As I look back at the calendar it’s hard to believe I finished my first rough draft of my new novel, Feeling Himself Forgotten, over Memorial Day weekend. Yeah, my little word counter over there on the right side margin of my site doesn’t reflect that, but for the most part it is finished.
I’ve still got editing and rewrites to do so I’m sure I’ll make up for some of my word count that way (or cut even more). But hey, sometimes telling a story in fewer words shows a writer’s got talent!
So, I thought I’d share with you how I did it.
SET A BIG FAT WORD GOAL
Besides my fun little public word counter over there —> I also like to randomly keep track of my word count on a calendar. But first, I set a goal. My original goal for this project was 80,000 words – a goal I set for every book I write. I don’t always reach that goal because like I said, sometimes the story just gets wrapped up quicker. That’s okay. Just change your word goal like I did. I bumped FHF to 65K but may even end up at 70K by the time my edits are done.
The point here is to just see a finish line in sight. If you hit it, that’s awesome. If not, just cheat and move it closer to you. If you keep going and go past it, even better. Just know you are bound to cut quite a bit during your edits so it’s okay to give yourself some padding to trim.
SET SMALLER DAILY OR WEEKLY GOALS AND KEEP TRACK
Remember that calendar I mentioned? I started this book in early February. On February 6th, I wrote down the number 6649. That’s my first log of where I was with my word count. I don’t keep track every day and here’s why: I usually start by setting a daily goal of 2K. I got this idea from Stephen King’s On Writing. In it, SK advises to set a daily goal and don’t stop until you have reached it. His goal is usually 2K – sometimes he writes more but he never writes less.
If you write 2K a day, you will have 240,000 words in one season (4 months). He also advises you’ll cut at least half of that during editing, if not more. That brings your word count to 120,000. Do this for one year and you’ll have written 4 books – 1 per season. Now you know how and why his books are so long and come out so frequently!
So, I usually start with the 2K a day in mind but I know I won’t always reach that. Other chores or a full time job tend to get in the way. So, I might aim for 2K but unlike SK, I won’t hit it every day. That’s why I don’t log my word count on my calendar every day.
If I logged it every day, and let’s say I go a whole week with only writing 2K over the course of 5 days, I’m going to get really depressed about not reaching my goals. And we don’t want to get depressed! So pick one or two days a week to record your progress.
Mine is usually a Monday because I get the most writing done on the weekends. For example, by the time March rolled in I was at 27,000 on the first Monday. On the first Monday in April, I was at 35,188. By the end of April, I was at 53K. So just like you do when you are dieting and counting the pounds you dropped, pick one day a week or a few and write down your word count. It’s fun to look back and see the progress you made!
MAKE TIME TO WRITE
This is the biggest excuse for the people who say they have a book in mind they want to write, but they just don’t have time. You have to make time! I cherish my one hour window of time each weekday morning when J has left for work already and I don’t have to get ready for work until one hour later. During that one hour, magic happens!
When I would really prefer to be surfing Facebook or Twitter, I put my 2K word goal in my head and get to it. It’s only one hour but it’s the time I know I have each day to devote to my writing. Me and my muse look forward to it, so I have come to believe I’m more creative in the morning. Now, on the weekends I tend to have more time, but I also prefer to write first thing in the morning then as well. Find the time that works for you when you feel most creative and stick to that schedule!
FIND YOUR MUSE
You’ve got to find something to feed your creativity. I usually like coffee and music during that one hour I have to myself each weekday. I probably now owe a royalty to singer Lana Del Rey because I’ve listened to her album Born To Die about a million times while writing this book. Heck, I’m even listening to her now as I write this blog post.
Beloved playwright Tennessee Williams also plays an integral part in this book so I started reading his bio and was fortunate enough to visit his grave on the anniversary of his death this year because he is buried here in St. Louis.
And lastly, I had a long distance friend who I exchange emails with almost on a daily basis. I shared a portion of the manuscript with her early on and often bounced ideas around with her. Just find what feeds your creativity and eat it up!
NO EARLY EDITING
Counting this current project, I wrote my last three books from start to finish. Yep, I started at the beginning and wrote straight through. I did finally skip around a bit on my current novel when I got near the end, but for the most part I like to write straight through…Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3…
That being said, I also don’t go back to the beginning and do any rereading (unless I’m checking something that affects the story later on) or editing until I’m finished. It’s okay to fix a word or a sentence in what you are writing that day, but leave the past behind.
In fact, I don’t even print the story until I’m done! That’s my way of crossing the finish line and saying I made it. There’s nothing like clicking that Print button and seeing 200+ pages roll out. Those pages start to look and feel like a book. You can pick up that fat manuscript and say, “Hey! Look what I wrote!”
Yep, that’s all I’ve got to offer. Sure, I could talk about the editing process, outlines, character development, plot, setting, and so on. But that’s all aesthetics you just have to work out on your end. But if you are patient and keep writing, you develop all those tools on your own. It’s different for every author.
But for starters, these tips I’ve outlined above are what works for me! Give them a try and let me know what works for you!