Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing Stats of 2011

Last year was a strange year for me in writing. The story that was supposed to be finished in 2010 bled over seven months into 2011. Afterward, I wrote a novella, a first for me. Then I started the world-building of the novel I'm currently working on. But somewhere along the way, I'd burnt out a little. My momentum staggered, and it shows in my numbers.

I believe in weekends when I'm not writing—when I'm doing all those other parts of a book, like research, character development, world development, editing, and querying. If I didn't, I'd be beyond burnt out to blackened, charred ash by now. When I write, I like to do it in the vein of NaNo WriMo: 1,667 words a day, nonstop, until the novel is done (weekends and holidays included). When the book takes one month (or even three), this is doable. When it takes eight, not so much. So just to orient myself, that means that I should be working on writing-related things 261 days of the year.

This year, I measured in at 192 days spent working on writing-related tasks, and 116 days on actual writing.

This isn't bad. It's an accomplishment. On top of my paying job—and celebrating my first wedding anniversary, enjoying two vacations, hosting my sister's baby shower, and attending my dad's retirement party, five birthday parties, and two weddings—I still squeezed in 192 days of writing work. That means I devoted over 200 hours (I'm not going to figure out those numbers, but definitely over 200, probably over 250) to writing.

But a large part of me is saying this isn't good, either. I missed 69 weekdays of writing. In NaNo time, that's two novels' worth of writing time missed out on.

I'm also not organizing my time efficiently, or spending a lot more time on the pre- and post-novel elements than I thought (think) necessary.

To combat the building wave of guilt, I've refreshed an old goal: work on writing every business day. It's a matter of making writing a priority, but it's also a matter of balancing my work life and not taking on more work than I can handle. There were several days and weeks of 2011 where my work life overwhelmed everything, and if I wanted to see my husband, or sunlight, or the inside of a shower, it meant trimming out everything else, including writing. Every once in a while, this is necessary, but my goal is balance.

I've also added a new goal, and one that one week into it has worked very well: write for 20 minutes every evening, including weekends. Twenty minutes is nothing. It's not a full half hour. It's often less time than I might spend trolling Facebook and Internet articles. The beauty of this goal is it is doable. On weekdays, I write before work. An hour minimum, more if I can afford it. But this gives me leeway at the end of the day to do a little more work...and, if I have the energy, to work longer than the twenty minutes.

Which is how I finished my first outline on Eva today instead of in an additional week. Over the last six days, I've worked an extra two hours on writing without feeling like I'm cramming in too much. In the (paraphrased) words of Ilona Andrews (when asked how she can write 3,000 words a day), writing is like exercise: the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and what seems daunting at first becomes routine.

Before I know it, maybe I'll be writing three novels a year and 3,000 words a day!


Amanda said...

Man, your work ethic is enviable! I agree with you - the more you practice something, the easier it becomes and the less you have to force yourself to do it. I feel like you must have 50 completed manuscripts, the way you go after your goals!

Rebecca Chastain said...

Amanda, I feel like I should have 50 completed manuscripts done by now, too! :) Unfortunately, I have only 4.5 and a novella (and there's really no "only" about that; that was a lot of work!). However, I know that without writing those 4.5, I would never be able to write this next one, never be able to organize as I do, and there's definitely no way I'd have the stamina to meet this year's goals