I am not by nature, a highly superstitious person. Oh, I follow the ones that are good common sense, like I don’t break mirrors because glass shards can hurt, but I tend to ignore the silly ones. Black cats in my path are more likely to be pet than avoided and, as you can see from the photo, I believe lucky rabbit’s feet belong on the rabbit editor. However, when it comes to my writing, I tend to be a bit more… let’s just say cautious.
I never check the word count when the writing is going well.
Actually I try not to check the word count in general. The story takes as long as it takes, adding or subtracting words while you’re writing leads to sections that don’t make sense or that scream ‘fluff’ to the reader. Word count is a stress inducer for me. Knowing it gives me a reason to worry when I should be thinking about what happens next in the story.
I dread the 20K word mark.
Twenty-thousand words is the place where good ideas curl up and die. I can write that many words with most any plot. Before I hit the 20K mark I see the promise, the gleaming perfection of how it will all go. After 20K the magic fizzles out. I realize the plot won’t sell, no one else will like it, or it just plain isn’t going anywhere. I admit that once or twice I’ve picked a piece back up and started from word 20,001. Each time it’s been drudgery and I never got the flow. Which leads me too…
I savor the flow when it comes.
The flow is the feeling you get when the writing is coming fast and furious, when the words just fly from your fingertips, and all your ideas are perfect. When you can see everything that’s going to happen in the story and the dialog resounds in your head, you’re in the flow. Some writers chase the flow, trying to capture with drugs and alcohol (I’m looking at you Hemingway and you too, Salinger). I just write around it. When the words aren’t flowing, I write the in-between bits, the passages that take the characters from place to place. When the flow does come I give up everything else (food, drink, conversations with others) and write for as long as it stays. If you’ve ever caught that moment, you know how good it feels. Ride that wave.
I keep a pad and paper by my bed for late night ideas.
The opening words of Deadly Revelations (the third in my new series, coming from Tor in the Spring of 2013) came to me around 11o’clockish at night, after a long day. My first instinct is to repeat the lines over and over again in the hopes that I’ll remember them come morning. Thankfully I’ve lost enough greatness that way to know it wouldn’t work. Instead I keep a pad and a pen by the bed and scribble things down. After the first few years of this my darling spouse got me a click-on LED light that’s bright enough to write by but dim enough not to wake the room.
In the morning you take the pen and paper to your laptop and do your best to recreate the thought from your scribbles or you can leave it by the bed. I tend to leave about half the ideas there, mostly so that I know I’m never completely stumped for something to write. By the way, this process only works if you return the pad to your bedside that night. Last week I amused several people by asking them to try and decipher the scribbles I’d left on my arm the night before. There were six of them, perfectly spaced, but without any actual letters. I’m now considering getting a second pad and stapling it to the wall.
And as I sat here, trying to think about my other superstitious, I broke my own rule and checked the word count. I try to keep all the blogs around 600 words, meaning this one is officially Too Long. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important common-sense superstitions. Feel free to remind me in the comments.
May 19, 2011 @ 9:37 PM
*raises hand* So if you have a notepad by your bed, why would you need to take the whole pad to your computer and not just the sheet you used? 😛 Then you wouldn’t have to worry about returning the pad to your nightstand and having to write on your arm. LOL!
Yes, I’m teasing you. But mostly because I’m upset I missed out on witnessing that scene. 🙂
May 20, 2011 @ 1:48 AM
Jami: Ha! Because, my dear friend, my note pad is actually a spiral bound notebook. That allows me to keep track of all my late night ideas in one place instead of losing them or having the rabbit eat a precious page. And really, I should have taken a photo of my arm, those lines were so perfectly spaced. :blush:
May 19, 2011 @ 10:53 PM
Cute. I’m the opposite about word count. I kind of like knowing. I’m also the weirdo who stares at the clock ticking as I run on a treadmill. Somehow, seeing the word count/time motivates me. Like mini-deadlines or a coach screaming at me. I don’t know. Whatever works, right :)? I agree about the 20K mark though, something about that point is where you start to question everything. And the flow. Yes. The flow is a beautiful thing.
May 20, 2011 @ 1:53 AM
Erin: On the treadmill the ticking clock taunts me, making me wonder if I can do it, making me struggle to push myself. I can handle 13 miles on a treadmill watching bad SciFi movies, but make me look at the clock and I’m done in 7 minutes.
I never thought of word count that way, but you’re 20K and my confidence in the story just starts to fade. You have to push past that point.
And flow… ahh flow… I think I may addicted.
Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
May 20, 2011 @ 2:03 AM
Oh, so you’re saying you don’t have a desk littered with random scraps of paper? 🙂 I might have to try that approach.
May 20, 2011 @ 2:15 AM
Try it! Having a house rabbit teaches you that slips of paper bound by strong wire have a much longer life. 😉
Paul Anthony Shortt
May 20, 2011 @ 4:56 AM
I’m a bit obsessive with checking my wordcount. I probably shouldn’t be. Though I think I’ve reached the stage in my WIP where I hit the flow a lot more easily.
I probably should keep a notepad with me. What I tend to do at the moment if I come up with an idea is repeat scenes using that idea in my head like I’m picturing a movie until it’s committed to memory.
May 20, 2011 @ 8:17 AM
Hi Paul! I keep a notepad on me at all times: on the train, when I’m flying, and in my car. I can remember a few key words by repeating a scene over and over again, but that’s all I’ll get, a few key words. Write it down, and I get those words and a lot of the ones that come after them. 🙂 Thanks for coming by!
May 20, 2011 @ 7:38 AM
What an enjoyable way to start the morning! Thanks for sharing your insights — and getting my jones going for “the flow”. Yes, I’m addicted to it too.
May 20, 2011 @ 8:17 AM
Thanks for coming by Rachelle, I think the flow is too powerful not to get addicted to it. 😛