I am by nature a disorganised, lazy person. As such, I have always found that I work better when I try and impose order on my chaos. I prefer having hard deadlines to nebulous ones, because it forces me to to meet them (or not). I love Google Calendar, and have multiple calendars set up. I use lists a great deal. And, when I lost 20+ kilograms it was because I counted calories rather obsessively and tracked my exercise and diet using an app on my iPhone. Keeping statistics has always helped me because that way I can actually see whether I am making progress or not, and it gives me a measuring stick that I can use to see whether I am ahead of where I need to be–or falling behind.
I have always tried to do the same with my writing. I keep a record of submissions and deadlines (I used to use Duotrope, but I now use an app called StoryTracker), but it was hard to find something to record daily writing stats that met my needs. One of the people in my writing group created an excellent spreadsheet to use during NaNoWriMo and I adapted that to use in other months, but it wasn’t quite as customisable as I needed (more the fault of my Excel skills than the spreadsheet itself). I also helped develop an iOS app to record writing stats and targets, but in the end it didn’t get the necessary uptake to make it worthwhile for the developer to continue to work on it (again, my fault for not putting enough time in to publicising it).
In late 2014 I was given a great opportunity to do the novelisation of a Canadian movie. I only got the chance because a number other people were unable to do it, so by the time it got to me the timelines were pretty tight–well, very tight. After watching the movie and reading the script I had about 15 days to produce a 75,000 word draft which, as you can imagine, is a pretty high pressure deadline. I am going to go into the details of how I managed this in another post, but one of the key things was making sure I met a daily word count.
Around the same time, I had found another spreadsheet that seemed to do the things that I wanted to do and I used to help keep on top of my daily goals. After writing non stop for 15 days I had some pretty cool stats, and I decided that I would continue to record them, and try writing every day–no matter what.
I set myself the following rules:
- A day ended when I went to bed. I do most of my writing between 10pm-2am so I would count that early morning time as part of the day I started on.
- I didn’t count words written as part of my day job as part of this spreadsheet. As I spent most of that period as the editor of a fortnightly magazine–and writing about 50-60% of the content–I estimate that’s about 100,000-150,000 words I haven’t counted.
- However, I counted blogging and writing related tasks because they are words I felt I have to write as part of being an author.
- When editing a manuscript I would take the ending word count minus the starting word count as the word count for the day, not just changed words.
So, onto the graphs and stats!
Overall Word Count 29/11/14 to 29/11/15 – 224,053 words
I have divided this into five sections, most of which are self evident. The “Writing-Misc” is stuff to do with the business of writing, which I will break down further a little later on.
Drilling down, there is some useful information:
So, in the course of a year I managed to write over 80% of days, which I am pretty happy with. Add day job stuff and I am writing pretty much every day! Only taking days I did write I averaged almost 750 words a day, but even the actual average of over 600 words a day isn’t too bad–though not amazing. My goal for the coming year is to get it up to 1000.
For a sense of perspective you can check out this fascinating list. I feel better knowing I am beating Hemingway, but I plan to work through Lee Child and end up as Stephen King.
I am not sure how useful the above graphic is, but I may as well throw it in.
Now to breakdown the category statistics.
Novels – 143,316 words
Backcountry made up the bulk of the words here, and created a really strong foundation for the rest of my year. It did nearly kill me, though–you can see why below.
If you are wondering what happened on the 13th, I had a rapidly approaching deadline for a commissioned short story! I will talk about the writing process in another blog post but, as tough as it was, that fortnight or so gave me the confidence to believe that I really could write fats and reasonably well when I needed to. Incidentally, on the 14th I set my record for most words in a day – 8156.
I had promised myself I would never put myself in a position (through factors I could control, though I’ll take any opportunity I get if I can make the deadline even if it is a killer) where I had to write that many words in such a short time (or at least do my best to avoid it), but my trip to the States late last year (where I didn’t get much writing down through September at all) meant I had to do something similar towards the end of they year.
The “Secret Tie In” project is in the final stages of edits and I hope I can announce it soon–but for now it will have to wait. And it is not easy to keep it secret, it is probably my biggest piece of writing news yet!
The “Secret Young Adult” is a collaborative novel I am working on, and is going along slowly but surely–the first ten chapters are out with some test readers and I am nervously awaiting their feedback. More to come on that one soon, I hope!
Short Stories – 37,778 words
I had a good year for short stories, ending up with five stories (if you count the one performed at Conflux, which I certainly do) being published. However, most of them were either written in 2014 or revised versions of older stories.
The flash piece was called “Guardians of Her Galaxy” and performed as part of the amazing Cabinet of Oddities, and the Poe piece found a home as “Sympathetic Impulses”. The Dystopia story will be part of an upcoming Pozible campaign.
The Tie In story is neither fish nor fowl, the anthology it was slated for has been put on hold, but I remain hopeful.
The rest, well some of them are stories I didn’t finish in time to submit, while others have been been kicking around for far too long. My goal is to either finish them or chuck them out completely if they aren’t worth the time and effort.
Blogging – 12,997 words
I’ve tried to be a lot more consistent with my blogging this year, but the majority of posts have been guest posts, either as part of the excellent (due to the contributors, not as a result of any work on my part!) “Paying for Our Passion” series or as part of my goal to help promote other people’s work.
Despite the fact that we are still way behind (mainly due to me), I did manage to get some posts done for the “New Who Conversations“, as well launching a review series of Supergirl with the wonderful Tehani Wessely.
The saddest one is the “Blogging – Guest” segment–I haven’t been a guest on very many blogs at all!
Writing – Misc – 15,496
Ah, “misc”. It really does cover a multitude of sins.
I’ve gradually been working my way towards a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. At my current rate of progress I should be finished around 2020, but it is something I would like to finish, if only to prove to myself I can.
Generally I don’t count critiques if I am using comments and track changes, this was one that I had to do a broad assessment, and I think I was trying to preserve my writing streak.
I have applied for a number of writing related jobs this year, and for some I had to do some writing exercises, so that goes down as well.
One of the things you discover when you start getting more work in the Tie In field is you just don’t just get an idea and start writing. In most cases you first need to pitch an idea (generally a paragraph or two outlining the concept) and then, if it interests the publisher enough, you go on to do a chapter by chapter outline.
As a “pantser”, this came as a rude shock to me but it has actually been really beneficial in showing me that outlining and preparation can actually help. I can write a lot quicker when I am working to an outline–that pain at that start pays off as you start to get closer to the deadline!
So, how did I do with the writing every day? Well, for a long time, I did pretty well. I made a rule that I couldn’t go to bed until I had written something, anything. I didn’t really set a minimum word count, I just made sure I got something down. It didn’t matter where I was, or how I was feeling, I always managed–even on my trip to New Zealand (Norman Cates–who shared a room with me) could tell you a story about that!).
I finally broke my streak on the 22nd of August, after 266 days of consecutive writing. If you look at that date, it is a few days into Worldcon in Spokane. I have to say, it was a relief to finally end it. If I am honest, it had become a bit of a millstone around my neck. I found myself becoming anxious if it looked like I was going to struggle to find time to write on a particular day. I would stay up later than I should have, procrastinating before writing. I often didn’t care about the quality of the writing, as long as I got something down.
But, saying that, there were a number of positives to come out of it. It got me in the habit of writing regularly, and it gave me a whole heap of stats to play with–and learn from. It showed me what I was actually capable of if I applied myself properly. And it gave me a reference point that I can compare against the same time next year, and see how I am going.
As you can see, it was novels that kept me really busy. Because they paid advances and had a guaranteed income, I had to prioritise not only the novels themselves, but the pitches an outlines and revision that come with them over short stories that were not a sure thing or blog posts that might not get many readers. A good problem to have, though!
This is obviously a fairly limited examination of the stats, as I am not sure how much interest there would be in going deeper. But, I am happy to expand on anything covered here–or anything that is shown in the stats that I haven’t noted. You can post your questions in the stats, and I’ll either answer there (if simple enough) or look at doing another post.