Monday, June 27, 2011

Words Count

Or should that be "word counts?"

When describing the length of a written piece, it's customary to refer to the word count rather than the number of pages.  A lot of writers tend to use this method to track how much they write on a day-to-day basis.  It's a great way to develop discipline when starting out as a writer, especially if you aspire to novel-length works.  I did for my first (and now deeply-buried) novel, as well as for Sakura Blue.  Checking my daily word count became an affirmation of my progress and an inspiration to finish.

For my current project, however, I'm not counting my words.  Instead, I'm concentrating only on finishing the story.  It's the second book in the Buddha's Relics series and I've set a hard deadline of December 1, 2011.  Daily writing for the next five months should be more than enough time to finish the story.  Give it a ten-day cooling-off period, followed by a week of editing, and, barring any major mistakes or time-consuming corrections, it should be ready for upload to Kindle by December 21.

For me, what matters isn't pounding out a particular number of words each day.  Rather, I'm making a concerted effort to simply tell the story to its end.  On a given day, I write until I hit a block or I'm too tired to keep going.

And by "block," I don't mean writer's block.  I don't believe any such thing actually exists.  I mean where to take the story next.  I have two cures for that: (A) write something else or (B) review the larger story arc.  Sometimes, I do a bit of both.  Take yesterday, for instance.

I was 62 MS Word pages into the story.  My main characters are at a restaurant in San Francisco (the Great Eastern on Jackson Street, actually.  It's excellent.  If you ever get the chance, go with some friends for lunch and sample as much as you can from the dim sum menu.  The service is a bit spotty, though, so be warned.)  They're meeting face-to-face for the first time in a while (and for some, it's for the first time ever) and it's a pivotal scene.  The decisions they make at this meeting will determine the course of the rest of the novel.  And, since I don't sketch out plots in advance, I was in something of a bind.  What they say, and how they say it, establish both their characters, from which action is derived, and the actions themselves, which in turn influence and shape the characters.

So I went to a work on a totally different story, a thriller about an FBI agent's kidnapped daughter and the larger forces at work behind it.  It cleared my mind of my other problem quite beautifully.  Periodically, though, I'd bounce over to the primary story problem and pick at it a bit.  I'd mull it over by typing, deleting, typing some more... then, I had a breakthrough.  There were a couple of plot threads - running themes, really - that I'd put in Sakura Blue and intended pick up in the second book.  This would be the perfect time to bring those threads back into play.

Today, I'm looking at 72 MS Word pages and a much better sense of where the novel is going.  I think it might be one of those days in which I stop because I'm too tired to keep going.  Those are best kind of days for a writer.

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