Tag Archives: Word Count

My Six Month Writing Break

I have a long drive to work. Twenty-six miles one way. According to Google Maps, it should take me about 30 minutes to travel this distance. The only day this works out is on Saturday when most of the Charleston work force, who work a normal Monday-Friday schedule, are still tucked in their beds or lingering over a family breakfast.

During the work week, this same 30 minute commute turns into at least an hour. If there’s an accident anywhere on the system, well, let’s just say sitting on the I26 parking lot is not my idea of a good time.

So I’ve been trying to find the sweet spot. The time of day when I can scoot down the interstate with something at least resembling the 30 minute drive Google Maps promised me.

The sweet spot is 6am. For real.

Every day, I’m up at 5am so I can get out the door somewhere between 6 and 6:30 so I can be at the front of the traffic snarl instead of caught in the middle of it. This means I get to work about two hours before the office opens. Who wants to get to work two hours early? Not this girl. Instead, I’ve been going to the gym near my office to catch an hour on the treadmill.

On Friday, the office opens a half hour earlier, leaving me with only a half hour at the gym. This Friday, I was feeling a little bit like 30 minutes on the treadmill wasn’t even worth the effort. Instead, I brought my laptop with me, figuring it would the perfect quiet time to do some writing.

I brought two stick drives because I couldn’t remember which one had the most current copy of my book. I would find the one most recently updated and get to work.

It was horrifying to discover the last time I wrote one word of my book was…

Six months ago.

I was quite disgusted with myself. I thought sure I’d written something in November or December, but that turned out to be nothing but wishful thinking.

I buckled down and wrote non-stop for the entire hour and a half before I had to get ready to open the office for the day. I made some great progress and I had some great ideas come to me for future chapters. I stopped a couple of times to make quick notes and stuff them into my laptop bag so I had them when I was ready to use them.

I decided I will have this book written, edited, and in the hands of a publisher before I turn 50. (about 3 years from now.) That was another horrifying thought…holy crap, I’m pushing 50?!?!?! When the heck did that happen?

Word count: 10,071


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lost Research

Before starting my novel, I conducted some research. Research on life in the South during and after the Civil War, the Jim Crow Laws, and the KKK. All of which will fill out the background of the world my character is living in. I gathered this information in a file on my old computer, written as a free-write applying the information to my character. It went on for pages.

I needed it today so my character could react to the Black Codes enacted in the South after the war and…

Many of you will remember, the old computer crashed.

It appears I didn’t copy that file to my stick drive to transfer it to the laptop.  I’ve torn the house apart looking for a printed copy of the file to no avail. All the time invested in research that I now have to do again. The thought of losing all that work makes me sick.

Today I spent most of my writing time looking for this file. I spent some time surfing the web, looking for the bit of detail I wanted to add to my narrative. And, I’m not gonna lie, I spent a little of my writing time feeling sorry for myself for losing a file just as valuable as the timeline taped to my wall. Why, oh why hadn’t I taped the free-write to the wall?!

At some point, I’ll learn my lesson about electronic copies of important documents. Or at the very least, the importance of double checking that I’ve actually made an electronic copy (or two). Hopefully, I’ll stumble upon the printed copy that I know is here. I’ve seen it. I may have emailed it to…

WAIT! I haven’t checked my email yet!

Fingers crossed.

Word Count: 8686

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

And the Muse Lives!

I wrote about three thousand words of my book since I last updated the word count. I was off work yesterday and spent a couple of hours going back through what I’ve already written and fleshing it out. I feel more comfortable going forward now, having matched up what I’ve written with my character’s timeline and adding important historical goings on, like President Lincoln’s assassination and reconstruction.

It’s interesting to watch some of my minor characters already changing from how I originally perceived them. The naïve best friend is the positive force that gets my protagonist to take risks. She is not as innocent as I thought. The best friend’s husband is a racist. I thought he was going to fake it to pacify others when society pressure forced him to choose or lose everything.

I’ve always been skeptical when authors talk about how the characters dictate to the writer who they are and what they want. You create the character…you know what you want this character to do. And then that character sticks his tongue out at you, “Oh yeah?” he says, “Well, I don’t want to do that. I’m going to do this…”

And then they proceed to do just that. No amount of revision on your part can change it, because anything else you try to write doesn’t ring true. No matter what you do, you can’t convince yourself this particular character would behave like that, and you’re the one who created him! If YOU can’t believe it, the reader won’t believe it either.

And the character laughs at you.

from clker.com shared by Mohamed Ibrahim

from clker.com
shared by Mohamed Ibrahim

And you throw your hands up in the air and say, “OK, you win.”

Word count: 7650

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Must Buy New Computer

My computer died.

I know how this looks – like another thinly veiled excuse to not write my book. The funny thing is, I was actually working on my book when the computer crashed!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I printed the pages I’ve written so far to go back through and be sure I’m lining up with my timeline. I had to make a few small adjustments that, as most writers I’m sure can relate, led to bigger adjustments. I was a couple of paragraphs deep in my character arriving in Charleston…a city that sustained heavy damage during the Civil War…and I was adding details about what she was seeing and smelling as the family carriage moved cautiously down the dirt road, moving past buildings so recently burned to the ground they were still smoldering. Smoke billowed in lazy curls towards the heavens and…

And Word crashed.

Image courtesy of Iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net

I could, literally, type the word “and” then go make myself a sandwich before the letters actually showed up on the screen. The program halted every few minutes to do an emergency restore of my work because “Word is un-responsive.”

I can’t work like this.

The computer was about eight years old, so I knew it was on borrowed time, but we wanted to wait until we had a little extra money before we bought a new one. Sadly, it picked the month my husband is out of work recovering from shoulder surgery to write its last words.

When we got back from Best Buy, I spent the next two days moving photos off the old computer to my Shutterfly account. Of course the computer crashed a couple of times during this process. I suppose I would crash too if I spent my last two days uploading eight years worth of holiday and vacation memories.

In an effort to make my writing more mobile (and give me fewer excuses for not working on the book) we bought a laptop. Now, when my husband wants to watch TV, I can take the book into another room and keep on writing. When I travel back home to see my family, there’s no reason I can’t work on the book. When we take vacations and it rains, I can work on the book in the hotel. It appears I don’t have any excuses anymore.

But I’ll think of something.

Word count: 4563

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How I Spend My Writing Time

Facebook is a double-edged sword

Most often, it’s a time suck –  Candy Crush, and Pearl’s Peril gobble up what little time I have in the evening for writing. My husband will make casual inquiries about how the book is going, even though he can plainly see my computer screen from his spot on the sofa.

“I need complete silence to write. I can’t do it while you’re watching the news.”

He narrows his eyes, “Hmmm.  So, you wrote this morning then?”

I pretend I don’t hear him and keep matching candies.

Facebook can also be a gift

On the other hand, social media allows many of us to commiserate with other writers/writing groups we would never run into anywhere else. The Writer’s Circle is one such group.

They have a website with lists of writing jobs, online courses and other things, but so far, I’ve only viewed their Facebook page and “liked” some of their pics and one liners. It’s helpful knowing nine hundred people are having the same problems you are (after all, y’all liked the same pics I did). It’s nice to connect with a group, no matter how peripheral the attachment. The Time Breakdown of the Writing Process below is one of the pics I’ve recently liked.

From The Writer's Circle

From The Writer’s Circle

My writing process is slightly altered:

I would flip time spent thinking of a title and time spent reading other books. In fact, I haven’t really spent much time at all thinking about a title. Crap.  Now I’m going to have to start thinking about a title.

Time spent procrastinating, for me, would NOT be cleaning the house. Actually writing is a way for me to procrastinate from doing the housework! I’m more inclined to procrastinate by playing with the cats, watching TV and playing the aforementioned Facebook games.

The piece of pie for comma placement is pretty big – instead, this would be the time I spend working on historical research and blogging about writing. All are important parts of the writing process but don’t, on their own, reward me with a higher word count.

The piece of the writing pie that is “time spent actually writing” is spot on.

The piece for “time spent staring blankly at the computer” is about right too.  Also in this piece of the pie – staring blankly at the time line I created in my last blog post. I also spend a fair amount of time wishing my historical inspiration would take over my hands and write the story herself. Or, because possession scares the daylights out of me, dictate the story to me and I’ll transcribe it. Maybe her diary could mysteriously show up outside my front door. I could meet a local historian at the grocery store and we become fast friends and together we piece together my character’s story. My character still has descendants living in the city and maybe I could just show up at their door and they would welcome me with open arms.

I’ve done plenty of daydreaming about how the writing of this book might go down.

All while staring blankly at the computer.

Word count: 4,893


Filed under Uncategorized

Writing Prompt: Photographs

Writing setting descriptions has always been a problem for me. I’m great at creating dialogue and keeping the action moving, but as far as the reader knows, the action is taking place in a vacuum devoid of color or texture. Maybe I spent so many years learning about not bogging your story down with pages and pages of description that I’ve unintentionally gone in the complete opposite direction.

So, I write dialogue and action first. When I reread it, I note places where a little more description of the surroundings are necessary and then I fill it in. But I can never imagine a particular space in my mind. I can’t imagine what a mansion looks like inside because I’ve never set foot in one. I’m not sure what a drawing-room looks like because it’s not a common space in homes of my lifetime. You would think I might have come up with a solution to this problem before now, but a couple of days ago, it hit me.

Maybe it would be helpful to write about a Charleston garden if I was LOOKING at one. Short of peering over someone’s privacy fence, I pulled out my books on historic Charleston homes. Not only do the books have amazing pictures of the homes, but also some of the gardens. What makes this even better is the author notes what flowers are in some of the pictures. What easier way is there for a non-native to know what kind of flowers are the most commonly planted here? I’m from the Midwest. I don’t know what types of flowers are native to the South. I’d never heard of a crepe myrtle until I moved here. In fact, now that I see it spelled out in this photograph, I’m 99% certain I spelled it wrong in the migraine post. Although, when I Google it, I see it spelled both ways, so maybe I’m in the clear.

Better still are the pictures of dining and drawing rooms in these books. I’ve taken museum house tours, but taking photographs inside the homes is a great way to get yourself hauled off to jail in one of those “and throw away the keys” kind of way. “No officer, it’s OK because I’m writing a book!”

It’s difficult to remember details from the tours that will make my story feel authentic. The tours move along at a brisk pace, so taking time to make notes would not be appreciated. “Wait…I just need 20 minutes to sketch this room down to the last piece of crown molding.” Now I’m on the sidewalk, waiting for my husband to finish the tour by himself because I’m one of those trouble makers.

Now I’ve got two pictures of gardens I love and the creative part of me is finding a way to mix my favorite parts of both of them into one amazing imaginary garden!

Word Count: 3,873

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing Resolutions for the Commitment Phobic Writer



Today marks the beginning of a fresh start. Resolutions made last night have not yet forsaken us (after all, we still have the rest of the evening). It’s still a bright and shiny year full of promise.

I haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution in many years. By January 15, I’ve blown them all and it ruins the rest of the year for me. That sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it? OK…not the whole year, but it disappoints me and it encourages my laziness the rest of the year. I blew it, but no worries – there is always next year!

To keep myself from falling headlong into the same abyss every year, I’ve stopped making resolutions.

That’s not to say I don’t have goals, but I have to trick myself and start them on a random day like Tuesday or March 6. It makes it easier (in my head) to pick it up again in a few days if I screw it up. But if I have to wait until next January 1, this whole new year goes in the toilet almost before it has even begun.

With all that being said, I may have to break my rule about resolutions and make one for writing my book. Maybe instead of writing for 10 minutes each day, I need to set a word count for each week. That way, if I find myself flung into a particularly hideous week, but there’s one good writing day, I can churn out all that week’s words in one sitting.

In the same breath, I don’t want to set myself up for defeat. So, I’m wondering what you think is a realistic weekly word count for someone who can assure you she won’t write every day. Fifteen hundred words a week? That’s about what I would do if I was writing 10 minutes every day. What are your writing goals?

With a little planning, this could be my year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized