Weekly Writing Progress (Jan 3 – 9)

Humblebee: 62,302
Current Writing Streak: 8 days
Longest Writing Streak: 8 days
Weekly Total (Jan 1 – 2): 13,028
January Monthly Total: 17,292
Grand Total: 17,292 (6.92% of 250,000)

I've averaged 2161.50 words per day for the year thus far. (For the week, however, I've averaged 2,171.33 words per day.) These are my daily totals for this week:

Sunnandæg - day off
Mónandæg - 2,016
Tiwesdæg - 2,303
Wódnesdæg - 2,048
Þunresdæg - 2,192
Frígadæg - 2,168
Sæternesdæg - 2,301

I've been writing 2,000+ words per day now for nearly three weeks. I've come to the conclusion that I need to cut back. My goal had been to write 2,000 words per day until I finished with the first draft of Humblebee, but lately I've been finding myself quite drained after trying to pump out 2,000 words each day.

Before I had started writing 2,000+ per day, I'd been averaging 1,250-1,350 per day and I was able to achieve that quite comfortably. I've been holding back on stating what my daily goal was going to be for this year, but I see no need to continue to do so. My intention was to write 2,000 per day until I finished Humblebee, as I said above, and then to cut back to 1,000-1,500 per day after that. I'm now going to aim for 1,000-1,500 per day, which was what my unstated daily goal was to begin with. So, although I'm cutting back, I'm not compromising on my goals at all.

The reason I'd decided to write 1,000-1,500 words per day was to build in a safety net of sorts. Here's why: 1,000 words per day, six days per week, comes to 313,000 words at the end of the year; 1,500 words per day, six days per week, comes to 469,500 words. Knowing that my goal for 2010 is 250,000 words, you can clearly see the safety margin I'm giving myself. At 1,000 words per day, I can miss 63 days of writing this year and still accomplish my goal; at 1,500 words per day, I can miss 146.33 days.

The idea behind aiming for 1,500 words per day was twofold:

  1. At 1,500 words per day, the first draft of a 90,000 word novel can be completed in 60 writing days. With one day off each week, we're talking 10 weeks to complete a novel. With one day off per week, each month has an average of 26 working days, roughly 4½ weeks. So, 10 weeks equates to two months and one week.
  2. For the sake of variety, 1,500 words per day would allow me to write, say, 1,000 words per day in a novel and 500 words per day in a short story. In that scenario, it would take me 90 writing days to complete the first draft of a novel; that's 15 weeks (three months and a week-and-a-half). Simultaneously, I could conceivably produce 45,000 words in short stories. At an average of 5,000 per story, that's 9 short stories. Think about that: one novel and nine short stories in the span of 15 weeks. Not a bad bit of work, if you ask me, and very doable, too.

The reason for having a variety of projects going on at the same time (maybe even two short stories along with a novel) is to prevent project block, an entirely different beast from writer's block. I don't believe in writer's block, but I do think project block is very real. What is project block? Project block is where you stall on a writing project, not knowing where to go next. There are a variety of ways to prevent this.

First, if I'm focusing solely on a novel and I come to a juncture where I stall, then having something else to work on will allow me to stay productive and free my mind up to work on the project where I'm stalled. This is one way to prevent project block: work on something else.

Second, Hemingway was said to end each day's writing session in the middle of a sentence. Others suggest that you never end a day at the end of a scene, or at the end of a chapter. This is the second way to prevent project block: end your day in the middle of something, in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a scene, in the middle of a chapter.

Third, have a plan. Even if you're not the sort of writer to outline a novel beforehand, if you at least outline each scene or each chapter before you write it, then you're unlikely to get stalled when you sit down the next day to write.

This is why one of my goals this year is to have at least 5 ideas that I can start work on at any one time: it gives me a ready supply of story ideas to pull from. If I get stalled, I can always go to work on another project I have going, or I can start up a new one. The most important thing to remember with this tactic, though, is to finish everything you start, and not to get off-track with starting new projects and never finishing them. Another advantage of having this many ideas at the ready is that when I come to the end of a project, I can immediately launch into a new project and keep multiple projects going and experience no downtime whatsoever.

Regarding the aforementioned idea of freeing up my mind, I've a little story that perfectly illustrates this. A couple of years ago I was driving down to Georgia, and my mum had come along with me. In the course of a discussion we'd been having, she was trying to remember the name of a man she had worked with years earlier, but the name refused to come to mind for her. I suggested that she think about something else, but she refused to let it go. So, ignoring that she wouldn't drop it, I deliberately changed the subject and got her to talking about something else. Less than a minute after I changed the subject, the name of the man she was trying to remember came to her unbidden. This is why it is a good idea to have multiple projects going on at once. When you get stalled on one, you move on to another, freeing your mind up on the one that refuses to coöperate. Then, when you go back to it, it'll come freely.

I'd mentioned some days ago that I'd reveal where I got the ideas for many of my 2010 goals and I never did. I'll rectify that here and now. Science fiction novelist Dean Wesley Smith started a series on writing and the publishing business titled Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. It's an excellent series. If you're at all interested in writing, you should read it. He started the series back on August 30, and you can find the first post in the series here.

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