Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wine and word count

As I sit here typing on my laptop, there is a nice glass of wine nearby. It's my treat for not having any bills this fortnight. But I begin to think about a very important part of writing - the output.

In my daydreams, I'm rich and living in my dream house on the beach, and my close family is all local. At the moment, I have a brother and his girlfriend who are in another state of Australia, and might be moving to England for a year or so. I also have a step-sister and her fiance living in England, and my dad and his wife are about 3 hours away by car.

The only part of my family that is near at hand is my sister, my mum and my mum's parents. But in my daydreams, we're all in the South of Adelaide, my home town and a place I dearly love. And we're going on a wine tour for my birthday, but that's besides the point. It is daydream land anyway, so I can do what I want.

But anyway, we're all local and I have my dream house, and a wife or fiancee, and I'm prolific writer. My entire family wants to read everything I write as soon as it's written (see, I'm coming back to output) - so I concoct a plan. I'm going to give everyone a flash drive and save all my writing to it. Then, whenever they come over, I can simply update their flash drive from my master file (and I have 3 flash drives myself, so I always have a backup). What this does is give them plenty to read before it comes out in stores, and for me, I now have half a dozen backups of my writing that aren't even in my house, so if my house burned down, it wouldn't be a problem. Well, past insurance claims, anyway.

But how much can I really write? Can I keep the family happy with how much I write, so if they only visit on weekends they'll still have plenty of new stuff to read?

I think I can. But only if by that point I'm a full time writer. I can write 1500 words in an hour on a good hour, and if I was full time and actually seeing money for my work, I could work many hours in the day and night.

I once wrote a 124,000 word novel in 2 months, and I could've done it quicker. My current goal is to learn how to write a 65,000 word novel in a single week. Let's think about it... those 2 months, the first month I hit 65,000 after 2 weeks or so. And I wasn't even writing all day every day. So really, I could feasibly manage a novel of that length in a week.

I have also learned that the speed with which I write doesn't affect my quality of writing. My first book took 5 months, and I love it to pieces, and I'd give it a 7 out of 10 on the first draft. The novel that was twice as long and only took 2 months, well, I'd have to give it a 7 too. It would've been an 8.5, but I fudged some of the outline of the second half, so a good portion of it needs rewriting, so it went down to 7 overall. If I split it in half, the first half would be an 8.5, and the second half a 6. The second half was written slower than the first half.

My second quickest book I am very happy with, and was 40,000 words in a month. I would give that an 8.5 too. So really, the speed with which I write doesn't affect the quality of my writing, unless you consider that the slower I write, typically the lower score it receives.

So learning to write a 65,000 word novel in a week shouldn't be a problem. It's just a matter of spending more time per day writing, and having plenty of outline done.

Yes, I'm an outliner. One of my internet friends is a very quick writer, and she rarely uses an outline. It works for her, and she has been known to say, "Why would I do an unneccessary outline when I can do just a good a job without one? It's just extra time and work." And I like that logic, but you see, I've tried writing without an outline, and I find myself waiting for inspiration, so the overall process takes more time anyway. For me.

An outline for me is pretty bare bones. It usually takes me 1 or 2 days. So let's say I do an outline for a book in 2 days. I then give myself a day off. Then it takes me a week to write 65,000 words constituting a novel. That's 10 days, which is a nice round number. That's where I hope to be when I'm writing full time.

This way, I can work in 3 week shifts. 10 days per book, then 11 days off while the next idea percolates and I spend time with my family, wife, internet friends, my blog, everything like that. And that's 3 weeks, and then the fun can start all over again.

There are 52 weeks a year. So if I do this 3 week thing, I can write 17 books in a year, and have an extra week to take all to myself. Probably the week of Christmas and New Year's Eve.

And why would I want to write 17 books a year? Don't most authors write simply 1 book a year, or maybe 2 at most? Maybe that's how many they publish, but not all books are destined for publication.

I have a saga or two in me that I want to see published at all costs. I will write them in 3 book bursts, and then do my all to see them in print, regardless of how much editing that entails. But those are all set in the same world, and will be printed under the same name. That's my *serious* writing business. I also want to write in several different genres under several different names. So while I may only release 2 of my saga books a year, that leaves 15 other books to try and get published in genres that I don't take as seriously as my sagas. I still take them seriously, mind you (they are business, after all), but my sagas are my babies. So let's say 5 books per different genre, and some of them won't be published. That sounds reasonable to me.

And if you're wondering how insane I am for wanting to put myself through this, consider another internet friend I have. She writes in one genre under 2 different names. All her books are stand-alones, so they're not part of a saga, so she can query each book as it's written. She wrote 1 million words last year. Yup, 1 million, for the same genre. She's also sold 7 books in a year under her 2 different names.

But let's do the numbers. My books are typically 40-65,000 words. Let's be generous and say 65,000. My books that are longer than that will be about 120,000 words each, on average, and I'll give them 2 weeks of writing as opposed to one - so 2 3-week cycles in a row of outline, write, break, ouline, write, break. So that's still basically 65,000 words per 3 weeks, and there will be 17 of those cycles.

65,000 times 17 = 1,105,000 words. 1.1 million. And my friend did just over a million herself last year. So it's entirely possible, especially if I forget to take an 11 day break at some point a couple of times. And she's sold 7 books in a year, keeping up with the editing and querying process.

So really, I think this is a viable plan, and something to aim for. But hell, when I think about being that dedicated I'm already making enough off writing to be able to pay for a beach house, so the motivation would be there. At the moment it's just a daydream that I am incessantly working towards. Who knows? In 5 years time it might be a reality.

In 5 years time, my family might all be local, and I can go on a wine tour for my birthday with my wife and family, and be producing 1 million words a year and selling 7 books a year. To say that I envy my friend would be a bit misleading. I don't believe it's possible to envy someone for something that you know you can do yourself, if only you become dedicated.

And I am dedicated. I just haven't started producing that much work yet. I have other life stuff going on, and I've let myself be slack, because I have yet to see a pay out for all the hard work.

But even as we speak, one of my books, one that I gave 8.5 out of 10 and am very happy with, is with a beta reader. Once I get it back from her, I can send it out to publishers and agents, and who knows, I might just find my payout to give me the output dedication I so greatly desire.

I might not even have to get a day job! It will be an uphill battle, but I believe in myself, and I want it so bad. Watch me do it.

And now for some more wine!

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