A Writing Mini-Marathon (Step To My Bones, Day Four)

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When I plan to write, sometimes I really plan to write. I am perfectly content with a daily word count of 2,000 words on a weekday. Those are school nights, and I feel the pressure more acutely to fit in activities with family and to give myself an appropriate amount of time to wind down from the day job. 2K = okay.

But on weekends, there is the potential to blow my word count up. Enter, the writing mini-marathon. When you get a bunch of writers together, inevitably someone will ask the question “How many words do you write per day?

I’d like to qualify my response in saying that, in my personal opinion, there is no wrong answer to that question. It’s a very personal question and varies by writer. So whether you write 500 words or 15,000 words, I will give you big props and tell you that you are awesome. Showing up and putting words down is hard, so if you get the job done and you feel good about it, then more power to you.

So I’ve already answered for you how many words I average on an ordinary ho-hum day. That number is slightly higher btw, than what writers do during National Novel Writing Month. In that challenge, if you write 1,667 words a day, you’ll find that you have a 50k word novel by the end of 30 days. (Pretty cool, huh?) I can write 2,000 words in about an hour, give or take a distraction or two, so I’m very comfortable with that number.

But when the ideas are really flowing and the facet is wide open, that number can grow exponentially if given enough time and space. I wrote the first draft of Shadows Deep in 9 days. That fell out about 58,000 words (and grew to 65,000 during the editing process). But still- send to end, I had a workable manuscript in a week and a half. I did that in April 2012, so since then, I’ve had a good sense of what I can accomplish when I set my mind to it.

For me, it all comes down to the writing mini-marathon. Essentially, I set a goal of 10,000 words in one day. I know that I can write 2,000 words in about an hour. That means that I need five solid hours of writing to reach my goal. Here’s how I do it:

  1. To make it feel less stressful, I break this down into five writing sessions spread throughout the day.
  2. The sessions are all about quantity, not quality. I’m not doing any kind of censoring or editing. It is just about getting new words down on the page.
  3. I start early. I know things are well on track when I’ve got my first session complete by 10am. The ideal schedule would be:
    • Working session #1 = 8am- 9am, 2,000 words
    • Working session #2 = 11am-12pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #3 = 2pm-3pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #4 = 4pm-5pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #5 = 7pm-8pm, 2,000 words
  1. You’ll notice that I give myself permission to take breaks that can range anywhere from 1-3 hours. This allows me plenty of time to do household chores, spend time with the family, run errands, go to the gym, walk the dog, or address any other activity that requires my attention.
  2. If things go awry during the day, I’ll adjust, but I don’t go to sleep until I have at least 10,000 words in the bag.

With this schedule, I’ve cracked 10,000 words multiple times and have written as many as 14,000 words in one day (adding additional sessions). It’s amazing how quickly stories come together utilizing this method.

I’m telling you this because I’m just coming off another writing mini-marathon today, and I’m planning another one for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted on how successful I am. 🙂

Step To My Bones Progress

1 writing session (70 minutes) = 2,045 words = Chapter Four draft complete

*NEW* paranormal romance serial novella under other pen name

4 writing sessions = 8,030 words = Six chapters drafted

(Photo credit: Rachel James)

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Out In the Open: One Author’s Creative Process Exposed

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My process for starting a new story is pretty simple.

  1. I have an inkling of the location where the story takes place. I definitely have the main character profile figured out (gender, age, background).
  2. I identify the genre of the story (very important so that you know the expected genre requirements).
  3. I pick a name for my main character.
  4. I might jot down a few notes that serve as an outline in the loosest possible way. This is because secretly I love the idea of being a plotter and declare to myself that this time I will be more organized.
  5. I give myself a deadline for finishing the story (following up on #4).
  6. I buy myself a lovely new planner so that I can assign myself a daily word count goal and track it.
  7. I sit down at the keyboard and start to write.

That’s it. At some point rather early on (usually within the first 10,000 words), the notes get tossed to the side because my characters have taken over. After writing as many stories as I have, I have gotten used to that happening, which is why I don’t bother doing a ton of plotting upfront. (For all you plotters out there, I bet that comment makes your skin feel itchy.)

As much as I love the idea of trackers, word counts, Excel spreadsheets, and the like, #6 gets tossed out the door because I’m clinging to dear life just trying to make sure I write something everyday. Some days, life gets the better of me and nothing gets down on the page. Other days, I am a writing goddess and bust through 10K words across several writing sessions in one day.

I tell you this because I’m currently gearing up to write another story. I’ve written about 800 words on it so far. It’s actually a story I’ve started and stopped several times because I haven’t gotten the front end quite right yet. This time though is different, and I’ll tell you why.

My character has a face. She has a name. She’s made herself known to me.

Until you feel that strong sense of who you’re writing about, the writing can feel flimsy, awkward, and disconnected. It’s work. Now I’m not saying that writing isn’t work, but when you aren’t connecting with the characters you’re writing about, it’s the kind of work that sucks out your soul.

Definitely no fun.

Two nights ago, as I was contemplating where I was going to go next in my writing journey, I stumbled across a cover reveal that I did over a year ago, and I remembered this little story that had gone nowhere.

And then BAM! She was there in my head. I had her and she couldn’t stop talking to me. I know more about her now then I ever have, and I know it’s time to tell her story.

That’s the amazing thing about opening the casting door and letting the characters in at will. Who shows up will always surprise you.

This is the first story that I’m going to “write out in the open”, if you will. In a post I did a few days ago, I emphasized the importance of simply finishing the story. To many people, that step feels very hard. So I’m going to let you into my world to see how I do it from beginning to end. That serves three purposes- you guys will be able to see that I am actually working on something new, I’m holding myself publicly accountable, and you’ll get to see first hand how the creative process works for me.

Happy Writing? 😉

(photo credit fabrizio q)

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