Tag Archives: Word count

Working with distractions

distractions and arguments

distractions and arguments (Photo credit: Will Lion)

Who, me? Distracted? Never! Oh, look, a bird ….

We’ve all been there, surrounded by distractions when we’re trying to work. It doesn’t even matter what the work is, it’s just impossible to concentrate on it. Well, that’s me at the moment.

Of course, it’s largely self-inflicted, which I suspect is the same for a lot of people. For me, it’s the start of the international cricket season in the southern hemisphere. I have a real weakness for sport, which I alluded to when the Olympic Games were on, and it’s impossible for me to sit in a room with a television or a radio without keeping an ear on the score. Heck, even if there is no television or radio, that’s what the internet is for, right? I’m far more likely to be distracted by a sporting event than I am by Facebook or Twitter, and while the white noise that is the commentary doesn’t necessarily take too much of my attention, if something happens in the game then I’m going to turn around and watch it. During the winter it’s not such an issue, as a football match is over in a couple of hours, but Test cricket goes for five days. Hence, the distractions.

Of course, that’s not the only thing that’s keeping my mind from my work. The kids are getting excited about Christmas and much of our spare time is taken up making sure that all the shopping has been done. (Thank goodness for internet shopping, let me tell you. I’ve never bought so much at 9 o’clock at night.) Plus of course there are the usual school commitments, weekend sporting commitments and the like, and of course the sanity-saving gatherings with friends. Writing time? What writing time? It’s a good thing I’ve only committed to 500 words a day.

The good news, for me at least, is that I’m keeping to my schedule. 500 words a day hasn’t proven too onerous, even with everything else going on. I may be distracted but I’m managing to stay on target, so with any luck this manuscript will be done before I know it. I started reading it from the start the other day and didn’t want to stop, so I figure that’s a good thing. Now I just need these final bits to be done – fingers crossed by the end of the month – and that all-important first hurdle will have been overcome.

So tell me, is it just me, or is this just a generally distracting time of year? I’m trying to work out how I did the last two NaNos in November and won both, with all that’s going on. Of course, not everyone will have the same distractions as I do, but I’m sure that everyone has something that keeps them from being more productive, no matter what they’re trying to achieve. Sure, it comes down to priorities, but that’s something we all have to juggle all the time. It just seems, to me at least, that at the moment there are more competing priorities than usual.

No? Just me then? Oh well. I shall just keep juggling them like I always do and plod away with my 500 words. And to everyone else out there who is struggling to find time for everything, don’t worry. It’s just that time of year, and you’re not alone.:)



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Image: NaNoWriMo.org


That’s right. I’m not doing it.

This year, for the first time in three years, I’ve made the decision not to do NaNoWriMo.

It has nothing to do with dissatisfaction with the NaNo people or process. I’ve done it two Novembers in a row and won each time, though I admit I failed dismally at Camp NaNo this July. The thing is, though, that with my current story, I don’t have 50,o00 words left to write. Sure, I could write something else, but my priority at the moment is really to get this first draft finished. I’m already three months overdue and, with my new deadline being Christmas, I just want to get it over with.

I toyed with the idea of trying to finish it by the end of October and doing something completely different in November with NaNo. Unfortunately, I’ve been unwell and a number of other things have been coming back to bite me, and the time (and, frankly, inclination) just haven’t been there. I’m working my way through these final scenes and I’m getting there, but it’s a long, drawn out process. Perhaps if I was one of those people who writes in order it would be different, because I’d be building up to the dramatic end of the story, but I’m a non-linear writer and the end has been written since, well, two NaNos ago. No, what I’m doing now is doing a couple of sub-plots and some filler scenes that lead onto the next bit of drama. No wonder it’s taking me forever.

As such, I’m giving NaNo a miss this year. Instead, I’ll use November to (hopefully) kill off these last 15,000 or so words that need writing, and get this draft done once and for all. My character biographies are helping dramatically, I might add; that little writing exercise is clearly one that works really well for me. (Actually, there seem to be a lot of similarities between my writing habits and those of the lecturer in this course I’m doing, which is incredibly helpful.)  Then, once my draft is done I’ll take some time off over Christmas and attack it with the red editor’s pen in the new year, refreshed and, with any luck, able to look at it with a new set of eyes.

Then next November I’ll do NaNo again, with the next story. At least, that’s the plan as it stands now. Wish me luck! :)




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On setting word count targets

"Writing", 22 November 2008

“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I’ve been disappointing myself lately. After a great creative start to my revised life as a working mother, my novel has been suffering a little of late. This isn’t because I haven’t had time to work on it – as I wrote a few weeks back, I have lunch hours and the like which have me already sitting at a computer and which give me ready-made writing time. No, I’ve found myself faffing about during that time instead, checking the newsfeeds on the internet or looking at my blog stats or whatever. Basically, anything that doesn’t involve actual writing, I’ve been doing it.

Because of this, my word count has stagnated a little. I hit 90K last week, but since then my total count has actually gone down rather than up. Sure, I’ve been writing (a little), but I’ve been more active doing minor line edits than actually being creative; cutting things rather than adding them. I’m sure the manuscript is all the better for it, but that doesn’t really make up for the fact that I’ve been neglecting the creative side of it.

In order to slap myself into submission, I’ve decided to give myself word count goals – a minimum of 1000 words each day that I have time to sit down and write for an hour or more, and preferably 2000. I know I can do this (I’ve knocked up a 1200-word short story in about 15 minutes on occasion), I just need to be motivated.

I know that word count targets can be counter-productive. Writing just for the sake of writing often produces substandard results. However, this for me isn’t a long-term solution, more of a kick start (or a kick up the rear end). To finish my first draft I’ve got a lot of scenes that need to be written, but which I know will be dull to write. This is my way of making myself write them. If the quality is bad I can edit them later on; for now, I just need them done.

Naturally, simple goals often aren’t enough. I could be sitting at my workstation faffing around as usual, without paying attention to my goals and not feeling guilty in the slightest. However, if I use the carrot and stick method, it’s more likely to be effective.

The answer, for me at least, is chocolate. I will buy myself one or two chocolate bars each day, and leave them sitting on my desk. When it gets to lunch time, if I don’t get to 1000 words I don’t get the chocolate bar. I have to leave it sitting there, of course, as recognition that I didn’t do it, and as motivation for the next day. As someone who has trouble leaving a good Crunchie bar just sitting there uneaten, this is bound to motivate me. (If I manage 2000 words, I get two chocolate bars. Extra reward for extra effort.)

Will it work? Time alone will tell. But I have enough prompts in my WIP to give me the inspiration to write the missing scenes, so that shouldn’t be an issue. The question is whether I want the chocolate enough.

So, that’s my goal. 1000 words per day that I’m able to write for an hour or more. With any luck this dratted first draft will be finished in no time, and then I’ll be able to really go through and do a thorough edit. In the meantime, I was wondering – what motivations work for you? What have you tried to make you get your story finished? And did it work? Because, if my Crunchie bar method isn’t successful, I’m sure as hell going to need all the ideas I can get!:)


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On deadlines


Deadline (Photo credit: Digital Game Museum)

I have a deadline coming up. Not from a publisher or an agent or anything exciting – indeed, one that was self-imposed – but a deadline nonetheless. And I am in danger of not meeting it.

It’s my fault, of course. I set a date to have my first draft finished by (August 6th), without setting mini-deadlines along the way to make sure I was on track to meet my major one. And, like everyone, I have procrastinated. I joined Camp NaNoWriMo in June to try to up my word count, only to fail miserably by writing approximately ten percent of what I was supposed to. I made excuses. I wasn’t inspired. I just didn’t write.

Now I’m about 30K shy of my goal (to allow for major cuts and still have a decent word count for the finished piece) with three weeks left in which to do it. NaNo all over again, in a way. I think I have enough story in my head to do it, but the danger of procrastination always lingers. Sure, school is going back this week which means I will have much more time during the day, but I’m sure I can fill that time with useless other things like, say, cleaning or gardening. In other words, everything else that has suffered as I’ve been idle.

Things are looking up, though. Yesterday at about 3am I had a great idea for a new character who will hold things together much better than they would have done without him. He even has a history and a religion and everything, which is unusual for me because I often leave religion out of my writing. The downside of being an atheist, I suppose. I also have some great scene ideas which again make the story much more fluid and believable. Really, I think I can do this if I put my mind to it. The trouble is putting my mind to it.

Where has my inspiration gone that enabled me to win two consecutive NaNos? Where is my lust for writing? Where is the desire to see the words “The End” in my manuscript? I’m afraid that I’m losing my passion for this story, which would explain the lacklustre progress over recent months. Yet, I still think it’s worth finishing. It’s a weird kind of internal conundrum.

Naturally, some child-free hours can theoretically work wonders for my word count. With the kids either asleep or at school I can, potentially, kill off a couple of thousand words a day, which will reduce my 30K shortfall very quickly. I CAN meet this deadline, I just need to motivate myself.

Wish me luck!


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A-NaNo-ing we will go!

This week, I signed up for Camp NaNo.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Camp NaNo is an offshoot of NaNoWriMo, the (inter)National Novel Writing Month, which kicks off each November. The idea is that you write a novel in thirty days, with the target being 50,000 words.

Camp NaNo is much the same, only it’s in June and/or August. Again, they want you to write a novel from scratch during whichever month you choose to take part. As for me, well while I’m going to try my hardest to hit the 50K in June, I’ll be bending the rules somewhat. Instead of starting from scratch, I’ll be aiming to get 50,000 words written of my WIP. Currently my word count sits at about 62,000, so that will get me up above 110K, but then again with editing and the like I’m sure to drop that back to the 85K I’m aiming for for the final draft.

So, why am I doing it? The main reason is that my maternity leave is quickly running out, and my self-imposed deadline to get this story finished is when I go back to work at the start of August. I’m up for anything that will give me a boost in doing this (like the chapter-writing competition I spoke about the other week) so, when another writing buddy asked me if I was doing Camp NaNo, I said yes. I hadn’t even thought about it up to that point, but like I said, I might as well give it a go. I’ve had luck with NaNo in the two years I’ve done it, in that I’ve reached the 50K mark each time, so if I can get motivated each November to do that, then why not June?

NaNo works for me because there’s something really motivating about putting your word count in each day and seeing whether you’re on track or not, and I really strive to get above the red line and stay there. It’s the tracking process that I like. However, I’m aware that this doesn’t necessarily work for everyone so, on the off chance that I don’t get my word count up over June (and therefore get the novel so much closer to being finished), I’m asking what you do.

If you want to get inspired to do a lot of writing in a short time, how do you do it? Do you rely on external factors like I do (NaNo, writing contests with other writers), or are you able to find something from within? And how successful are you? I’d really love to know.:)


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