Tag Archives: nanowrimo

In Defense of Small Word Counts

Let me let you in on a little secret. I don’t write a lot of words per day.

My daily word counts vary from 350 to 700 on a good day, but I almost never break 1,000 words unless I’m at the very end the book because the resolution is often easy for me to write since all the major strings have been tied.

On social media, it’s common for people to post their word counts after a writing sprint or just as a daily thing they do to hold themselves accountable. When I see people post that they wrote 4,000 words in a few hours, I feel sick. That’s more than I write in a week sometimes, most times. Seeing giant word counts is something that bothers me on and off. When my writing is flowing well, I don’t really care. When I’m struggling, all I see are other people’s numbers and I begin to feel inadequate.

When I’m writing consistently, it’s easy say to myself, “Why do you care? You’ve published 5 books. It isn’t like your words don’t add up to a full book.” And my books aren’t exactly tiny. Most are over 90,000 words. So what if it takes me 6-9 months to write it? I’d like to blame capitalism for that. Everything we do is measured in productivity and inevitably we tie our self-worth to the outcomes of our labor. How many words per day is merely a metric by which I measure my self-worth when things aren’t going well.

Someone might say, “Ditch the word count. Just write.” I tried that last year when my mental health was rather shitty, and it did the opposite of help because without something to push me, I wrote nothing for a few months. When writing is a form of self-care, you understand how this can cause a downward spiral. My small daily word count goal of 350 words is like saying I’m going to meditate for 15 minutes every day. It’s something I have to push myself to do because my brain, when it’s feeling low, resists doing it even though it’s good for me. A small, doable goal gives me the push I need to get it done.

Once I hit my 350, I can stop and go to bed. Most of the time I keep going. Days I don’t write because I just don’t have mental or physical spoons to do so, I make up for it the next day. I have a word count tracker that I use to chart my progress and hold myself accountable. Days I don’t write, I don’t put a zero in. Some may think it’s cheating, but zeroes made it harder to write when I was down. Now I just fill in 350 and make up for it the next day by writing 700 words or as I tell myself 2 350s.

We do what we must to trick ourselves into taking our medicine.

For years, I’ve dreaded things like NaNoWriMo where you write 50,000 words in a month or 1,667 words a day. Before I made friends with other writers, I thought you had to be a pro to accomplish such a massive daily word count or be on speed. It never seemed possible. Then I made friends with writers who seemed to do it without a lot of trouble and my confidence cracked. I couldn’t do it. I tried to do NaNo and gave up within the first week. Despite all the hype and support of other writers, I stared at that word count like it was Mt. Everest. Only the strongest and best could do it, and I couldn’t.

What I failed to notice is how many writers do NaNo and don’t publish or shop the book after. Plenty of books grow out of NaNo, but most don’t or they need to be heavily revised. That’s far from my usual process. Until last year, I had never had to totally rewrite a book. My books need editing, but most of it is fact-checking, copy edits, and cleaning up/beefing up descriptions. What I start, I finish, even if it takes the better part of a year.

I guess the point of all this is that you have to do what works for you. If writing a lot and then editing a lot is what comes naturally, then do it. If you write a little at a time, that’s fine too. There’s no one way to write even if there are plenty of books that try to teach you how to boost your productivity. At some point, you have to come to terms with what your process is and embrace it as best you can.

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October in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

This month has been kind of crazy for me. Steph, my best friend who lives in the UK, came to stay with us (and is still here for a few more days), so a lot of October was spent getting her room ready, stressing, and finally enjoying her company. I’ve been having a great time and venturing to places even I haven’t gone. The downside is, this is all at the expense of my writing, but for two weeks with my best friend, I think I can make that sacrifice.

What I accomplished:

  1. Wrote 10,000 words of The Earl and the Artificer (87,000 words total)
  2. Edited the first two “acts” of The Earl and the Artificer, which is about 155 pages out of 221
  3. Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  4. Finished or nearly finished a lot of my grad assistant work (department newsletter and such)
  5. Have enjoyed my time with Steph thus far and have thrown social anxiety to the wind and just had fun
  6. Made a Goodreads page for The Earl and the Artificer

Goals for November:

  1. Actually finish The Earl and the Artificer
  2. Finish editing The Earl and the Artificer and send it off to the betas
  3. Get ahead of my schoolwork to avoid end of semester stress/meltdown
  4. Read 2-3 books
  5. Finish book cover
  6. Maybe begin thinking about book 4

Yes, this is slightly late, but I’ve been having fun with my best friend and would rather be doing that than blogging. October has been a weird month for me. With Steph here, I’m much more social and am out and about, but even before that, October felt like an in-between month. I felt like I was in a holding pattern. I wanted to do things, but I didn’t know if I had the time or energy to really get involved. Writing fell to the wayside for prepping and doing schoolwork, and I’m okay with that. Usually I would be beating myself up over it, and I was at first, but I see that I needed to step away a bit.

With my writing, I’m nearly done with The Earl and the Artificer. I only have about three or so more chapters to write, and I am so ready to be done and move on to serious editing. More than anything, I want to start my prep for book four. At first, I had delusions of NaNoWriMo for November, but it’s not happening. There’s no way I can manage that right now. Plus, I need to finish book three before I throw any more projects on my plate. December may turn out to be my replacement pseudo-NaNoWriMo. I don’t need hoards of writers peer pressuring me with their daily stats to make me write; I just need time and energy. Both of which are in short supply at the moment.

So let’s discuss November. November will be my catch-up month. I plan on finishing everything this month. I need to finish writing The Earl and the Artificer, get the cover together, start doing my major editing, and hopefully send it out to my beta readers. Get shit done is basically the plan. Originally, I had hoped to publish book three in December, but it’s looking more and more like it will be January. That’s okay, but December would have been better. Thus far, I have been doing edits to tighten it up, but a few more rounds will be needed before I think about publishing it, and that takes time.

For my readers, please stay tuned for more info. I hope to have a pre-order link up in the not-so-distant future.

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July in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

July was an oddly productive month. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how this happened, but I think a good part of it is that I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, which forced me to be disciplined about my writing routine, and that I made sure to replenish my writing mojo by feeding my creativity with outings and good books.

What I did accomplish:

  1. Wrote 20,000 words of The Earl and the Artificer (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #3), which equates to about 5 chapters
  2. Met my Camp NaNoWriMo word count goal + 5,000 words
  3. Read Cold Magic (The Spiritwalker Trilogy, #1) by Kate Elliott and Indie Author Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn
  4. Finished proofing the audiobook for The Earl of Brass (IMD #1)
  5. Got the ball rolling on the audiobook for The Winter Garden (IMD #2)
  6. Fixed/”finalized” blurb for The Earl and the Artificer
  7. Balanced writing, fun, and life better

Goals for August:

  1. Write 15,000 words of The Earl and the Artificer
  2. Finish and send “An Oxford Holiday” to my beta readers
  3. Read 2-3 books
  4. Build up my daily word count and work on a plan for when grad school classes start again
  5. Continue to strive to write instead of striving for perfection

For once, I went above and beyond with my goals this month. Usually I find myself groaning when I reread my goals from the previous month because I’ve missed the mark on around half of them. In July, I exceeded my word count goal by 5,000 words, finished my audiobook (which should be available in a week or two), and was still able to read on the side. The Earl and the Artificer is finally cruising along and coming into its own (FINALLY). Seriously, this book was dragging so badly for a while, and it was all me. I needed to get my ducks in a row and really figure out where the story was going. By digging in and plowing through to meet my word count, there was no time to “get stuck” or make excuses as to why I wasn’t writing. Instead of taking a day or two to figure things I out, I consulted the color-coded outline I made and kept on going. One of the things that I think helped a lot was downloading one of these word count tracking spreadsheets. All you do is add the amount of words you wrote that day, and it takes it out of the your monthly or yearly goals. It’s a hundred times better than anything I could have made.

The downside to being so productive with book 3 is that I totally put “An Oxford Holiday” to the side. I’m still about 80% through it, but I need to take a day or two and wrap it before I give it a quick edit and send it off to the beta readers. It will be done by the end of August, but obviously the larger project takes precedence. I also need to convince my cover artist to make me a simplified cover for “An Oxford Holiday”.

This month I turned twenty-four, and I’m incredibly amazed by what I’ve done in the past year. Last year around this time, I had just published my first book and had no idea what I was doing. Now, I feel much more confident in my abilities, and I have two books out and four poems published in different literary magazines. Hopefully by the time I’m twenty-five, I’ll have at least three books out and a few short stories. It still amazes me how far I’ve come in a short space of time and how much I’ve learned. During the month, I hope to read Susan Kaye Quinn’s For Love or Money to add to my knowledge of author entrepreneurship.

While I’m looking forward to August and what I will hopefully accomplish, I know I have lost certain things to my goals. The main thing is cutting back on blog posts, but I’m pretty okay with that. People seem to be responding to my update posts as well as they did my other ones.

To wrap up, I have two posts to make note of:

I’m running a Goodreads giveaway of 2 paperbacks of The Earl of Brass and I did a guest post for the lovely Kate M. Colby about creating realistic characters.


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Writing and Food Poisoning

I am one of those people who rarely ever gets the stomach virus. It’s been years since I’ve had to deal with it, and when I say years, I mean, at least ten because I think I was in middle school the last time I threw up. This past week I felt bloody awful.

In a few of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’m participating in Camp Nanowrimo, which means for the month of July, I am trying to write 15,000 words, which would double what I have thus far of my manuscript. I was incredibly excited about the challenge of this, and within a few days, I made it a nightly ritual to write each night before bed, usually at least 500 words. I wanted to break away from being a feast or famine writer and write every day instead even if I didn’t really feel like it. It was going really well… until the 10th.

nanowrimoI made it through my day at work, and I didn’t feel that great. I felt dizzy, but sometimes my sinuses get clogged and I didn’t think much of it. Friday night, I felt horrible. Nauseous, dizzy, horrible headache, absolutely miserable. I sat staring at my computer with my outline beside me unable to do anything. Flipping tabs to my Camp Nanowrimo graph, I sighed. There goes the writing streak. I ended up shutting off my computer and going to bed at eleven.

The entire weekend I felt off. Just inexplicably sick without having any outward symptoms. I thought I was crazy. As I sat there pecking out as many words as I could before I burned out, I tried to figure out if the nausea was in my head or if I really felt sick. This continued for several days and probably reached its worst on Monday. Tuesday, the symptoms finally seemed to ease. I no longer felt like my head was going to blow off and every movement didn’t make me seal my lips against the threat of vomit. In the past I have had sinus infections that led to dizziness and nausea, so I figured that’s what it was and it would go away in a week or two. The same day, my mom calls and tells me that Shoprite called everyone who bought the frozen, prepared chicken we ate on Thursday because it had been contaminated with Salmonella.

Can I just say that food poisoning is miserable no matter how mild. I know some people become violently ill and can barely leave the bathroom, but this was like nothing I have felt in a long time. If you feel lousy, you probably do. I don’t know if other people sit there wondering if they really feel sick or if it’s all in their heads, but trust your instincts, you’re probably sick and it’s okay to take a step back and recuperate for a day or two instead of stressing over what you haven’t done. More than likely it isn’t getting done well when you’re sick as a dog anyway.

The entire time I wasn’t feeling well, I was so afraid I would stop writing and ditch my Camp Nanowrimo challenge. I ended up skipping a day (the 10th), but the next day, despite feeling crappy, I kept writing and recovered. Thus far, I am way ahead of my challenge goal for the day, and by the end of the month, I’ll have written closer to 20,000 words than the 15,000 I set out to write at the beginning of the month. Now, to get back to writing!

PS- Stay away from frozen prepared chicken. It doesn’t taste that good, and the food poisoning is not worth it.

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Camp Nanowrimo

This year I have decided to participate in Camp Nanowrimo. If you have never heard of it, Nanowrimo is short for national novel writing month. Normally, Nanorwrimo takes place in the fall, and the goal is to finish 50,000 words in a month. Camp Nanowrimo differs in that you only set a goal of however many pages you want to write. In my case, it’s 15,000 words, which means to meets to meet that goal, I have to write about 500 words a day.

Typically, I don’t do Nanowrimo. When I first heard the premise of it a few years ago, I scoffed at it. My friend, who was taking a full load of university classes at the time, was on the brink of tears daily because she couldn’t juggle all of her coursework and writing about 1,667 words a day. It didn’t seem like it was worth the stress. In the spring, I was invited by my fellow writer friend Kate M. Colby to participate in the first session of Camp Nanowrimo. Still dubious about the idea, I joined and gave myself a goal of 15,000 words. Unfortunately, it was April, which is the big crunch before final papers and projects were due. I updated exactly once the entire month. It was demoralizing to say the least to watch the number you needed per day to meet your goal grow while you can only type out a hundred words or so a day while writing a twenty page essay. Too bad the paper didn’t count toward my Nanowrimo goal.

Once again, Kate invited me to be part of her cabin for July Nanowrimo. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it again. I had been having writers block on and off with The Earl and the Artificer and wasn’t really getting anyway. My anxiety was rising because I need to turn it in to my professor/advisor at some point since it’s my thesis project. Did I really want to add stress by tacking on a daily word count? Hesitantly, I agreed. The worst I could do was not write and drag the cabin’s word count down (sorry, cabin mates).

I am so happy I did. In my last post (June in Review), I mentioned that one of my goals for July is to stop focusing on perfection and focus on writing. My perfectionist tendencies were holding me back and paralyzing my writing. With my Camp Nanowrimo writing, I know I need to write about 500 words per day to meet my goal. In the big scheme of things, 500 words isn’t that much and comes out to maybe half a page to a page, depending on whether the scene is dialogue-heavy. Thus far, I have written 2,035 words in the past 3 days, and while that isn’t much for some writers, it’s probably more than I have written for that book in two weeks.

Why does it work? I’m not a hundred percent sure. Part of it, I think, is that there are other writers in your cabin doing the same thing. You aren’t all going for the same goal, but you’re all writing. There’s a message board where you can post or ask for help or congratulate someone else on doing well with their goals. It’s a bit of synergy even if you aren’t close by. Everyone sets a goal that is specific to them, so there isn’t any peer pressure to write 60,000 words in a month. It’s relaxing, and because I don’t have any classes or pressing work, I can leisurely write and update my progress without worrying when I’m going to squeeze it in. One of the things I have noticed while working toward my Camp Nanowrimo goal is that I do my most productive writing from 11 PM to 1:30 AM. I think it’s easier to focus once everyone else (including the dogs) has gone to bed, and at that point, I’m a little tired and am not as uptight about my work. The next day, I do a little tinkering before I work again on my next session.

Are you participating in Camp Nanowrimo or any writing retreats this summer?


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