Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Fricassee

We all know that writers are a quirky lot, yes?  So let's just own that and be done with it.

I'm drafting right now.  (What? You haven't heard my let-me-remind-you-again-how-much-I-hate-drafting whines from miles away?)  For a long time now, I've kept to a strict, 1000-words-a-day schedule whenever I'm drafting.  In this way, I'm able to complete a draft in 3 months (writing 6 days a week).  This has taught me to a) write to deadline, and b) get the heck out of the drafting phase as quickly as possible.

One of my "drafting quirks" is to continuously check the word count in Scrivener's target project window.  I don't keep the window open while I'm writing--that would be distraction overkill.  But I do constantly click on it to see how I'm doing.

Sounds fairly normal, right?  Until I confess the frequency of these word count checks. As in, check: 114.  Check: 172.  Check: 191.  Check: 214.

I'm not exaggerating.

Enter Epiphany (this is going to sound so stupid).  In the past week, I have discovered (genius that I am) that forcing myself not to check the word count until I've estimated that I've written 100 words has enabled me to draft quite a bit faster.  Because I almost always overestimate.  What I thought was 100 words is sometimes more than 200.  And that word count boost is like a shot of adrenaline.  Nothing shoots us across the finish line more effectively than a shot of adrenaline!

So this week, my daily word count checks have looked more like this:  124, 268, 374, 516, 657, 760, 910, 1012.  BAM!  Done!

I'm fully aware that I'm playing a psychological game with myself.  But it's working!

Perfect timing, too.  Because, as of yesterday, I'm doubling up on two Very Different Projects.  If you've read me for any time, you know that I've attempted in the past to multitask, without success.  (Actually, this was back in my pre-agent days, when Josh had asked for a revise and resubmit.  I thought I could work on the revision and keep drafting my current WIP.  I failed miserably.  But hey, I nailed the revision and secured Josh in my life, so it's not all bad.)

Because of my Epiphany, I had the most amazing experience yesterday.  (We're all quirky, remember? So you're totally going to get excited along with me because you UNDERSTAND.)  I suddenly had, following a phone conversation with Agentman, two things on my writing plate--the dreaded WIP, and the Project That Is So Close To Going Out On Submission That I Feel It Twitching.  The latter is getting a final massage, thanks to some brilliant insight from Josh's new assistant.  And the former needs to keep rolling so I don't lose my momentum.  So I decided to nail the WIP word count during an hour-long Whole Foods stint yesterday morning, so that I could spend my afternoon writing time on the Other Project.

It worked!

I'm amazed at how seamlessly I was able to glide from YA science fiction to MG fantasy.  Earlier this morning, I was back at the YA again.  So far, so good!

Maybe I'm being way too optimistic here.  But the MG work is a few-days, high-intensity thing, so it's not like I'm going to be doing double duty indefinitely.

That would be less than pretty.

Anyway, there you have it.  Don't you LOVE when you figure something out about yourself that makes your writing life easier?  I keep saying that this is a journey, and it really is.

Your turn!  If I can share my quirks, you can share yours.  Let's have 'em!  We're all in this together.


  1. I'm so glad it's working for you! I tried working on 2 different projects at once. I think I lasted two days.

  2. Glad that is working for you. I don't use Scrivener *ducks to avoid any thrown plushy toys* but like you, I've now set myself up to have two projects that I HAVE to work on due to my own self-imposed deadline schedule. Sequel must come forth in a timely manner and current project must make its draft exit so both will be on my plate giving me a double helping of OMG What Have I Done!!??! But, we writers aren't just quirky, we're resourceful so looking to make this happen without sacrificing the bit of sanity lingering along the fringes of my brain :-)

    Happy drafting, writing and whining as well!

  3. All I can say is that it took me three years to finish my first manuscript. Fortunately, it only took me a year to finish my second. I'm hoping to get it down to six months: three for the draft, three for the revisions, on the next one.

    Wish me luck!

  4. I hand write my first draft, so there is no way of telling what my word count is. I get so much done. Then I revise when typing it up.

    We all need to find what works for us. And this does for me. I finished my first written draft in three weeks.

    Glad you found what works for you!

    Lucy D. Briand

  5. I do the reverse when I revise, slavishly checking word count and watching it shrink--then expand. Then shrink...and expand.

  6. I have a image I carry around with me to forums and such. I write in the car on the way to work and then quickly update it while I'm getting my coffee made. My goal in the car is 300 words, and updating the ticker and watching it crawl up an unexpectedly 500 or 800 words is just magically uplifting!

  7. I work better with a timer. Say I'm going to work in one hour sessions--because I'm revising, so some days my word count dips, and I can't stand to pay attention to that!

    Anyway, I set the timer for an hour, and knowing that I'll be alerted when the time's up, I can relax into the writing instead of having to check and recheck and recheck the time to see how long it's been.

    It's a very similar obsession to checking the word count. When I take the need away, I can have fun.

  8. Yay Authoress! For figuring out your general quirk and how to work with it. Always an evolving process.

    I decided that for this book, I am writing five-ish pages a day, every day, until I'm done. I've tried, and failed, at outlining. Some good advice from my editor was to embrace my process, it turned out a good first book. Anyway! Whatever it takes to get through that icky first draft :)

  9. So, don't hate me because I'm 30,000 words into the draft stage of my current project which is only . . . three weeks old!

    Seriously, there are times the words flow and, more often, times they don't flow at all. Luckily, at least for this project, the words are a'flowin'!

    Congrats on your progress, and remember that all great novels started as a draft!

  10. I thought I had my word count sussed when I tried recording my thoughts while I was doing other things a la Barbara Cartland but I couldnt think of anything to say. I had everything set up in what I thought was a very 'author-y way and was dumbstruck. I felt such a twonk. Hope thats not a rude word in the US x

  11. I don't look at word count so much as chapters. I mean, I'm happy when the final word count is good but I set a goal of writing 1K a day and sometimes it's more, sometimes its less. I am a pantser and so write it all down then edit like crazy. It's almost like I have to get it all out before I do anything to it. The editing phase is what I dread. Not the first time but the fourth or fifth time. Those I have to trick myself into doing by rewarding myself with Starbucks or a geeky TV show. Right now I'm about 5K into a WIP and so far so good. I just finished editing my middle grade book for the umpteenth time (BTW Josh passed on it) but it's stronger now. I entered in several contests but although I got a couple of hits, still no agent. Ah well.

  12. I'm still trying to figure out how to stop overwriting first drafts. I just finished a revision going from 105K to under 80K. Lotta words gone, right? However, I also inserted about 30K NEW words. I deleted an entire book - 55K!

    Must give myself permission to write poorly...

  13. I just write and count at the end of the day. It's only when I am really deep into the edit to get to a word count close to what the publisher wants that I start to do such a close wordcount.

    Zara Penney

  14. So a screenwriter decided to dabble in novel writing...

    Since Authoress talked about novel writers using beat sheet outlines. I decided to dabble in YA novel fiction. Just to see how it goes...

    In screenwriting the process follows some different milestones (for mainline studio projects).
    First comes the idea pitch - "What if aliens came to the Hollywood Bowl?". Then comes the treatment or 5 page outline with caps for big ideas that have not been fleshed out yet e.g. STAR BEAST. Then screenwriter(s) are assigned or commissioned. Then comes the 30 page outline with no dialog. Then comes the draft script of 90-100 pages.

    The reason why I say this is because the screenwriting process seems to discover commercial viability earlier than novel writing (I then say sorry, dodge fluffy animals thrown).

    Here is what I am trying. I wrote a hook for YA Fantasy about 7 pages. Then I let my teenaged daughter read it... And... She liked it. Liked it so much she pitched it to her friends at school. Then they formed a collaborative team and provided critiques to my character and plot line.

    "don't make the main character too perfect"
    "don't make her really good in school"
    "Don't do vampires!!!!"

    [Meanwhile, I'm thinking. 'Who do think you are, I get script notes from Award winners!!!!'. But I politely say "Thanks" and take the advice... after all this YA novel may be for my daughter and her friends anyway...]

    So my process is (so far) to write a hook (find out if the situation is interesting). Then outline via a beat sheet. Then I write the pages. Also I have created a brief outline of the setting, backstory, and character bios.

    THEN I write the actual text. I don't know about the process... but it seems that my words flow.

    Word counts and productivity... So in the end my concept of story crafting is centered around ALL text being created. I count the time on Treatment, Outline, Backstory, Character Bio, Pitch Variants etc in my work. I don't know if this translates very well. But that's how some of the creative world makes it's living.

  15. Congratulations about your Epiphany! Those always feel great.

    I need total silence when writing, which is why I write in my university library. Unfortunately, people my age sometimes seem to misunderstand what "quiet time" is, so whenever there's talking/giggling/excessive whispering, I get extremely agitated. Same goes for if I'm at home and someone interrupts me by walking into the room.

    It's not a unique quirk, but I think what makes it a quirk is, obsessive I am about it?

  16. You mean everybody doesn't check their word count every 25 words? It's only you and me? Perhaps the rest do, they just keep quiet about it.