Like many writers, I read Stephen King’s nonfiction book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. When I first learned that he wrote 3,000 words a day, everyday it seemed like a lot. Now, many years after reading his advice, it the ideal seems either daunting or totally doable, depending on the day. I work full time, and according to contract, that means forty two and a half hours before I am eligible to put in for overtime. I also work two side jobs.
There are days when three thousands newly created words is more of a challenge.
And what about editing? How do writers who are attempting to get consistent word counts everyday deal with writing. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I am editing a large project, it isn’t uncommon to go into negative word production (which is another King axiom; cut ten percent during the edit).
We will get to some methods of addressing that particular issue in a moment. For now, there are a few other word count productivity questions I want to throw out, because admit it, this is exciting stuff. #writinggeek
Should I count blogging?
It might sound crazy to even worry about these details, but generating three thousand words a day is the same as writing 1,095,000 words a year.
The Words I Track
1) New words: these can include story summaries that will be expanded into regular narrative, outlines material, and story beats (for fans of the Self Publishing Podcast crew). Story building can be counted, but it isn’t wrong to forbid yourself from logging this category. I know a very good writer that will probably never finish a novel, but will have an entire universe created to the smallest detail — so writer beware.
2) Blogging: I say count it, but set limits. Even though I awoke this mrning with ideas for several different blog articles (a rare occurrence) I am limiting myself to five hundred words. (Because I have a novel to finish, Hello Moon!)
3) Email words: no, this is like an Olympic sprinter bragging about how she walked to the mail box every day — not something that will bring home a gold medal.
4) Social Media: if the raw number of words spent on social media make a great novelist, then I am in trouble. This should probably be subtracted from the daily goal. (Look at me mom, I wrote eight thousand words on Facebook! Ah, no. There are so many reasons not to do this.)
Summary: Today, I start adding the words I blog to my daily log. The reason is simple; I don’t blog consistently and it is something that can help aspiring novelists.
Bonus: The best way to meet word count goals is to join, or start, an accountability group. Josh Hayes, Scott McGlasson, and Roy Upton have allowed me to be part of their word count team. So far, 2016 is looking to be a good year.
Results: I have not made 3k a day, but I have done better than 1k so far.
Here are some good books on writing productivity:
2k to 10k (by Rachel Aaron)
5,000 Words Per Hour (by Chris Fox)
Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly (by Jim Denney)
During the last several months I have been extremely inspired and entertained by the Self Publishing Podcast of Sean Platt, David Wright, and Johnny B. Truant. Writers who are not afraid to work hard might give it a try.
Most writers have other jobs that pay the bills. Many have families. Some have serious physical disabilities that make every task, including self-motivation difficult. I was reading an article about Andy Rathbone (who writes books for the “Dummies” series and has 15 million in print) when something jumped out at me. He said that when he was a college editor for the Daily Aztec, that he learned to crank out stories whether he felt like it or not. Journalism has deadlines. Writers from this background definitely have that going for them.
Fiction writers? Well, we all think we are artists. We wait for the muse, even if we deny that is what we are doing. For example I might write a blog article instead of revising my latest work-in-progress for the umpteenth time. “Blogging is important. Gotta build that author platform, right?”
Crush writer’s block with these easy steps:
I write fiction. It is my passion. Without it, my world would really suck. So thanks for stopping by. I sincerely hope you succeed brilliantly in all things. Do you have advice we might all benefit from? Please leave a comment or share this article and make a writer’s day.
Stephen King has a way of drilling a phrase or detail into your head. The last time I wrote a blog post, it was “Travlin Jack.” I discussed how the use of this phrase and others could be analyzed through the lens of Book Architecture (a new literary technique by Stuart Horwitz). As The Talisman progresses and Jack Sawyer heads west with his werewolf buddy, each Series (as Horwitz calls certain repeating story details) varies in usage, meaning, and intensity. As Wolf might say, “It’s happening right here and now, wolf!”
The “Travlin Jack” and “My Mother is Dying” series/mini-themes continue to find their way into Jack’s internal dialogue, but less frequently. Somewhere around chapter fourteen, Jack begins to struggle with a recurring memory (..Jack was six, Jack was six, when everyone lived in California and no one lived anywhere else…who plays those changes...) of his father and Morgan Sloat discussing Jerry Bledsoe, a maintenance man they employ. In the memory of a six year old, part of the conversation about a jazz album mingles with a growing understanding of what happened to Jerry Bledsoe.
“Who plays those Jerry Bledsoe changes?”
The fate of the maintenance man becomes a metaphor for unintended consequences. Jack sees every catastrophe as something he caused by his actions in the Territories. This mini-theme, or Series, dominates the “plot” for several chapters. Mr. King likes taking the scenic route, which is probably why I enjoy his novels!
(Also, Jerry Bledsoe in the real world, the right here and now, God pound it, not in the Territories, is an American author and journalist according to Wikipedia. This could mean nothing, but I find it terribly interesting.)
Today I am deep into chapter twenty-one of The Talisman, enjoying every audiobook minute, and not for the first time. The “Travlin Jack, My Mother is Dying, and Jerry Bledsoe” Series remain powerful and vivid, but Wolf has taken center stage with the changing of the moon.
“You’re the herd now, Jack. A wolf who harms his herd is damned…”
The interesting thing about the link between Book Architecture and Stephen King’s work, is that Mr. King is the champion of organic writers (seat of the pants, story excavators, and so forth). If you Read Blueprint Your Best Seller and Book Architecture, both books provide useful tools to coming to grips with a long, winding first draft. What do writers say? First get it written, then get it right?
For several years I have struggled to understand and wield story structure more intentionally. I love the concepts in Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. What I am coming to discover, is that the entire process is faster and smoother for me if I write like King advocates and then revise and structure later. Thirty-three years of serious writing brings me to the method I currently use. In essence, it is all about story--some entertain, others do not.
Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to read your comments.
Presently, I have five books available here, if you are interested and enjoy a good read.
Like any good author in his mid-forties, I have read The Talisman. Being me, I've also listened to it. Two things drive me to write about this book, one of King's best in my opinion. The first is that I am listening to the audio book again. Frank Muller is the narrator; his incredible performance may be responsible for my ever-increasing love of the audiobook medium, but I digress.
At the same time, I have been reading an ARC of Book Architecture by Stuart Horwitz. He also wrote Blueprint Your Bestseller, so I knew I was going to learn a lot of good technique in his most recent work.
So here it is, the laydown, the straight dirt. The Talisman contains so many powerful Series that listening to it while studying Book Architecture seems like proof of divine intervention, or at least some kind of fate. (If I can pull from one of my recent blog articles--The Pale Horseman--"Destiney is everything.") There is a reason King rose to the top of popular fiction. He can make multiple timelines and back story dance, two things that few writers do well. The secret, whether Mr. King and Mr. Straub know it or not, is in their mastery of Series.
According to Horwitz, a Series is something that repeats and varies in a way that develops the theme or a character arc. It something like a "through-line" but for some reason I am able to get my head around the concept of Series easier (at least the way he explains it). When a writer does a good job of foreshadowing, he is using Series.
I am not really doing Book Architecture justice at this point, but will try to review this very interesting writing tool. The examples that Mr. Horwitz uses really show how an emotionally powerful story uses Series, whether intentionally or not.
I can't help but think my writing life would have been a lot easier had I known the concept years ago. (Now I know it, but must fully understand and master it--can anyone say practice, practice, practice?)
My favorite Series in The Talisman is what I call the Travlin Jack Series. If you have read the novel, then you must be familiar with this often repeated phrase. Speedy Parker, Jack's mentor, says it all the time. There are many Itertations of this Series (repetitions and foreshadows). The Travlin Jack Series is an easy example, because it obviously means more than hello.
Jack is going to travel between worlds and across the United States during his adventure. The catchy phrase runs like a lifeline through all of Jack and Speedy's scenes.
"Why I got me some company. Good ole Travilin Jack. Little Travlin man he is. Speedy done some travlin his-self, he has..." (This is an approximate quote from memory; no offense to Mr. King or Mr. Straub if I got it wrong. I figure there is no harm done, since I am praising their story craft from here to there. And, I’d like to do some travlin myself, I sure would, see the Territories that’s true.)
Another Series is the My Mother is Dying Series. This has an obvious cause and effect on the plot. There are several other Series that I have began to hear clearly as I listen. Currently I am on chapter four and The Talisman Series has just been identified.
This series will end, you guessed it, when Jack finds the Talisman, learns what it is for, and uses it. A lot of really bad Stephen King stuff will happen to Traviln Jack along the way.
Stephen King is a self-admitted, non-planner. His book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is still one of my favorites, even though writing by the seat of my pants had gotten me in a mess of trouble from time to time.
Perhaps Book Architecture will allow me to write freely again and still make sense of the imaginary places and the people I find when I hop-scotch across my own version of the Territories.
Please leave a comment on what you think of The Talisman. What is your favorite character, scene, phrase, item or place? If you have questions about Book Architecture I would be happy to share my experience (though I do recommend reading the book yourself as well). Or, if neither The Talisman nor Book Architecture interests you (gasp!) please say hello. I'd love to hear from you.
Last but not least, I just learned that in 2014, King and Straub announced that they are working on a third book in the Talisman trilogy. This, dear readers, is good news!
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
- The Craft of Writing: 7 Magnificent Books
- Use of Force Myths
- A Really Useful Tool
- Project Rotation