Word Count Goals and Such

Posted by Shannon Haddock on February 1, 2017 in No More Lies, Rants, Writing process |

So, I did Nanowrimo this November, as I previously mentioned.  I said I’d do a blogpost about why, but I don’t recall what I was going to say in one because my reasons basically boil down to the atmosphere on their forums had changed to be much more friendly and less stupid, so the community aspect wasn’t horrible any more, and I needed a kick in the pants.  I had minor pneumonia at the very beginning of the month and still managed to get 55,000 words.  I was only aiming for 25,000 because of the way the month started.  So I kind of blew way the fuck past that.

In December, I used http://pacemaker.press to track my progress because it has the ability to customize your chart for days you won’t be working and such.  I was aiming for 30,000 word and only got 24,000.  I’m okay with this, though, because most of the difference was because I took a longer break at Christmas than I’d anticipated.

Last month, I tried not tracking my progress in any fashion, deciding I’d add everything up at the end of the month and see how if tracking it has any influence on much I write.  I also ended up not writing anything new besides blogposts — which I had been counting in my word count in November and December.  I made a lot of blogposts and, not counting the “Things I said while revising” ones because those are just typing statements I made aloud, those total around 8000 words.  This is an inflated number, I know, because two of those blogposts contained lots of text from stories I’ve already written.

I also ended up revising about 9000 words of No More Lies.  It’s becoming common author practice, at least on Nanowrimo and related communities, to count one hour of revision or editing as 1000 words.  But since I usually write between 1400 and 1800 words an hour, it seems to me I’d be selling myself short to do that.  Also, I don’t pay attention to how long I’ve spent revising or editing.  I do a scene and then another scene and then another until I run out of creative energy.  Some days after two hours and not quite finishing one short scene, I call it quits; others I can do four long scenes and totally lose myself in what I’m doing and have no fucking clue how long I’ve been at it.  It’s too variable a thing to have any sort of time = words ratio, in my experience.

Of course I also don’t edit “right”, according to a lot of the same people who swear by the one hour = 1000 words thing, since every editing pass I make, save the final spelling and grammar one, is an end-to-end revision.  Apparently you’re first supposed to go through and fix overuse of certain words, then scenes that aren’t in the right spot, and then thematic issues and so on until you’ve gone through the story about ten million times and never fixed that typo you noticed in the first line because it’s not time to fix it until the final pass.  (Yes, seriously.  I’ve seen so many authors saying things like “What’s the point of fixing typos if that sentence might not end up in the final draft?”  Uhmmm . . . because if you keep seeing the typo you risk becoming inured to it?!  Your brain knows what you meant there, after all.  Take the two fucking seconds to fix it!  Especially if you can’t/won’t hire a proofreader.)  I start at line 1, page 1 and go through it time and again until I’ve got a story as perfect as I can make it, fixing every problem I see each pass . . . like I’m pretty sure most authors did for most of history.  I really don’t see how some of the “This is how you have to do it” things authors come up with these days could ever possibly have worked pre-computer.  I’m pretty damned sure people who handwrote their books weren’t ignoring their spelling errors until they produced the final draft, you know?  (Of course, some of the same people saying editing must be done this one way are also the same ones who swear you can’t write a novel unless you use novel-writing software.  I sometimes wonder if they’re aware computers are much, much newer than the novel.)

Sorry for the digression.  My point was that it does seem like tracking my word count increases my productivity . . . but I have to wonder about the validity of that conclusion given that I spent a great deal of last month watching in horror as President Trump did horrible thing after horrible thing, so I lost a lot of writing and revising time to that AND I did more roleplaying than I have in ages, which uses the same bits of my brain (and I, unlike one of my favorite authors, absolutely fucking refuse to give up rpgs so I can write more, for enough reasons that I’m not getting into them here.).  So the experiment’s results are inconclusive.

This month I’m going to go ahead and make a plan on Pacemaker because — even though, as I just said, I can’t prove it — I feel like I’m more productive when I’ve got a chart showing me how far ahead or behind of where I want to be I am.  I’ve also just discovered I can set it to track progress by scenes, so I’m going to see how many I did last month and add a few to that.


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