Tag Archives: Word Count

Letting Your Story Marinate

I can’t believe two months have flown by since my last post. In my defense, I had two work events – the one where I wrote my last post and another one in November. And by then we were sailing straight into Thanksgiving. And now, we’re tumbling right into Christmas and the New Year.

On the plus side, I DID write as planned at my work event in October.  Sadly, I haven’t written a word since I’ve gotten back.

But I’ve read that just as much of the writing happens in your head when you are not writing as happens when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes the story needs to sit in your head and marinate for a bit.

When I was figuring out how to bring my main male character back home after he walked away, it took a bit to come up with a satisfying story line to explain his absence. And then I had to find a way to bring him back because he needed to get sick and die. It’s what causes my main female character to take some chances. To get up out of the rut she has allowed society to box her into and make some changes in her life. It’s her chance to grow. His death – caused in part by the society they lived in – will give her the strength and determination to rise above. After all, she has children to raise. And she wants to be an example for them to follow. Her babies are the first generation born free and she will not allow them to accept being treated as slaves.

In any event, I had written myself into a place where I needed some time to mull it over and find a way to bring him to the illness to which he succumbs. A diphtheria epidemic rolls through Charleston and their youngest child becomes ill.  In working with the general idea that illness generally is hardest on the young, the elderly and the weak, it’s going to take him and the young child. This is going to be the most painful thing my main character has ever gone through (even having been born into slavery) and it’s going to be the fuel she needs to make changes.

Don’t ask what those changes are, because right now, I haven’t a clue. I have to wait for the story to get that far so I can see what direction she wants to take. Will she leave Charleston? Will she stay and fight for her rights? I expect she will stay, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process is that you can never assume you know what your character wants to do until she’s right there, having to take action.

Word count 38,068


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It’s Like Beginning Again

After this much time away from my novel, I’ve had to spend time reading it. I had to get back in touch with the details I wrote over a year ago and forgot about completely.

I had forgotten that Margaret’s old friend’s husband beat up her new friend’s husband because of the color of his skin. This is why Margaret’s husband was walking away. His idealistic view of society crashed and burned around him as he watched the man who was his cousin beat a black man into a bloody mess just for being a black man trying to vote.

After this revelation, I wondered what else I might have forgotten that would be important as I move forward again.

I didn’t read all 50 pages word for word, but I scanned much of it just to feel again like it was mine – my words on the page.

And I was able to largely pick up where I left off, as if I hadn’t taken a year-long break.

In other news, I passed my final for the medical billing & coding program. Maybe I learned more of it then I thought but the exam was multiple choice, so really it was a matter of not choosing the answers I knew were wrong.  That would leave me with only two plausible answers to the question. I realize I could still have bombed it if I wasn’t able to correctly identify the right answer between the two, so I’m back to thinking maybe I learned a little more than I thought.

This weekend my husband and I went on a much needed mini vacay. You might recall we are from Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, we have a custard shop called Culver’s. They have a grill and do burgers and such, but their claim to fame is the custard. We love Culver’s. It’s one of the things we miss most about having moved hundreds of miles away. Imagine our delight two years ago when we discovered there was a Culver’s in Greenville, SC. Only problem is that Greenville is a three hour drive.

One way.

Now you know how good the custard is, because we’ve made this trip twice so far. Usually, we make a weekend of it – get a hotel room and find some things to do. We eat every meal at Culver’s. Except breakfast, but only because they don’t serve breakfast.

On Monday, my husband started talking about how he really wanted to get some custard. Because I’m off every weekend now, it was easy to reserve a hotel room and spend the rest of the week waiting until we could hit the road.

We drove up Friday evening and had our favorite butter burgers for dinner. We shared an order of deep fried cheese curds and he had a raspberry shake.

Here’s another ringing endorsement for how good the custard is.  I’m lactose intolerant. I can eat cheese, but milk and ice cream turn my stomach into a…well, you can imagine. Culver’s custard is well worth the stomach turmoil.

The first time we went up, we wondered if we could transport custard home with us. We bought a small cooler, bought 2 pints each of our favorite flavors (John loves red raspberry, while I prefer bonfire smores), filled the cooler with ice and made the three hour journey back to Charleston.

It worked so well that this time, we got a second cooler and brought back 4 pints each. I think this will quickly become a yearly pilgrimage.

Which is perfect, because I also have a love of waterfalls. Charleston, as you know, is a coastal community. I adore the beach, but now that I have the beach all the time, I’m developing an appreciation for the mountains. More specifically, waterfalls in the mountains. So, each time we’ve gone to Greenville, we’ve gone to see a different waterfall.  The brochure I have shows 7 waterfalls in Greenville County alone. We’ve got 5 more years of easily tying our love of custard into a weekend getaway to see a different waterfall.

The first time we went up, we went to Reedy River Falls, right in downtown Greenville.

reedy river falls

It was a pretty dry year and it wasn’t that impressive, but it didn’t matter to me – I love the sounds of moving water (partly why I love the beach so much, with the constant crashing of the waves).

This year, we went to get a look at Wildcat Branch Falls, largely because it was supposed to be the easiest one to find – you were supposed to be able to see it right off the highway. I think the trees must have grown up a little since my brochure was printed, but we did manage to find it.


It’s been raining like crazy by the coast, so I had hoped for better rain in the upstate too.  Obviously they haven’t gotten as much. But it was a nice waterfall and we did a 1/4 mile hike that took us by two more waterfalls – one of them about half the size, located directly above and behind the main one in the picture. Back further into the woods was a huge waterfall that, with more recent rains, would have been amazing to see. The rock ledge looked as tall as the tree tops (officially, 100 feet tall), with smooth rocks all the way to the rocky and wooded trail where we stood. I gazed at it in wonder. The picture does not do it justice.


Again, the water cascading over the top wasn’t as impressive as it could have been, but I loved it anyway.

The water energizes me and I came back from Greenville ready to get back to writing.

Or ready to eat custard.

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I’ve Actually Done Some Writing Today!

As of today, I have 50 pages written. I felt pretty good about it too, until I realized 50 pages was only 22,179 words. What a let down. I was imagining 50 type written pages turning into about 100 book print pages and thinking, Whew! I’m really getting there now.  And then I checked the word count for this post and thought, that’s it?

my chair

My writing chair today. The pillow is because my back still hurts.

I know that www.nanowrimo.org has their November writing challenge where 50,000 words means you’ve written a book. Crap or not, you’ve completed it. So, I suppose I should be excited to be halfway there?

But still, all the time invested, the trials and tribulations to get my butt into the chair and actually pound out these pages…well, it would be more gratifying if the word count was up there a little further. I don’t know how much further…maybe 30,000?

jack helping

Jack’s chair, while he “helps” Momma write. Seems wrong, doesn’t it?

But then again, I’m only part-way through the story I want to tell and if I had too many words already, I might start to panic that I would end up with some ridiculously huge book and have to spend an inordinate amount of time cutting.

I just stole my chair back from the cat.

Well, actually, he got up and left, so I regained my chair on account of the fact that he was done with it for today.

Same thing, right? As long as I get my chair back.


Word count: 22,179


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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

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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

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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

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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

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