I’m going to try a new thing – keeping a journal here on the blog about my writing. You may ask yourself – how will this be any different from what you normally do here?
Well – I’ll be concentrating solely on the writing in these posts and I may go a little abstract on you as I explore my process.
Let’s get started.
After proclaiming to the masses that I just couldn’t focus on short story writing, that I don’t think my brain is wired quite right for it, I found myself obsessing over a story I started and never finished.
It is not uncommon for me to find myself thinking about a story, unable to get it out of my head. I went to bed Thursday night having worked on the novel only to wake up Friday with all this stuff running through my mind.
The story is excerpted here on the site and the thing is – after posting that excerpt, I never wrote another word, though I tried. Eventually I just moved on.
Suddenly, I couldn’t let it go. It bothered me all day, like an itch I couldn’t scratch (because it being a normal work day and all). As soon as I was free of the day-job constraints, I started typing. 4,000 words later…
I’ve been averaging 2000 words per week on the novel, 4k in a day is absolutely gangbusters incredible.
I seriously moved the story forward, nearly to completion.
But it came at a cost. I was mentally exhausted afterwords and find myself unmotivated or uninspired to continue today. I’ve already had four false starts in trying to move forward. I don’t want to take another few months to finish this story.
This got me thinking about my recent obsession over word count.
Not too long ago, someone told me that the ‘golden number’ for a short story slush reader is 3,000/3,500 words – ie, this is the target number that will help your story submission be read thus increasing your chances of being pubished. I think that got stuck in my brain like a song on repeat.
While that might be the golden, target number that will entice a slush reader to give your piece a shot, it shouldn’t be the target for someone trying to write a story. You should write to write, not write to script, if that makes sense. I think – well, I know as far as I’m concerned, that writing to a specific word count causes me troubles and increases stress, making the writing less about getting the story created and more about forcing it into a box.
Also, I’m pretty sure trying to write to a word count is why I’m failing with short story writing. I start the story, I get into it, but as I get close to that number, that golden target, I start getting nervous. I get distracted by the word count – it’s this sword dangling above my head and as my word count rises and gets close to what has become, mentally, a hard wall in my path, I hit the brakes (I’m mixing my metaphors all over the place). I start second guessing myself. I’m no longer trying to write the story in my head, I’m trying to force it, constrain it to the golden number hanging over my head and when I realize that I can’t do it, that I need more words, more space, I shut down and I walk away.
So, I’m not going to worry about word count anymore, not when I’m writing. Word count is for editing and for rewriting. My new goal is to just write, finish the stories. Write and get them on the page.
Worry about word count and pushing the story into some slush readers comfort zone later.