250 Words & A Brief Update

It’s ironic that I’m posting about writing routines after neglecting this blog for sometime now, but its a very topical subject at the moment. Let me tell you why–for the last six months I have been infrequently working on my first novel.

Remember the project that I spoke of back in the day? Sorry to say, but that project never got off the ground, mostly owing to my hectic work schedule and inability to get my time management under control.

This is not to say that I neglected my writing; far from it, I finished three and a half short stories, submitted a Drabble to the Drabblecast, and submitted my application to Viable Paradise 2012. In the meantime, my ambitious first novel project languished from my lack of time.

Its now halfway through 2012, and I am currently 8,000 words into my first novel(new novel idea, but my first written novel) project. Although I still don’t have as much time as I would like, I have changed my approach towards completion of the novel.

You see, with a short story, I might be able to complete the whole story over the course of a week. My short stories have typically been in the 1000-7000 word range, a length which I can complete in fairly short order. Novels are entirely different creatures. At the very least, the taxonomy of novel length starts at 50,000 words and can extend upwards of 1,000,000 words. I’m not planning on writing a “Gone With the Wind” length vampire saga or an epic fantasy, and so I’m aiming for a far more achievable goal of 50-60,000 words.

I’ve come up with a different approach to tackle this length of work and not be immediately discouraged. It’s all about breaking down the big tasks into many smaller, more manageable ones. Enter the 250 words mentioned in the title. 250 words is the average for a printed manuscript page, and at 50-60k words, brings my novel to a length of  200-240 pages. This translates to a 6-8 month working period to get from zero to first draft status.

To my mind, reframing my goals in those terms renders the work required for the novel to be more manageable than thinking of it in terms of the 50,000 aggregate word count.

Of course, the geekier writers will pull out spreadsheets and track word counts on a daily basis, run estimates, and build in failsafes. I am also prone to the same tendencies, but I find that I’m often too lazy to update my spreadsheets. In this case the 250 word daily goal is an easy figure to maintain to ensure that I achieve my goals.

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As an aside, to writers who struggle with distractions while writing, I highly recommend Cory Doctorow’s “Writing in the Age of Distraction,” a practical manual for getting shit done while limiting the impact of your distractions.

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