Friday, May 16, 2014

Why Word Count Isn't (Always) King


by Becky Wade
  
Becky Wade
       
I started writing in '94, published three novels, then hung up my computer for many years to take care of my babies.  When I re-entered writing circles in 2010 I did so with a personal writing process circa 1994 that hadn't changed a bit.  I found myself befuddled by a landscape in the world of writers that had changed a lot.
          Blogs?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Scrivener?  NaNoWriMo?
          None of these existed during my first carousel ride as a novelist.  I've made friends with blogging and facebook and twitter.  I haven't yet plunged into Scrivener.  And, to be honest, I'm leery of anything that defines word count as the goal of this writing life. 
          Almost every day writer friends of mine post updates along the lines of, "I wrote 2K today!" or "Sat down at Panera this evening and pounded out 4,137 new words!"  Which has made me realize that there are some generally accepted ideas about word count these days.
          Generally Accepted Idea #1: Writing as many books as you can per year is great.  Why?  Because each book is (hopefully) worth money.  The more books you write in one year, the more you make.
          But I wonder...  What if a writer pens four books in a single year and none of
them are actually any... good?  Has her word count served her?  Has she bettered her chance at achieving publication?  Has she done anything to assist her family's long term financial stability?  Has she caused herself stress and anxiety by driving herself and her creativity too hard?
          Generally Accepted Idea #2: It's best for writers to release books close together for marketing reasons.  Authors who do so will build a bigger readership.
          But I wonder... What has a greater impact on author loyalty?  One book in a calendar year that a reader really, really loves?  Or three books in the same calendar year that a reader finds mildly enjoyable?
          Generally Accepted Idea #3:  The secret key to writing is to 'get something down' quickly in rough draft form.
          But I wonder....  Is there really a secret key?  We're all extraordinarily diverse.  Is a single method going to assist us all?  Might one draft, carefully added to and edited as an author progresses, perhaps achieve the very same (or better) result in the end?
          Don't get me wrong.  Output is a wonderful thing to celebrate.  It's not easy to get new words onto new pages.  Without amassing some level of word count, none of us will complete a single manuscript in the next twelve months.
          And yet, amid all the word count hub bub I think it's helpful for a writer to ask herself, "What's my true goal?"
          What is it for you?  What's your goal?  Why are you doing this work?
          Is it to write a lot of stuff?
          Or is it to write something beautiful?
          Novels are meant to be entertainment.  More than that.  Because our novels
are Christian fiction, they're meant to be entertainment and ministry both.  Our books should charm.  They should stir the emotions and draw readers in and make them care and fill their eyes with tears and keep them turning the pages.
          For some of us, that goal may have nothing at all to do with speed.
          The trick here is to KNOW THYSELF.  For many, daily/weekly/monthly word count deadlines are a helpful tool.  For the rest of us, not so much. 
          In my case, I've always been a one book a year writer.  Even before I had kids, one book a year was my wheel house.  Since I'm not much of a plotter, I spend a fair amount of my writing time staring at the wall and thinking.  I don't like to pull my ideas out by their roots.  I prefer to coax them to grow slowly, to see where they lead.  I do not write an extremely rough first draft.  I write a first draft that's as fleshed out and full as I can make it.  And then, on top of that, I still need a minimum of two months to rewrite and revise the thing. 
          All that to say, I want to encourage those of you who are NaNoWriMo drop-outs.  Word count isn't (always) king.  You, writer, might be the tortoise instead of the hare.  
          I'm interested to hear about your experience!  Have word count goals been pivotal to your success?  Do you believe in jotting down a fast rough draft?  Or do your manuscripts come together by another method entirely? Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a copy of Meant to Be Mine.
*****

Meant to Be Mine
A Porter Family Novel #2

     Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college-- still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

     The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be her husband. He’s a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he’s long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he’s known since childhood.
     Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.
     How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia’s trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?
Photo Credit: Lívia Cristina via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Olivander via Compfight cc    

Becky makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband, three children, and one adoring (and adored) cavalier spaniel. Her CBA debut, My Stubborn Heart, was a finalist in both the RITA and INSPY awards.  Undeniably Yours kicked off her Texas-set Porter Family series.  Her newest contemporary romance, Meant to Be Mine, has just hit shelves!   

96 comments:

Wilani Wahl said...

Becky,

Just wanted to say Hi!

I love this post. Since I am writing my first novel, this is all new to me. I am not racing to get the book written but still plodding along and working at improving and advancing every day.

By the way since I already won a copy of Meant to be Mine. You don't have to consider me for the drawing.

Terri said...

Becky - I need some form of accountability or I wonder around in la la land. Comes from being a procrastinator.

I'd love to win a copy of your book!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

I do agree that word count should have a point. If someone is writing 4K words a day and is not a plotter, those words are most likely random ramblings.

Maybe because you're admittedly not a person who plots ahead, the high word count process doesn't make sense?

I think my take on it is like this (I read about this study in a little book called "Steal Like an Artist")... There was a study done in a pottery class. One group of students was told to throw as many pieces of pottery as they could during the semester and they would be graded on WEIGHT. So, the more pieces they threw and fired, the better their grade. Nothing about quality.

The other group was told they would be graded on ONE piece of pottery. They could spend 3 months on one piece, refining and perfecting as much as they wanted.

At the end of the semester, they called in pottery experts to judge the results. Overwhelmingly, the group that was told to ignore quality and focus on volume had created the finer pieces by the end of the semester. By constant practice, they were able to perfect a piece faster than those who were told to focus just on one piece.

Not everything I write is publishable. But I write every day, 1k or more, sometimes 15K a week. Maybe it goes back into the junk pile, but by practice, practice, practice, I know I'm perfecting my craft.

Anyway, great post. Your words will be very comforting to many of my writer friends who write one book a year, or even one book every few years!

LeAnne Bristow said...

Hi Becky! Great post. I used to try to force myself to do a certain number of words per day. Then I realized that I spent have of the next day deleting what I'd written the night before because I felt like I HAD to put something down. Now I stop and take a break when I've lost the muse. Then I can go back later in the day and add more. Funny thing is, now that I removed my self imposed restrictions, I get more work done.
Please put me in for your drawing...your book sounds amazing.

Melissa Jagears said...

I don't actually like writing.....not the rough draft anyway, it's hard! So I have to throw it on paper as fast as I can because otherwise I procrastinate. But I'm a plotter, so I generally don't have the problem of writing things I'm going to completely chuck. But I agree that writing for word count when you have no idea what you should be writing is a worthless activity.

If I don't know what I should write, I go shower and that usually works because I can think there, and if I still don't know, I take a break until I do, while actively stewing on it until I figure it out. But then when I know, I throw down a ton of words, I often realize what I should write as I'm writing it too, so if I slow down it sometimes becomes more contrived.

Anyway, it's totally to each his/her own. Do what's best for you, and if you're just posting word count as some kind of bragging right? Then you're probably doing it wrong.

Melissa Jagears said...

Oh, also, because I do it the high word count way, I do the opposite of you, 2 months to write it and 6+ months to revise. Because high word count in short periods of time does, I think, make the revision process lengthier.

Kav said...

Wow -- what a refreshing viewpoint. I'm definitely not a fast writer. I panic when I see people's word counts posted so you made me smile this morning. Woot!

As a reader I adore prolific writers but I am fiercely loyal too so if you only write one book a year, I'll be chomping at the bit waiting in line for it to come out. So whether you write one book a year or three books a year, I'm ready and waiting to gobble it up.

Also, don't enter me in the draw. I read Meant to Be Mine and loved it so much I read it twice. I've never done that before! Awesome, awesome book!

Cindy W. said...

I really appreciate this post Becky. Since I am new a novel writing (been a poet for years)I try to glean things from other writer's posts. Some plot and some are pansters. Some throw out word counts, some don't. Some say write as fast as you can and get the words down then go back and edit and some say they edit as they go. It can be truly mind boggling. But what I pulled from your post and the comments thus far is a writer must do what works best for them, it it means writing several books a year or just one.

I am more a plantster. I do a little plotting in my mind over a period of days or weeks, then I sit at the keyboard and try to get as much story down in a sitting as I can. My problem is I seem to hit a lot of roadblocks and they halt my process. I've been contemplating doing more plotting to see if it works better for me.

Thank you again for the post. I would love to win a copy of your book!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Becky, good morning from upstate New York!

That should tell you something, we New Yorkers created the New York Minute and Billy Joel made it even more famous by touting it in his songs....

I totally believe that folks should do what makes them happy, but that New York thing rises up and says, "Ruthy!!!!! Are ya' kiddin' me???? God gave you a talent girl, go out and use it!" And so my 1K/day brings me several books per year and that works for me.

I think personality and drive... qualities that I see in the babies I care for that appear to be inherent at birth... help shape our writing lives, but I have to say I think you're the exception to the rule. If you look at most writing houses, they're looking for a higher productivity than one book/year because it's hard to grow an audience/readership at that pace. And readership pays the bills. So that part of the equation I'm finding amazing, but then... I find a lot of things in life amazing!

My children (six of them, now grown and somewhat driven like their parents, I blame NEW YORK for that too!) would probably have traded me in a heartbeat for a more laid back mother, but alas...

God sent 'em here! So I'm looking at this beautifully done post and tickled pink that one book a year works for you and others, but honestly????

I'd go stir crazy. Every time I think I need a hobby I realize one truth: I'd rather write!

Which woefully puts me in the highly predictable and crazy-productive corner but we absolutely need to all find what works for us... and then go all "Nike" on it: Just Do It!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Melissa Jagears, dropping down to floor, laughing out loud at the "I don't really like writing..."

:)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Coffee service has arrived! That's another nice thing about livin' on the East Coast: We're up early and don't mind grabbin' coffee for the rest o' youse!

Vicki said...

Becky, I couldn't agree more about the differences in process. To borrow a phrase from my critique partner, we're all snowflakes and thumbprints, similar but unique.

My process is closer to finger painting than it is to writing. I dump a bunch of words out on the screen, call it Chapter One, and then spend hours rewriting, editing, tweaking, searching for the story, images, those details that make a story unique and give it life. Repeat for Chapters 2-30.

Sometimes I write fast and badly; others times I'll spend hours reworking a paragraph . . . then cut it at the revision stage. Just did that yesterday :)

At the same time, I keep track of my daily word count as a way of time management. I also use it as a pacing tool.

Loved your post! I have to book, so don't enter me in the drawing. Looking forward to reading it!

DebH said...

I love this post. I am a NaNoWriMo flunkie. Irony of ironies, I've entered a contest and now must complete a manuscript in less than a month (I really didn't expect to get this far in the contest, I blame, er, credit the things I've learned here at Seekerville).

I don't know what works best for me...yet. I do know that I've got to turn and burn on the word count if I want to show myself approved as a workman needing not to be ashamed. Your post does encourage me to KNOW MYSELF. Find out how God wired me and then follow the process He knows works best. Can't go wrong with that, right? Anyhoo, that's my take-away from what you've shared with us. I thank you. It is empowering.

As an artist/animator, I ascribe to the Chuck Jones school of thought on craft. He said everyone has about 100,000 bad drawings in you, so get going and get them out so you can get to the good ones.(Animators draws tens of thousands of drawings because it's 30 pix per second for video)

Translation for writers? Not sure yet, but there's something there I know I can use.

For my first book, I guess I have to be a word count author - but after that, maybe I'll discover what is best for me. I think I'm leaning to the Ruthy school of thought though... a little bit each day adds up purdy durn quick.

would LOVE a shot at winning your book. Love the blurb (of course, I love cowboys too).

THANKS FOR SHARING!!!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Becky and welcome to Seekerville. Great post and I'm sure words many will enjoy hearing.

Personally I need the word count or I'm like Terri and will wonder in la la land.

But God does love variety so everyone does what they must.

Have a fun day today.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Also, I'm rolling on floor with Ruthy. But Melissa, I do so know what you're saying because that rough draft creative part is most difficult for me also. I'd much rather revise.

Interesting about the pottery study Virginia. Makes a good point.

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Missy Tippens said...

Becky, welcome! We're so glad to have you today.

What a thought-provoking post! You know, I'm a slower writer, so this is reassuring to hear.

I'm a really slow story planner--thinking and jotting ideas, filling out my charts, etc. However, I do tend to do better plowing through a story on the first draft. I like to keep going when I get on a roll. And then I take a long time to revise it.

I've found a normal writing day for me is about 1500 words. And a good writing day is 2000. But each day I start by going back and reading what I wrote the day before, making changes, then plowing through another day.

Loves To Read said...

Interesting thoughts. Please enter me in the drawing.

Piper Huguley said...

Hi Becky!

I always would beat myself up about my approach, until a wonderful author I admire told me. "Respect your Process." (which pretty much what you are saying as well as Deb H.)
I have a friend though who seems to be stuck and I keep trying to help her with sprints, etc. but it doesn't for for her. So I understand, it is not for me to judge someone else's process, but to see to my own. That's what I'm trying to do. Thank you for visiting Seekerville today!

Mary Hicks said...

Becky, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I swing back and forth on this word thing.

Some days, like yesterday, I did a little over 22K words, I was in my pajamas all day and by the time I closed my laptop my behind was numb.

But I didn't worry about word count for one minute—words just flowed! Love those days. I don't worry about the count, but it's fun when you wrap up for the day and you done way more than you thought. :-)

I may not get 500 today. And that's okay too. Ideas come easy at times and then they have to be pulled like weeds at others.

Writing is like everything else I've ever done—to get good at it you have to practice. You may weed out lots of the 'practice' litter, but that's the nature of the game.

Virginia, it's that way with painting too—I was told in class to get a hundred paintings on canvas and then I'd be ready to start painting. It goes without saying that you do the best you can at that point in your writing or painting abilities.

We can't always see our growth as it's happening. It's accumulative, like hair growth—slow—until one day there's enough change that you can see it.

Carolyn A said...

I don't count words. I do what I can, when I can, and as much as i can. The story is done when it's done as are the smaller passages. I have three complete but still being edited novels, and I've not plotted a thing. I start with random scenes and flesh them out and the themes and plot develop from there. It sounds fairly similar to your process, Becky, as it's taken me almost three years on those three books.

Mary Hicks said...

And when 'you done' all you can do, you stop! Yall remember I'm an okie:-)

Christina said...

Becky, I read your post and felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. To be honest, I always feel like a failure when I see those posts that you mention - the "I wrote 2k today" - and others. I see them everyday and on those days when I just couldn't get to my wip or I had to pull those words like a dental extraction, well it just makes me feel that much worse. I don't know if I'm a book a year author. I just secured my first contract and my novella is coming out in August. But I think for me I need to get back to the love of story and let it flow. And not worry about the word count. Because that's why I started writing to begin with - for the love of story and the faith that I want to share with another human being.

Jeanne T said...

Great post, and great points, Becky! I am a hare when it comes to my first draft. I relish getting words on the page, transferring the story of my heart onto the page. Because I'm a plotter, I think it's easier for me to pour the words out. NO, my first drafts don't look pretty. ;)

When it comes to revisions/editing, I'm much, MUCH more the tortoise. Going through the story, tweaking, deleting, changing what doesn't work and polishing.

I'd love to be in the drawing for your book. :) What a great post!

Crystal Ridgway said...

Becky, so happy to see you here in seekerville. I do count words. Big time. Honestly, I don't feel as if I've accomplished much at all if I don't get 5K in a day. Lately though, my word count has been shot. We've found a new church, (a cowboy church) that has things going every day of the week. We don't go to all of it, but the days we do go, my word count is low. We went to Dallas on Wednesday which meant I didn't get a single word in. And... I'm letting word count rule me, aren't I?

Please please enter me into the drawing for your book. It sounds so good. And the hero is a bull rider which is the same as the hero in my WIP. :-)

Cindy Regnier said...

Word count is meaningful to me but doesn't have much to do with a daily goal. I'd rather complete a scene or a chapter vs. counting words. Anyway, when I'm done I always go back and delete a bunch of words anyway. Kind of disheartening to that word count total. Becky writes awesome books and I always want the word count to be higher so I can read longer! I can't wait to read Meant to be Mine!

Mz.ZeyZey said...

Hi, Becky!

I really enjoyed this post. I think you made some really good points. I don't write rough first drafts. Well, that isn't true. I write in the mornings and go over my output later in the day (at lunch or the day job) and clean it up. I also make note of more extensive revisions I want to do. It's my compromise between getting words on the page and my perfectionism.

I've attempted NaNoWriMo five times and only succeeded once. I've come to accept that I'm not going to get an insane amount of words each day. I'm more interested in getting the story on the page in a workable way than hitting certain word counts. I just frustrate myself not making the word count.

Of course, this is easy to do as an unpublished author. I can take my time without hard deadlines looming. I'm still trying to find a happy medium between meeting a word count and putting the best version of my story on the page before I do get published.

It's so important that we remember that our work is to both entertain and to minister to someone. Over and above that, all things happen in God's timing anyway, even my miniscule word counts.

Once again, great message with this post. I reviewed Meant to be Mine for you book tour (and LOVED it!), so no need to enter me in the drawing.

Karen Kirst said...

Great post, Becky! I fall on the tortoise side of writing. I don't have a word count goal for each day. I simply write as much as I can until I feel creatively drained. Or until life gets in the way. ;)
Your book sounds wonderful!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Piper, I agree.... it's a "to each his own" kind of thing.

But like most jobs, sometimes we have to dance with the guy who brung us!

And that means adjusting our style/preference/habits to meet their needs. So that's a dance to a different drummer, right? My sis-in-law is a great Realtor and she says the art is in the match, not the sales spiel. Once she has a match of home-to-owner, the sale is DONE.... and she can tie up loose ends.

I think the matching process in publishing is like that too. I know a few YA authors whose 12-year-old audience waits for that next 125K volume of amazing dragons, wolves, fairies and dystopia....

But most adults will shop around a lot in the meantime, so that can be a stumbling block for the adult market, but maybe not always??? And that's kind of cool!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cindy W, I hear you! Plantsers unite!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deb H., what great points of "striking while the iron is hot".

God's opened a wonderful door for you and you're doing as needed to walk through....

And like Virginia said, the practice, practice, practice of the pottery students upped the gradient of their work.

I have to believe that means something for a lot of us.

Cara Lynn James said...

Great post, Becky! I write as fast as I during the first draft, but I'm still so slow. That's just my natural speed, I guess. I'm much faster on later drafts. I've learned not to take advice from people who write very differently from me.

Becky Wade said...

Many thanks to Mary Connealy for inviting me to contribute here and to all the Seekerville ladies. I appreciate your willingness to host me. Thank you!

I'm absolutely LOVING everyone's comments! What a great discussion.

I've been doing what I usually do in the mornings, which is get my three kids to three different schools. I still have one to deliver, but wanted you all to know I haven't forgotten about you. I'll be back!

Jackie said...

Hi Becky,

I come up with characters and a loose plot then I pound out my story. THEN I spend much time rewriting my story trying to see what needs to be fixed.

I love checking in with writing groups to hold me accountable and to enjoy the friendship.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I love the sound of your new book and would love to be included in the drawing. Thanks.

Sarah Thomas said...

Becky- It sounds like we have similar writing processes. I don't plot, but I also don't just write as fast as I can. I noodle out what happens next, get that down, then think about what happens next, get that down, and so on until I have that oh-my-goodness-what-a-perfect-ending moment. When I'm in the first draft stage I do aim for a MINIMUM word count each day just because I think it's important to keep writing no matter what. Fun discussion!

Mary Connealy said...

I once had a tug of war with Becky Wade over a Rita.

She won.

And the someone at RWA jerked it out of her hands....I announced the winner. Becky accepted the trophy and....Elizabeth Camden got it mailed to her house.

btw Becky is TOUGH. She clung to that thing like ... well, the comparisons that come to mind don't bear repeating!

Thanks for being on Seekerville, Becky!

Connie Queen said...

Word counts force me to write through the rough parts. Fun scenes require no thought and doesn't feel like work. The transitions and dead space needed to bring these scenes alive require me to sit down and pretend I have some kind of awful paper due that must be turned in. Normally, after a day or two of misery, ideas begin to come together for another fun scene.

I may have to delete some pages, but I can't afford to wait my mind to do the work. It would take years to complete a book.

All that being said, 1000-1300 words a day is plenty for me. Sometimes just 200-400 words is all that I can manage when I'm struggling.

I figure everyone must do what works best for them. Who knows, on my next book I may try something totally different.

Mary Connealy said...

And as for word count!
I'm a dedicated 1000 words a day girl myself.
I sometimes write more but I rarely write less.
For me it's about discipline, something I'm lacking in most areas of my life, except as a writer. I just love it and I keep at it for the pure joy.
And I have two full length books coming out this year and
yeesh counting
1, 2, 3, 4 novellas. Yes I think it's four and three are done, one is half done (THE SEEKER NOVELLA!) and let me thinking...1, 2, 3 to write. Which I hope to have done by maybe...September.
At 1000 words a day you can write a novella in a long two weeks. How can you NOT? Three weeks if they're 20,000, but two of these are 15,000.
And I'm just having so much fun.
And as for quality. Well, Becky, Sweetie, every word I type is a GEM!!!

Mary Connealy said...

I will say too, Becky is absolutely right about there being NO ONE RIGHT WAY.

The longer I write, the more authors I meet, the more 'right ways' I find to get a book done.

And if it works for you...then don't let anyone (Including ME!) tell you yours is the wrong way.

Writing is a creative art and as artists we are allow to be mavericks.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Great blog, Becky! Some wonderful reminders. It seems like writers who get 'stuck' are caught up into two groups: Writing novel after novel as fast as they can, or obsessively polishing their first books for years.

I don't write 'drafts' either. I write the book. Then I send it in. So far, that's been working. I'm not going to fix what ain't broke!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Becky! So good to see you here this morning :)

I've tried writing multiple-thousand word sprints, but once I hit 1000-1200 words in a day, my brain shuts down.

But I need to get a regular word count down to meet deadlines.

So I count my words to keep the habit going, and somewhere along the way a book gets finished.

That makes me happy :)

And you're right - it always amazes me how the writing process can vary from one person to another. We all need to work in the way that works best for us.

Shelli Littleton said...

Thank you, Becky ... so encouraging. I don't think about the word count I write daily. I just ask for the next path, and try to go from there. Touching the heart ... that's the goal.

Pam Hillman said...

Loved the line about not pulling your ideas out by the roots.

I can so relate.

I wrote for many years while working a high-pressure day job. Brain drain at the end of the day meant that I didn't write every day, but I kept my finger on the pulse of writing and submitting. BUT... because of my job, I didn't have the best writing habits.

I have two books out, with two contracted novellas on the way, and hopefully more to come, and I'm still finding the balance in my writing style now that I work full-time from home.

But I lean more toward your method, Becky, than the write it all out in a rush, then fix it. I like to tinker with the plot, write, tinker, write, tinker, write, tinker.

On the other hand, though, I am more confident in my writing these days, and I'm learning to trust my instincts more so the writing flows faster because of that

...or maybe the writing flows faster because...I'm more diligent about daily accountability...

Accountability for me comes in making sure that I tinker/write every day to keep the story fresh in my mind. If I let the day get away from me, it's too easy to go a day or two (or three or four) and the story begins to grow stale.

Julie Lessman said...

BECKY!!!

Sooooo good to see you back, here, my friend, and goodness, I think you already know I love you and your books, but that's definitely kicked up a notch after this wonderful blog!!

You said: "I do not write an extremely rough first draft. I write a first draft that's as fleshed out and full as I can make it. And then, on top of that, I still need a minimum of two months to rewrite and revise the thing."

YES, YES, YES!!! We are definitely twins separated at birth on this (uh, give or take a few decades!). It sounds like we write exactly the same way, which is why I'm a one-book-a-year kind of gal too. Tried to change that on this last series of mine by requesting 9-month spacing between novels, but it was pretty tight, especially with all my extra-curricular activities and uh ... LIFE!!

You also said: "For some of us, that goal may have nothing at all to do with speed."

It didn't have much to do with speed for me before, but then you know this business -- it pushes and prods until you spend more time on FB and social media than you do with your family, and suddenly your pace has to pick up, going faster and faster.

That's one of the reasons I've pulled away to regroup and retrieve the writing life I know God wants me to have -- NOT the one the world or I want to have! :)

Just itching to get into Meant to be Mine, but Carol judging and endorsements have me tied up for a while, but come summer ... LOOK OUT!!

Hugs,
Julie

Chill N said...

Thank you, Becky, for questioning! The timing of your post couldn't be better.

My favorite mystery writer publishes one book a year. It's always a treasure well worth waiting for :-)

Would love to be entered in the drawing for Meant to Be Mine.

Best wishes with your writing!

Nancy C

Pam Hillman said...

One of my dearest friends, Robin Caroll, is the exact opposite to me when it comes to writing.

Robin writes a book in about two weeks, and I'm not even kidding! She blocks out huge blocks of time and goes dark to write a book, then comes back and works on other stuff, etc.

Robin and I work together on ACFW business, so I once thought that was the way I might be geared to write, but I just can't power through like that for days on end. First of all, after about 2 hours, I need a nap. Once my brain is refreshed, I can go again. But if I had a deadline in two weeks, and had 40K to write, I'm afraid I would freeze.

I'm not sure HOW she does it because it's an amazing process, but she has what she calls a scene index, and when she sits down to write, she spills out a full-length, fully fleshed out novel clean novel in a matter of weeks. Boggles my mind.

I have a scene index...in excel... but sometimes that one-liner that I thought would be a scene turns out to be a paragraph tacked on to the end of another scene. There's just not enough meat there to make it a scene.

So, my point is that it's taken me years to realize my best writing method, and I'm still not there yet.

And that's not to say that I won't ever write a full in two weeks. I once worked the day job and stayed up all night (with a few power naps here and there) for about three days straight to do a rewrite on a requested full.

Deadlines are powerful motivators! lol

Connie Queen said...

"First of all, after about 2 hours, I need a nap."

Pam, that's hilarious! I feel the same way.

Pam Hillman said...

Piper, I like the words, "Respect your process".

And, for me personally, because I've let fear turn into procrastination way too many times to count, I would add to that...

"Respect your process, but redeem your time."

MARY HICKS did you just say you wrote 22,000 words yesterday, as in TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND????

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Becky! Your post felt written for me, a tortoise who can't write a fast rough draft. To have lots of published books would be fantastic, especially when the royalty check arrives, but that won't be me. And I'm okay with that. Still, I need more of a balance in order to up my productivity, a goal of mine.

I remember waiting for that once a year release from LaVyrle Spencer, an author I loved. She's retired but I still miss her books and the gift she had to make me laugh and cry.

Meant to Be Mine sounds wonderful! Congratulations on your awards!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Virginia, the study you mention proves the importance of practice. But, it's also important to not practice the same mistakes over and over like I did as a newbie. The reason I value feedback from cps and contest judges. I suspect the potters in the study got feedback from their instructors. Any idea?

Janet

Pam Hillman said...

Sarah is a noodler, I'm a tinker'er!

Hmmm, maybe I would be more productive if I took up noodling instead! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Thank goodness we're all different! And thanks, Becky, for giving us permission to follow our own path to publication. I'm a slow synopsis and first three chapters writer. Then I push quickly through the middle of the book with a rough draft pounded out on my AlphaSmart. The ending is the fun part that seems to write itself, followed by lots of revision and rewrites. It may not be the best process, yet it works for me. I've tried to change but no luck so far! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Mary H, it's really bad when my own writing puts me to sleep. :(

Natalie Monk said...

Thanks for this post, Becky! Gives me lots to think about.

I've heard wonderful things about MTBM. It's on my wishlist. :)

Carol Moncado said...

Y'all know I'm a fast draft kind of girl. My all time high is about 14K during NaNowrimo a few.years ago. NaNo and SpeedBo work well.for me. I'm trying to finish a fast draft of a new novel because I don't get new words during the summer. Too much going on. So I do lots of editing (which I tend to loathe). Of course by finish I mean "currently have 18k and need 60k more in three weeks before school gets out and didn't get to go on that writer's retreat after all" so...

Have read Meant to be Mine and... Ty = swoon. So good!!!

Becky Wade said...

I really enjoyed Virginia's pottery analogy. I wholeheartedly agree that there's no substitute for practice. I spent four years practicing writing before I sold my first manuscript. Even then, though, I was a one book a year girl. In my case, four years equaled four practice manuscripts. My creativity has its pace.

Vicki said, "To borrow a phrase from my critique partner, we're all snowflakes and thumbprints, similar but unique." Thanks, for sharing that, Vicki. Your critique partner sounds like a gem. Is she available for hire?

Piper said, "I always would beat myself up about my approach, until a wonderful author I admire told me. "Respect your Process." Yes! Amen. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Becky, thank you for this refreshing post! I related to so much of what you said, especially the "sitting and staring at the wall" part.

And PAM--scene indexes????? Banging my head against the wall on that one!

I'm actually staring at the TV, my dogs, the laundry, dusty furniture, anything I can think of to distract myself today. Our missionary kids are on a flight back to Ethiopia right now, and I'm missing them like crazy! Not sure I can get my brain focused enough yet to work on my wip. :(

Amber Schamel said...

Becky, thank you so much for sharing this today. I needed it. Just this morning I was lamenting about my low word counts and skimming through 2k-10k yet again.

I am a slow writer, with my word counts usually averaging around 400-500 words per hour. I have so many stories that are burning on my heart and begging to get onto the page, and yet I'm so slow!! Not to mention I have very limited writing time.

Last year I published two short stories and two novellas. Not bad, but I have the sequel to my first book that needs to come out SOON if I don't want to lose reader interest.

However, you're right. My first drafts are not so rough that I have to completely re-write them. In fact, my final draft is not usually drastically different than my first.

While I still know I need to increase my writing efficiency, I was encouraged by your post. I don't have to be a 10k a day person, and the quality of my writing is very important to me.

Thanks for your post!

Lisa Medeiros said...

That was interesting! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, you know what's funny? I'll get e-mails from people to see how many books are in a series, and I tell them.... AND THEN THEY PUT THE BOOKS ASIDE TO WAIT UNTIL THE SERIES IS DONE....

And I can't lie at all, how is that possible???? A storyteller that CAN'T LIE!!!! :)

I like the different strokes for different folks reasoning because I foster it every day in little children, each one unique.

And somewhat pesky.

And I'm sure that EVERY WORD CONNEALY WRITES IS AT LEAST ONE GEM... MAYBE TWO, LOL!!!

But I also see the sensibility in Becky's comfort zone... do what works for you and if the market bears... well, good!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy, thank you for recognizing my gems.

It's about time!!!!!

:)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hahahaha! Connealy, of course I bow to your genius! I only hope to emulate it someday.

God willing.

;)

Jana Vanderslice said...

Becky! I popped over to your website & found out that you're a Baylor girl! I'm a Baylor Alum also! Actually one of your characters went to Baylor didn't they?

I'm writing from a dissertation/professional background. I measure progress in hours not in word count. A lot of that work is front line research, statistics, etc. and not direct writing. It's easier for me to gauge effort in hours (and it's easier to build in breaks and rewards!)

Thanks for your time today! Sic Em Bears!!!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Becky, thank you for sharing your perspective on word count. Such good advice to know thyself. Thanks to Mary for the reminder that no one way is the right way. I try to do some writing daily on the story I'm working on. If I wait more than two days I want to start from scratch with a scene and do a complete rewrite. If that makes sense. All the best, Becky,with your latest novel.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Becky, thank you for sharing your perspective on word count. Such good advice to know thyself. Thanks to Mary for the reminder that no one way is the right way. I try to do some writing daily on the story I'm working on. If I wait more than two days I want to start from scratch with a scene and do a complete rewrite. If that makes sense. All the best, Becky,with your latest novel.

Crystal Ridgway said...

Becky, were you at the DFW ready writers Christmas party this past December? I'm almost positive I remember meeting you there. If not, it was another author who looked an awful lot like you.

Becke said...

Becky,
I need to see my progress. I set completion goals for the draft and for the revisions. It usually takes me multiple times through the manuscript to get that manuscript bun out of the oven. It's not done until it's the best I can do.

Some stories are a little harder to coax out.
b

Becky Wade said...

DebH said, "He said everyone has about 100,000 bad drawings in you, so get going and get them out so you can get to the good ones." And Mary Hicks said, "I was told in class to get a hundred paintings on canvas and then I'd be ready to start painting."

I'm fascinated to hear this philosophy circulating in other art forms. My husband works in the sports world. There, the theory is that a person needs to input 10,000 hours at a sport in order to master it. My thinking: Even if I had 10,000 hours to devote to golf -- I'd still stink at it.

Christina said, "Becky, I read your post and felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. To be honest, I always feel like a failure when I see those posts that you mention - the "I wrote 2k today"

Right! It's sort of like a "I should be keeping up with the Jones's" mentality. Which never leaves anyone feeling good. When I see those posts I'm happy for the person, but I try not to compare myself because I know my author DNA is different.

Christina said, "I think for me I need to get back to the love of story and let it flow"

This is what I'm constantly attempting to do. I want to protect my love of story and of writing. If I'm not intentional about this I can get tugged off course so easily! I very often pray that God will renew my passion for this work. And I take steps to try to bring myself back to the main thing: simply doing the work God has called me to do.

Cindy Regnier said, "Becky writes awesome books and I always want the word count to be higher so I can read longer!"

Thank you kindly!! I write one book a year, but it's always a fairly long book. Again, that's just me and my way. Meant to Be Mine is 111K.

Mz. ZeyZey said, "I just frustrate myself not making the word count."

This is one aspect of why daily word count goals don't work for me. I don't want to feel bummed out about failing to reach my writing goals. I want to feel positive emotions toward writing (to protect the love of it I mentioned above).

My favorite way to write a novel is via hourly goals. For example, at the start of a week I might look at my schedule and plan to write for 15 hours that week. Then I'd follow through and be diligent and focused for those 15 hours. Whatever words accumulated, accumulated. If I spent three hours editing and adding hardly any new words one day, I'd still feel great about my efforts.

Now that I have deadlines, I work off a weekly page goal. I have a certain number of pages I strive to get in each week. If I don't feel like writing one day (or if I have family stuff to do, etc) -- fine. I can make the pages up another day.

Mary Connealy said, "Becky is TOUGH. She clung to that thing like ... well, the comparisons that come to mind don't bear repeating!"

LOL!! Mary and I did indeed have a tug of war over Elizabeth Camden's RITA statue last summer. That was probably the closest I'll ever come to a RITA, Mary. My fierce determination to hang onto it gave me superhuman strength. :)

JULIE LESSMAN! You're fabulous. I love seeing you here, my friend. We were separated at birth! The evidence to support this fact is overwhelming.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Becky,

Great to see you here in Seekerville! I adore your writing and don't care much how you go about it! LOL.

So true about each writer being different in their approaches. And some books just come easier than others - like a gift from God that flows from the fingertips!

Would love to be in the draw for your book. It's in my Amazon cart basket as we speak, waiting to check out! Have to space my book buying out a bit - you know how it is!

Tomorrow is the 80th birthday party for my mother!! Praying all goes smoothly - out of town relatives arriving as a surprise! Today Mom was upset because she didn't get any cards in the mail. Little does she know they're all coming in person tomorrow!

Cheers,
Sue
sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Becky, thank you for the encouraging words. My first novel took me three years to write, mainly because I was just writing for fun, and also, for some reason, thought my novel had to be at least 100K (it ended up at 125K!). Now, working on my second, and editing the first, I've established goals AND a more manageable word count. I've learned a lot, and setting a 1K writing goal for each session keeps me on track. I almost always go back and edit the last session before I continue on with new stuff.

If I ever get published, I think I'll be a one book a year or less type!

Please include me in the drawing; "Meant to be Mine" sounds fun!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ReflectionsbyCindy said...

My first drafts don't come easy. I'm a discovery writer and don't believe in plotting down to the details. It cuts down my creativity to be that forced. The characters come to me and I let them tell me the story. I know the beginning and the ending, the middle kind of sorts itself out.

In the end, I don't worry so much about the daily word count, but about the quality of the story. My goal is to have one novel and one novella a year, subject to changes as needed.

Count me in for the giveaway, Becky. I'd love to read the new book.

lucindawhitney.com

bethanyfiction said...

Just to add a little more to this discussion: a sales rep to bookstores mentioned that if an author has too many books coming out in one year, bookstores will buy fewer copies (knowing that a new one will be out in three months or so). There is such a thing as over-saturating the market!

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, your readers can hold your books as fast as you are. LaVeryl didn't write series so waiting a year wasn't unusual, at least back then. Things are speeding up. Not a good time for me to be slowing down. LOL

Janet

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Thank you, Becky! I often feel left behind in the writing race since I'm not a particularly fast writer compared to some. Kudos to all who can send their internal editor packing because I am not one of you :) Really needed to hear this right now! <3

Courtney Phillips said...

I'm a little bit of a perfectionist. That's why I stink at rough drafts. If I'm not confident in what I wrote the previous day, I pretty much have to revise. I do like to write 1,000 words a day, but I'm not a dictator about it. Mostly, I just want to, every day, make the story better. This has lead to a complete book, so I'm happy.
Anyway, we're all different...find out how you write best and do it. In the end, no matter how it takes, you'll have something you're proud of.

Loved Meant To Be Mine!!!

Courtney Phillips said...

*how long it takes*

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Bethanyfiction, thanks for stopping by!

You know, that's a valid point. Bookstores are being very cautious on stocking books and that's something to bear in mind. I've noticed the trend to turn more books face out to give the illusion of full shelves with fewer books... so understanding the underlying dollars of their marketing strategies is clutch.

Excellent point.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, that's so true! LaVyrle's books always made me want to be a better writer, even before I was writing.

I still have several of her books on my keeper shelf. Beautiful, thought-provoking reality-based romance.



Becky Wade said...

Jana said, "I popped over to your website & found out that you're a Baylor girl! I'm a Baylor Alum also! Actually one of your characters went to Baylor didn't they?

Yes! What fun to see another Baylor Bear here. Kate in My Stubborn Heart was my Baylor girl character, Jana. The apple doesn't fall far... :)

Crystal said, "Becky, were you at the DFW ready writers Christmas party this past December?"

I was there. Were you there with your daughters? I remember you, too! We don't just live in cyberspace, it seems.

Stephanie said, "My first novel took me three years to write, mainly because I was just writing for fun, and also, for some reason, thought my novel had to be at least 100K (it ended up at 125K!)"

My first manuscript was 140K long. I was so ignorant of the market that I had no idea I'd written a book that was entirely too long. Huge surprise: that one didn't sell.

Crystal Ridgway said...

Yep, Becky. That was me with the two girls in the fancy dresses. It's always fun to connect with someone online that I've briefly met in person! I'd be coming to the meetings on a monthly basis but two and a half hours is a long drive. :-/

CatMom said...

Hi Becky! So glad to see you here today, and I loved your post. It's always fascinating to me when I learn what works for different authors.

For me personally, I like to set a self-imposed deadline, but not so much by a certain daily word count. I tend to be more productive if I have an overall goal (ex. Finish next 3 chapters by end of month).

I think it's great when each writer finds what works for her (or him). ;) And I'm always open to suggestions and trying something different (another reason I enjoy reading blog posts by favorite authors!).
Hugs, Patti Jo :)

Mary Curry said...

Hi Becky,
This is a really interesting post to me. I'm normally a very slow writer. Lately, I've been doing word count goals to keep me honest. If I say I'm doing 1k a day, I'll make sure I do it rather than say, ah, I'm too tired today (after the day job).

Right now I'm doing LIS's KillerVoices and trying to write fast enough for those deadlines is really testing me.

Thanks for a refreshing viewpoint!

Sarah Rupp said...

Thank you so much for breaking the generally accepted myths of publishing a novel. Sometimes I find myself doubting if trying to write something even when I am uninspired is really a good thing since it usually gets discarded anyway! I'm too much of a perfectionist for the whole rough draft thing, though. ;)

Kristi Holl said...

Very wise article here, and it needed to be said! Thank you!

Tanya Agler said...

Dear Becky, I loved your post on multiple levels. I too took a maternity leave after the birth of my twins, and I think this is the right path that God has lit unto my path. I loved your advice about knowing oneself. Thanks for the post.

Mary Preston said...

I'm not a writer, but I am a tortoise. I do get there in the end.

Mark Abel said...

Hi Becky,

Thank you so much for your encouragement today. I'm working on my first novel and have been at it now for two and a half years! A friend of mine just received a rejection letter from an Agent who would not even consider his book unless he already had at least 100,000 blog followers. I'm not sure the Agent was being honest in the reason for rejecting my friends book but it was disheartening. At 145,500 words and counting I must be honest it gave me reason to consider why I'm even doing this? Is it realistic for me to even imagine that my story might some day be published?

As I considered the question the answer came quite easily. I started this and I will complete it. Even if it never gets published and I never write again, I have a story to tell, and I will. I may not be savvy with social media and self promotion twittering but what the hell. I resonated with so much of what you had to share. I pray and I write, I think and meditate and then write some more. Sometimes I have no idea where the story is going to go next and I'm apprehensive about opening the Word file titled, Draft 1. But each time I re-engage it seems to flow and I'm blessed again by where the story leads and what it reveals next.

Bottom line is that I love to write and I have a story to tell. Sometimes I think that maybe my entire life has been preparing me for this. Even if my children are the only ones who might ever read my story after I'm gone, that's ok, because it will help them know a little more about who their dad was. And even if no one reads my story that's ok also because in the end it is this. I'm writing this story from my heart to the Lord as an act of worship and praise for who He is.

I will press on and thank you for sending your message on such a day as this.
Thanks Becky, thank you very much. Mark

Dawn Crandall said...

I LOVE THIS POST!!!! I'm a slow writer, achieving about one book a year. Well, minus the last year since I was pregnant and couldn't get my brain to function creatively. :-/ So, I have three books from three years of writing. It doesn't sound like a lot when I see all of those posts from my fellow-agented friends who are cranking out novels left and right. How do they do that??? Am I not motivated enough? Talented enough??? And has pregnancy and motherhood now forever taken it's toll on my Writer's brain?? Will I even be able to write one book a year ever again?? Will these first three soon-to-be-released books--which fortunately have found a publisher in a relatively quick timeframe--be the only books I'm ever going to have a chance to share with the world??? I'm afraid I might have to take a baby break the way you did... did you have trouble letting go?? I feel like I'm going to be so behind now for the rest of my writing life. :-/

Leilah Wright said...

What an encouragement! I've been so bummed about not finishing my book yet. I have two little ones, but I felt that I should be able to reach my word count. Every night though, I was too tired and I felt that I had let myself down.

There's no rush. One of these days it'll get done as long as I work on it when I can.

Kara Isaac said...

I feel like I'm coming to the party after the streamers have been thrown, the trestle tables packed away and the janitor is sweeping up the paper cups but, by crikey, I read somewhere in the comments that someone had written twenty-two THOUSAND words in one day and I had to go lie down!

To comment on a different tangent, I would far rather a favorite author write one awesome book a year, than three not-so-great ones (as much as it hurts to finish that one book and know I have another 11 months and three weeks to wait!).

Last year I read a book by an author who is one of my favorites. For some reason though, this book didn't really do it for me. It had the potential to be great but it just didn't reach her usual heights. It felt a bit forced, rushed. Then I had a bit of a look around and realized she had three books releasing from different publishers over three months. I'm thinking that probably had something to do with it.

Please don't put me in the drawing for anything. Two out of the three Christian bookstores in my city closed early this year and so I am now on a mission to support the one remaining one. Even though it is KILLING ME that it still doesn't have Meant to be Mine in when I know Amazon would've had it to me weeks ago!

Becky Wade said...

Mark said, "I started this and I will complete it. Even if it never gets published and I never write again, I have a story to tell, and I will."

Good for you, Mark! Don't be discouraged. You can and you will complete it. God bless your writing!

Dawn asked, " I'm afraid I might have to take a baby break the way you did... did you have trouble letting go??"

Yes. It broke my heart in some ways to let go of writing when I had my baby. But in other ways it did my heart a lot of good to let go of the pressure and the long writing 'to do' list. I've known lots of writers who have returned to writing after a maternity break and done very well. I did that myself after my third. But after my first, I sensed the Lord calling me to take a break from writing. Looking back over the journey, I'm glad He did. I couldn't see His plan then, but now it's clear.

Leilah said, "I have two little ones, but I felt that I should be able to reach my word count. Every night though, I was too tired and I felt that I had let myself down."

I'd tell you to punt those word count goals. You have two little ones! That you're surviving at all with some vestige of sanity intact is a huge accomplishment! It's my hope for you that you can feel great about your writing, and not as though you've let yourself down. Maybe try a very reachable time goal for the week. You could start with, "I'm going to write for X hours this week." And make sure that X is a goal you can accomplish. :) Then you can tinker with your weekly goal after a few weeks until you find the sweet spot that suits you.

Thanks, everyone, for chatting with me. I've really loved visiting Seekerville.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

Nice post. A lot of truths in there. There are some reasons for a couple of those benchmark goals like word count and finishing a rough draft but you've made some good points. Thanks!

Amanda said...

Great post! I have friends who have completed the NaNoWriMo challenge and I couldn't understand how they cranked out an entire novel that quickly when it has taken me months just to flesh out my characters. It made me feel like, maybe I'm not cut out to be a writer after all. But then I realized that I write how I write. I like to do my research and have a full bio of my characters complete with background history; this helps add depth and consistency.
I'd rather read a short book with well-developed characters and plot-line than a longer one without any :)