Saturday, 10 August 2013

2000 Words?

I have finally cleared the boards ready to hanker down and complete one of my three unfinished novels. Having several projects like this on the go simultaneously is not unusual for me, but not updating any of them in four months is definitely out of character. So what has happened?

Well in a word (or several), I became self published.

Once my first novel went live on Amazon, I was no longer just a writer. I had to be a marketer too. Of course, blaming Twitter, Google+ or even this blog (all began after self publishing) is too easy and also misses the point. Marketing my work is now an essential part of what I do and it is here to stay. If I cannot accommodate it around my writing, I may as well give up now. The real problem has been with my back catalogue.

I have 3 completed novels. The plan was to upload each to Amazon (I allowed a month for this) and then move on to completing more works. I now realise that 3 books in a month was ambitious. It actually took triple this time, just for the first. The reason being, that I soon realised that none of them was actually finished at all.

When I was submitting my work to literary agents it was always in the back of my mind that an agent would put me into contact with an editor. This editor, by some magic process, would transform my books from merely showing promise, to being equal to any bestseller on the list. In other words, I knew that they were not ready for publication, but assumed that this would be fixed by somebody else. With self publishing, I had to work that magic myself.

Each of the novels has since gone through numerous edits, until I was satisfied that they equal anything to be found on the shelf in a bricks and mortar bookstore. Almost everyday for the past four months, I have finished work and then started on the books from 5pm until 10pm (with a little self promotion on social media thrown in for good measure). It was worth it. I am very proud of the quality of the books and I know that they are as good as anything on the market. I am not just talking about the bargain section of Amazon either.

One of these books, as I said earlier, is already available and the other two are now completed and just waiting for release (actually, I still need to proof the paperbacks, but any alterations will be minimal). So I can now get back to writing. The thing is, that I am a little unsure of how to do so. When I wrote my other novels, I rarely used social media and was cut off from other writers. Now however, I am overwhelmed by advice and suggestions on how to write and I may just have lost my own technique amongst all of this noise.

I have never been a disciplined writer, but I now have self publishing targets to meet. I cannot afford to flit from project to project like I used to. I need focus. The common consensus seems to be that somewhere in the region of 2000 words a day is a healthy target for writing a novel. What they do not say is whether this is an average or a rigid target. You see, sometimes I write 5000 words and sometimes I write 50. It all depends how inspired I am feeling at the time.

I am a firm believer that writing should flow and not be forced. This is the biggest stumbling block to setting a word target. At least, so strict a target. It is the daily thing that gets me. 2000 words a day, I cannot do. If I want to write a novel quickly, I would prefer broader targets. So 30,000 a month is what I will be aiming for. That will give me 90,000 in 3 months and that is a novel. Easy.

Of course, as a writer, only working on one thing is not healthy. We need to garner as much experience as possible and we need to test ourselves. So maybe the 2000 words per day is not so bad after all. When I am not feeling inspired with the novel, I can try writing something else on that day (I have 10,000 spare words to play with each month given my 30k novel target). I can use these to write short stories or blog posts. I can experiment and try out things that, although never intended for others to see, can benefit me greatly as a writer. During the writing of my first novel, I actually wrote CV's for each of the characters and even put some of them through interviews. This is a very good way to get to know your characters and in figuring out what motivates them. As an author, one has to know every small detail about one's creations even if these details will never appear in the novel.

So how many words have I written today? 859 and still going. That is not bad. I am almost half way to my total already. Maybe 2000 was not so high after all. Perhaps now, I will aim for more...

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  1. Always write until you are done, it can take me 3 days to write a chapter sometimes because the character will maybe talk to his wife then go to the car, that is one part, then he will be driving in his car seeing the city and ill explain on who he is in relation to the place he lives, another day, and then ill do he arrives at the Don's house. i have never actually written this particular story by the way it sounds bloody ridiculous but i have to be in different mindsets to write it. when i read it back it consistently flows and there is never a feeling that the writer has changed but i notice the difference in how easy it is to write.

    i still maintain all this 2000 words a day, 10 ideas a week, mindmap, challenge your character to live your life stuff is fluff made people who run "come pay for a week of writing tuition" courses. and since by the time you have paid them they can pay their bills, and there is no shortage of desperate writers, they only have to sound good they don't have to get results. In fact if they did get results they would be damaging themselves because people would learn too much and not come back.

    If you only write 100 words on the character crying at seeing a photo of his late mother, but it is important for character development, you did well. There is a great saying "life is not measured by amount of breaths you take, but the amount of moments that take your breath away." the same should be for writing "the greatness of a book is not in its word count, it is seen in the times you connected with your reader" (that is me this time, not quoting anyone) and no word count is going to tell you to do that, it is intuitive, it is personal and cannot be taught. which scares people.

    my two cents at least

    1. The feedback I have been getting certainly agrees and backs up what I said about letting how inspired you feel dictate how much to write of a novel at a particular time. You also make an interesting point about breaking up chapters. A chapter can contain several scenes and often when we sit down to write, we take it one scene at a time. For the sake of consistency, it is best to complete a scene in one sitting, which is why you cannot place a strict word quota on it. When I write a scene, I have to keep going until it is finished and sometimes it may be a short scene, but I stop when it is completed in order be able to approach the next scene from a fresh perspective and not have it clouded by the mind frame I needed to be in for the previous.

  2. I totally get what you're saying about having your own method being drowned out by advice.

    So let me just say two things. 1) You don't need to work on one draft at a time. With focus, you can do three or four at a time. Yes, it'll take longer, but if it suits your method best, that's the way to go. Reason why I'm saying this is that I draft multiple projects at a time. It makes it possible for me to write more than 50k words a month (by hand) without burning out. One month of 50k in one rough draft only burns me out in three weeks. Just make sure you're not the same as me. Because if you are, you're doing more harm than good.

    And then 2) Don't worry about what works for other people or what you think other people will think you need to do. Do what works for you. Adapt as the project requires.

    1. Great advice Misha. I also like to work on multiple drafts at a time. If I am stuck on a particular passage, it is good to be able to switch to something else where the writing flows rather than risking writer's block setting in.