Thursday, 22 March 2012

Are we nearly there yet?

Word counts. And why they are important.

Do you find as an author and/or writer that you need at some stages of your writing to feel as if you have moved forward?

I know I do.

I remember sitting on the back seat of my dad’s car, (no seat belts back then, free to cannon and roll around in the back,) shouting are we nearly there yet? It always seemed to take forever to get to the seaside…the woods…the fun park. And bless him my dad would do his level best to equate how much farther had to be travelled by a measure I could evaluate.

So I know what the industry standard is for a first novel, less than 80,000 words may not be up to muster and beyond 120,000 words could be too risky to be a commercial success, so if I pitch in at 100,000 I’m probably in with a chance.

And from my initial concept through to completion how long will that take?

Sadly there is no industry standard for an author’s timeline. Some books take a lifetime to produce and others can be knocked out quite quickly by a disciplined author who has a shrewd idea of what is expected. For the rest of us it’s somewhere in between.

Each author and writer, as an individual will hopefully have established ways that work for them, and for me most of the time I’m just content with the fact that ideas form in my head that I do my very best to capture and commit to paper.

But honestly… no one can tell me how long it will take me to write my novel and vice versa I can’t tell them when I anticipate being finished, either.

The current work started out as a ‘what if scenario,’ that struck me while I washed the dishes! What would I do in a given situation? I had to find out. I threw down the initial concept last summer and then allowed it to stew. I went off and focused on other projects. Kept myself busy, with short stories and an upcoming anthology.

To reach my target discipline has to play a part and back in February I made myself block out one week to focus on the stewed idea and see where it took me. The word count at the end of that specific task was +37K. Not bad I thought.

But then I got distracted. Life has a habit of doing that…

This week I decided I should get back on the writing horse (so to speak) and set myself a word count of 5,000 words this week. I publicly committed to this task on Twitter on Monday morning. And signed off Twitter and ignored it. (Sobs in the corner.)

It’s funny what motivates me. By Tuesday I had smashed through the target! Now I could have stopped but I decided while my luck ran in my favour I would keep going, even though real life gets in the way occasionally.

Once I’m in character I find it easy to evaluate where the plot should go next because this novel is being written without an outline. Yikes! I’m panster-ing it!

Therefore the word count is important to me, it tells me I have moved the plot forward and developed my storyline, significantly. And I’m gaining momentum. The more I write while I’m in character the ideas develop and I can see how the interplay between the characters helps them to evolve.

It fascinates me that I can think I have stopped writing for the day and as I’m driving along, I’ll have a light bulb moment that usually goes along the lines of resolving an issue for one of the situations that I’ve left hanging.

Today I’m feeling confident that this novel has legs and could go the full distance. By the end of the week I’ll let you know my word count. It will help to keep me on track.

What do you do to keep you on track? I’d love to know…

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