Monday, April 22, 2013

A million reasons to keep writing

I started to write fiction with serious discipline in September of 2004. While I had written since childhood, primarily poetry, but some short stories, I had never considered myself a "W"riter before then. That was when my husband tossed a book away in disgust, turned to me and told me that I could do a better job than that.

That was the year I blithely decided I would write a novel. Now, I had no idea how to write one, but I didn't let that stop me. I played with an idea I had worked on in my high school and early college years, discarded the actual writing (which was really, really terrible. (Un)fortunately, the pages I had on yellow legal pad in my spidery handwriting were destroyed in a house fire and are gone forever), and started over.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled into Forward Motion for Writers and joined an online critique group there. A year later, and over 150,000 words of overly dramatic, cliched writing, I had written 'the end' on my epic fantasy story.

What I discovered was a deep love for novel length fiction and a deep need to tell more stories. So I continued writing. And continued after that.

It's 8 1/2 years later and I'm still writing.

They say (and by 'they' I mean it is attributed to various writers without a definitive citation) that it takes a million words to figure out what you're doing as a writer. I decided to look through my computer files and tally up how many words I've written in the past near decade to see where I am on this grand metric.

Ground rules: I only count each book once, even though for several of them, I have torn them apart and rebuilt them many times over. In reality, counting revisions, my tally would be far higher. I also selected the wordcount from the completed first draft, rather than the final revision.

Completed Novels:
2004-5: Wings of Winter 150,000 (2 rev)
2005-6: MindBlind 87,000 (3 rev)
2006-7: House of Many Doors 68,000 (4 rev)
2007-8: Oathbreaker's Price 109,000 (3 rev)
2008-9: The Between 77,000 (5 rev)
2009-10: Future Tense 72,000 (7 rev)
2011-12: Unnamed Ghost Story 78,000 (1st draft)
2012: Derelict 105,000 (3 rev)
2012: Scarecrow and the Princess (children's story) 4,000

Partial novels:
2009: Medical Thriller 10,000
2010: Sisters of Lilith 14,000
2010-11: Unbound Helix 20,000

Short stories:
9 @ 3,000 each (approx) 27,000

approx 1000 @ 350 each 350,000

So what's my total?

1,171,000 words written since September of 2005. That's one million, one hundred and seventy one thousand words. Wow.

If I average that out over 8 1/2 years, that's 11,480 words a month, every month for almost 9 years. This doesn't count story plotting, character sketches, or revision work. Nor did I count the hundreds of poems I wrote during that period, or the pages and pages of beta reading/critique I wrote for my fellow writers.

If you look at my writing timeline, you may notice that 2010-2011 wasn't a very productive writing year. That was the year we lost our home to a fire and were displaced. I struggled to write much of anything and picked away, but ultimately didn't complete, two partial novels. Someday, I plan to get back to them.

As for 2013, in the past 4 months, I've been a revision machine, working on DERELICT, my SF novel, and completely unraveling and reknitting OATHBREAKER'S PRICE. I'm considering a big push on the medical thriller, but also have plans for several other stories in the universe of DERELICT.

All in all, I'm pleased with what I've completed in my almost decade of serious writing. Certainly there are writers who can produce far more in the same time frame, but comparisons aren't helpful. I have found the methods and processes that work for me.  I'm happy to write at my turtle's pace and know that I can consistently finish what I start.

Here's to the next million words!

ETA: Clearly my skills and talents cluster in the language areas and not math. Between September 2004 and April of 2103 is 8 1/2 years, not 9 1/2! I redid the numbers. D'oh!


  1. If you write at a turtle's pace (and having turtles as pets I can tell you that they're way faster than everyone thinks), then I write at the pace of glaciers! That's good chunk of writing every year. I think you're more prolific than you let on...

    1. Maybe a 'dogged' pace, rather than a turtle's. :) I tend toward the obsessive when I'm actively in the middle of a story. My poor spouse and family. I don't know what worse--how absent I get when I'm writing or how antsy I am when I'm in between projects.

  2. Quite impressive, Lisa! You certainly put me to shame. I love that your husband was the one who gave you the "nudge" to get serious about your writing--mine did the same for me. Looking forward to your next million words!

    1. Thank you--but please don't feel shamed! No comparisons allowed--when you set goals and write, you have succeeded.

  3. Holy Microsoft!!!!!

    I know you use Word, but that sounded better. Never been much on counting, but what you've done is impressive. I guess the only thing I'd say in response is I'm giving my title as Energizer Bunny over to you.