(With a melody borrowed from Motley Crue.)
I sit at a laptop all day making shit up. And then I build complicated Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to track all the shit I’m making
up. So much for the dominant right brain, left brain crap.
But I understand everyone is dying to know what’s being tracked with those spreadsheets. So, here it is. It’s productivity, and in
my universe, productivity means word counts.
I’ve got a system in place where I ‘create’ a minimum of one thousand new words a day. Now, I don’t actually create new words. Get serious. Tolkien did that, but I’m not going there. I have enough trouble with the words already created by other people.
So what’s my definition of a ‘new’ word? New words are new parts of a story. A new paragraph, a new chapter, a new scene. One
thousand new words a day. Seven days a week. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?
Well, my fancy MS Excel tracking spreadsheet says that while my goal is one thousand new words a day, I actually put down about fourteen hundred new words a day. Every day. Weekends and holidays included.
But wait, there’s more. What about old words? Old words are revisions of existing work. Or editorial changes suggested by the two editors I actually pay to tell me how much my stories suck.
I don’t track old words with a word count. I just schedule work to be done. Story XWZ needs minor revision and I’ll have it done
and published by next Tuesday at 4:00 PM. Something like that.
If I tracked old words with a word count I could scratch my ego with bigger productivity numbers, but who cares. At one thousand
new words a day I’m putting down three hundred and sixty-five thousand words a year.
That’s three novels weighing in at seventy thousand words each and nineteen short stories, each about eight thousand words. Every year.
Oh yeah, remember, my spread sheet says I’m actually putting down fourteen hundred words a day. That’s five novels of seventy
thousands each and some twenty short stories each about eight thousand words long. (Or short, your choice.)
Holy Crap, in terms of productivity I’m Isaac Asimov or Julian Simon. Okay, maybe not so much, but you get the word picture.
I’ve got another spread sheet that tracks story production stages. For example, stories done and published, stories I’m working
on, story outlines done, story summaries completed, etc. I’ve also got another spread sheet that doesn’t really track anything. It just reminds me of story ideas or bits and scenes that I might work in to some story already in progress.
All this data I collect on myself says I don’t have enough years left in my life to finish everything I’ve started. And that doesn’t Include the astoundingly brilliant, new story ideas that jump into my head every morning during eggs and toast.
Now, if I could disappear into a well stocked cabin, on lake front property, in central Wisconsin with no interruptions except an occasional splashing bass…hell, my word count might go to three or four thousand a day. But even that wouldn’t let me finish everything.
(I did do the “Zoe Winters, 10,000 Word Day”, on a Saturday last fall. It was exhausting and I’ll probably never do it again.)
And there you have it. Three novels a year. And if I cut out short stories (which I won’t because I love writing shorts) it would be maybe four novels a year. MINIMUM!
So, the next time some ‘author’ says he’s been writing a novel for five years…tell that author he’s not working hard enough.
And then give him a spreadsheet.