Down For the Count!

Word count that is, talking about word count.  I’ve read several blog posts over the past few weeks about the pros and cons of setting a daily word count.  Many have made reference to NaNoWriMo and their experience in participating in it. Sometimes it’s just easier to go along with the current than to fight your way upstream, so I decided to put in my two cents worth on this topic.

During NaNoWriMo, I challenged myself to meet a daily word count.  I had been out of the habit, and only writing when my muse was in. Which to be honest wasn’t all that often.  When she was in, I would pound out thousands of words in bursts of 5 to 6K at a time, sometimes more.  I think the longest burst was around 24K, staying up till early morning.  My reasons for taking the NaNO challenge were multi fold, to get myself back into the daily habit and to push myself to finish a book.  That last one is the main reason for me as I have many unfinished projects.

I tried writing as a pantser  and it was an epic fail.  I have three stories that are unfinished that I tried using this method.  I have no problem coming up with the story, it’s off and running before I can usually come up with a working title.  The starter pistol is fired and I’m off.  My pen flying furiously, or fingers typing frantically to get down the story that is inside my head.  A long burst of enthusiastic writing occurs until I hit a snag. Usually, it’s a kink in the plot.  PLot? What plot would that be?  Hmmm, there’s part of the problem.  I never took the time to think out the wheres, whys and hows and ended up in a closed canyon with no way out.  Not every one of those stories is completely dead, but they’ve been filed away until I can perform some serious surgical skills to them.

I decided that planning would be a better approach for me, as it led to fewer rabbit trails.  My husband has often said he’s going to start shooting rabbits when I get off topic. You may have noticed that about me, if you’ve read a few of my blogs!

The down side to planning however is that once I get the story line worked out and discover my whys and hows and the little details that tie things together in the end, I lose interest.  Not interest in the story mind you, but rather in the writing of the story.  It’s almost as if the thrill of discovery is part of the joy of the writing. Once the discovery is over, the actual writing becomes tedious and that’s where I need to make a daily word count goal for myself.

So again, I needed to revise my approach.  I have arrived on a modified  planning method.  I have the main plot and a few specifics down when I begin the writing process, and jump in with both feet.  Then I hit a spot where I work out some details before I move on down the big picture of my plot.  There is still discovery, but within guidelines.  I’ve discovered I can’t completely plan out my stories or I lose interest in actually writing them. This is where I was at when I started NaNO three days into the month.

So I started out behind – no problem I’ll just make up a few hundred words each day to catch up.  Four days in my over -achiever  thing kicked in and I started writing twice the suggested words per day, sometimes more. I didn’t have time to really think out my plot lines, so I spent a lot of time throwing out part of my writing the next day.  I didn’t care for that, I’d spent a lot of time neglecting other aspects of my life, like house cleaning in order to meet the demands I was placing on myself.

I would rather write 1665 quality words than have to throw out mediocre words that just didn’t hit the mark. I realize that there are those that think writers don’t really work. Right, the same way that engineers don’t really work either.  Utilizing your brain is exhausting!   It takes an effort to create a fictional world that allows the reader to have a reasonable suspension of disbelief.  It takes an effort to make well-rounded characters that are more than cardboard cutouts against a cardboard backdrop.

My daily word count goals are more reasonable today.  I also allow myself the grace to know that when I have appointments , business meetings and errands on the schedule I may not reach my count for the day.  Yep, I have a day job and I haven’t quit it yet!  There are days when I’m in the zone and the words just gush.  When my muse is in, we’re in writer overdrive cranking out the words as fast as I can to try to keep up with the movie playing out in my head.  when she’s not in, I often have to work out details.  The effect of one action in chapter 3 has long reaching effects on how things are handled when my mage discovers his own conundrum!  I had to work out these details, in order to know where I was going to arrive later on down the road.

I don’t understand how pantsers do this without planning ahead.  I know it’s possible because one of my favorite authors is definitely a pantser.  She takes you on a whirlwind adventure every time and leaves you breathless at the end.  It’s like a mental roller coaster thrill ride.

As you may have guessed I jumped into NaNo ill prepared, without a clue, but willing to accept the challenge that I would discover along the way.  I’m glad I did it, but will make sure I’m better prepared next time.

I feel that establishing a daily word count goal is important for many reasons:

  1. It keeps me in the daily habit of writing.
  2. If I don’t set a goal I don’t achieve anything and get distracted by non writing things such as wordmole, or Tombraider, while entertaining do not move me closer to my larger goals of publication.
  3. Daily writing exercise.  Same principle as going to the gym and working out.  Keeps the brain active and in the writing zone.
  4. Seeing the daily progress provides motivation to keep going.  A daily word count of 1600 words isn’t that exciting but after a week, that’s over 11000 words!  that my friends is motivating!  Especially when I hit the lulls of self-defeating talk that I’ll never reach the end.

From my little corner of the world, a daily word count is important for me.  I don’t want to have to discard what I’ve written, so I’ve progressed  from different methods of writing to a method that seems to work the best for me.  There is the summation, you have to figure out what works for you. for me it’s setting small goals for myself daily in order to attain the larger goals down the road.  Write on my friends, write on!