A Change In Writing Strategy

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dreamstimefree_206298Writing in September has been a little bit different than August. August, in spite of the fact that I was doing some editing, seemed to consist almost completely of first drafts and I wound up with a record number of words for a single month.

But is that the way I really want to do things?

A week or so into September, getting a little bored, and struggling, with Hero’s Life, I started to build my forecast for 2017.

I have this awesome spreadsheet that I put together in late July, and updated in August, that tells me what I’m supposed to accomplish each day on each project. When setting out September, I had already decided that I wanted to do less drafting on weekends in favor of more editing. On the face of things, this sounds like it’s going to make a huge impact in my overall word count, and it has when I compare September to August on an average daily basis, but not as huge as you might think.

Weekends are busy and writing time is at a premium. A lot of my drafting is done by dictation, and I frequently produce 2000 words or more in a day. Dictating during my commute, I let the computer, through Dragon Naturally Speaking, figure the words out. There’s more road noise than I’d like since I drive a tiny car, but I still get upwards of 90% accuracy, so long as I’m careful about where the microphone is. And that’s just a matter of training myself. So, just dictating, I should end about at about 10,000 words per week. Depending on the number of commuting days, that’s anywhere between 40 and 45,000 words for the month. For most of the projects I have planned, if I were focus exclusively on one thing at a time (Ha!), that means a first draft in two months or less.

But it is a numbers game.

I do a set of revision notes before the second draft. Revision notes are finding things that don’t work in the story. In the same pass, I’ll tidy up the worst of the dictation errors. Second draft is fixing all the problems I found in the revision notes pass and cleaning up the rest of the dictation. Which means the prose is already pretty good by the time I get to the third draft, i.e. the “make it pretty” draft. Here is where I make sure each sentence, paragraph, and scene what I want to do. The fourth, and in most cases final, is the read aloud draft. Reading things out loud makes me find things I missed. This is also where I go through and find certain little writing ticks.

So let’s say that I focus entirely on one thing and it’s a 60,000 word novel. Short, but makes for easy math. At 2000 words a day drafting, 60,000 words takes me 30 drafting days. We’ll call that six weeks, once we take out weekends. Revision notes are probably worth two weeks, a couple of chapters per day. Second draft, fixing things as I go, is worth about 1 day per 2,000 words of original story, but experience tells me that will probably be 2,200 words or a little more by the time I’m done. The third draft is slower, a lot slower, making things pretty, moving through maybe 1,000 words of story each day and turning it into 1,050-ish. Reading something aloud at a reasonable pace is about 10,000 words per hour, although much more than a half-hour is real work. But let’s get 6000 words in on that draft. Then, and only then is ready for somebody else to have a look at it. But we need to math now, and I’ll do it without worrying about story length changes due to edits.

First draft equals 30 drafting days. Six weeks.

Editing process: Pre-second draft equals 15 days. Second draft equals 30 days. Third draft equals 60 days. Final draft equals 10, or possibly as long as 15 days depending on how much else is going on and what I find to fix while reading.

So time for the story to exit my skull = 30 days.

Time to get from there to a final draft 15 + 30 + 60 + 15 = 120 days.

Four times as long.

That tiny equation convinced me to run the projection out to the end of 2018, just for fun, just to see what it looked like. And what it looked like is that Hero’s Life, which I’m within a chapter of finishing right now, probably won’t get to the top of the editing list until almost two years from now and will take four months to edit when it gets there.

Every new story I write will put the editing further behind.


Now, if my kids had all left home and I had no other real responsibilities and my job was stable and secure and didn’t require anything extra other than I show up to a little bit of work and go home, I could ramp up the amount of editing I’m doing without worrying about slowing down the drafting. I don’t really have that option.

So, less drafting, more editing.

And I’d like to catch up a little bit. Wherever I can squeeze the time, when I sit down at a computer at home, I’ll look to shave a day or two off of whatever editing pass is closest to being finished. I’m also going to be working on two different sets of edits at any given time. Sorry, I need variety. The new weekend objective is to get the target amount of editing done on everything I want to be anything and then spend an hour a day more on whatever draft of whatever story is closest to completion.

I still want to get 1000 words a day into whatever novel I’m working on, but only on weekdays. That goes for the short stories as well.

This changes how long it’s going to take me to tell all the stories currently on my list, never mind having new ideas, at least in terms of a first draft. But it will get each one to final draft a little quicker, I think.

Wish me luck.

Be well, everyone.

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