Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] On how I pace my work

If you look back at the writing history of some of my previous novels (I believe I started posting daily wordcounts with Madness of Flowers), you’ll see that I tend to be pretty consistent in applying effort once I launch a draft, but historically my daily output has varied widely from <2,000 words per day to >20,000 words per day, even on the same project.

One of my commitments to myself in this post-cancer [yes, I am in 95%/five year survival category, so medically I'm not post-cancer] phase is to smooth out my writing so it doesn’t eat my life. Which is to say, spend time with friends, dating, hanging out, going to movies, reading and other things, even while cranking out my minimum 2,500 words per day.

This isn’t always easy, but today is my 28th continuous day of working on Tourbillon, and after putting in my two hours this morning, I’m at 105,300 words. (If you’re wondering, that’s an average of 3,760 words per day; or 1,700 words per hour.) But my outliers are much more controlled — only one day of production over 5,000, and 2,800 has been my lowest. What has varied considerably more is my pace.

Ie, I used to draft a novel a fairly consistent 2,000 to 2,500 words an hour, with occasional binge days of 15,000 to 22,000 words. Now I am drafting at a relatively inconsistent rate of words per hour, without the binge days. I think this means I am spending more time on story and less time on words. Which, fundamentally, is my craft challenge at this stage of my career. No one doubts I can sling words, sling them pretty and fairly well. Making the story underneath that shimmering skin work better is what will take me to the next level, and the levels beyond that.

I can’t promise I won’t binge as I get near the end. There’s a point where the inevitability of the plot and story take over and the writer is riding the glissade all the way in. But so far this experience has been qualitatively different. We’ll see how it impacts the work. I have hopes.

(N.B., in the interests of full disclosure, allow me to state that I am thoroughly seized with “muddle in the middle” angst right now. This is of course as normal as breathing for most novelists. The one first reader who is keeping up with my dailies assures me that the book is doing fine, and to please shut up and write. Shutting up. Writing.)

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Tags: books, process, tourbillion, writing

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