Tracking The Words

This came up recently on the Facebook page and the timing was pretty good as I’d been thinking of writing about this topic anyways.

Up until recently I didn’t track my daily word counts.  Didn’t really see the need.  I knew I needed to write everyday to get the kind of production I needed to hit the publishing schedule I wanted.  What I want to do is pretty expansive. Lots of series, lots of releases.

And to do that I needed to up my production levels.

I knew that but it still wasn’t coming.  I’d always say “let the words just come” and that is true but to meet my goals, I needed consistency.

So I went through everything I had written since publishing my first book The Skeleton Stone (May 2016) and tallied it up. Lots of writing, not that high a word total.

No wonder my production was so slow.

I saw people churning out books after books after books and I was struggling to keep up with an every-other-month novella series.  Something had to change.

I’m not a fast writer. I know that.  I’ll never have the production of a full novel every month. And that’s okay.  But I did need to consistently produce.

Working up a spreadsheet I figured out a daily word count minimum that I could hopefully sustain.  Most nights, I only get about an hour to actually write so had to factor that in.

My goal is 1,500 words a day (not an hour). Any project, or any number of projects, but I needed that minimum.  30 day month, that’s 45,000 words.  I figured if I hit 40,000 for the month, wanting to do more obviously, but I’d be satisfied.  At 40k a month, that’s 480,000 for the year.  Still not that high compared to others (there are people that do 1 mil halfway through the year) but at 40k minimum for a novel (according to Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers of America) that would translate to twelve short novels.  One a month.

(for the record SFWA has word counts as: Short Story – up to 7,499; Novellette – 7,500 to 17,499; Novella – 17,500 to 39,999; Novel – 40,000 and up)

That’s a lot of work produced in a year.  I shoot for 30k words for a Novella and 60k+ for a novel.

Now knowing what I needed to produce, I had to start doing that.  Setting the goal, having a tangible record via the spreadsheet, forces me to write every night.  I switch projects when hit a wall on one, start new things.  But I’m writing around 1,500 words a day.

I play “games” with myself.  Some nights end up writing less if something else is going on (kids not sleeping for example) so I make it up another night and can see I planned in for non-production days (the 45,000 a month vs 40,000).  Since I started tracking on 10/18/18, I have generated 33,982 words.

Not bad for only 15 days or so.  Half a month and I’m already pretty close to my ultimate goal.

That’s all the evidence I needed that tracking your word counts works.  If you aren’t, I would suggest that you do so.

It seems a minor thing, tracking word count every day, but having that goal that need to hit does wonders for the motivation.

I’m thankful I started going it.

Now just need to make sure I can maintain that pace.

Why do I write? Why not?

Why do I write?

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer to that.

There is no specific moment I can recall that explains it. Like most people as a kid I played with toys, I read comic books, I read fantasy and sci-fi novels. And I had ideas. I didn’t really write, not then, but I created stories in my head.

I love Dungeons & Dragons. I had (and have) a lot of the rulebooks and settings. I devoured everything Forgotten Realms when that came out. But surprisingly I’ve played maybe 30 hours total in my entire life. I wanted to play more but it just never happened. Didn’t stop me from having pages of characters and adventures written.

I didn’t create elaborate stories with my toys, I played with them. I read books but didn’t dream of writing my own.

It just happened my sophomore year in high school. During study hall in the library, I grabbed a notebook and just started writing.  It was a rambling story with no clear direction but had a starting point. I kept adding to it as I created characters and started basing them around my friends and other people at the school. It never went anywhere but that was the start.

But it wasn’t my first experience. That was a school project in elementary school. We had to create our own book, write and draw. Mine was a fantasy. A classic “attack the tower” kind of thing. I still remember the basics of it to this day almost forty years later.

But no writing from then to high school and no writing from high school to after college. It was then that I started creating characters and concepts for comic books.

I love the ongoing serial nature of comics and that heavily influences my work now. Nothing I create is limited. It’s all designed to be ongoing, no end in sight.

Aside from the few pages written during that time, nothing else came of it. But I always created. That seemed to be non-stop. Always some new idea. Which in a way wasn’t helping. I’d develop something, come up with a new idea and move on.

Almost ten years ago was when the idea of actually writing again came about. I don’t know why, it just happened. I did some fan fiction for G.I. Joe on a popular collector’s website. I had a broad idea and just went with it. Then I started my serial thing that I called Gatewatch, which only lasted a couple weeks. It was on a site I created (and looked horrible) and was a series of short pieces about different characters that took place throughout the day and the published stuff covered about a week. They’d cross each other’s path and so on. Nothing came of it and things fizzled again.

I tried starting various story concepts after that and was still almost endlessly creating but just couldn’t get the groove to start producing. Mostly that was because I don’t like anything that I write. Makes it really hard to get motivated.

That lasted until Amazon launched Kindleworlds and I was able to create G.I. Joe stories and actually get paid for them.  That was the catalyst and away I went. The first book I published, The Skeleton Stone, was not the first thing written in that world (those few pages will actually end up in the fourth book in the series). It was an idea that came from playing a game and I started writing it and adapted it to fit into the fantasy world that I’d been creating for awhile.

Now here I am today, still having the problem of too many ideas but I now that I’ve had stuff published it helps me focus a bit more. I’m not the fastest by any means, but I enjoy doing it and want to get my concepts and ideas out there.

That’s why I write. It just kind of happened. I have stories to tell and I want to tell them.