While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Status Report: Week Sixteen

Better late than never...

Week Sixteen – The Stats

Weekly word count: 14,618 words

Average: 2,088 words per day (compared to 2,698 last week)

Most productive day: Monday 14 April, 3,762 words

Least productive day: Saturday 19 April, 0 words (I was driving around the highlands)

Year-to-date: 291,875 words (11,494 words behind target)

Okay, so my deficit is now into five figures, or almost than four days’ worth... and it'll only get worse with a long weekend in Paris in a fortnight’s time. And then in Turkey in June. And then...

That's the stupid thing about this project of mine: it takes overwhelmingly positive experiences – the big red circles on my calendar – and gives them a negative tinge. The days and weeks building up to a trip away are not spent reading up on what to see and do, but trying to squeeze another few hundred words in my non-working, non-sleeping window.

It's stupid to feel guilty about these non-writing days. A writer must do other things – have other experiences – than just live inside their own head and type. The goings on inside the writer's head and the product of their typing are usually enriched by new and significant experiences. Travel is a good example of a new and significant experience. Travel is part of my continuing apprenticeship in life.

No one is really arguing with the importance of doing things other than writing. In another year, I would be stoked by the constant and sizeable progress my fiction makes on a weekly basis. But this is not another year. This is the year of a million words. A year in which I must compile numbers and graphs on a weekly basis, and work towards a target which looks increasingly intimidating.

The power of these numbers and graphs is to make me write more on those days where new and significant experiences are hard to come by. The weeknights where I could just watch Britain’s Got Talent and then Britain’s Got More Talent, then spend three hours on YouTube looking up Peru’s Got Talent and Finland’s Got Talent... The weekends where, besides getting groceries and checking emails, I have no commitments.

With all the travelling on my plate in 2008, it looks like a silly year to try to write a million words. But there are definite pros. Working as a temp means I can leave my work at work and have energy in reserve for fiction as the sun sets. My visa means I may just have a month in the second half of the year when I don't work (this could mean more travel though). Living away from family and friends means there's less invites going around, and less obligations and interruptions.

If I wasn’t writing, these would all be negatives: boring job with no future, dodgy pay, little social life etc etc. But it means my free time is freer this year than ever before. The million words target takes the symptoms of home sickness and turns them into positives. Well, maybe not positives in themselves, but they certainly lead to something productive.

These spiels before or after my status reports are probably tiresome to read on a weekly basis. But I don't know what's going to happen next. Imagine if I went out and wrote a 80,000 word novel from woe-to-go in the next fortnight. Or I stopped writing completely and went to live in a tree hut near Fort Augustus for the rest of the year. Then these status reports might be illuminating.



Rachael King said...

If you're serious about writing novels (which you are, obviously) then days spent not physically writing are still 'writing'. Just take a notebook with you and jot things down - you might yet knock a few words off your target.

Not that this helps your project.

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