Saturday, February 8, 2014

So Time, Much Words

Moving forward with the writing habit course, today's focus is on productivity.  Or more appropriately, measuring productivity.

So far I haven't thought too hard about this issue, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't think of it at all.  It was more a case of focusing on the actual writing without regard to the amounts, and deferring the question of word counts, total time, etc. until further down the road.  So far that hasn't been difficult, but since that's today's focus then it seems silly to put it off any further.

So looking back on the past week's work, or most of a week at least (this is day six), let's tally up how many words went into each.

  • My Why - 761 words
  • Time Management  - 906 words
  • Deliverance Klondike Ninja - 3625 words
  • Worldbuilding Wednesday: Land Beast I - 1647 words
  • My Oral Fixation - 1511 words
  • Need a Lift? - 2243 words

So a total of 10,693 words in the past five days.  Not bad, I think.

I say not bad, but is that the truth?  The fact is, I have no idea.  So my "not bad" is pretty meaningless in context, since I have no idea what "good" and "bad" are in terms of daily word count.  All I can compare it to is my previous record before I started this daily writing course, which was of course zero words per day.  Not counting emails or tweets or other miscellaneous bits of typing that don't really amount to much.

But what if I compare it do a more experienced writer?  Well, I have no idea what a normal daily word count for someone like that would be.  I would imagine it varies from writer to writer quite a bit, but I expect mine so far would be pretty paltry by comparison.  A quick Google shows a lot of talk about how low the daily numbers for various famous writers are, presumably in an effort to teach that a high word count doesn't really mean that much.  Mark Twain only pumping out 1,000 a day or J.R.R. Tolkien doing only a quarter of that.  But then, the famed NaNoWriMo requires 1,667 a day to succeed at their one-month challenge, so it becomes pretty much impossible to find a solid benchmark.

And then you've got to consider that for Twain or Tolkien is that their raw word count, or what they had at the end of the day after edits?  Killing your babies is a tried and true editing method, and it can really drop your final words-per-day.  So maybe those successful writers were also really good at self-editing as they went.

And that's just fiction writing, which I intuit is a much different beast than confessional-style blogging like I've been doing lately.  In some ways, fiction seems to roll along faster at least in first draft form, since there's a plot to follow and dialogue is sort of like popcorn where it just crops up and vanishes so quickly.  But nonfiction, even nearly stream of consciousness type rambling like I've been doing here, does seem to plod a bit when you're talking about the speed stuff gets down on paper.  But then, maybe it varies depending on how enthusiastic I am about the subject matter.  If I was writing about how much I love yuri manga, or why Godzilla is so much fun, or reviewing a book I'd really enjoyed, I imagine the words would flow much faster and the volume would pile up very quickly as compared to something like this, where I'm not very experienced in judging what a reasonable word count really is.

After all, there are bloggers who write way more than this on a daily basis and they seem to have no trouble keeping up.  And there have been fiction writers like Robert Silverberg, who could boast that they maintained over a million words a year and managed to sell pretty much all of it (admittedly that was during the pulp days so the standard was pretty low, and he felt so bad about that he deliberately created scholarly works later on in order to feel he deserved his accolades).  So maybe I'm overachieving right now, may be I've got a long way to go.

All I know is that I know nothing.  So zen, huh?

So we go back to two other metrics that I think mean more.  Time and consistency.  Have I been producing regularly, and how much have I invested in the process?  The first is easy, and at least for the past six days, including this piece, I'd say I've managed pretty well.  After all, the whole idea at this stage is to be a habitual writer.  Not a good writer, per se, that part comes later.  Not even an especially productive one, writing huge quantities in every sitting.  But one who keeps coming back to the keyboard time and time again, reliably creating prose.  So far that's been a success.

As to time, I'm honestly not sure how much I've invested in each piece.  I do know that I set my minimum as 25 minutes a day and I've stuck with that and in fact exceeded it for all but the first attempt.  But how many 25-minute segments I have I taken each day?  Honestly, I haven't been keeping count.  I know Deliverance Klondike Ninja took 4 1/2, and My Why took just over one, but the other, I'm not sure.  A little over two each, I think, but I wouldn't be able to swear to it.

So maybe that's something I need to add to my daily routine, recording how many time units I took and how many words I ended up with.  Eventually, there's likely to be a trend that develops that'll show me what my own norm is, and I can take that as something to stick with as a consistent measure of success.  But even though there does seem to be a rising trend in terms of word count (not counting DKN), you can't really determine much from such a small sample.

Which leaves me with not a lot to say at this point.  It's not like this is the meatiest subject I've ever encountered, although I'm sure there are people out there who could go on for hours.  I'm not one of them.

In any case, I still plan on following up on my earlier statement that I'd like to take another, longer crack at short fiction this weekend, again from a random prompt and see where it takes me.  Hopefully I'll be able to post that by end of day tomorrow.

2 time segments

1,120 words

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