03 August 2010


[Hart here... as will probably be apparent nearly immediately if you know me...]

Tuesday is our writing blog, so I thought we'd start with a little math.

What? Are you insane?

Quite insane, but it will grow on you. Erm... maybe. Are you ready?

So you START with a goal of a 90,000 word book (this is long for some genres, short for others, but acceptable for most, and conveniently calculable by months).

Designate words or pages per day... and CALCULATE. (see, I did a little math for you. I'm groovy that way).  You get to how many DAYS it takes you to finish your book...

Now 5000 words a day is RECORD writing for all but the most insane people.  Certainly an impossible pace to keep up if you have a job, family or LIFE.

3000 is something I've beat maybe a dozen times... on the weekend...

1500 is generally my goal, but only recently... I am writing book 7, so it is (for me) 90 minutes when things are flowing, and if I have a PLAN, generally I can hit smooth through maybe 60-70% of the book.  1000 is reasonable for MOST who have a book under their belt (not all, and not self-editors, but most)

500 though... or 250... ANYBODY can do that, if they just COMMIT!

Now lets try a DIFFERENT kind of math.

Let's say you are a writer who really likes to just write when inspired. Let's say in 3 days you can write 10,000 words. Lets say this happens maybe every 4 months... because let's face it—muses are fickle. In fact honestly, I think we are all sharing the same one... at least if yours is a man in skimpy clothing dancing around you—that would be MY MUSE visiting YOU. So if he has shown up, swat his bottom and send him HOME!

10,000 words X 3 = 30,000 words a YEAR. (3 years to write the novel)

Let's say (new scenario here... don't mean to jar you)—you are a BUSY MOM, who is occasionally INSPIRED but can't find 10 minutes in a given day to actually SIT (erm... other than to read a couple blogs, because those of you with no time to read blogs surely aren't reading). One day a week your sister or mom takes the kids and you get an afternoon. In that afternoon, your ideas are so ripe you can write 2000 words...

2000 X 4 weeks = 8000 words a month = 72,000 words a year. (1.25 years to a novel)

Okay, guess what now... say it with me... ANOTHER SCENARIO... Let's say you're a spurts and stops person... maybe you have five days a month that you can write well... maybe hit 1500 words a day...

1500 X 5 days = 7500 words a month and 90,000 words a year. (exactly a year to a novel)

The Point?

HA! I have one! Usually I do.

My POINT is that if you write EVERY DAY, then as little as ONE PAGE a day can get you done in the time it takes for those bursts to get you there.

Writing is MORE a matter of persistence and habit than inspiration. Writing a page a day can take anywhere between minutes and hours, but for MOST people, it is less than an hour. And for pretty much ALL people, writing daily is a more efficient way to get through a project than writing sporadically.

So how do you get in the habit?

Twenty-one days.

I learned this with exercise, but there is no reason whatsoever it won't apply to writing. If you MAKE YOURSELF do something every day for 21 days, you have established a habit that becomes pretty easy to maintain. And you can do pretty much ANYTHING if you only make yourself commit for only 21 days initially.

So what can YOU do for 21 days that you want to establish as a habit—writing or otherwise?


Jan Morrison said...

I love that you are as obsessed with the number side of this as I am. I can spend hours trying to figure out the odds of this or that when if I spent an hour writing well guess what! I'm happy with my output now - it gets trickier with the revisions though because my goals are slippery. Ah well, today is a work day not a write day so ta ta for now!
Jan Morrison

CA Heaven said...

Great, I love math.

I'm working on a couple of posts to appear soon; one about math in art, and one about art in math >:)

In the meantime, your calculations are quite encouraging; if I write one page per day, I can finish a book in about a year >:)

Cold As Heaven

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

You were walking in my head, right?
If your Muse looks like that and shows up here I'm not sure I'l send him right home. ;>))) (How did you get a guy muse anyway?)

Natasha said...

Trust you to come up with this, Tami. So if I do a drabble a day, it takes me a little less than three years to finish a book, but any book with drabbles is a gimmicky books, so I could probably get away with a 20 k book- which means a little less than a year.
I'll take NoWriMo any day!

Hart Johnson said...

Jan, always love it when my friends are number geeks too. And I figure an hour a day is good on editing, no matter how much or little you accomplish, because you're right--very different animal.

CaH--glad this is encouraging! I found it that way, too--a novel can seem so daunting if you don't break it down. (and love the idea of art in math!)

Mary--HA! I might have been walking in your head if you were also having a dream about Izzy (Grey's Anatomy) having quadruplets? And on my Mr. Muse... It's sort of just the way I roll...

Natasha, you know my drummer pounds out a rhumba... not one to take a predictable route... And I figure kids books can DEFINITELY be shorter. I think maybe you ALSO might want to think about putting together a book with your photographs and a drabble for each--a coffee table book. Call it 'My Mumbai' or something.

Deb and Barbara said...

This is toooooo funny. Yes, I did the math once. And when I deduced that if I wrote 10 pp a day, I could potentially have a novel in 30 days, I set about to do it.

I had an idea and outline for a book I really wanted to write, but was a bit scared to jump in. Then I did that math, realized that I had a free month coming up (it was Feb -- an ideal time to hunker down and write), and lo and behold, a book came out the other end. Of course, it's now been 2 more years of editing and leaving it and coming back to it. But it was math in the best sense for me! Love it, Hart!!


LTM said...

jeebus, math at THIS time of day??? good grief.

No, this is a good point, and as always, I love your methods. You will now be the recipient of all my math questions. Thanks, Ms... (what was your math teacher's name again? Ms. Campbell's soup girl.)~ ;p

MTeacress said...

When you put it like that, writing a novel seems very doable. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

Unknown said...

I suppose I unknowingly used this for blogging. I was horrible at posting everyday. However, during July I was determined to post and pre-schedule entries. It worked. I have blogged almost everyday for a month.

I now need to apply this to my novel and perhaps, I just may finish one this year.

Excellent advice Tami!

Natasha said...

Kid books don't count. A stage 2 or 3 book should not take more than a week or two to write- less if your kids demand so many stories, your storytelling skills get honed to a craft.

Hart Johnson said...

Barbara-I LOVE that the math convinced you to just write it! I never thought of it that way until I had a book under my belt.

Leigh, that would be Mrs. Ringo *snicker* I hope she can somehow feel all this mojo coming her way. And I will definitely take the math questions. I like that for SOME questions, there are absolute answers, though unlike my hubby, I embrace that not ALL questions have absolutes...

MT--Glad to help out! Darned manageable, ne?

Chary, you can totally do it. I know being primary parent and working full time makes it hard, but you could commit to a page a day--even if you allow SOME of it to be novel, and some essay, as I also think you have a really moving non-fiction book in there.

Oh, Natasha, don't sell yourself short. Thing one demanded a story (or more) nightly, and I only ever seemed to come up with Witch Hagatha and Princess Natalie, in its variations... I could NEVER write children's books.