Fancy a quickie?

Blog post, that is.

Things are going really well. My total for the year so far (because yes; I have an overall 2017 spreadsheet as well as using others for individual books I plan to write) is 5,261 words. And it’s only the 3rd of January. And I have to admit, on the 1st, I wrote next to nothing. It was a Sunday, New Year’s Day, went easy on myself. Maybe not the best idea when ‘write more’ is my main resolution, to start off the year with a lazy day, but it didn’t do me lasting damage as my above total shows. And I spent most of my ‘at the computer’ time on Sunday reading over what I have of the Deep Screw manuscript so far, trying to get back into the story.

Which I did. I’ve added 5k+ words to it and wouldn’t you know, the more I write, the farther away the finish line seems to get! MS Excel says we’re talking around 39,000 words. So much for a short novella. I always do this. Gravely underestimate the final word count and come up with a much longer piece. It’s not that I’m too wordy – at least I don’t think I am. I try not to overwrite that which needs to be written; it’s just that there’s more story hiding in the nooks and crannies of my outline or story idea than I at first realise.

That’s never been a problem before, because longer books mean my publishers can legitimately charge more, which means more royalties for me. However, now, longer books mean more time between releases and to be honest with you guys, that’s time I can ill afford. I need to keep word counts down so I can have more regular, frequent releases for my self-published stuff. Build up the backlist, work towards having more passive income. Go hell for leather for a set period of time until I’m financially secure enough to step back and write at a more leisurely pace.

So what to do? Put less detail in my work and risk the books seeming rushed? No, because that’s not the sort of book I enjoy reading, or want to write. Come up with ‘smaller’ stories? Fewer characters, a briefer period of time within the main romantic relationship? That’s a toughie, because I like the scope of going from first glance to an established HFN (happy-for-now) and the main characters agreeing to see where this thing is going.

Throw less shit at my main characters? Hmm.

I guess what I’m saying is, I like the way I write now. I just wish I did it faster! That’s something I’m working on, but no matter the speed at which I write, 40k words will always take longer to write than 25k. At the rate I’m going, I could write 40k words in approximately three weeks and that’s perfectly respectable, but I’ll be keeping a very close eye on any ways to up my productivity in 2017 as, to be blunt, I really need to make a go of this wordslinging lark. 😉 The fact I’ve had two nearly-done manuscripts on my laptop for a while is a shame, but in the here and now it works to my advantage because it won’t take long to finish them both, then I’ll have two releases in quick succession. And because one is M/M and the other hetero, there’ll be something to suit two different reading tastes.

So if they could both sell eleventy bajillion copies each when they’re published, that’d be grand.

Working on Scarlett, Version 2.0

This blog post was inspired in part by a conversation I had on Twitter with @misabuckley (go follow her), which started off thusly (read from the bottom up with this one):

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I’ll admit that my initial reaction to these tweets was, “Hey, now!” because there are authors out there who have a writing system that works for them, and having an outside job (or two, or more) doesn’t delegitimise their system at all. I tweeted Misa to say I disagreed with the above because some folks do make a living with their writing. It’s maybe rare, but not unheard of. Not only that, but there are authors who hit the jackpot with relatively low productivity. Yes, I’m playing the Harper Lee card and we’re just going to pretend Go Set a Watchman was never a thing, okay? Okay.

Writing in different media? Well, novelists gonna novel, poets gonna po and never the twain shall meet, for the purposes of this blog post. In other words, I don’t wanna write across different media and you can’t make me, nyar!

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I swear a lot. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll get to know this.

So, back to Misa. She pointed out (rightly) that we have different circumstances, therefore we have different thresholds of what counts as ‘self-supporting’.

Misa’s married with about seventeen kids (okay, five, but I bet it feels like seventeen at times!) and I’m single and childfree. Naturally we have different amounts in our “This is how much I need to live on,” boxes. Behold:

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I have a day job that I’d give my left nut to be able to quit. If I had a nut. Which I don’t. So I should probably get one so I can give it. I can either look for alternate employment (which I’ve started to do, ssh, don’t tell my boss) or throw myself body and soul into trying to make something of this writing gig. Well, I can do both; this requires time management skills which I am, at this moment, sadly lacking. Which is why this blog post.

Since I resurrected my blogging and vowed to get back into writing regularly I’ve been thinking about tracking my routine and monitoring the results more closely than I have before. I’ve read Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k approximately eleventy billion times, and this is something she did to up her productivity. It seems silly for me to want to get back into writing without studying closely what helps me get more words on the page. I left it to chance before, and…well, look what happened. It was hit and miss. And I ended up missing.

If I track the times I write and output, I can, like Rachel Aaron did, figure out under which circumstances the words splurt out of my fingers like a splurty thing out of a…a…receptacle of splurt.

Might need to work on my word choice too…anyhoo…

Is output down to planning, as Misa says above? All I can go on is my own experience, in my earlier incarnation. Yep, I’m writing under the same name but I’ve deleted all previous blog posts and this is Scarlett version 2.0. So referring to my “earlier incarnation” feels like I’m talking about a different person with a different career.

My first book, Long Time Coming, was written without any plan or outline. The first draft took five and a half months with one full month off in the middle of that and ended up somewhere around 147k words. On editing (which took a fortnight), I shaved it down to 85k words. That’s less a shave and more a full-on back, crack and sack wax.

Was that because I didn’t outline the book? Well, no. Because I later outlined Plus One, which came in at 125k words and I still needed to cut it down. Not by 62k words as with LTC, I’ll admit, but “only” 50k words, which took it down to a final draft of approximately 75k words. Sorry, I can’t remember how long that first draft took in total. I didn’t track it and have since forgotten that detail.

In total, in only two novels, I overwrote by 112,000 words.

112,000 words.

*gulp*

I reckon I overwrote so monstrously because I was at the beginning of my career and still feeling my way. And I’m back to a similar situation, finding out what works for me, these days. Situations change and what works for one author might not work for another. Heck, what works for the same author might change over the course of a career, more than once. As I’ve just illustrated, I’ve pantsed some work and outlined other books.

So while I’d say what you actually write doesn’t necessarily require planning, I’d say planning times and circumstances in which you write could be a help. It’s certainly worth trying in my case, and to block out time and circumstances, I need to study when it feels easier for me to get words on the page. As things stand, I’m trying to get back in the game after being off the damned field for years. Starting all over again, really.

Plus One, which I outlined? That was a book of which I managed to write 19,500 words in three days — I remember because I had three days in a row of almost exactly the same count, 6,500 words. That stuck in my mind because I was high as a kite on wordlove. I felt great. I’d love to repeat that and have never managed to since. I knew what to write because I had the outline. I just didn’t know when I was going to write, what time of day, how my health would be, how much sleep I’d get. What my diet was like. Other demands on my time.

That near-20k was entirely down to chance, and I don’t know how to replicate it because I don’t know what I did right.

You know something else? I wrote sod all for weeks afterwards. And I just bolded the above text because I feel like I had to write out this blog post to finally get that. The penny just dropped for me so hard. How can I expect to replicate optimum writing circumstances if I don’t know what they are? Sure, I could push through and get the words out and feel like I’m pulling teeth, or I could say, “Okay, looks like I need to get X hours’ sleep, eat whatever, clear so many hours in my diary.”

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying while I get back into writing, I’m going to track, monitor and possibly blog the details of, not just the words I write, but the stuff around the words. My ultimate aim? To return to an earlier part of this post, my goal is to earn ‘quit the day job’ money which is different for everyone, I know, but I have my financial target in mind. But that’s my ultimate aim. My immediate aim is to get to know myself, and my writing better, so that I can look after the former and produce more of the latter.

Please to follow Misa on Twitter here and make sure you pick up a copy of Rachel Aaron’s book 2k to 10k on Amazon US or Amazon UK and I’ll see you in my next blog post.