Come On, Own Up, How Many?

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Here is a question for all my fellow writers, both published like myself, and those who just love to write for the sheer joy of doing so. How many hours do you spend writing each day and how many words is usually involved?

Ever since I changed the way I write from how I used to in the past, when I would spend hours to achieve a daily word count in the thousands, I now stick rigidly to a short but extremely intense daily session. I find this is the method that works best for me. If you are wondering how long, these days I limit myself to adding no more than one to two hundred words per day. In my case I start writing at five in the morning, finishing promptly at eight am. I find that to continue beyond that three hour working window of 100% concentration, means that silly errors will inevitably begin to creep in due to my state of total mental exhaustion by the end of each session.

The rest of the day is taken up with a lot of thought about where the story wants me to go next, not the other way round, while I carry on with my normal daily activities. You must remember that a story is a living thing…

Years ago when I was still in the workforce I used to spend two to three hours writing each night from Monday until Friday. Then on the weekends I would write for twelve hours on both days. On public holidays the number of hours sometimes stretched from twelve to eighteen. While to the unitiated, endlessly pouring out words might seem to be the only way to write a story, trust me when I tell you it isn’t! In fact its often the worst possible way of going about it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the hundreds of thousands of poorly written books out there by writers who convinced themselves that high daily word counts is the only way to go. A daily three hour session is by far the best way from my point of view.

I would love to hear how you go about it, but I know you lot of old. Most of you are too damned shy! Don’t just leave it up to the normal three or four regulars to comment. There is absolutely no excuse for you not joining in. You never know, you might even gain some useful ideas and tips on the subject from one another. So leave your thoughts for others to read as comments below this post.

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Which is more important to you as a writer, is it quality or quantity?

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So what floats your boat? Is it a daily word count in the thousands, or maybe one hundred carefully chosen ones? While many writers don’t feel they have done a decent day’s work unless they have literally bashed out two to three thousands words – yes I did say bashed out, others (myself included) far prefer quality over quantity.

For any of you who wholly subscribe to the multi thousand words per day argument, take a moment to reconsider.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that you have just written three thousand words. Now put yourself in your editor’s shoes. What will he or she do when confronted with your latest contribution to literature? When they have looked long and hard at what you have written, chances are that once they stop shaking their heads, they will put their red pen through around two thousand nine hundred of them, with notations all over the place, such as – why did you say this? How many times must I remind you – don’t use passive voice!!! They’re not there! Re-write this passage from the pov of Victoria, not Hermione, etc, etc.

Does what I’ve just said seem a bit harsh to you? If your answer is definitely, then I’m sorry, but you really shouldn’t be surprised when your editor does exactly as I have just outlined above, or something similar. Either way you won’t like it.

For the average writer, pouring out thousands of words per day in the vain hope that some of what you have written may be usable is not only a complete waste of time, but also counter productive, even though you may have come up with a vague idea. It matters little that you have thoroughly planned out your storyline, or are merely winging it, typing what immediately springs to mind. Without careful thought and taking the time to deliberately choose words of quality, ie – the right ones, you are making a rod for your own backs. One thing you soon learn to do as an Indie is to be your own editor, long before you pass your MS over to someone else.

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Now then, here’s an exercise in what I’m talking about for all of you to try. The following is the first incarnation of one specific sentence from my latest sci-fi WIP – The Guardian. One thing it is not is the version I eventually settled on. Nor is it the same length.

An intense flash of light temporarily blinded all of them.

All you have to do is come up with what you think is a worthy alternative, saying exactly the same thing, but in a completely different way.

Write your answer on the back of a postcard and… Oh wait a minute, we’re living in the twenty-first century now aren’t we, not the twentieth. I apologise for having a senior moment. Here’s what you should do. Just leave your answer as a comment for this blog post. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourselves to using a different combination of the original words. Think about the original sentence and what it tells you. Your sentence can be as long or as short as you please, just so long as it conveys the original sentence’s meaning.

Seems easy, right? Ok you lucky people, put your thinking caps on and have a go.

By the way, before you ask, no I am not going to make your lives easy by setting the scene for you, except to say that Adler, Lynne, Philippe and Anatole need to get as far away as possible from what happened.

The one who is closest to the version I finally settled on gets a smiley face. If it’s one of the many lovely ladies who follow my blog, you get a smiley face and a couple of kisses thrown in for good measure.

Have fun.

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