Tuesday, March 22, 2011

writerly question of the day: Turtley bedazzled by your word counts

I have a writerly question today, for others to answer!

Carolyn Crane: slow, and she doesn't even have
awesome red eyes! 
As some of you may know, not only am I the slowest reader on the planet, but I am also quite a slow writer. I mean, I write first drafts by hand and type them, unless the scene is just really mechanical. And, more than half of the time I am hand drafting, that is spent in daydreaming. Some days, that's more like 95%.

Okay, so I have this punishing new schedule that I have made for myself that is a cruel 5000 words per week. LOL. It's 5000 polished and edited words, but still. (Yes, I know there are writers who put that down in a day.)

Then, after that, I'll go back and edit and revise. At that point, my progress is like minus 200 words a day. (Though, sometimes editing adds a few hundred words.) And this revising process will take weeks. Months.

So, for all you 2K, 4K a day folks:

  1. Are those words revised or raw? 
  2. Is there ever a time where you're revising, and not adding any words whatsoever? How long does that last?
  3. If not, are you turning first drafts into your editor or agent?
  4. Or are you both revising AND adding that many thousands of words every day, 365 days a year? *gulp*
  5. Do you have any words of wisdom for me? I don't want to be slow forever. 
Yours truly,


KB/KT Grant said...

I write the first draft down and dirty and I'm while writing the first draft, I try and write 10-12k a week. I no longer write longhand and just type and type some more.

When the first draft and finished and where I question my sanity and how much I think I suck and should just stick to reading and watching marathons of Spongebob, I go back for a few rounds and edit like crazy.

And I can't get enough and want to keep doing this over and over. What is wrong with me?

Sandy Williams said...

I feel like I've found a kindred spirit! I, too, am the slowest writer every. Just today I was thinking that, if I can write 5k a week, I can finish this book in five months and have two months to revise before my deadline.

I edit as I go. I haven't yet been able to just let myself write crap. If I know something is crappy, I get stuck until I fix it.

I'm very curious to hear other writers' answers, especially if they're turning in first drafts to their agents/editors. I think I could probably get away with it since my "first" drafts are relatively solid (with all the editing I do as I go), but that would be a nightmare situation for me.

Carolyn Crane said...

KB: I could revise forever! I love revising!! Okay, 10-12, that's just double me. Hmm!

Sandy: yay! Yes, that's sort of how I think, finish, and have a couple months to revise. Well, I will tweet this and get some opinions here!

Kwana said...

I'm the slowest writer in the world so I look forward to reading the responses.

Beth Woodward said...

Okay, I am definitely NOT one of those 4K a day folks!

I write the first draft. I try to get it all on paper. I am not one of those, "I'll never use the backspace on a first draft" types, but mostly I try to maintain a forward momentum. I type it. The good news is that I'm a touch-typist, and I can type really, really fast. The bad news is that I'm easily distracted, and unless I can motivate myself to unplug my internet I don't get as much accomplished as I should.

I don't write/revise every day. I try to do so MOST days, but some days it just doesn't work. And I usually take weekends off.

It took me 6 months to get my 95K first draft done...not bad, but not great, either.

That said, I'm not working under hard-and-fast deadlines, either. When I did NaNo a couple of years ago, I just wrote and wrote and wrote, and I was able to get to 50K in 30 days without a problem. For me, writing straight through as much as possible and then worrying about editing/revision later seems to help. (But then I get to the revision process, and I want to pull my hair out. Ugh!)

Carolyn Crane said...

Kwana: This post is attracting mostly slow writers! LOL

Beth: Interesting, and I have never heard of that backspace thing. Oh, you are a revise disliker. I didn't know that. Also, your Internet thought sounds smart!

Beth Woodward said...

Carolyn: Oh yeah, there are definitely writers who will NOT use the backspace or delete key at all during first draft writing. They have some computer programs that will disable the backspace/delete keys while you're working. That kind of thing drives me nuts while taking typing tests, so I don't think I'll be doing it to myself while I'm writing.

And yes, that's my dirty little secret: I hate revision. First drafting, for me, is like a big adventure, where anything is possible. I start out with a blank slate (well, screen), and I get to CREATE from nothing. That, to me, is an awesome feeling, and as long as I can keep the forward momentum going on my first draft, I love the process. But revising, to me, feels like a game of Jenga, trying to move one block without tumbling the whole tower. A seemingly minor change you make on page 50 could affect things that happen on page 200 without me even realizing it. Plus, while first drafting is all about getting it DOWN, revision is all about getting it RIGHT. That's a lot more pressure, and I tend to second-guess myself a lot.

Penelope said...

Good post! I have been thinking about this lately too. I discovered by accident (posted on twitter "Going to write" and then posted on twitter again 60 minutes later "I'm back")....and I realized I had written 1300 words on my Lumberjack In Love story. Which means, theoretically, I could pump out 5200 words in 4 hrs, or 10,400 words in 8 hrs (mad math skills). Which means I could potentially write an entire freakin' book in about a week, instead of a year (my normal rate). Which begs the question...why is this not happening? Which could be easily answered by....I am spending my time writing asinine blog posts, getting lattes at Starbucks, and reading about the Kardashian sisters at USWeekly. So, to answer your question...I can write 1300 words/hr, and it takes me a year to write a book.

Jill Sorenson said...

I'm in envy of those 1k in 1hr folks on twitter. It takes me about 4 hours to do 1k on average. I edit as I go because the scene has to be "good enough" (not perfect) for me to move forward. I've found that ignoring a mistake, rather than fixing it, can lead to a major wrong turn! So sometimes putting on the brakes is the better option. You can avert disaster by being thoughtful and patient. At least, that's what I tell myself to feel better. :)

I don't like to submit rough drafts, eek!

And no matter how much I edit as I go, I still need days/weeks to polish when I'm done.

Carolyn Crane said...

Beth: I've been working on (sitting on) a post with another writer about first draft love/editing love that I should get on. Because it's really interesting, and I want some of that first draft love mojo like you have!

Penelope: It's the Kardashian sisters! So, right I do what you did, I do that math and think, these people who write fast are cranking out many books a year. And I do the math on myself, and even at 5k a week, nothing's adding up.

Jill: Oh, you make me feel better. Because, that's about my pace, 1k/4 hours. I have found, too, that when I push past when I'm sort of done, I write junk that I can't use. This is heartening.

Portia Da Costa said...

I'm a slow writer too. If I manage 1K per day, I'm thrilled with myself, but there are days when I don't do much at all, so I'd say an average 5K per week is probably about my level too.

I tend to edit a bit as I go along. I can't bear to see my prose looking too rough, even if I know I'm the only one who'll see it in that state. So I tidy as I go, knowing I've saved myself some work at the main editing stage.

People submit rough/1st drafts to their editors? Yikes, I never knew that. I just assumed everybody polished their stuff before letting it go.

Carolyn Crane said...

Portia: You are such a fine and prolific writer, that is awesome to hear our pace is similar, and that you tidy as you go. Which is fetchingly put! Well, I guess in the anecdote, the turtle does win. And, I don't know for a fact that people are turning 1st drafts into editors, I just wondered.

Moira Rogers - Bree said...

I write lots, slowly. 3-4k days aren't uncommon for Donna & I, but that's both of us over 8-12 hours of on & off multi-tasking. And we have some days where we don't write at all. I think in 2010 we ended up with 450k, which is about 1200 words a day, on average.

We don't edit while we write, really. She does basic line editing while she puts the manuscript together (we literally write in gmail, it's very high-tech) and then I make a revision/editing pass where I'll clean up/polish and leave comments on things we need to discuss, and then she'll go through and polish craft, fix grammar, apply things we know are house style for our publisher, etc.

A lot of people think we write fast, but it's really just insanely long hours and insanely understanding families. So if there's a secret, I do not know it. Booo! If I did, I could play more video games!

Carolyn Crane said...

Bree: thanks for answering my question and describing your process. So interesting! You're somebody I see as a fast writer, but you're making me feel not so slow! I will hold a good thought for you for more video games in your future.

Chris said...

No clue about all that writerly stuff. I'm just here to whine about the snow. Curses.

Anonymous said...

It's all over the map -- some days I can get 3k on the page, other days it's 150. I may revise a little as I go, but mostly I'll throw in a balloon saying "look at this later b/c of..." but that's a relatively new habit. I took Holly Lisle's novel revision class and it's made a great deal of difference to the work patterns; now I get the first draft down and then polish instead of tweak-as-I-go.