Friday, May 18, 2012

A New "Brutal" Writing Schedule

The blog-o-sphere is buzzing about a New York Times article which described writing 2000 words in a day as "brutal."

Every writer is different, every life is different, and so I'm not going to jump on any writers who find that kind of a daily output to be exceedingly difficult, or even impossible.  But that's individuals.  For the majority of full-time writers, that should not be so extraordinary.  Certainly not enough to be called, across the board, "brutal."

But the figure stuck in my head -- just on a theoretical basis -- and made me reconsider my goals.  Again.

What does 2000 Words A Day Mean?

Okay, the article quoted two figures.  One was the 2000 words a day, and the other was two books a year.  An average book of the authors mentioned was about 100,000 words.

Two thousand words a day, every day, is 730,000 words a year.  Significantly more than the 200,000 words needed for two books.... so I'm going to assume two things:

1.) These are not polished words.  They're raw words, and rewrites are included in the count.

2.) We'll be fair and assume this grueling schedule of 2000 a day is only five days a week.  You know, like a regular full-time job.  That totals 10,000 words a week.

This summer, I am working just over 1/4 time.  So if 2000 words is a full-time job then 1400 words should suit my schedule.  And if I do that 5 days a week, that should add up to 7000 words a week.


A thousand words a day (every day, not just work days) is a very common daily goal.  It's the background goal I usually set when I feel the need to count words, and I usually do it when I'm working 1/2 to 3/4 time at the day job.

And yes, it's usually a challenge to keep it up for more than a couple of months when I'm working that many hours.  But not brutal.  Just a challenge.

But if the New York Times thinks it's brutal, who am I to argue?

So that's the goal I'm setting for this tough, mean, nasty, brutal summer is:

7000 words a week, starting today, May 18.

I'm planning to do it like a work week: 1400, five days a week, or even 1750 four days.  But I don't know if that will work, because I like to write every day, mostly.  I might just set the daily goal high and then take time off when a rough day comes along.

But wait, it's going to be tougher than that.

Because I'm not going to count polishing or editing time - just raw new words.  And I've got to tell you, that the editing for this blogstory experiment with The Misplaced Hero is, um, brutal.  I'm learning to peel the story back, to a very simple and direct form, AND to fit a schedule and format.  AND I'm drawing two episode banners a week as well. This is not a trivial task.

And I'm blogging (although the blogstory does relieve some of that).

I plan to keep this up over the break between ROW80 rounds, but that may be ambitious.  I'll re-assess what I'm doing at that time.

See you in the funny papers.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

If 2000 words a day is brutal, you and I are really torturing ourselves. :) Ha! Now, I do get that burned-out feeling sometimes, but it's so much better than the alternative--that rusty feeling.

Good luck with your challenge!

David Michael said...

I always only count raw new words. Most often, when I do after-manuscript revision, I add a few % of words to the total. I don't count those words, though. That would be tedious.

I read the article in NYT when it first showed up on Saturday, and sent the link to a friend of mine because I thought he would find it amusing. I never expected the article would become a topic of world wide conversation. But, yeah, my first response to the "brutal" schedule was, "What does she do with the other 5 novels?" Maybe she has pseudonyms. :-)


The Daring Novelist said...

Elizabeth: yeah. Sure, it's a lifestyle change. I can even see "hard." But "brutal"? Brutal is what new doctors go through. Brutal is what are armed forces go through (even just in basic training -- which maybe is the best metaphor here.)

If you're really going through "brutal," your life changes. You reach a whole new level of consciousness.

Brutal is not just doing a good day's work.

David: When I'm doing rewriting and polishing time, I count minutes instead. It worked well last fall. (It should have worked this spring, but somehow I lost incentive instead of gained it.)