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December 3, 2011 / benrovik

Thousand Words? Well…

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I’ve had the goal of writing a thousand words a day since the summer, but November was the first time I started hard-core keeping track of how much I was writing.  So I’m relatively unembarrassed to report an average of 799 words a day, which is a rock-solid C+ or (with the teensiest amount of grade inflation) a B-; which, after all, makes a big difference in GPA.

One of my secret fears in setting a word-based target is that it would become an excuse not to write, even on days when time was plentiful.  And sure enough, that did happen on a few occasions.  I’d have a whole afternoon and evening stretching out, but as soon as I’d finish my thousand words for the day, since I’d hit my target, I’d leave off in the middle of a scene and busy myself with less interesting things for the remaining hours.

There are some days (Thanksgiving) where sitting down to write a thousand words just won’t happen.  And there are days when I need to make money, so 400 words might really be all that’s able to come out.  So in recognition of days like those, it would be much cooler of me to ignore the arbitrary target on big empty days at home, and store up words for the lean winter months, you know?

Another oddity; there were days when I was able to knock out a thousand words in a handful of thirty-minute breaks during a workday, using my car as an office.  And there were days at home when I would write for hours, being focused and feeling good about the content, and do a count only to find I was 700 words past where I’d started.

I might start logging the amount of time I spend writing too, just for extra data.  I know there are plenty of authors who set aside, say, four to six hours a day for writing, and when that’s done, they stop.  After a few more months of a word target, maybe I’ll shift to a time target and see how that feels, and what effect it has on productivity.

The other big danger of thinking in reductive targets like this is that it could make writing more of a grind and less of an opportunity to tell the stories I want.  Luckily, that isn’t even close to happening for me.  I’m excited as ever about Mechanized Wizardry, and the story I’ve got to tell.  The targets and deadlines are my way of spurring myself into action, that’s all.  When I look back over a chapter and find a turn of phrase that surprises me, or a detail I hadn’t remembered writing, I’m filled with meta-gratitude for the fact that a past version of me in the past actually took the time to sit and write it.  And that makes me want to be even more disciplined in the future, so there are more surprises for me– and for you– to read.

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