Tag Archives: word count

Back to the Larssons.

June, quite simply, kicked my ass. Between May 28 and July 3, I spent 16 days on the road, and generally worked my keister off the rest of the time. It annoyed the kids, (Unfocused Girl, in particular), messed up my running schedule, cut my week at the beach into a weekend, and dumped extra work on the already-overburdened Mrs. Unfocused.

It also, unsurprisingly, took whatever discipline I had about my writing and put a bullet through its kneecap. How bad did it get, you ask? I scrolled back through the archives to find the post announcing I had hit 75,000 words. Here it is: Spring Sunday Stats #2, my post from May 18. That day, I added 2,200 words to my word count, and finished at 75,945.

Where am I now? This evening I wrote just over 1,000 words, and finished at 80,718. In the last eight weeks, I have managed to write a little less than 4,800 words. Before 6pm this evening, that number would have been 3,800, mostly consisting of two or three hundred word bursts typed on the train during my commute.

The travel did most of the damage. I’ve had very little downtime on these trips — there’s been a lot of sitting around in conference rooms, but very little time when I’ve been off the clock — and even on the plane traveling to and from my meetings, I’ve either been working or catching up on my sleep.

Even when I’ve been home, though, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting back into Meet the Larssons. I think writing on the train, which I’ve been doing for months, has been part of the problem. Instead of using the train time to supplement my writing at home in the evenings and on the weekends, it became my primary writing time. The problem is that my commute is too short to give me time to think about what I’m writing, or to get my head back into the characters and storyline. Without the longer blocks of time at home, my writing on the train gradually decoupled from the broader arc of the novel, and it got harder and harder to keep going.

I finally figured this out over the Fourth of July weekend. When I realized what the problem was, I started rereading the early chapters of MTL, to try and get back into the book. It worked beautifully. I have a page of notes after reading the first four chapters, knocked out 1,000 words tonight that start bringing back ideas I had for the book back when I started writing it, and have half a page of notes for the next chapter. I may keep rereading, but these early chapters may have been enough. Now I just need to recapture the discipline I had developed back in March and April, and I may yet have this first draft finished by Labor Day.

Also, you may notice that I have revised my word count goal in the meter in the sidebar from 100,000 to 125,000. I think that’s more realistic for this draft than the 100,000 I’ve been working with; there are close to 20,000 words in the first eight chapters that I expect to cut in the first revision; they contain important backstory, but I don’t think they work as part of the narrative, and clearly I’m not 80 percent finished telling the story. 125K is a good enough estimate for the first draft, and I’ll try to take it closer to 100K in the next draft.

Finally, not that my comments on your blogs are anything special, but if you’ve noticed I haven’t been commenting on your blog posts, it’s because I haven’t been commenting on (hardly) anything. I just haven’t had the time or the energy. I have been reading your blogs, though, and will try to stop lurking and start participating a little more now that my travel schedule has slowed down a bit.

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Spring Sunday Stats, #2

The kids are in the tub, so I only have a few minutes to post before someone starts crying or splashing (or spitting water onto someone else’s butt — sorry for the interruption).

Weather: Sunny and cool (around 55 at 11am when I went out for a run). Gusts blowing west from the lake down Irving Park Road like a wind tunnel.

Miles run: 9.74, in 1:30:31. That’s slow for me, even these days, and I’m not sure why. I got a lot of sleep, had a decent breakfast, and felt pretty good, but I just didn’t have any speed in me today. The Solider Field 10-Miler is next Saturday, and I am not anticipating a PR. I’m hoping to do better than I did today, though.

What I played on my iPod during my run: I Should Be Writing #90, Geek Fu Action Grip Morning Show Lite After Dark #12, and Phedippidations #140 — yes, it was a Mostly Mur run.

Words written on Meet the Larssons: 2,220! That takes me over 75K, to 75,945 words. For the first weekend in quite a while, I took a significant chuck of time and sat my butt in front of the MacBook and just wrote. For about two hours, I turned off my internet connection, shut down Mail and Firefox and any application other than Scrivener and iTunes, played tunes from a large mixed playlist I have of songs I know well enough that they can serve as background music (mostly 70s and 80s supergroups like Styx and Rush, lots and lots of Zevon, some Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffett for variety), and just wrote. I got up once to use the bathroom, and once to put on socks because my feet were cold, but otherwise stayed planted in the chair. It felt damn good. Mrs. Unfocused took the kids out for most of the day, so I had time to get in my run, do some work for my paying job, and still do solid time on the novel. She’s a saint.

All that, and two blog posts. I feel productive as hell. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have children to wash.

50K.

I just passed a milestone on Meet the Larssons: 50,000 words (50,083 as of 10:24pm CDT, to be exact). It’s a long way from done, but it’s moving along nicely. I have the word meter set for 100,000 as my target, and that’s probably right for the first draft. I expect to cut some of that in revision — maybe 10,000 words — not to make it shorter but because I’ve either overwritten some of the technical details (what we refer to at the firm as “lawyer stuff,” or would, if we weren’t charging for it) or just to tighten up the prose. I also expect to have to write additional scenes or partial scenes, so it may all net out even in the end.

My target when I’ve finally crunched through the editing process is somewhere between 90,000 and 110,000 words, which should be enough to tell the story without channeling James Michener (I should be so lucky). By no coincidence, this seems to be the range that editors and agents are looking for from a first-time novelist (at least according to Editorial Ass and Nathan Bransford; I also noticed that it’s what Scalzi hit with Zoe’s Tale).

Fifty thousand words is not just the halfway point for my target word count for MTL; it is also the target word count for NaNoWriMo, which I plan to use to hack through as much as I can of my second novel in November. Apparently, all I need to be able to do in November is knock out an average of three times as many words on the novel each day as I have managed for MTL.

No problem.

25K! Are we there yet?

I wrote approximately 900 words on the plane home tonight, which I just imported into Scrivener and which, apparently, pushed me over the 25,000 word mark to 25,091. I’d like to thank the pilot and co-pilot for a smooth ride, and my seatmate, who moved into another row even before the plane took over. If this were NaNoWriMo, I’d be halfway done by now, but Meet the Larssons will clearly be more than 50,000 words. I’m using 100,000 as my word count goal in the little progress bar widget on the sidebar, but of course I have no idea how long the thing is going to be.

I haven’t run a step in almost a week (not counting a sprint through the terminal to catch my plane tonight), and I can feel the lack of exercise. My mileage was way down last week, and is at zero for this week.

I keep tracking my word count on the book because like my weekly mileage for running, it’s the only metric I’ve got. I’m not far enough along in the storyline to be able to measure against the distance to the finish.

15K!

I was at 14,800 words (and change) last night. I banged out some dialogue this morning before work, and just realized that Meet the Larssons is now over 15,000 words long, which, according to Scrivener, translates to approximately 70 pages. The longest piece of fiction I’ve ever written, a coming of age novel that I stopped working on 15 years ago and never finished, was 75 pages, and it took me months of inconsistent but tortured effort to get that far, and finally, with a great sigh of relief, I gave up on it.

On the other hand, it was an inconsistent and tortured story about inconsistent and tortured people. No reason the writer should have been spared.