Friday, January 7, 2011


Still on a high from passing this milestone. I can see a dozen ways to discount it -- that's my superpower, actually -- but I'm concentrating on giving myself credit and enjoying it.

Let's tally it up . . .

First of all, comparing this to writing my first book is has some apples to oranges conversion problems. In this case, the first draft is in much better shape I believe. More objectively, the first draft is completely typed, whereas in the last book I called the manuscript the first draft and the process of typing it in (and revising some as I went along) the second draft. That typing took probably about two months, so this is comparing two different kinds of time lines.

Another way I'm better set up this time is my outline. I had put it all on note cards when I got stuck a few months ago, and I've been updating them as I went along. I spent this morning getting them in shape. There are about 60 of them with good descriptions of each scene and lots of good notes about what needs to be revised. They should help a lot in the next draft. I had a less focused and helpful outline for my first book. (Still do, actually. Maybe that's what I need to fix to get that book back on track again.)

So, in terms of time line . . . I'm calling the official start date Sept. 1, 2010. (I actually didn't do a good job dating my notes and manuscript the first couple weeks, but that's close.) The official end date is January 6, 2011. That's just about exactly 18 weeks including pauses and interruptions. Figure a week off for Christmas and another for Thanksgiving. I'll put about two weeks of planned pauses for paying work in the same category -- let's call those pauses -- to get 14 weeks intended to be devoted to this. Everything else -- dealing with plumber, oversleeping, morning meetings that couldn't be avoided -- we'll call an interruption to the plan and just part of what you have to expect during the writing process. I'll guess there were about 2 weeks worth of those. Figure another 2 weeks of fear, boredom, self-doubt and generalized terror of the blank page where I didn't make any progress. That leaves an estimated 10 weeks of actual writing. I count a week as M - F. In reality I sometimes caught up with some work on the weekends.

My first book book took about 22 weeks before the subtractions, including a 2 week vacation in the middle of it. (Again that's without counting the time to type it in after the first draft was written.)

Length . . . this one is much shorter. The document with everything in it and in order is 300 pages exactly and just over 71,000 words. (My goal was to keep it under 65,000 words.) That includes a few pages at least of editing notes, though, so I'm going to round down the word count to 70,000 exactly and call it 295 pages. That doesn't count all the brainstorming, notetaking, character sketching and discarded material not worth typing in.

The first book was 135,000 words in the first draft. (And I was trying to keep it under 100,000.) It now stands at about 95,000 I think.

So, in terms of pace, it's not super great when I figure it up. It's about 777 words per week day over 18 weeks. 1,400 words per weekday over 10 weeks. Really I should add back in my freakout days, which would make it 1,166 words per weekday over 12 weeks. So the average is somewhere between 45 minutes and 90 minutes of good writing on a typical working day. Which sounds slower than I remember the first book being, but, again, this first draft is in better shape at the end than in that case.

Well, this is what counts as celebrating for me. Pretty dorky. But I am reading the new autobiography of Mark Twain that was just published, which has a lot of discussion of working process and page counts and word counts, and it confirms for me, not for the first time, that other writers have this same kind of obsession.

I could make other comparisons to our working processes, but I better stop there before I embarrass myself.

Oh, by the way, no one is supposed to read this until a hundred years after my death.

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