Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pacing Yourself

I talked last week about my timeline for my work-in-progress novel, from finishing the first draft to editing to distributing the pages to my First Readers... and all the other steps on the way to publication. The most important step to me (right now at least) is finishing the first draft. Without a completed first draft, I can't make any more forward motion on the project. I know you can go back and edit things which are already written, but to me it seems pointless to do steps out of order, especially if you never get a finished product to send to a publisher or agent. After all, we're trying to get a book published and out to the general populace, right? The public won't read your pages if they don't have them in their entirety, so... why should you go back to revise and polish something that's not complete?

I'm shooting to be done with the first draft by the beginning of May. For the last month I've been pacing myself to make sure I'm going to hit the 100,000 word mark by that date. I was at 55,000 words at the beginning of this month. I counted the weeks between then and May and realized if I can crank out a solid 5,000 words per week I'll be golden by the time my deadline gets here. I've created a calendar for myself in Publisher and every Monday I report in on my progress. I've watched the word count steadily rise over the last four weeks and it's truly exhilarating.

Last week I mentioned this pace to someone, and was greeted with a scoff. "5,000 words a week?" she asked, laughing and shaking her head. "When I did NaNo, I was doing close to that a day."

All right. So, I'm slow. Slower than those who work at the breakneck pace of NaNoWriMo, at least. But that's all right with me. I'm working at my own pace, budgeting my time between the 40+ hour-a-week Clark Kent job, creating my writer's platform, and birthing this book. Not to mention all the other things that take up our time as functioning members of society.

I've set a pace that will get me to my goal, and I'm sticking to it. If I get more than 5,000 words a week, GREAT. But all I'm wanting is the bare minimum goal from myself right now. So far I've made the goal every week, sometimes with a surplus of 2,000 + words, sometimes with only 80 or so. And all the while, my novel is marching towards its completion, delighting me, thrilling me, amazing me. I'm sucking in the experience and loving every single second of it. I'm savoring the time my book and I have together, because we've worked hard to get here. And I'm not questioning my goals, even though they may seem small to other people. After all, the race is yet to be won.

What are the pacing goals you set for yourself? Do you have to work by a schedule to get your first draft finished, or do you just work on it until it's complete?


Anonymous said...

There was a good post on Book View Cafe today about how many words people try to do a day, etc... I was quite taken with the Roger Zelazny quote about sitting down 3 times a day to do 3-4 sentences on the grounds that at least one of those times, something will inspire you to keep sitting down and do more!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

First one I just worked until it was done - or almost done. The publisher had me do some rewrites before it even went to the editor. Next one will likely be on a deadline.

Hope you reach your goal of May 1!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Boy, it is different depending on the project! I worked at breakneck speed on Farm Girl, and my last novel as well. This current one is meandering along, with countless interruptions and mood swings. Although I did reach my deadline for the first draft-- whew!

Elana Johnson said...

Dude, don't you dare let someone tear you down like that. 5000 words a week is AWESOME!!! Everyone is different. Everyone has different schedules, different obligations, different children/spouses/pets/sleeping schedules.

You are going to make your deadline and you are not going to feel bad about 5000 words a week.

Sorry to rant, but dude. Someone who scoffs at another's goals just rubs me the wrong way.

I will be your cheerleader! You go with your 5000 words/week! And it will be EPIC.

Hart Johnson said...

Don't every let anybody else's pace make you question YOURS. I did NaNo... I wrote 3500 words a day. And you know what? If you do that pace with a day job, then unless you are REALLY experienced, you are asking for a MAMMOTH editing job... but hey-that is how some people like to write.

I ALSO know that first book is the hardest. My pace on that first book was 30 pages a month... you heard me-a single page a day on average. Now sure, there were days I wrote closer to 8, (about 2000 words), but there were also days I scrapped whole sections and was in negative word count, because figuring out hor to finish is a tricky thing. It gets easier over time. My 60K in 30 days of my NaNo was my 4th book, so SURE it was easier (and it is STILL pants!--it WILL be a good story, but it needs a lot of work)

I think you're doing great!

(my writing legs solidly on the ground, I figure between 1000-1500 words a day is the TOP of what I can do well--plus it would be nice to have a day off every week, ne?)

Tamika: said...

I tried NaNo this year and found that breakneck speed doesn't work for me.

Ditto Elana- your accomplishments are no small feats!

I institute deadlines for myself as much as possible. Like everyday! Ha! As long as I write something I'm still in the game.

Unknown said...

That's my issue with NaNo--too often it makes writers obsessed with the number of words, the quantity, and not the quality. I bet your 5k words are more thoughtout and carefully written than most of the 5k/day words cranked out by NaNo--and that means less editing and revising for you!

Anonymous said...

I write when I can. That's my pacing goal. Life is a bit crazy at the moment so I write for bit in the morning, some at night, more on some days than others. But there's no rhyme or reason. I hope to get back on a schedule sometime soon.

Stephen Tremp

Arlee Bird said...

Everybody has their own pace and style. I probably tend to write slower because I keep editing as I go and thinking about what I'm writing. 5000 a week plus blogging and your Clark Kent job on top of that sounds pretty good. And now your taking on the A to Z challenge. Oh well, your blogging anyway so no problem alphabetizing it. Gosh, if you didn't have that job you'd probably be writing 20 or 30 thousand words a week -- but you probably want to keep that job for now.


Talli Roland said...

Everyone works at different paces and in different ways - I can't believev someone actually said that to you. Yikes. You have to work with a timeline that makes sense to you, for your book and the way you work best.

I'm sure you'll accomplish it! :)

Jessica Bell said...

Please don't listen to people who are dipshits. It took me two years to finish the first draft of my first novel. Write when you want to write otherwise it's not going to be your best work. Hang in there, and stop listening to fools. :)

Mason Canyon said...

I'd say work at the pace that is best for you. Only you know what you can and can't do each day. Some days will be better than others.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yeah, heck with that person! Don't you love the "one-uppers?" People who always have to best others in coversation have a self image problem.

I'll be cheering you on to that goal!

Helen Ginger said...

I like your idea of setting a pace that you feel comfortable with and feel you can meet. I think it's better to hit your goal and perhaps even pat yourself on the back for exceeding your goal than to chastise yourself for not making a goal that was too high. Praise, even self-praise, is more motivating than negativity.

Straight From Hel

Lola Sharp said...

B, that one-upping scoffer...what has he/she written since? Did they finish? Was it all just unusable crap?

A couple weeks of mad, manic writing does not a steady pace, long term career make. In fact, it can set you up for a burnout that lays you up for a long time.

Every one has different responsibilities and schedules. You found a steady pace that works for you, that puts you ahead of the pack in my eyes.

You are doing it perfectly.


When I started to write poetry seriously it was a goal to have a book published, at the time I was residing in Spain closeby to my son. I set myself a couple of hours a day of writing (during the siesta period) and within a few months had enough material for a book, found a publisher on a visit to the UK where I evenually returned to live. I got my favourite singer to endorse the back of the book and 2 years after I started it was finally published.
I would like to do another eventually. Good luck with yours
as the adage says "More haste less speed"
Take care.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Set you pace; the one where you feel the best and most comfortable, and stick to it. NaNo is insane. I 'won' last year and have no idea what to do with the resulting pages. Good luck with reaching your goal. :)

About Me said...

Some days writing comes easier than other days. I've been known to pump out 3,000 a day and sometimes, one sentence. I used to be upset about the slow days but I realized that it's not about how fast you can up the word count, but the quality of what you're writing, the care you put into developing your stories and your craft.

Sugar said...

Every day huh? Humph..well..I say if you're not into it..don't try it. cuz you'll ramble much like I do :) go at your own pace and you'll get there and it will be fabulous!

Sugar said...

Every day huh? Humph..well..I say if you're not into it..don't try it. cuz you'll ramble much like I do :) go at your own pace and you'll get there and it will be fabulous!

Mel Chesley said...

You know... NaNo is a horse of a different color. Of course you have to write almost 5,000 a day! You have a whole month to reach a goal of 50,000.
When it is your own WiP, you should be allowed to set your own pace. If you ever have a deadline, you'll have to gear yourself towards that.
Sorry, but to compare what you are pacing yourself at to that of a NaNo writer... puhleeze.
I'm not on a deadline right now, I've done NaNo. I know how to get things done under a deadline, but when I don't have one, I certainly go at my own pace. I may not write every single day, but there are times I have to force myself to.
So go your pace, girl!

ggray said...

I think you're putting out an amazing amount of words, especially considering your manuscript is so clean. Hardly no rewrites or edits or grammar fixes needed. Your pace is perfect for you. You've also been consistent over a number of months and that says a lot. I tend to rush the first draft and then have to spend double the time rewriting and cleaning my copy up. I'm pretty amazed at your schedule.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

That's pretty ambitious, but if you are on fire and pumping out 5,000 words a week, I'm impressed. Goals are good things to have as long as you can change them.

As for finishing a MS before you edit, I find I have to make changes constantly. I won't remember to go back and make the changes, so I do them when they come up. In the process, I am also editing that portion of the MS. At the end, when I start the next draft, I have some pretty advanced chapters and not much to edit. Just saying.

Rebecca T. said...

Also, NaNo is only one month out of the year. I can't imagine keeping that pace up continually. I'm impressed you have 5,00 words a day. Right now I don't even want to say how many words a day I write.

Well, these count, right? :)

Unknown said...

When I have an idea there is no stopping me. My current WIP has 75 thousand words all that I have written in under 5 weeks. I should be done by the end of next week! I just have an idea and go crazy.

Now edits... that will be an entirely different story!