R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: word count

Saying No to Fun Things; Saying Yes to Writing

Who doesn’t love weekends? I mean, I sure do. They’re great. You get to go out with friends, watch TV, play videogames, do sports type things, go on dates, and so on and so forth. What about weeknights? Isn’t it great to kick back after a long day at work and read a book, play some videogames, or watch some TV? You bet it is! Of course there’s one problem with all the activities I just listed: where’s the time for writing?

I feel like this a trap a lot of writers (including myself) can easily fall into. We all have friends, social lives, and significant others. We tend to have other hobbies and interests other than just writing. All of those activities, people, and hobbies take up time. So how do you balance all of them and still find time to write? You have to learn to say no.

It’s tough; nobody wants to say no to their friends when they invite you somewhere fun. Nobody wants to force themselves to write on a night after work, when the words just aren’t flowing. But sometimes you have to.

I fell into the bad habit of putting off writing. If it was a weekday I’d tell myself, “Oh I’ll write extra tomorrow” or “Well I can always write a ton on the weekend, so go ahead, watch that episode of Top Chef.” But then it’d be Saturday and I’d get invited to go hang out with friends. I’d tell myself that I had all day Sunday to write, so once again writing would take a backseat to everything else.

Writing is a craft, and it takes practice and dedication to get better at it. I desperately want to get better because I want to get more pieces published, and eventually support myself by writing full-time. I had to take a hard look at how much (or little) time I was devoting to my craft. It was painful to finally acknowledge that I was doing myself a disservice. But in the end, it’s been worth it. Since I realized what I had to do to get better, I’ve been able to make progress on a novel WIP that had been sitting dormant for months as well as begin rough plotting for a new novel.

How do I do it? I say no to fun things. When my coworkers go out to lunch: I say no thanks (Pro tip: always be polite when you decline doing fun things). I spend many of my lunch breaks writing. (Pro tip #2: Dropbox is a lifesaver because I don’t have to take a flashdrive with my most recent WIP to and from work) When I get home I only let myself watch a limited amount of TV and I don’t let myself go to bed before I’ve hit my word count. I write more even if I’ve already hit my word count goal during my lunch break. When it comes to weekends, I try to get my writing done during the day while I’m doing laundry or something rather than just playing videogames.

It isn’t always easy. Laziness is an extremely alluring option. But if I can learn to say no to fun things and activities, you can too. It’s the only way I’m going to improve, hone my craft, and one day get to do the thing I love full time.

Why Word Count Isn’t Always the Best Method

As you may have noticed, I use a nifty (read: simple) little bit of html in my posts to provide a graphic that shows my word count progress. However, word count isn’t always the best way to keep track of your progress.

For short stories–or works without chapters–word count is a perfect way to keep track of your progress. Say you’re writing a short story for submission and the publisher/zine/whatever only accepts stories up to 4,000 words. You might not want to write exactly 4,000 words, but keeping track of your word count is a hassle-free way to keep yourself on track.

As I’ve found out working on this second novel, word count doesn’t always work. I set a total word count goal for myself: 80,000. A fairly standard novel length, maybe a little longer than standard. Some people like 75,000. Anyway, I just hit 61,000 today (and I’m still going). According to my spreadsheet I’m a little over 76% complete with my novel. Wow! I’m over 3/4 of the way there! Not quite.

I may be 3/4 of the way to my arbitrarily chosen goal, but when it comes to completing the actual story, I’m not at that point yet. I’ve started keeping track of my chapter progress along with my word count. Right now I’m on chapter 19 out of an outlined 28–or 67% completion. Not quite as impressive isn’t it?

Both keeping track of chapters and word counts are useful tools in measuring progress. I just have to remember that word count isn’t everything. I’ll keep posting my little graphic though, because I like seeing it go up. And even if it is a little inflated, it still represents progress. Honestly, I’ll be happy as long as the first draft of this novel is shorter than the first draft of my previous one. If I can keep it under 100,000 words, I’ll be ecstatic.

To all of you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day: have fun, stay safe, make sure to stay hydrated to avoid hangovers. As for me, I’ll be staying in and plugging away on The Exile’s Violin 2. Here’s today’s word count. (I’ll update it again later tonight.)

Oh yeah! Before I forget: There’s a reading/launch event for Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions at Neptune Coffee (85th and Greenwood, Seattle) from 8-10 pm. Go if you can! I can’t ’cause I’m in the wrong state. Right coast, wrong state. You can pre-order the anthology here. You can also read an excerpt from one of the stories, “Necrosis,” here.

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2 (working title)

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1/11)

Daily word count: 3,399 (as of 6 PM PST)

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