Lagniappe: That Little Word-Count Meter

(I know I normally post on Monday, and I plan to post again next Monday.  In the Gulf South, we call this Lagniappe, or a little something extra.)

No, I’m not three months late for NaNoWriMo (or nine month’s early for this year’s), but I do have a daily writing goal, and I’m using this meter to make it public.  Thanks to Svenja for programming the meter.  You can click on the actual meter or follow this link to set up your own.

My daily word count goal (fiction only; blogs and such don’t count) is a gargantuan, world-shaking … 250 words.  One double spaced page.  I know, I know: it’s a herculean effort, but I think I’m up to it.

Seriously, though, I chose 250 words because of something Zoe Winters wrote, this post, actually, and this followup, back in August.

To make a long story short, a 1,000 word per day goal was discouraging, even intimidating, but Winters found that she could motivate herself to write every day, consistently, if her goal was short and easily reached.  She said she could do 250 words in 15 minutes.   It usually takes me 30, but who doesn’t have half an hour?

When I made my New Year’s resolutions, I knew one of them would be to write every day.  Thinking back to those posts, I set 250 words per day as my goal.  It’s absolutely attainable, even with my work schedule (even if at my busiest, I can take the time to write 250 words).

The thing is, just like Zoe Winters predicted, when I get started writing, I don’t want to stop at 250.  I’ve averaged over 800 words per day this year.  Will that rate continue?  I don’t know; I’m quite certain my work load will be increasing in the next couple of months.  Still, I’m very happy with how it’s going.

So if you want to write every day, I’d suggest setting a small goal, one that you know you’ll reach.  Success, and especially excessive success, feels a lot better than failure.  Writing 900 words feels like a failure if you have a 1,000 word per day goal, but that same 900 words feels like a triumph if you have a 250 word goal.  Success is encouraging, and reinforces good behavior.  Failure is discouraging, and pushes you to give up and abandon your goals, making it harder to press on.

And check out Zoe Winters’s blog, and her books as well (I’ll be discussing her one nonfiction work, Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author soon enough, as one of my “Honorable Mention” books on writing).

Advertisements

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: A Memoir and One of the Best Books About Writing I’ve Ever Read

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been writing about The Three Best Books on Writing I’ve Ever Read, starting with my post on Dean Wesley Smith’s electronically publishedKilling the Sacred Cows of Publishing, and then blogging about Algis Budrys’s classic Writing to the Point.

The third and final member of this triad is a bit different, in that it is only partially a book about writing, by a relatively young writer who had great success with some books and not-so-great success with others.  While the first two books were (rightly) by experienced professionals, long-time writers and publishers (both Dean Wesley Smith and Algis Budrys have been involved in “both sides” of the writing experience), the third is a powerful, personal book about the nature of narrative, and finding the storyline within your life.

It’s called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and it’s written by Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and Through Painted Deserts.  Miller is an openly Christian writer (the first printing title of Through Painted Deserts was Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance), and while I find that a plus, some of you may not.  I ask you to bear with me, and bear with him.  The exploration of the nature of story and narrative in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is worth reading even if you have an abiding disregard for Christianity.

Through A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Miller walks through the shadowlands of minor celebrity, writer’s block, and the fear that nothing he writes will ever be as good as or as successful as Blue Like Jazz – taking us on a first-person journey through the realities of what Dean Wesley Smith called the myth of ‘If I can ____, then I’ve made it.

Don Miller taught me to expect more of my characters, to make them deeper, and to make their narratives have meaning to them and to me.  I’m also trying to learn a few things about living my own life (my New Year’s Resolutions have survived into February, though they’re a bit ragged, so that’s something, at least).

Miller has also helped correct one weakness I sort of “took away” from Algis Budrys’s work (not Budrys’s fault, I’m sure): the tendency to make the main character somewhat passive, or at least reactive, coming into action only when a problem happens to him (or her). Miller’s description of story, “a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it,” is at once the most succinct and powerful description I have ever read.

Again, I strongly recommend you check out A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  It’s very different from the other two books I’ve recommended, but no less valuable.