Note: This follows on a topic I wrote for The Daily Journal. If you haven’t read it, you can find it at http://hestanbrough.com/the-journal-friday-915/.
At the beginning of the calendar year, I challenged myself to write 15 novels during the year.
Later, after an intended novel fell short and ended as a novella, I adjusted the goal to 16 novels or novellas. That should have clued me I was in trouble.
It didn’t. I plunged merrily ahead but conveniently forgot the whole purpose of a challenge: productivity.
In my desire to write a certain number of novels, I allowed myself to be overwhelmed. In short, I lost sight of the little picture: the word count.
Grandpa always said you can’t build a house, but you can drive a nail. (Or you can’t write a novel, but you can write a scene.)
If you drive enough nails, you’ll look up one day through the clearing smoke and see that you have a new house.
Now just for fun, let’s slip a bit afield.
Productivity isn’t finishing a certain number of novels or novellas or even short stories.
In its initial, base form, productivity is putting words on the page. Like it or not, it all boils back down to the basic act: word count is what produces short stories, novellas and novels. You can’t escape that fact.
I find it particularly telling (and humorous, actually) that so many writers wrinkle up their nose and eschew word count as if it were gross and even distasteful. Pedestrian, even. Like sex.
Well, it might be. But it’s still a necessary (if ugly, depending on your POV) act in which the writer must allow his conscious and subconscious mind to engage if he is to birth a new novel.
It occurs to me that the metaphor extends when you realize word count generally isn’t talked about in polite circles.
And it’s something all writers engage in whether or not they want to admit it.
After all, if such things really were only for us peasants, Great Britain’s royal line would be really short. In fact, it would have ended abruptly on the other side of a pair of crossed arms and a head shaking side to side eons ago. (Somebody stop me!)
Okay. Okay (deep breaths). Enough on the metaphor.
Now I don’t push productivity for its own sake. I push productivity as a matter of business.
The more works a writer has “out there” the greater the chance readers will stumble on something he’s written, like it, and buy more.
This is common sense, even given that what was once common for most seems to have become a luxury for many. But I digress.
Noting word count, whether it’s done publicly (as here) or in private (all the better people only do it in private) is what drives the writer to produce more literary children.
And when our word-count drive begins to weaken, there’s no better way to enhance it than to give ourselves a challenge.
Try it. You’ll like it. And you don’t have to tell anybody.
‘Til next time, keep writing.