Sunday, September 23, 2007

Discipline and schedule—a review of how it went.

Today was the first day in a few months, with only a few exceptions, of not getting up to face the blank page. That was weird. Perfect timing, too; my wife had a doctor’s appointment that I had to drive her to and that totally killed the morning. I had managed to avoid anything like that all along. If her appointment had come last Friday, I would have been pretty frustrated with the interruption. There were a couple times when I needed to take her to the train station and I insisted on taking her so early that I was still waking up by the time I got back home and it was still my normal writing time.

I kept a log of how much I wrote each day and therefore of what days I wrote. Here’s some idea of how it went:

  • April 19 is really my start date. Starting then, I had a few days writing some sketches that it turns out I’ll be using during which I was saying to myself, “What is this?” The a-ha moment came on April 22 when I realized it was the seed of a novel and started thinking of the work on those terms. The end date was August 13.
  • In my log, I “worked” on it on 72 specific days.
  • I “wrote”—meaning I added new sentences to the draft—on 64 specific days.
  • The 8 missing days are interesting. I actually worked hard on those days but I had to compromise on my ideal scenario of adding sentences every day. There were two periods where I felt I need to review and grasp my material better before I could continue. Essentially I had caught up with my outline and I didn’t know what happened next. I still used the dedicated writing time every morning to review my manuscript and to do some exercises to prompt the rest of the plot.
  • Those working days are almost all Monday to Friday with a handful of Saturdays thrown in.
  • So figure about 12 working weeks when I actual wrote new sentences and about two additional working weeks where time spent getting in shape.
  • That still leaves two missing weeks if you compare it to a calendar—that was when I didn’t work at all while we were on vacation. I had hoped to keep working then, but the disruption in routine was too much. I couldn’t make myself focus while we were on the road.
  • A typical week produced about 10,000 words.
  • My most productive week was 17,500 words. That happened pretty early on and I got my hopes up that I would continue that pace. I was often disappointed with myself the rest of the time that I was only writing 2,000-2,5000 words/day.
  • I estimate my writing speed at 900-1,000 words/hour. So when I started I estimated 100 writing hours to get a draft done. My draft ended up being 135,000 words. (I hit 100,000 words around July 22.) So if you figure from the 64 actual writing days, typically around 2 to 2.5 hours per morning, my estimates were pretty close.
  • So In theory it’s possible to write a first draft of a novel in 100 hours. The “real” time it takes is really a function of fragile egos, emotional resilience, vulnerability to distraction, family demands, how well thought out the story is, etc.

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