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2019: the year in writing

So the stats are in and, while I’ve had some decent writing successes over the year, 2019 was a notably less productive year than 2018.

Before we get to the [boring] stats, here are the highlights:

  • I wrote (and completed) 4 brand new short stories;
  • I re-edited and/or completed an additional 8 short stories;
  • I wrote the first 25,000 words of a new novel

The not-so-highlights include:

  • 2 stories were started but not completed;
  • The other novel that I started back in 2018 still stands unfinished at 34,000 words (though I did, at least, do a fair bit of work on it this year);
  • I had honestly expected to wrap up the first draft of the new novel by this point

So, I’m happy to take the victories—any writing done is good progress—but I would have liked to have seen at least one of the novels not finish the year in a state of limbo.

The stats

I record (with varying accuracy) my word counts each day, along with whether I’ve written new words, edited existing words, or not done any writing at all. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, which means I can look at the trends year on year and learn a few things about my writing habits.

Here are the writing stats:

MonthWrite TotalWriting DaysAverage
2019 totals44,142116381
2018 totals91,589143640
2017 totals34,67965534
2016 totals46,71772649
2015 totals85,548118725

Straight up it’s clear that it’s not been a great year for writing new words. With a reasonable degree of confidence I can surmise that the much higher stats for 2015 and 2018 come down to me being focused on writing (yet not finishing) novels. Yes, I was also working on novels in 2019, but at a much slower pace.

So, the number of days I spent writing in 2019 was pretty good, but my average word count was way down. Clearly either distraction, or lack of inspiration and/or motivation were issues here.

Side note: another reason the 2018 total is much higher is that I decided to include words written for my blog that year (which would still only account for another 25-30k words max). From 2019 I continued to record when I wrote for my blog (as in it still gets counted as a writing day) but I don’t record the word counts (because I want the word counts to be entirely about my fiction writing). This, obviously, makes the average word count a bit lower.

Now let’s look at the editing stats:

Edit TotalEditing DaysAverage
2019 totals91,782105874
2018 totals93,77097967
2017 totals91,50897943
2016 totals147,5471421,039
2015 totals130,8651031,271

It’s impossible to properly estimate how many words get edited in any given session, so I simply take the final word count for whatever chunk of prose I’ve worked on that day. Sometimes that total will include new words that I’ve written, and sometimes it will include big chunks of text that I’ve deleted. Either way, since I typically do two further drafts of each story, the editing word count usually ends up being twice that of the writing word count. Maths, yo.

Again, not my most productive year by a long shot, but consistent with the writing stats.

Finally, stats for the number of days in the year that I’ve worked on my writing projects (whether writing or editing)

Total CrunchedTotal DaysDays Missed
2019 totals135,924221144
2018 totals185,359240125
2017 totals126,187162203
2016 totals194,264214161
2015 totals216,413221144

Based on those figures, it’s been an average year. It’s never going to come close to being every day, since I don’t make myself write every single day. For starters, I usually take Saturday off, which means I miss 52 days right from the outset. Then there’ll always be days when I’m sick, or simply too tired to write, or am otherwise not in a position to write (e.g. away on holiday). All the same, I’d like to miss fewer days in future.

Which brings us to …

2020 Targets

For 2020 (and, in fact, for the first time) I’ve decided to set myself some targets in the interests of staying on track and improving on some of the 2019 figures. Those targets are:

  • Total words written: 55k words 
    • Average words written per day: 600 words
  • Total words edited: 100k words 
    • Average words edited per day: 1,000 words
  • Days spent writing/editing: 260 days (min)
    • Days missed: 90 (max)

Those targets don’t necessarily correlate (mathematically) with one another, but each gives me room for improvement (without being ludicrously overambitious) and, to be honest, I’ll be happy if I meet, or exceed, just two or three of them.

Making it work

There’s no point having targets if there’s no plan for achieving them, so here are a few things I’m going to do in order to [help] make it all happen:

  • Get up early. I’ve written about this fairly extensively elsewhere on the blog, but one of the biggest issues I had last year was that my morning routine changed and I ended up with less time in the mornings to write. I was able to correct this towards the end of the year simply by getting up earlier. This proved to be much easier than expected, so I anticipate this making a big difference for the new year.
  • No phone. I’ve noticed, particularly of late, that I tend to reach for my phone as soon as my mind starts wandering during my writing sessions. Once that happens, it’s all too easy to get sucked into social media and get even more distracted from writing words. So, one of the things I’ll be doing this year is removing that potential source of distraction by ensuring my phone is always out of reach whenever I’m writing. 
  • Always write. This will be the hardest to implement. I have a reasonably good sense for when the words simply aren’t going to happen, and typically don’t force myself to write when I know it’s basically going to be mental torture. That said, I’ve probably gone a little too easy on myself over the last year so I’m going to take a more disciplined approach. Even on the bad days, if I can just sit down for 15 minutes and get a handful of words written, it’ll still be better than getting nothing done.

And, of course, I will continue to track my word counts through the year so we can all come back and do this again in 12 months’ time. See you then 😉

Messin’ with author photos

I decided it was time I had something approaching a decent author photo – something that I could stick wherever my books appear. Trouble is I can’t decide which one to use so I need your help!

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From the Department Of Words

For my fourth third#yoyo blog post of February I’m going to take a brief look at something that I find really interesting: language policing. I don’t know if that’s the correct term or not but, hey, who’s gonna tell me I’m wrong? I have a few opinions–which I will, of course, share with you–but I don’t have any firm conclusions on any of this. One day I’ll look more closely into this, but for now I invite you to read this hastily scribbled post and comment below.

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Writing update: January 2017

Turns out I haven’t done a regular monthly writing update since last March. So here’s one for last month

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On rejection

I began last year with the quiet hope that I might manage to get at least one new story published somewhere. While I definitely had some wins, I didn’t end up getting any stories published. What I did end up with was a small pile of rejection emails. You might think that’s a bad thing, but it’s not, and here’s why …

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January 25

I wake up at 6:20am feeling like my body is made of lead. Thoughts of getting up for my morning shift are briefly considered, then swiftly abandoned.

It’s a two-coffee day. It’s also bastard hot, which makes the second coffee in particular feel like some sort of Sisyphean endeavour. I have to take Rach home halfway through the day when a migraine hits. I plough through the rest of afternoon with the knowledge that I have a four-day weekend coming my way.

At the end of the day m still determined to start reading something (that hasn’t been published on the internet). Browsing through the swatches of books that I’ve purchase from Amazon I spot On Writing by Stephen King. Perfect. I love Stephen King and I love reading about writing. I settle in and end up reading way past my bedtime.

The writer’s progress: 2016 edition

In which I reflect on my writing progress during the course of 2016, aided as ever by by my trusty Google Sheets Writing Log.

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writing log feature image

A free wordcount tracker for 2017

Before I launch into my next post, which will be all about analysing my writing efforts during 2016, I thought it might be useful to share my Writing Log template that I’ve been using for the last few years.

It’s very simple, does most of the calculations for you (monthly totals, averages, etc, etc) – all you need to do is to enter the number of words you’ve written, or edited, each day. I find it particularly useful for working out what my average wordcount is, and for tracking when I’ve been particularly productive, or anticipating when those seasonal slumps might occur.

The download link is below (a zipped up excel file) but I can always share the Google Sheets original if you travel that way. Jump down if you want to get stuck in, or read on for a breakdown of each column:

  • Session – choose between morning, lunch or evening, depending on when you did your writing (or add something else in the Lookups sheet)
  • Action – select write or edit or, if you missed that day entirely, select n/a (this is used to keep a total of the days you’ve missed). Again, you can add different entries in the Lookup sheet if you want.
  • Word count – you don’t really need me to cover this one, do you…?
  • Title – I like to enter the title of whatever story I’m working on
  • Draft – I also like to keep track of which draft of a story I’m working on. Add different entries in the Lookup sheet, if that’s your thing.
  • Target/Actual – I don’t use these, but I’ve left them in anyway.
  • Total/Written/Edited – these are all calculated columns, so let them do their thing
  • Notes – if I missed a day, I usually like to put in the reason here. Also, if I hit a particular milestone (e.g. finishing a first draft) I also like to put it here.

There’s a worksheet called 2017 Totals where some more of the magic happens. As you progress through the year you’ll be able to see your monthly totals and averages here.

If you happen to use this and have any questions, use the comments below or find me on twitter. In the meantime, here’s the link:

Writing update: March 2016

March wasn’t one of my best writing months, but despite missing a bunch of days, it turned out to be almost as productive as February. Which was weird.

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Writing update: February 2016

Well, it’s March already which means it’s time to share with you all the gory details about my writing exploits during February. (It wasn’t actually gory, of course … apart from that one time …)

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