Thursday, November 21, 2013


by Allison Pang

Many jobs ago, I used to work for Ocean Spray. (The cranberry folks, yes.) I was an intern collecting data - which meant a lot of time spent out in the fields collecting samples- berries, plants, name it.

Depending on the particular study, things were weighed or measured...and counted. How many mites on a particular set of leaves. What part of the life cycle were they in. How many microscopic nematodes could I find in a beheaded grub? (Biology is awesome, yo.)

Lots and and lots of counting in research.  Which is usually what I told people I did when they asked. "You work(ed) for Ocean Spray? What did you do there?"

"I counted things."


So when it comes to word counts and writing there are times when I can be a tad ambivalent. But it also depends on what part of the writing cycle I'm in. I'm editing/revising right now, and while I'm certainly adding content, at this stage of the game I'm more concerned with the quality of the words as opposed to the number.

If I'm writing something from scratch (dirty drafting, as I call it) - then I tend to be focused more on word count, mostly because if I don't keep track on a regular basis, then I can have a tendency to let "real life" take over as excuses. "Can't write tonight, gotta do X."  When I was first starting out, that was a major issue - there was always a reason why I couldn't get any writing done that day or only a small amount of words to show for it. Once I made up my mind to do a minimum of 1000k a day, all of a sudden I actually HAD a book a few months later. (I don't do NaNo too often, either, but if you're so inclined to keep people informed of your word count, some of the web widgets can be fun. Otherwise, I don't have any tools. I just highlight the words I've written or watch the word count on the Word doc and figure it out from there.)

Would I like to do more than 1000k a day on a regular basis? Yes. Of course. (And being on a deadline usually stirs me to move a little faster than that.) But sometimes that is just not possible, so as long as I've got the "minimum" done, I don't feel too guilty. Guilt does not make for a good muse - and sometimes the best laid plans get hosed and I've mostly decided to just go with the flow these days. Miss my word count on a given day because a kid is barfing just means I have to try to make it up on a different day. And then I move on. (And like fellow Word Whore, KAK - sometimes there is just a mental limit for me. I reach it and then everything becomes mush.)

That being said, this year hasn't been too good for me productivity-wise. Surgeries and chronic pain tend to slow the body down, no matter how willing the spirit is, so to be honest? I gave myself a pass over the summer. (I still managed to add 100 pages to the current "finished rough draft" anyway - but it was a terrible slog, usually involving me stoned out of my mind on painkillers, typing out 200 words, feeling guilty as hell and then passing out. It was a pretty shitty cycle, to be honest.)

So now, I'm recovering and off the drugs and my mind is waking back up, as is the writing bug. (That itch to write/finish a project is on my mind more - whereas before other distractions would override, I actually don't *want* to play video games right now. I want to get back to the story.) It's a relief - but just like the muscles in my back which are currently being retrained to work properly after 5 years of malfunctioning, the writing muscles are also being retrained.

That means revising this new book...but it also means working on additional writing projects - short stories, comics, sketching outlines for future books down the road. And it means more discipline - turning off the internet (or at least Tumblr, because holy hell, that site is a time suck.) and just getting the words done.

Because in the end, the only thing that's actually going to increase your word count is writing the words.

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