So my dad comes over the other day. He pokes his head into my makeshift office. He sees me typing away in a MSWord doc and asks, “How many more words do you have left until you’re done writing that book?”
“Oh probably 30k or so more words,” I said with a bit of a groan. I’d been working through a particularly hard scene and the words were not coming fast enough for my liking.
To that, my dad responded with, “Great. Can I get you to help me with some typing when you’re done?”
Dad’s question got me thinking. An author’s view of a word count is different than most people. Non-authors don’t really know what it’s like to write a book. It’s a creative process which is a very abstract concept to non-creative types. It’s not a matter of just hitting a word count. You can’t take my average words per minute typed and use that to estimate how long it would take to write an 80k novel. If that were the case, I’d be churning out stories by the truckload monthly! That would be pretty awesome though, wouldn’t it?
A lot of “writing time” (and I’m using myself as an example here) is spent staring at a blinking curser, making odd faces at it while you work through a plot issue in your head. There are also many hours of research that need to be done for some stories. Distractions like: Email, Facebook, Twitter, and Message boards might have something to do with that too, but we’ll just ignore their influence for now. =p
For me, an average writing session can last anywhere from 1-3 hours, and in that time I may not get more than 1k words down on the paper.
Of course, some stories take longer than others to write. My first novel took 5 years. The second, only 6 months, but by the time I got to the fourth one, I was back up to taking a year to write it. Each story is like a living, breathing thing, which requires its own amount of time to grow and mature.
So, while I’m stating a word count goal to my dad, it’s really not a measure of how long it will take me, just an end result. Which means I won’t be getting out of helping him with his typing project any time soon. =p
Alas, a writer’s work is never done.