = 200 words
66,604  begin Mon 4:00 pm
66,863  end Mon 5:38 pm         1.5 hours = 260 words

Without bogging this post down with numbers, let's just notice how many time slots are filled with thousands of words in a sitting, and others I could barely make 200. Some two hour slots are better than others. Some all day slots barely moved the word count. Some after supper words counts were mind blowing, others I barely hit 200.

And as I said, I edit as I go (read what I previously wrote and edit before I begin another writing session.) This makes it easier for me when the book is finished. I'm not a proponent of just banging it out and fixing it at the end. NaNo writing doesn't work for me.

For the most part, what this post boils down to is, you don't have to chain yourself to a computer all day. During the school day I fit it in as I can. After school, after supper. I'm sure you have your sweet spots as well.

Tell me -- Do you keep track of your word counts? Do you have a set time to write? Do you have a sweet spot (time frame) when you blow your word counts out of the water? Do word counts really matter as long as the book finally reads THE END?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

PS I just found out that a good Blogger friend Roland Yeomans was operated on for cancer on Feb.19. If you pray, could you say a prayer that he recovers quickly. Roland is an amazing writer, blogger, friend. His posts are fantastic and if you don't know him, you should.


Maria Zannini said...

Re: Roland
I'm so sorry for your friend. I hope he recovers quickly. Cancer sucks.

Re: word count
I've never tracked my writing, mostly because I've never seen the point in it. I fit words in as I have time.

The one thing I have noticed is that I was far more judicious with my time when I worked a full time outside job.

Em-Musing said...

I wish I could be as organised as you. I have learned though to edit as I go. Being a panther doesn't work for me either. Oh, it's fun to write on the fly, but it's not the most effective way. Congrats on finishing your novel.

Bish Denham said...

I'm a sporadic writer, at best. But when I do write I'm pretty prolific. I like to write in the mornings. I'll start early... 5AM if I'm really into the story, and work through noon, taking breaks as needed.

I've been keeping Roland in my thoughts and prayers.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I keep daily words counts, but not the hours I spend at writing. That would feel too much like work! :)

I always thought my best time of writing would be morning, but I'm finding it comes right after lunch. By then I've had all those pesky errands completed!

My last book took from April - February to write. I create a new document each day I open it, though. I had 137 documents. So while it seemed like it took 10 monts to write, I didn't actually write constantly during those 10 months (too many other editing projects interrupted my process). I found that interesting.

Anne Gallagher said...

Maria -- I've never really tracked my writing either, until this book. I wanted to see if my time was well spent. I still don't know if it is or not, but at least I know I'm not wasting my time.

Bish -- On the weekends I'm up early. I like the quiet. I also found research is my enemy. I'd like to just write one book that doesn't require it to see how long it will take me to finish. Hmmm...

Leigh -- I'm not really organized although I pretend I am. This was just an experiment to see if it was all worth it. I'm still not sure if it was.

Stacey -- Wow. You open a new doc. every day? I would get totally lost if I did that. But hey, to each his own and if it works for you, go for it. Yeah, I used to like writing first thing in the morning, but now I find after supper is pretty good too. Although I think that will change once we get out of school.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I would love to try out a treaddesk. I suspect i'd hate it, but how would i know?

A standing desk would be nice too.

Mostly i just want a desk that can be adjusted whenever i want

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have been praying for Roland.
I set goals on my word count knowing some scenes will take longer than others. Now that I'm writing full time I hope to write three novels per year.

Taryn Tyler said...

Writing is a creative process. It's hard to demand so many words of yourself a day because sometimes it flows and sometimes it doesn't.

I usually structure my writing time into time slots. Sometimes I go a little over and sometimes I go a little under but I find that when I --as you so elegantly put it --chain myself in front of a computer for long periods of time I not only produce less words but weaker quality and everything has to be edited a couple extra times anyways.

For me there is a certain amount of incubation that needs to happen before I can get each scene out. Forcing word count and long hours doesn't do me a lick of good. My best work has always been done when I have a full schedule and variety of things to do with my time rather than just writing.

*I've been out of the blogosphere for some time but I remember Roland. He has a very deep and poetic style to his writing. I will certainly be sending him prayers and good thoughts.*

Donna Hole said...

If I kept track of my word count I'd just depress myself. I'm beginning to think I gave up on the career.

Glad you got it finished though. Congratulations. No you can get on with the rest of your life guilt free - until the next book idea, that is.


Anne Gallagher said...

Sarah -- A tread desk would be awesome. I just want a real desk instead of the plastic table I have now.

Susan -- Three novels a year is impressive. And disciplined. I'd like to think I could, but after a couple of years writing, I know I couldn't. So I'll just write what I can and hope for the best.

Taryn -- I remember you. Good to see you again and thanks for stopping by. I like what you said, "My best work has always been done with a full schedule..." Yeah, it's true isn't it. I think because we know we only have a limited amount of time to write that we fully concentrate on it.

Donna -- Yeah, that whole word count thing is depressing, but I figured I would try it this once and see what happened. Don't give up on your writing. Unless you've found something else to sustain your soul. It's important.

Linda G. said...

I've only ever kept daily word counts when I've had deadline looming near, and I knew if I didn't produce at least a certain number of words each day I'd never meet it.

The thing is, for me, so much of writing doesn't involve getting the words on the page. There's research, for one. And "trying things out" in my head--fantasizing my way through different scenarios. How do you put a number on that?