Friday, June 10, 2016

On my writing goal for the year

In updating (after a long break, as you can see) my Writing Goal 2016! box in the margin over there, I noticed a month-old comment from Flavia asking where I came up with my goal. (I'm trying not to apologize anymore for being such a terrible blogger, but wow, I'm a terrible blogger.)

Flavia asked how I decided on 80 days at 500 words/day or 40,000 words for the year. Those words are all on my book manuscript, by the way, so the gaps don't mean that I haven't been writing--just that I've been writing and working on other things (such the Article That Will Not Go Away And Stay Away, By Which I Mean Get Published).

The answer is not particularly scientific. As of January 1, I had written, I think, about 50,000 words of this manuscript. Many of them are the wrong words, but they are, at least, words.

In my wildest dreams (yes, I'm that crazy!!), I will finish this MS in 2016.

A good length for a monograph is 90,000 words. Hence: 40,000 to go.

As for the 80 days/500 a day? Well, 500 a day seems like a reasonable clip (on average), and not too intimidating. At that rate, it'll be 80 days of writing. Out of 366 (it's a leap year!), 80 is not very many at all--hardly 1 in 5 days. So when you put it that way, I have no excuse for not finishing the book this year--except for all that pesky, you know, reading and research and thinking and stuff that also has to go into it. Also revising. I have had days when I've worked and written a lot and only added 12 words to the word count (or even had it go down)--don't we all?

So that's that. I'm afraid that the answer isn't terribly exciting.

But maybe this is more interesting?: Breaking the book down into words and days is part of an overall project of re-framing how I see academic writing, and just making it into part of my daily work. This past semester, I think that I managed to write--not just read, but write, even if it was only to revise a sentence or two--on all but two work days, from January through early May. I've never even come close to doing that before. And I did it by making the writing work much more concrete: creating endless lists of very specific tasks, keeping track of the time that I spend working, using an accountability check-in website (as well as my own chart and even, to a much lesser extent, this blog), talking to other people about my work. I think that I'm succeeding in making it a thing that I do, rather than a big scary amorphous hovering threat.

Of course, this is the first day that I've managed to do any writing since before Kalamazoo. I was on a week-long research trip, then two weeks of vacation (of sorts) with my husband and son, and we got back late on Wednesday night. So today is my 40th birthday, and one of the things that I asked for was a couple of hours to work...and I got it, and I did! (See sidebox.) Now I think that I'll read something academic and wait for the guys to come home bearing lunch.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Your schedule sounds pretty doable. When I've written novels, I've always shot for 1600+ words a day (recommended by nanaowrimo for a 50K word novel in a month). But writing creatively is WAY easier than writing for scholarship. So I've often written between 2K and 3K words while writing a novel. For scholarship, 500 words sounds far, far more manageable. Good job!

And happy birthday! Great gift to yourself -- time to work!!

What Now? said...

Happy birthday, heu! Wishing you a happy summer of writing.

undine said...

Good luck with your writing schedule! You're right: it's the reading and researching and thinking that take up so much time. And happy birthday!

Flavia said...

Saw this when it was posted but was out of town and forgot to comment! Thanks for answering.

What I like about your schedule is that it makes everything seem so doable. When I'm really writing, I shoot for 1000 words/day, but that's only sustainable for short bursts (say, a week or two), when I have the time and am in a place where I'm ready to write. This academic year I've been managing more like 1,000 words/week, which in my head seems pathetic--but it means I wrote two chapters! Mostly during the school year!

Thanks for the inspiration. It's really helpful to see other people negotiating the second-book process.