I’m exactly 29 days in on my resolution to follow Cara Michaels’ #WIP500 project. You can read all about it here, but in nutshell, she’s created an alternative to NaNoWriMo’s one-month novel writing marathon by spreading the goal out to the entire year while also lowering the daily word count significantly.
In NaNoWriMo, you have to average 1667 words per day to hit the target of 50K words in one month. 50K words is a significant chunk of one novel, roughly somewhere between one-half to two-thirds of the total word count of about 75-100K words.
And I totally applaud the reasoning behind NaNoWriMo. I really do. I wrote about it here and I still agree with everything I said.
Problem is, it’s only thirty days, and it’s only a month before the craziness that is Christmas. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s usually a busy time at work, my thoughts are straying to what to buy loved ones for Christmas, and all the daily crap that comes along. And if you miss even one or two days, suddenly you’re now looking at 1700-1800 words per day.
I know everyone writes at different rates. For example, Pat Flewwelling over at Nine Day Wonder thinks nothing of pounding out a 300-350 page manuscript over the three-ish days of the Muskoka Novel Marathon. She consistently wins the “Most Prolific Author” award. And the thing that pisses me off is, the stuff is good.
In fact, Pat and I were chatting the other day and, when she includes her blogs in her word count, she’s averaging a reasonably Stephen King-like rate of just shy of 5000 words per day.
5000 words. Every. Damn. Day.
Again, for the initiated, that’s 20 manuscript pages every day. It means she’s essentially creating enough words for a novel every twenty days, or, at a steady pace, just over 18 novels a year.
Obviously, NaNoWriMo is not a problem for Prolific Pat. But it is for me.
Which is why I gravitated toward the #WIP500 idea. All you are asked to do is 500 words each day. That’s about two pages, double-spaced. That takes me 20 minutes, on average.
So, I hear you say, if 500 words only takes you 20 minutes, then NaNoWriMo’s 1667 words should take you just over an hour a day, right?
In theory, yes. In reality, what I’ve learned from this whole exercise is that much over a thousand words and I slow down considerably. How do I know this? Because, for the first twenty days of this year, I aimed for the 500 words and, with the exception of one day, hit it easily.
Starting just over a week ago, I started a different project, a novella called Soft Kiss, Hard Death.
Let me take a minor detour here for a second to talk about Soft Kiss. Early in January, Ed Kurtz, a fellow horror author and a man with a sense of humour as dark as my own, reached out with an intriguing prospect. He’d written a novella called Catch My Killer! which is positioned as the first in a proposed series of six Sam Truman Mysteries novellas under Kurtz’s own Abattoir Press imprint. He explained that Sam’s a PI working in an unidentified New York-style setting in 1960. And he just happens to get twisted up in some supernatural shit. Then he asked me if I’d be interested in taking Sam on an adventure of my own.
Would I? Would I? Hell yes!
I had a plot kicking around that I’d started to write a couple of years back under the name Out that I just didn’t know where to take. When Ed told me about Sam Truman, I immediately saw the possibilities. I quickly wrote a synopsis, shot it off to Ed, and Ed gave me the thumb’s up.
The plan as I understand it, is for Abattoir Press to release an ebook version of each of the six stories a couple of months apart through 2012, then collect the stories in two hard copy versions (mysteries 1-3 in one volume, 4-6 in the second) next year.
Now, having said all that, Ed’s only read the really rough first draft prologue and hasn’t seen the rest yet, and for all I know, he’ll read it and wish to hell he’d reached out to someone with some talent instead of a dude with questionable talent, loose morals and a fascination for scatological stories. But for now, he still thinks I may have some talent, so please, no one tell the man differently, okay? In the meantime, you can watch for more news here.
Anyway, I promised him a first draft in March and I’d like to get it all written and debugged before then. So, because of the deadline, I upped my daily target to 1000, just for the duration of this project, which should be complete no later than mid-February.
So, for the last nine days, I’ve been punching out 1000 words a day on average. And I’m finding it harder to get done. Obviously it takes me longer than the twenty minutes. I find myself checking the word count more often and groaning if I’ve only managed 700-800 words.
I never did that with the 500. I found I could do the sprint, then get up and walk away with a lot more still in the tank.
I also don’t do that when writing blogs. But blogs are a whole different animal. I’ll really think through anything I write for fiction. I’ll check it over and rewrite it multiple times. But blogs? I sit down with a basic idea and just start typing. Blogs shape themselves and anything you read from me in a blog is first draft. I write it, add the pictures, add the tags and publish, bing bang boom.
I wish writing fiction was half as easy.
So, this is just my way of sending a big thank you to Cara Michaels first of all. Without her, I guarantee I’d be struggling to get some words down everyday. Without her, I wouldn’t have made it well past 20K words in less than a month.
By the way, just so you know how important this is to me, I didn’t write 10K words last year, the entire year. And no, I’m not counting blogs I wrote last year, and I don’t count my blogs in my daily word count this year either.
If you’re interested in participating, you can join up at any time throughout the year. All Cara asks is that you update on her site at least once a week or she’ll “drop you from the list like yesterday’s news”. And she’ll start your count from the date you started.
I think the other thing that helped me was making myself accountable, which is why, for the full month of January, I posted daily updates on Facebook, Twitter and on another page of this blog.
I’m guessing most of my FaceTweet friends don’t really give a shit how much I’ve written, so going forward, I will continue to update Cara’s site and my Daily Word Count page every day. But for FB and Twitter, I’ll likely do more of a end-of-the-month summary.
But the cool thing is, I’ll definitely keep writing.