More Magic Spreadsheet, or This is What a Month of Writing Every Day Looks Like

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You see that picture?  That’s what wordcounts for writing every day look like.

I don’t want to harp on about the Magic Spreadsheet too much, but I do want to spend a bit of time actually making note of how I’m working on my writing process, and right now, it’s part of it.

I’ve always kind of flailed about a bit with my writing process.  I’ve logged wordcounts for a while, but I inevitably forget to note down one day, and then it’s all gone to hell.  I’ve worked for periods of time without logging wordcounts.  I’ve gotten some stuff done – I’ve finished a novel (currently trunked), I’ve finished short stories and novelettes.

But – as anyone who gets to talk to me about writing will tell you – I’ve always despaired of being too damn slow.  At the moment, I’m writing a first draft of Never, and I needed to break myself out of the habit of fiddling about too much with small parts of it.  I’m not the kind of writer who can produce a wonderful first draft, and I need to accept that, and accept, too, that my time is better spent on redrafting and editing rather than trying to get it all down on the page the first time.

As a side note, I know that authors exist who can write really clean first drafts.  I salute them and their brains.  Maybe in time, when I’ve worn the grooves in my brain enough, I’ll be able to produce better first drafts.

Which is to say that I am allowing myself to write what is possibly one of the worst first drafts ever.  I am not deleting anything, but I am simply pushing on every day to make my word count.  I’ll go back and add notes in previous chapters of things that need to be added, but that’s all.

As you’ll see, this last week I have been sick.  Yet another damn respiratory infection (yay having a kid at kindy for the first time and being moderately immunosuppressed).  And I have still been writing.  I am kind of scared to look at the words for those really sick days, but I’m thinking of them as a framework.  A skeleton which I’m going to flesh out in the next draft.  It’s forward motion, baby, and I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere.

As I type this, I’ve just crested 70k on this draft.  Glancing at the magic spreadsheet, which handily collates these things for me, I’ve written 77, 720 words since starting with the spreadsheet on May 25th.  Yes, some of those words were discarded (bad writer, no cookie).  And it’s going to take me a good while to hammer this into good enough shape to get sent to some beta readers, but it’s a start.  And I’ll take that.

 

Blowing away the dust, aka the magic spreadsheet is kind of awesome

Today I had a migraine.

Today I also went swimming.  Today I am also on the (hopefully) tail end of a respiratory infection.  Today I also went to the movies (though that was somewhat stymied by the fact that the cinema basically broke midway through the movie, resulting in many, many refunds and movie vouchers given out to patrons).

Today, I also wrote just over 1,000 words.

I’ve been frustrated at my general slowness as a writer a lot of late (and for “as late”, you can read too damn long – as anyone who gets to hear about me talking about writing will no doubt attest.  I actually don’t have a problem getting words down, but one of the peculiarities of my process is that I find it very difficult to move forward with a story or novel if I know there are things that I need to fix in stuff I’ve already written.  I don’t actually have a problem with doing that, but it makes me much slower that I’d like to be.

The solution of course is that I just need to be generating new words on a project.  I’ve tried doing a basic don’t break the chain thing, but for some reason that never gelled with me.  I think the reason there is that I’d set a target – say 1,000 words – and then get frustrated at the odd day where I was too sick or busy to make that target, so breaking the chain.

I’ve been listening to Mur Lafferty’s podcast I Should Be Writing for a long time.  Like, I’ve actually invested many hours while walking listening to the podcast from the very beginning.  I recommend it highly to all writers – both newbies and old hands.

One of the things that Mur’s talked about for a long time about being key to her productivity is the Magic Spreadsheet (link to the google group and shared spreadsheet in there, as well as link to the podcast talking about it).  I’d kind of shrugged it off for ages, thinking it was just another don’t break the chain thing.

Then, exactly two weeks ago, I thought, I might as well give it a go. It’s pretty simple – you write at least 250 words a day, and you get points for word counts and consistency.

I’ve written every day for the last 14 days.  I’ve written just over 30k in that time.  Weekdays, I’m trying to reach 2.5k, dropping back to 1k for the weekends, but just knowing that I’ll still get points if I write just 250 words is kind of awesome.

I’m also making a concerted effort to work on just one project – at the moment, it’s the first draft of Never, after which I’m going to spend a little time working on some short stories and maybe some outlining.  If I can keep working this way, I’m going to actually be able to finish this draft in a timely manner.

I’m kind of feeling like I’m levelling up as a writer right now, and it’s kind of awesome.