Number Crunching

Sometimes progress is slow.
Sometimes it is very slow.
Sometimes it is so slow you don’t actually want to admit to yourself just how slow it is.

Imagine these:

Herd of tortoises

stampeding through this:

Peanut Butter Texture

and you get the idea.

But sooner or later you have to be brutally honest with yourself. The WIP isn’t going to write itself.
If things do write themselves at your place, you’ve got problems.

Rembrandt - Belshazzar's Feast - WGA19123

I have, over the *cough* years since I started working on Tsifira, accumulated about 18,734 words. (Including some of the excerpts I’ve removed for now, and some of the notes, but not all of them. Basically, I’m counting anything that was worth typing up.)

A novel is, of course, as long as a novel is long, but taking geographical distance as an indicator of word count (it’s a road story) I’m about a quarter to a third of the way there. Not knowing, of course, how many detours might occur.

One step after another

Say 80,000 as a guess.

In the just-over-two months since I started keeping a word count, I’ve written 1,651 words for Tsifira.*

80,000 – 18,734 = 61,266 words to go.

1,651 words ÷ 69 days recorded = 24 words per day (average, obviously).

61,266 words ÷ 24 words per day = 2,553 (to the nearest day).

So at this rate, I will finish the first draft in just under seven years.^

A Frenchman in America

There are only two alternatives.
One: give up.
Two: speed up.

I’m going to go with Two.

It is far easier to write that than to execute it (rather like Rasputin in that respect, although probably not in many others). How do you change gears in your mind and in your life? Is there a human equivalent of a clutch pedal?

I found an interesting exercise on A Cat of Impossible Colour – she got it from The Relaxed Writer.

Basically, you take ten minutes to write down one side of a piece of paper everything you don’t want your writing life to be like.
Then you write the opposite of each thing down the other side, and you figure out how you’re going to make that happen.

Moreless plus minus button

She recommends it as a beginning-of-the-year exercise, but I think we can all agree I shouldn’t wait that long, so I did it today.

I wrote the first column out by hand on folded paper, as instructed, but then I went off-road a bit, ending up with three columns instead of two, all typed up in a spreadsheet.
Column A: I Don’t Want
Column B: I Want
Column C: I Will

It was a bit disturbing to get such an insight into my own mind and misgivings. Apparently I struggle with self-doubt and fear the waste of time. I also fear guilt from doing/not doing, don’t take myself seriously enough as a writer, and tend to defer hope til tomorrow.

Neurotic

That’s rather a lot of personal insight to arrive at in ten minutes.

So, what will I do?
I will increase my writing time, guard it from erosion, and focus on my new-hatched target: finishing the first draft of Tsifira by the end of 2013.

By my calculations, I’ll need to write approximately ten thousand words each month. Two and a half thousand each week.
Half a thousand each working day.

Speed Writing

I can write over four hundred words in an uninterrupted morning half hour. Increase that to twice a week: eight hundred. Two hours, one evening a week: sixteen hundred. Total of 2,400, and the other hundred can be dashed off almost any time a moment presents itself.

It will require discipline and dedication. But it can be done.
I can do it.

And keep up a blog on the side 🙂

* I know this is pretty pitiful for a Work In (supposed) Progress, but over the same period I have also written roughly 6,000 words in Morning Pages, 8,000 words of blog post (not counting this one), 1,187 in a journal, 1,114 in letters and over 5,000 of Other. A total of nearly 23,000 words (that’s equivalent to 332 words a day, 7 days a week).

^ By which time publishing technology will have leapt beyond my comprehension and Neil Gaiman will be the only one who knows that the thing in my hand is called a fountain pen.

11 Replies to “Number Crunching”

  1. Thank you so much for your kind comment – it’s lovely to (virtually) meet you.

    My WIP is progressing at a tortoise-in-peanut-butter-pace too, if that helps at all …

    Andrea x

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