Blog Post #37
Welcome to a brand new year. Be prepared. This is going to be a long post. I’m going to dissect my work from 2016 and compare it to 2015, and a bit to 2014. I want to share with you the pattern that emerged of things that I’ve done and changed that have helped me grow as a writer, so I can impart said knowledge unto you. Let’s get started shall we?
The Writing Front 2016 in Review
The best way to begin to pick things apart is to look at the data I’ve accumulated over the course of a few years. So that means counts. Not just word counts, but blog counts.
Blog Post Stats
Number of Posts
2014 — 5
2015 — 11
2016 — 14
In 2014, I wrote two posts at the beginning of the year, and three toward the end. In 2015, my posts ran a little more all over the place with a very, very large drop out in the middle of the year that run until right at the last moments of 2015. 2016, I happily posted a few more posts, okay it was only 3 more, but it was still more. Shhh. And with the exception of July and November (which was NaNo so all things are forgiven that month), I wrote a post nearly every month! Ten out of twelve isn’t bad.
Days Between Posts
Alright, we’re not even going to look at 2014 because I only posted 5 posts, and the average days between those posts would be painful and let’s just not worry about it, okay? Right, so, 2015, the average days between posts was 32, so roughly a month between posts (not actual). Readers, why do you put up with that? In 2016 my days between posts averages out to be slightly more than 24! That means I’ve decreased my average time between posts by more than a week! I hope you enjoyed the more frequent posting through the year, Readers!
Total Yearly Word Counts
So I once again fell short of my 200,000 word goal. Two years of missing it. Ugh. As frustrating as that is, I keep trying to remind myself to look at the growth. I’ve become better about putting my fingers to the keys and getting things done. Maybe it’s like shooting for the moon and landing among the stars. I keep missing the moon, but at least I’m getting words down that I wouldn’t have without having a goal to shoot for at all.
For 2014, I thought I had a word tracker, but as far as I can find in my files, I don’t, so we will all have to remain forever in doubt as to what I actually wrote then.
In 2015, I apparently only wrote for six months. March through May, and October through December, with NaNo slaying the bulk of that writing with my 50,001 words for that month alone.
In 2016, I wrote 159,834 words. And there wasn’t a single month I didn’t write. Um, well. I’m actually a little staggered comparing that number. I did nearly double the work I managed the year before. I beat myself up so hard in December about not making 200k, but like, when I look at the improvement, I feel like I rocked last year’s word count. I wrote 79,076 more words last year than I did the year before. What is this feeling? Is this…is this what accomplishment feels like?
You think as short as my posts are they wouldn’t really add up to much, but I did write fourteen of them for the year of 2016. I also logged 19,700 words or about 12 percent of my yearly writing on blogging alone.
If you recall from They smell of weight and time, I spent the later part of February writing up everything I had in my notebooks about From the Woods You Came. If you watch the progression of the rest of the year on my word tracker, you’d find that I spent nice chunks of time for months after that working on editing it. And while From the Woods You Came did require a lot of editing, and less actual creating, I can’t seem to be bothered by how little it contributed to my total word count goals for 2016. While the finished product stands at 28,250 words, if you look at the total amount of work involved such as the editing and the character profiles I wrote out to develop better characters, I actually wrote 32,413 words for this one novella.
So for the entirety of last year, my project totaled about one fifth of all my writing for the year.
My final NaNo word count when submitted for the verified win stood at 50,032. Compared to my yearly word count, it looks like this:
It made up 30% of my entire yearly writing.
Blog Posting: 12%
But that’s only 62% of my yearly writing. Where was the other 38%? Mostly that is in planning and working on other projects that I just couldn’t get out of my head. Each and every aspect of what I’ve been writing is important, but looking at all of the things I’ve just listed, I think can say I’ve pin pointed a few things have an impact on me being a more committed writer.
Three Methods to Write More
1. Use a Word Tracker
You know how people get a good planner at the beginning of ever year so they can start planning and be prepared for what they plan to do? A word tracker works exactly the same way, but for yourself as a writer. You can make your own in a little notebook, or you can go download one from Svenja for free with all the bells and whistles included. Having one is helpful, but using it is key.
In 2014, I had a word tracker, but I rarely, if ever used it. In 2015, I dedicated more time to writing because I set a goal (200,000 words) that I really wanted to try and meet. Dedication was the difference. And you can clearly see the growth in what I wrote. Having the data to refer back to even as I wrote this post has been helpful. It helps me stay accountable to myself.
2. Attempt a Writing Challenge
I had never done NaNoWriMo until 2015. I probably first heard about it back in 2006 though from friends in school. Deciding to commit myself to a very intense challenge motivated me to write in a way I don’t think anything had ever done until that point. I suppose you might compare it to running a marathon for writers. Until then, as a writer, I tended to just dabble, writer here and there when the mood struck me rather than just showing up and working rigorously every day on my craft. And while I didn’t show up every single day in November to write, I did have a finish line to cross.
Having a challenge not only created that sense of competition I needed to take the first steps even if was only a race against myself, but I also gave me something else I wasn’t expecting until November 30, 2015 when I verified my first win. I have never felt so accomplished as a writer as knowing with empirical certainty what I could accomplish as a writer. Looking at the counts and knowing changed a lot of how you think about yourself and what you can do. It was in knowing what I could do that allowed me to imagine what else I might be able to do in the future if I gave it that same level of commitment.
3. Start a Smaller Project
I don’t remember exactly when at the beginning of last year that I decided it was time to stop putting off indie publishing, but that decision led to actions. Knowing I had no idea what I was doing when it came to that, I decided the best way to dip my toes into the water would be to start with something small, something new. So I dug around a bit and found a list of short story ideas and starts that I already had and did what I always do when presented with a problem: I made a list. From the list I crossed things off, until I finally came to the idea that I wanted to work on most.
At that point, I just threw myself into the way I would for school papers. Just wrote and wrote and wrote until it was ‘done’. I then sent it to people I trust (like Jessica B and SSheldon), who looked it over, asked the right questions, and basically handed it back while saying, “you’re not done.” With that I began to write and edit before handing it out again. On and on the cycle went until the lines became clearer and the characters more alive.
It helped that I desperately wanted to avoid thinking about anything at the time, so I threw myself into harder than I did with any other project I had done before. There was no deadline, and yet somehow I managed to stay on task, to keep beating at the words until they bent into something better. That’s probably why I call it word smithing now. It feels a lot less like something you do to seem sophisticated, but rather something that is hard labor for your brain, that mentally wears you out. It’s been a great aid to my overactive mind.
It was also good to have a way to turn what could have been a very bad situation into something productive. I was at time in my life when no one would fault me for staying in bed, drinking, and eating more chocolate than healthy, a time when I should have wallowed. Instead, I found comfort in my writing, and I built something with my imagination and will alone. Maybe it was because this project felt less like a challenge but rather more like an escape that helped see it to its completion.
In 2017, there are more changes coming. Ones that I hope will inspire me to keep pushing to become a more prolific writer. Some of those things include: having set up a content calendar to keep me on track (and hopefully more consistently) writing blog posts, investing money into my writing in the form of a website so I can literally put my money where my words are, and possibly starting a vlog with my trusty writing buddy. If I’m lucky, they will all add something to my motivation to reach my writing goals and next January you will get to read a blog post all about how they worked out for me.
I know all the things I’ve shared won’t work for everyone, but maybe one thing will. Just stick with it. It is slow-going at first, but every sentence, every paragraph, and every novel begins the same way: with a single word. And then the next word, and the next word, and the next word until you’re racing to the end. Keep writing.
Love and Lightning,
–M. L. Trumbull