Do the MathMay 27, 2013
I'm on deadline, and I've just hit the point in revising the book at which I finally believe it will probably be good. Up till this point, it's been the WORST book ever written, but since this is my seventh book, I know that I feel that way every single time.
When I reach the point at which I love the book, right when I fall in love with it, I send it away to my editor. She, in turn, will find areas I can make better, and I'll hate the book briefly and viciously again. Then I'll revise again, and it will be the BEST book ever written.
What's nice to realize is that neither of these things are true. They're just feelings. I haven't ever written the worst, or the best, book in the world. Nor will I ever do so (thank god).
All that matters is doing the math. Isn't that funny? That writing comes down to numbers? But it does, for me.
My books are about 90,000 words long. I write first drafts more slowly than I revise. I can reliably write 2-3k words of new stuff in a day before my brain fizzles. I can reliably revise 6-8k words in a day.
I look at my calendar and I map it all out. Every day that I'm not at the day-job gets a word count goal (thanks, Google Calendar!). If I have thirty days available to write a first draft, then I need to write 3,000 words each day. I keep a chart for every book, so I can tell you exactly how long it took to write any given book. Somehow, it's comforting to me to look at the numbers.
Click to biggify
You can see that I'm doing this revision quickly, much more quickly than it took me to write the first draft. (And yes, you can tell by the above math that I didn't write the ending the first time through. I never know how my books end until I've written them at least twice. It's not ideal, but it's the way I work.)
This method works, by the way, for writers not on deadline. How long do YOU want it to take to write a book? Do your math. Say you can manage to write a page a day (only 250 words! You can do that in fifteen minutes!) on your work days and you can up that amount to 1000 words/day on your weekends. That's 90,000 / (5 x 250) + (2 x 1000) = 28 weeks, or about seven months. That's seven months to a first draft while working full time. Not too shabby, my friend. (Seriously, I love doing math like this. It's like doing our budget, which I also love doing, now that I use YNAB*.)
And if you're an average-paced writer, you can pull this off while only writing 3.25 hours/week (1000wds/hour). That's nothing! Everyone can find that in their week (unless you're the mother of newborn twins, in which case, good lord, you just get a hug from me along with my eternal respect. We'll see you in eighteen years).
And what do you with all that time you're not writing or fretting about not writing? That's when you're planning! Sitting down to write words every day only works when you know where you're going (I say that lightly but plotting is the hardest thing, to me). Do THAT instead of doodling in meetings. Plan the next scene while you're in the shower. Then plan the next one. Make notes on your phone or on your hand. If you're bored thinking about a scene, nix it. Don't write it. Only write the exciting parts, the parts you love. I recently found myself--literally--writing a city council meeting. I bored myself. When I woke up from my little chair-nap, I made someone take off all his clothes at the meeting (Elbert Romo, if you remember him from earlier Cypress Hollow novels). Do what you have to do.
And remember the most comforting thing of all: Your voice is your voice is your voice. The words that came so painfully last Tuesday will just read like all the others when you look at them next month. The book you hate today will be the one you love later.
Do some more math.
Then write some more words.
* $6 off coupon HERE for YNAB, which stands for You Need a Budget, and it's the best thing we've done this year. We're actually saving money now, and we know what the money is for. PLANNING AHEAD. Who knew we could do this? Highly recommended, and I think they have a 30 day free trial. I've actually learned where our money goes, which was something I literally had no clue about until this year. Perhaps I'm growing up. PROBABLY NOT THOUGH.
** I got some mail! Real mail! Seriously, so exciting. I'm going to try to write back to each one. And yes, this trick (see previous post) got me to the post office.
*** We also prettified the porch. I'm in love with being out there. Yay spring!