Word Counts and Writing

I’m working on a novel. I’ve written for a living for many years now- but not fiction, other than few weak attempts years ago. But this time is different, in part because I am following advice I heard long ago that never registered. The gist of it is write everyday, don’t worry too much about plot, character, etc., and just let it follow its course. This is not to say total randomness but rather to take an idea and let it take on a life of its own.
This approach comes from a wide variety of writers from Hemingway to Stephen King. Though it sounds disorganized, it turns out to be the opposite. Like meditation the content is not the issue, the regular practice is.
So I’ve been trying to write everyday with varying success. But steady enough to reach a possible halfway point. Professional writers measure word count, at least those I know do. Pages vary in length and don’t even exist in ebooks (they change depending on the size of the device used to read them). Page counts actually go back to typewriters that didn’t count words for you. But you could easily write page numbers as you added a new sheet of paper. All that is history now.
So the advice mentioned above, modernized since Hemingway’s time, is to do the same word count daily. How much? For King it is around 1000 words. For a hack cranking out a YA serial about vampires it might be as many as 2000-3000 or more. For an obsessive compulsive it could be just a few sentences, resulting in the very large number of unfinished novels that have been worked on for years.
For me the count is 800-850. I did not choose this, in fact I often write thousands of words a day when doing marketing projects. But this novel wants to come out in 800 word increments. This is fine. It should mean at least two books per year. I always stop when it feels right and then check my count since the last session. Always right in my sweet spot.
There is something much more interesting going on in this process. I am very often surprised by my characters’ actions and by situations that go places I didn’t see coming. Two characters ending up in bed for example. Didn’t plan that but it moved things along. This kind of channeling is really interesting, interesting enough that it makes me want to keep going so I can see what happens next. As a reader this is a kind of identity crisis since I’m writing the damn story.
Now to be honest there is a general idea driving this, in this case, an exploration of the unreliability of memory. But that’s pretty broad. And I think about potential plot developments while doing my daily walks or any other time when my subconscious can chew things over. So I have directions I might pursue when I sit down.
Finally, in his book On Writing, which I highly recommend even if you are not a big fan of his stuff (I’m not but I respect his success at entertaining millions of people), King recommends not reading what you’ve written thus far. Ideally you’d wait till you were done, read it and then set it aside for several weeks. More later on what he recommends after that.
When I hit 30,000 words I have to admit I went back and read it. A very interesting experience. It was better than I thought, less self-indulgent, though too early to really tell. But there were scenes and events I did not recall writing. This is really interesting to say the least….
Buddhists believe we have everything in reality in ourselves or rather that we are part of everything. Perhaps this explains these odd experiences, which are common to any creative medium, in my experience.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes