The Words Count Race: Stop Trying to Improve Your Performance. Be a Slacker.

Ronnie Coleman, 8 times Mr. Olympia

Ronnie Coleman, 8 times Mr. Olympia
A quick note about a topic I see trending on Twitter these days: We writers get bombarded by encouragements to write MORE, FASTER, up to 5,000 words a day, no, wait, “discover how I managed to write up to 10,000 words a day!”

Gee . . . I wonder what’s in the 10,000 words. Nearly a novella in a single day? It must be something . . .
So, here’s some encouragement: Be a slob, a slacker who writes 1,000k words, or even 500.

I prefer regular effort to breaking records

My average book is 100,000 words. Of course I get dreamy like anyone else when I see an author gloat that she’s writing 10,000 words in a single day (I even saw another one announce 12,000 —I don’t believe either of them, by the way. I smell clickbait). Imagine: with 10k words/day, a Spotless book could be wrapped (read: shat) in 10 days! Of course, developmental editing and copy-editing would take 3 months, but still, I’d have been able to vomit my entire series in barely a year.
But the thing is, even if I somehow managed to write that fast for one day, I’d probably end up disgusted with myself like after a Kinder Pingui binge, and stop writing for a solid week. Bringing the average word count down to 1,250 a week.
In this type of article, this normally the point where I’d tell you “DO X,XXX WORDS INSTEAD”. I won’t. Do whatever you want and have fun. All I can say is that what follows is my routine, and no one should copy that if it’s not what works for them:

  • I prefer try to write every day and do mediocre word counts.
  • When I’m juggling my day job and writing, I hover between 200 and 1,000 / day if I get inspired.
  • When I write full-time, like I’m doing for Crystal Whisperer, I set myself a reasonable goal (1,500 words), which is in fact sometimes hard to attain, because I take so much time cutting, editing, and re-editing. When you just cut 2,000 words, you’re standing at the feet of a hill that just got twice bigger, and, like Sisyphus, you get squished by a boulder. Some other days, it’s just party time and I do more. But nothing near the crazy amounts I’ve read about.
  • I always write a full synopsis prior starting a book, to gather my ideas in a semblance of plot, give myself a guideline, and determine how I’ll go from point A to point B. My synopsis always changes as I write, but the general plot remains.

I prefer quality over quantity in my books . . .

As mentioned above, if I had the right ninja techniques, I might have been able to poop an entire series in a year, and then start another one. With the same topic and characters, because when you write 10k a day, there’s little time to stop and look for new inspiration.
You know those series. They populate the world of romance, and also thrillers. I confessed to have read quite a few because I like to hurt myself. Especially the ones where it’s always the same story and the author changes the name of the two main protagonists. “Billionaire Bikers’ Brotherhood: #1-Blayne, #2-Slasher, #3-Paine, #4-Musclor, #5-Jayke, #6-Manlee, etc . . .”
I believe that if you focus too much on word count, chances are that your concern is the speed at which you can poop out books, and it will necessary affect your creative process and the overall results.

BTW, I’m not saying that writing slower makes my books any better. I’m mostly saying that they could be even worse, and that, as general rule, I’m always wary of an author who tells me that she has a publishing pipe of 1 book/month for the upcoming year. There could be exceptions, but I have yet to see any.

One hour spent writing = Three hours spent researching

That one is my pet peeve: I love to research every little detail. I won’t necessary stick to reality in the end, but research feeds my imagination, makes me learn new things and boosts my creativity. I often research for up to three hours, jumping from Wikipedia pages to articles, videos, maps, images, before I even start writing.
Obviously this gets in the way of making a crazy word count, but it gives me this huge mental picture made of all the things I want to describe.
Also, the results of my research will often influence the story itself, because I might be able to build an entire scene about a point of detail I had never heard about, or revise my plot because I had this idea I loved, but it doesn’t look feasible after all.

N.B.: I just realized that WordPress has this line where I can see my article’s wordcount as I type … 792.

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