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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deaf Men Talking, Or: An Insider's View on Writing Workshops

There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of words spent on the influence writing workshops and MFAs have had on the state of contemporary fiction. But I haven’t really seen is a lot of words from those who’ve gone through the process and come out the other end.

I did a one year Masters in Creative Writing in 2006, and a few years before that I took a one semester short fiction workshop. I’ve also, on occasion, co-ordinated writing workshops for high school students. Now, more than a year after my MA, my novel/thesis remains unpublished and I am taking deep breaths as I prepare for next year’s challenge: writing a million words.

As I sat down to write today, I didn’t feel up to working on anything half-finished or first-drafted and in need of a good going over. I wanted to write something new. I imagine 2008 will be full of these days. The problem with writing something new is the blank page. Often, it’s too much and watching TV or tweaking fantasy basketball lineups is too attractive. This is where the pressure of having to write 2732 words a day will help me put aside whatever mood I’m in and just write. But what do you do when you want to write, but don’t know what you want to write? Me: I start typing. Typing anything.

Today, my first ‘first sentence’ was, “There was something rueful in the dog’s eyes.” My second and third sentences were “Dog’s eyes: full of rue. Some things, you can only just get away with, and the slightest disruption will cause it all to unhinge, unravel, unwind, undo.” In all, I managed 248 words before I decided to start again with something else (the story that evolved, a girl and her depressed dog, kind of finished at word 248).

My second ‘first sentence’ was: “It’s often easiest to start a block of fiction with dialogue.”

Below is a marked up version of the text I managed to write, with my comments on the process of composition (click on it to make it legible). In discussing the process of writing this snippet, I hope to reveal a little of what it is like to be inside the head of this young writer who has been through the workshop gauntlet.

By the time I got to this last sentence, I had more questions which needed answering before I would feel comfortable continuing:

  • Where are they exactly? Rest home? Institution? Country Club?
  • Linked to the above: How old are they?
  • What country’s sign language do they speak? This will affect my description of the gestures to define the made up word/gestures, and it’s something to research (first spurts of stories often stop at the point where I realise I have to research something).

There is also the bigger question of: What is this story about? I’ve written 238 words of text and discovered I was writing about a game two deaf adults play. The heart of the story feels like it lies in the relationship (friendship?) between these two men, and the way being deaf affects this relationship. But I didn’t know this when I started.

When I go back and read the first two sentences which got me writing, my workshopped brain says that these words might not serve the kind of story it looks set to become. When I step back and think about this process, there’s a lot of internalised workshop tendencies at play:

  • The desire to round out characters and settings (to answer all the usual questions people have).
  • The obsession with finding the heart of a story and expanding on it.
  • The tendency to discard metafictional or experimental passages as they interrupt the vivid and continuous dream of your bog standard short story.

I’m not sure if the image of ‘one deaf man making up sign language words for another deaf man to define’ is a workshop-fiction idea or a Craig Cliff idea. I think it’s a bit of both (it’s a false distinction anyway), but I do have a sneaking suspicion that the deaf definition scene (which may well come in the middle or the end of the story, not at the beginning as it stands now) is a distant cousin of the narrator holding the blind man’s hand and helping him sketch in Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral’. I didn’t rate this story when I first read it, but sitting on the other side of my MA year, I now concede it is one of the best short stories written in the eighties, and possibly any other decade. Is this a result of my maturity as a reader, or my workshop indoctrination? Again, it’s probably both.

This is why I feel torn when it comes to considering those first few ‘How to Write A First Line’ lines. It helped me write over 1000 words (and counting, including this mini-essay of course) and it comes from a place less contrived than two deaf men making up words, though, to a workshop veteran, it looks the most contrived.

I think it’s a question of voice, something bandied around in a lot of workshops but normally in terms of I love the narrator’s voice, or I think the voice slips in the passage with all the adjectives. It is not really a workshop’s role to step back and question the author’s voice: the right they have to inflict more fiction on the world; their staked off area of thoughts and way with words which no one else can replicate. Workshops are quid pro quo affairs, where every comment you make may affect the comments you receive on your own work. And they are limited by time: not just the time in the workshop room, but the time spent reading others’ work amidst the flurry (or lack of flurry and the resulting guilt-induced lassitude) of one’s own writing. So it is rare when a person’s work is ever looked at in terms of authorial right. What right do I have to tell a story about deaf people? Very little, on the face of it. After I research the different sign languages and perhaps read some deaf peoples’ blogs I will be more informed, but I will also be a slightly different person to the one writing to you now: the one who came up with this image but isn’t sure where it will go. The one who is writing a blog entry/essay instead of powering on with the story. But I do have a right to this story because, if I do it properly, only I could have written it. Other people may steal this idea (please don’t, there’s gotta be at least a 12 month statute of limitations on ideas espoused here) but they will all be different stories.

This is why I’m reluctant to cut the first two sentences: because it’s me talking. That’s my voice. It signals to the reader that what follows is the product of my mind, not the reporting of a lived experience. It feels less like lying. Not that the sanded, lacquered and polished banisters of ‘workshop fiction’ are full of lies, just that too much of the author has been sanded away.

I guess that’s what other people are talking about when they say that most contemporary fiction feels clinical and formulaic. Workshops are like lawnmowers: they tend to cut everything above a certain height. The result is a nice, clean looking lawn, but one that very much resembles the neighbour’s.

Don’t get me wrong, the workshops I’ve been in have helped me become more ruthless with my own work and I’m much more perceptive when it comes to picking out the part(s) of a story which are important, and I wouldn’t unlearn all these lessons and unmake all the friends I’ve made and forget the feeling of connectedness I felt when a part of that small community of writers. But now that it’s just me, and I’m the prosecution and the defence, it takes a lot of walking away from the screen and doing something else for a while to decide what’s best for MY stories.

P.S. Hopefully one day I can post a link to the finished, published and lauded ‘Deaf Definition’ story. Once I’ve written it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Chronology of Travel, Part Two

(This is the second part of a two part essay... read the first part here.)

The Spiritual Side (and an Extended Basketball Metaphor)

I am very concerned with the progress of time, mortality and all that. Time has moved too fast for me since I was small. I am almost 25, and feel like Adam Smith in Tom Fitzsimon's poem:

Oh, I meant to have done more. …

Oh, I meant for more to be written;
I meant for all
to be well.

Being so caught up with time—its inexorable progress, the You Can Never Step In The Same River Twiceness—is a full-court game. At one end you play defence: you are the Washington Generals playing the Harlem Globetrotters. Time toys with you. There is no way you can stop it from scoring, but you are compelled to try, to tire yourself out. At the other end, you are on offence, but now there is no opposition. The game has ended long ago and you are playing in the moonlight which floods in through the windows high up near the gymnasium roof. The squeak of your sneakers on the hardwood sounds like street racers on a Friday night. The slap of the ball against the court is as loud and constant as you imagine your heart beat. There is no one else, but this is still a game. On your side are memory and imagination. The three of you can summon up the Harlem Globetrotters, but permit you to have the ball, to take the shot, to win the game.

To care about time, and your use of it, is to maximise one attribute: memory. And, with a healthy imagination in tow, you can achieve anything, alone in the gymnasium of your mind.

This is what it is like living a life pressured by time. Time will frustrate you, but in those time-out-of-mind moments when you can recall and cast forwards, remember and imagine, there are small victories. You will never win the championship, but if you cram your life full of unique events (and therefore memorable memories) you may just break .500.

This is why travel—ah, he returns to travel at last—is intoxicating for the hurried, those down on the rocks of time, those with alarm clocks falling on their heads every day, because it leaves you with more memories, more remembered time. And, with a little leap of faith (or a lot of stomping down the intellect) you can see that time is limitless. All you need is memory and imagination.


The thing is, though, time isn’t limitless. Sure, it jumps and spits and hiccups, and you can live on fast forward and rewind and pause, but ultimately: you die. Time’s up.

In Part One I said that travelling didn’t stretch time physically, but it did spiritually. Spiritually? I just said that time ends when you die. Well, it’s true that I am not a member of any organised religion, hardly ever think about the existence of a higher power, almost incontrovertibly doubt the possibility of an afterlife (though I fancy reincarnation would be a lark), and, if I’m honest, think what is commonly called new age spiritualism is a load of bunk. But there needs to be a word for what is not physical, and what is not intellectual, and spiritual is the best band aid I can find.

Just as Christians believe in the existence of God beyond logic and reason (the intellect), memory, for me, exists beyond the intellect. I’m sure memory has logic to it, but its own logic. How memories are recalled, the strange, seemingly unconnected stimuli that bring a memory back, is not science. Why some events stick in the memory instead of others cannot be represented by a formula. [Well, maybe it’s a Poisson Distribution, like in Gravity’s Rainbow—I never understood the maths.]

When you stop travelling and look back, it feels like you stretched time. This feeling is spiritual. It is outside of logic and reason. Outside of the physical world. With very few spiritual experiences waiting around the corner these days, travel is an easy fix. And like other fixes, travel is addictive. When you stop, reflect, and compare those times to your life while not travelling, the natural reaction is to plan your next trip.


There is another readily available spiritual experience that needn’t involve churches or needles: fiction, preferably good fiction. Sure, there’s a physical side to reading: holding the book, the optics involved in transmitting light rays into thoughts. And there’s an intellectual side: comprehending the words and sentences using the rules of a given language that accrete daily. But something else happens when you read a good story. You are invited into the moonlit gymnasium of someone else’s mind. Beyond the paper and words, there is a spiritual experience.
Writing fiction is to inhabit your own moonlit gymnasium, and, with memory and imagination (and an intellectual knowledge of spelling, grammar and Microsoft Word, and the physical ability to type) you people this space.

The aim of fiction is to squeeze more into life, to permit people to experience more, arm them with memories and massage their imaginations to distort time.

Bad fiction makes you feel like you are standing in Anne Frank’s house as a tourist attraction in 2007: there are four walls and the address is the same, but the heroine feels far away and unsubstantial. ‘Fictional’.

Good fiction gives you memories which are indistinguishable from those acquired from your own experience of the world. The view from Arthur’s Seat and the view from the Marabar Caves.

Footnotes, disclaimers and admissions
1. I know Tom Fitzsimons, but it’s not unusual for young wannabe NZ writers to know each other.
2. Adam Smith lived and died in Edinburgh. I stumbled across his grave, as if guided by an invisible hand.

The Chronology of Travel, Part One

Remembered Time

From June to October this year, I travelled. Some might say I'm still travelling now, even though I've been in Edinburgh two months and will be here at least another twelve. On my travels I've been to houses turned into tourist attractions. Franz Kafka's in Prague, Anne Frank's in Amsterdam, Sherlock Holmes' on Baker Street. All of these people felt fictional when I stood inside these buildings.

I've been to villages in Malawi where the children want pens, pencils and paper more than anything. They get their older siblings to write you notes introducing themselves and asking for you to be their penpal. To these people the written word is still valuable, still contains magic.

I've been hundreds of metres above Victoria Falls in a microlight, and seen the crack that will become the next Vic Falls in ten million years. I've seen what water can do, and wondered if I should commit myself to irrigation rather than literature.

I've been to houses in Italy which do not contain a single book, and may never have contained books. Even the recipes are in their heads.

And now I reside in a city where the main train station is named after a fictional character, the highest monument is to a novelist and there’s a writer on the five pound note (Walter Scott’s Waverly, Walter Scott, Walter Scott). Other writers are remembered here too: Burns, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, and then there are the crime writers who populate Edinburgh with criminals instead of tourists.

Edinburgh is a city of writing. Not reading. Writing. That is partly what drove me to this quest for a million words: to not write in Edinburgh is to cease moving.


Sitting alongside the newly discovered ‘to write or not to write’ dichotomy is another, not-quite-complementary, not-quite-conflicting way of viewing life: Travelling and Not Travelling.

Before travelling for an extended period, Not Travelling would have been meaningless to me. It was School, Study, Work, whatever. Now, it's all Not Travelling. Stasis.

The problem with stasis—the irony of stasis—is that time, in retrospect, passes more quickly when you've done nothing. I’m talking about that, “Is it December already?” feeling. The “What have I done the last month and a half?” feeling. I am not talking about the “God, this day is taking forever,” feeling, which is an entirely different animal.

Here, I should probably differentiate between lived time and remembered. Lived time is the ticking of your wristwatch, the three hundred seconds you spend in the shower and the three minute phone calls with suppliers. Remembered time is what you have left of a day, a week, a month, after the fact. The memorable moments: watching the man get talked down from the ledge opposite your office, your landlord admitting he has MS.

Travelling, holidays, anything that takes you out of your routine, your usual settings, makes lived time seem to pass more quickly. You are often too busy to clock-watch. Travellers do not spend an hour pretending to work before they can head out to lunch. Time flies when you’re having fun.

But on reflection—that is: in remembered time—a week spent travelling contains so much more compared to a week not travelling. Looking back, it feels like you stretched time to fit so much more in. You did not, physically, of course. You breathed the same number of breaths, aged another 168 earth hours. But you did, spiritually (if I use this word, I might have to explain my definition… some day).

But why is the reserve of memories from travelling so much greater than those when not travelling? Because of the sameness of workdays, you are often left with a composite day, a metonymic day, one that stands for all similar days; but for travelling, even if you spend a lot of time doing the same things (sitting in trains, eating food, sleeping) you are doing these things in different places, different ways and with different people. Difference permits individual meals to be remembered. What did I have for lunch yesterday? No idea. Every lunch I’ve had at my desk for the past month is trying to get through the one-memory-sized aperture in my brain and as a result: nothing. What did I have for lunch in Venice in August? Quattro Stagioni Pizza. Lunch in a tea plantation in Tanzania? Ham sandwich on brown bread and some pasta salad made from leftovers. In terms of remembered time, travelling consists of a lot of time, working of very little. I suspect this is how people can work in the same job for thirty years: because when they look back, they do not have thirty years of memories to weigh them down.


To travel is to fill lived time with moments that can be readily recalled in remembered time. But that is only part of the equation…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

'Seeds' (fiction)

When Aaron was five and a half he conjured up an imaginary friend. Unfortunately, after just one week Groucho, as he was called, began to doubt Aaron’s existence. Groucho could, at a stretch, concede he might, possibly, be the figment of a single being’s imagination – but he could not fathom the statistical improbability that, out of all the people on earth, he would ever run into his creator, and, even less likely, that it would be his only friend: a small boy named Aaron who liked to climb the neighbours’ fence but didn’t have enough moxie to climb down the other side.

Suffering from an identity crisis which would cripple any week-old imaginary friend Groucho left poor Aaron in search of answers, never to return.

Happiness in Aaron’s teenage years depended on the availability of one thing – not friends, not video games, not good report cards – just a box of Kleenex on his bedside table. This may be the time for authorial comment (read: disapproval) but Aaron’s happiness was genuine, and who am I to quibble? The author? His creator? Please. It's damp. The walls are damp, the floor is damp, my monitor is thrushed with water vapour. And probably-cockroaches scuttle beneath my keyboard, upset by these key strokes. They are probably-cockroaches not because they're probably there – oh, they are, believe me – but because I'm only pretty sure they're cockroaches as opposed to some other insect. The doubt is seeded by their size – they aren't the Cameo Crème-sized cockroaches in your nightmares (maybe they’ll be Aaron’s nightmares?) – they're smaller, seedlike. Juvenile specimens, ranging from the size of the ‘O’ on my keyboard to the entire backspace key. As they crawl out from under my pulsing spacebar, they look like they could grow up to be something else, some other kind of beetle. Maybe one could morph into a moth if it could build a cocoon. And perhaps, if these probably-cockroaches could only figure how, they could become something other than insects – a patch of lichen, an Alsatian, an mp3 player. But the thing is, for all their potential, they will just become bigger cockroaches, and that comforts me as I squash themfkajdagho ih fij e oijpewoijdeoj cwojoij

No. Aaron did not have nightmares, of cockroaches or otherwise. He was happy most of the time, and when not, he was patient, and soon enough he was happy again. He would go on to marry the fourth girl he slept with, and they remained married until he slept with his fifth. Not one for upheaval or seeing other people cry – Aaron was unhappy throughout the divorce proceedings, but knew that if he waited, happiness would one day return.

He was on his knees pulling up the ragwort and burdock which had appeared in the garden since Isabelle left. He knew weeds bothered his mother, and since she was the only one kind enough to come and visit him on his actual birthday, it was the least he could do. When he was halfway down the row of what used to be Isabelle’s azaleas, he realized he was wearing his good trousers. The weeding had been a whim, the vigour of which – had he actually changed his trousers – would have faded and been replaced by the need to straighten the fridge magnets or find his recording of Debussey’s Nocturnes which he knew his mother liked. Instead he was weeding the garden and muddying the knees of his good trousers.

Aaron slowed his movements down so the weeds would last until his mother arrived and the mud would be justified. He took the time to investigate each weed. As he inspected the leaves of an oxalis – the shape reminded him of a clover; the texture of a dried apricot – he became less and less sure this was in fact a weed. He was almost certain it had not been planted there, but was it really so bad? He liked the way the pinky-yellow five-petalled flowers reminded him of a propeller, but then he had never seen a five-pronged propeller before.

He thought about Groucho, his fleeting imaginary friend. He could be anywhere right now. No, more than that. He could be anything right now. Who’s to say that an imaginary friend doesn’t change with time, mature, evolve into something else? This seed of his imagination could now be a butterfly or a set of measuring spoons. Or the figment formerly known as Groucho could have taken root in someone else’s imagination, encouraged them the hold Jamie Love’s hand that day on the school bus, or suggested playing with that box of matches. Or he could have joined forces with other dislocated imaginary friends and formed a general misconception, like: you shouldn’t swim after eating.

Aaron looked down at his hands and realised he was pulling the petals from the oxalis. In the deep regret he felt, the sympathy for this probably-weed, he realised happiness was returning.

“Thank you, Groucho,” he said, looking up into the branches of the neighbours’ blue gum.

“Who are you talking to, Aaron?”

His mother had arrived. She made him change his pants, but it didn’t matter. Happiness was already at work, glazing over the bad, the annoying, the regrettable, and turning even the most floury fruit into candy apples. Now – even if his keyboard and shirt pockets and coffee mugs were full of cockroaches – Aaron could see the wonder in a nightmare. He saw the wonder when his house was flooded and when his second wife was concussed by a falling tree branch. When his kidneys failed and he had to be hooked up to a dialysis machine. When there was a power cut and the batteries failed and he slipped away wearing the biggest smile you would ever see.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Here come the drums, here come the drums

Elvis Costello is what I would sound like if I sang right now. A cross between 'Pump It Up', 'I Want You' and 'Tokyo Storm Warning.' I am drunk on six Millers and four hefty glasses of red wine (of mixed denomination and mixed origin). I do have some self control. An unopened bottle of South Africa's First Cape Limited Release 2006 Merlot sits but centimetres from my mouse. A freebie, sure, but I'm pixelated and alone and pouring my heart out to the one other person who voted on my "Will Craig Write 1 Million Words in 2008" poll. I love that one believer. (I voted "No".) There is a mirror directly above my laptop and I look like maybe I have leukaemia. I apologise to those who actually have leukaemia, but I'm pale and the satchels beneath my eyes are full of undelivered letters. My forehead is bigger than the time Yak's mum commented on my receding hairline in sixth form (she was crazy anyway, doing the ironing at 1am). I am listening to the new Foo Fighters album. The truth is my best memory of the Foos is when the Kaiser Chiefs opened for them in Brisbane in 2006. My second best memory of the Foos is listening to their self titled debut in 1999 or something (I'm too jacked to wikipedia the exact release date), and singing, "Hey Dad, Hey Dad" even though I think the lyrics are "Hate it, Hate it" when my dad was still alive and said, "What?"

I like the first three tracks of Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. If I typed slower, I'd be able to give a fuller appraisal. Instead I'm drunk and alone in Edinburgh and realise I will regret this post in about sixteen minutes, but until then, let me remain firm: this is me, I am vulgar and flippant and loving the first chords of 'Come Alive' (track four). Dave Grohl screamed too much on the heavy disc of In Your Honor, and the non-screaming disc was too flat to be affecting (that is an important verb right now, though grammar may be evading my addled brain).

I should paragraph better.

I will paragraph better from now on.

Let me express my unbridled affection for everyone reading this. You are soldiers, you are boiled eggs, you are the staple diet of a small south east Asian nation not currently ravaged by floods, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions.

Track, um, 5, 'Stranger Things Have Happened' is also good from the get go. Maybe I dismissed the Foo Fighters when I shouldn't have. Or maybe I'm judging them on half an album (if In Your Honor had been culled to 11 tracks, I'd have stayed faithful; instead, I slept with Maximo Park, The Futureheads, The Weakerthans, Rilo Kiley, Spoon, Kings of Leon, and a hundred Tragically Hips).

I want to say something about fiction. I've written about 30,000 words of short fiction in the last month - - an all-time record for me - - but it would still only equal 10 or 11 days of writing toward the million words. I believe in honesty. Fictional honesty and blogtional honesty and maybe even face-to-face honesty (circumstances pending). So I'm going to show you what I write in 2008, and if I fail miserably, I hope I'm not miserable about failing (why be miserable about things you can control? Save it for the inexorable progress of time: that makes me miserable, regardless of what I do with t-t-t-t-time).

Let me express my unbridled affection for everyone reading this, again. This is like a university lecture: when they say something twice, write it down. When they say it three times, it's in the exam.

Let me express my unbridled affection for everyone reading this.

The 2008 exam will be assessed in person. Applicants unable to make it to Edinburgh, please contact your course provider to organise some other means of conversing with the examiner.

Tracks six and seven are forgettable. I'm pushing next before track eight ('Summer's End') is even over with.

I have done the phoney thing and gone back and read over most of this entry and corrected hilarious typos like 'living' for 'loving'. Perhaps I should replace 'hilarious' with 'true'. Neither of those words mean anything when you think about it.

Track 10, 'Statues', is good. Real good. Well, on a first, semi-distracted listen anyway.

Track 11 is so-so. It has an unfortunate turn of phrase: "as I count my lucky scars". More follow. A pity. When the guitars come in at 3:15 it is a good move, but it only lasts ten seconds before Dave-O starts talk-scream-singing again.

I heard Track 12, 'Home', on Zane Low's mixtape on BBC Radio One last night (Thurs 6th Dec) and it was amazing then and still is now. The whole mixtape was fixating. It made me scavenge the Pumpkins 'Soma' and Beck's 'Nobody's Fault But My Own' from the net, even though I have copies on my stranded hard-drive on the other side of the world.

I guess I'm a miserable MF at heart.

Being miserable on red wine and Siamese Dream is an amazing feeling.

I have just decided I am not properly miserable enough. I will make a 'Make Craig Miserable' playlist tomorrow (it will include Warren Zevon and Mark Lanegan and a Paul Weller cover, probably of Neil Young's 'Birds'), and I will drink red wine and feel amazingly miserable while listening to it and the world will be crystalline and beautiful.

The Foo Fighters new album just stopped, so: so should I.

[This blog may or may not be indicative of the content to follow on 'The Year of a Million Words']

[[The above is 982 words, or roughly a third of 2008's daily quota]]

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Rules

As I was making the above graph, I realised that it might be a leap year in 2008, meaning I would have a bonus day. The calendar confirmed this. Yes! I thought. Then I calculated the difference this would make to me on a daily basis, and it only lowered my daily word count target by 8 words. The moral of the story is that I'm going to have to chip away at this Everest everyday.

Anyway, here's the basic rules:

(*) Daily word count consists of words written for the purposes of fiction (prose or poetry) and selected non-fiction, in a format such that a word count can be electronically calculated (e.g. typed in Microsoft Word).

(*) Applicable non-fiction is anything written during a day using full sentences and involving original thought.

(*) Word count for revision is calculated as the difference between the word count of the piece before and after the revision session. The result will always be considered a positive addition to my overall word tally.

I’ve been writing a few short stories lately, and since I came up with this million words a year idea, I’ve been keeping an eye on how much fiction I write on a daily basis. On my good days, I crack the magical 2732 word count, but this is what I would have to write each and every day in 2008 to reach my one millionth word (probably at 11:59pm on New Years Eve, heaven forbid). This is why I’ve broadened the scope to capture non-fiction involving original thought. This way, I can write essays and reviews and long, confessional emails if I’m running low on words on a particular day. I believe this is just as useful as plugging away at fiction. A lot of my story ideas come from times when I've been forced to put life into words, not merely from life itself.

As for revision, it’s the real wrinkle in this scheme. An hour spent revising a story is often more useful that an hour spent writing a first draft, but the net effect in word count terms is minimal (sometimes negative) when revising. Going after the one million wildly for 12 months could result in a mass of unedited first drafts that are still a long way from publication. (Also, I doubt I could have enough ideas to fill 300-odd 3000 word stories in the one calendar year). I could have calculated an average words per hour rate achieved when writing fiction, then multiplied the hours spent revising on a given day by this average hourly word rate to get an relative word count… but this would not be real. At the end of the year, I would have to asterisk my word count with a breakdown of real words and imaginary ones. Whatever the flaws, I’ve chosen to take the net effect on word count as a revision session’s contribution to my tally, (but I’ll use the absolute value of the net effect to make sure I don’t get to precious about cutting the fat).

This all sounds very dry at this stage. Once January rolls around, I'm sure there'll be daily-word-count-boosting oddities to grace this page.

My final word for now: I know this is a gimmick. But if it makes me write everyday, regardless of mood or circumstances, it's the gimmick for me.

(By the way, the above was 561 words.)