Thursday, September 08, 2005

I've Been Busy

With Mary Ann having done a few blog entries in quick succession, I feel guilty for not having done my regular Blog chores.

But when I'm in the middle of a writing project (actual writing, not just research) I tend to let everything else back up. I haven't been mowing the grass, cleaning my office, or keeping all my stories in circulation to the editors either. Only the hurricane has had the clout to knock me off my schedule.

For what it's worth I'm currently on page 115 of my 'first draft' of the new novel ROSWELL OR BUST.

For those of you who are interested in writing, let me show you one of my self-discipline tools:

This is a spreadsheet that I update each day with the wordcount of the project. As you can see for today, I need to write another 622 words to reach my official goal of 1000 words a day (green). I'm sufficiently in the groove that my weekly rolling average is above the 1000 word mark. You can also see that watching too much Weather Channel and CNN knocked me from from the healthy 1700 word range to barely functioning. I'm having to work my way back.

What I'd like to achieve for today is get the wordcount to near 21000. That'd make todays wordcount the highest in the last seven days (blue) and push my average word count ever closer to my preferred level of 2000 words a day.

I've got a lot to do, so I'll get back to work and quit blogging.


Chris Nystrom said...

HOw do you like the way the story itself is progressing?

Karen said...

I wouldn't have thought to keep track of the word count, but rather pages or chapters. I guess it does help to see the progress in that manner. How many words are in your average novel?

Henry Melton said...

Karen, I track the words because it's an easily measured unit. Chapters come and go as I tweak the packing and flow of the novel. A chapter that exists in my outline might turn out to be just a scene and be absorbed into the previous or next chapter while writing, which has already happened in this novel.

Pages are dynamic things too. They depend too much on word processor formatting settings. Even though I stick to a rigid manuscript format (1 inch margins, Courier 12, double line spacing), a little thing like an inserted word could trigger a repagination that would leave me with one more page. Also, in a previous project, when I had to move the manuscript to Microsoft Word on Windows from Microsoft Word on the Mac for a few days, I found that the page count was wildly different, even with the same formatting.

So for more years than I care to think about, all I've cared about is wordcount. That's what the publishers ask for. They could care less about the minutia of the author's formatting, since they will do it all over again to their in-house standards.

The ideal word count is a moving target. In the olden days when I was first writing, average novels were 65000 to 70000 words. Now many publishers won't even look at them unless they're 85000 words or more.

YA novels (Young Adult) can be shorter, depending on the audience.

The novels I've been writing the past few years have been 70000 to 85000, a little light for the standard publishers, and maybe a little long for the YA market.

Henry Melton said...

Chris, That's a loaded question. If a day's writing goes well, I'm in love with the story. If I have to struggle to find the words, I know somethings wrong and sometimes I'll have to back up and scrape out a few thousand words.

I've noticed that when I write lots of words in a single day, that it's often my better work. That's one of the reasons I struggle to keep a consistently high word count per day, and reward myself ( with pretty blue spread sheet boxes) when I reach a new high.

The more I stay inside the story, the more the story is real to me, and the better the prose. Often, when I'm in the last chapters of a novel, I'll write nonstop and achieve three, four and five thousand word days.

Of course, when this is all done, I have to go back and revise and revise. But often it's the slow days that need the most work.

Chris Nystrom said...

I kind of feel the same about my computer programming. When I can really concentrate, and I am really productive, and turn out lots of code, it tends to be my best code.

Bettye said...

When David and the grandkids were visiting he showed me an application he uses in his job, Mind Manager. He thought, because I'd taught him a type of mind mapping outlining when he was in high school, I might be able to use it as a type of outlining.
It looked great BUT the thing is expensive. Not a problem if you are using this as a job inhancer and your company picks up the tab.
I did like the looks of it but didn't want to spend the money right now.
I did a search and found something called Mind Master that has a similar function. It has a free trial period and only cost 30 bucks in any case.
I'm going to use it to outline my next book and see how well it works for me.
Now do you happen to have written a similar program at sometime in the past? I always like to toss business to friends if they have something I need.

Henry Melton said...

Bettye, I have no software for sale. Been there, done that.

My writing tools are a collection of commercial software and what special tools I make for myself. Here's a quick, superficial inventory:

Microsoft Word. (not because I like it)

The wordcount spreadsheet in Excel.

OmniOutliner Pro -- A mac only outlining tool. It's great for what I do. I collect notes, outline by book and check off plot points as I go when I'm writing the first draft, It's just a single click from my list of characters, to the outline, to notes I need. If I really wanted to, I could probably run the whole project off the one data file. However, it's a generic tool, not something tailored to the writing process.

randomname -- my script, my database. It pops up five female, five male random names pulled from a MySql database (populated from babyname web sites). It gives the meanings of the names and what culture they represent. Often I have to run randomname a dozen times before I find something just right, but it's better than being stalled out for the sake of a new character name.

Map programs: TOPO ( topographic maps from National Geographic), Route 66, Google Maps, Terrabrowser (aerial photos), plus any other maps I can find on the internet.

My custom marketing and submission tracking software (It's been through a dozen incarnations. Currently a MySql database and both a web-based and commandline front ends.

And probably a dozen other tools that don't come to mind right now. I'll probably blog about my workflow some more when I have the time.

But, as you see, nothing that's really portable I could package up and sell. The best I'll likely do is make my scripts and database schema's public sooner or later.