Write or die!

Day 23 of the meme:

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story–from planning to writing?

It very much depends on how long the story is. I don’t really like short stories, so I’m generally looking either at a novel or a novella. In that case it doesn’t normally take me more than a week to do a basic plan. On weeks when I’m being professional and sticking to my goals, I write about 5,000 – 6,000 words a week (not less than 1050 a day, with weekends off.) So you can calculate how long it would take to do the first draft of a 30K novella or a 100K novel.

The second draft, editing and polishing takes a lot less time, in general, because I usually create a fairly decent first draft.  But where I don’t (as with False Colors), my own personal editing can take another three or four months before I think the book is good enough to submit to a publisher.  And after that, there are more edits guided by the editor.

The trouble is that many things stop me from keeping up my goals. School holidays – Easter holidays, half term holidays, Christmas holidays, one and a half months of Summer holidays!  My husband being ill, my children being ill either separately or together, me being ill.  Me being depressed due to lack of sunshine/lack of vitamin D/over-sensitivity to what people are saying on the internet.  Me being out of the habit of writing because of the aforesaid everything and being unable to force myself back into it.

Add long periods of inactivity due to the factors above into the daily word count, and it comes out at approximately a year per novel.  Four months for a novella.


However, thanks to [info]essayel I am currently feeling quite hopeful that I can up my daily word count from a minimum of 1050 to a minimum of 1500.  She recommended Dr.Wicked’s Write or Die application to me.  This is brilliant!  You type your story in a little box.  If you stop typing, the screen goes pink, then red, then brighter red, and then a little message comes up saying “back to work!”  (or something.)  You can set the time before it starts turning red.  I have it set so that I do have time to go back and fix spelling mistakes and really horrible errors, but I don’t have time to spend 20 minutes wondering whether I’ve chosen the right place for my comma.

I set the goal for 500 words in 20 minutes and start typing.  Every time it starts to go red, it stops me from slowing down to a halt.  As a result, in 20 minutes (sometimes 15) I end up with 500 words.  Then I go and have a coffee and think about what I’m going to write next – you have to do the thinking separately from the writing, because there’s no time to think while you’re doing it.  Then I come back, do another 20 minutes, rinse and repeat, and at the end of about 2 hours (taking into account the breaks for thought) I have 1,500 words or more.  I’ve been doing it for three days and have now added 4,500 words to the 1,600 I did on Monday and Tuesday.

I was so impressed that I paid $10 and got the desktop version, where you can set the grace period more flexibly using a slider.  So I’m hoping that henceforth I’ll be able to be more productive, at least during those periods where I manage to be productive at all.


I’m also watching Foyle’s War for research, though I’m not sure what it’s research for!

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