As writers we bang on a lot about word count. We tweet, post and otherwise discuss the number of words we get down on any given day, and chastise or congratulate ourselves accordingly. This kind of thing, some say, can be a great motivator, a real kick up the butt when we need one.
I’ve come to realise that for me it’s not a positive thing. I find it demoralizing and I think I’m going to go on strike. DEATH TO POSTS ABOUT WORD COUNT (that’s a picket sign, by the way). When a writer is stuck in manuscript quicksand, it can be utterly soul destroying to see how fast others are moving forward. It can cause much self-flagellation, panic and self-doubt. If writer X can write 5k a day, why can’t I?
The answer to this question is fairly simple: we are all different. In obvious ways of course—we have varying levels of family responsibility, some people have day jobs some don’t—but it goes deeper than that. Just as people are all individuals, each writer has their own unique process. Number of hours spent writing does not necessarily equate to a certain number of words on the page, it varies for the individual writer from day to day. Between one author and another, it varies even more. And speaking as a ‘slow’ writer, I think I’m finally okay with that.
My process seems to involve getting stuck on a scene part way through a work in progress (never at the beginning, I love writing beginnings) when suddenly telling the story becomes about as simple and fun as pushing a wheelbarrow full of cow manure up a very steep hill. I can see the vision in my head of how the scene is supposed to go, I sit down to type and some other crap comes out. This disconnect between what I envisage and what I can actually do is incredibly frustrating. But I’ve come to accept it as part of my process. There’s always a reason to be stuck, and it’s usually because the scene I’m trying to write is pivotal, and once I get it right it will tell me everything I need to know about how to finish the book.
In Sunset Knight it was the wedding scene I kept coming back to–I have twelve versions of it on my hard drive. In
Moonlight Mirage there’s a scene in the pool that sat unfinished for a good month before I could finally come out the other side of it. And in Erica’s Choice…well, every freakin scene was a struggle, but most especially the one showing the first time Corey and Griff become intimate, because I’d never written MM before and, hell, I’m a chick. So that stumped me. At the moment, I’m floundering around the scene where my hero and heroine first have sex, and it’s a very important moment. It needs to show all the yearning of their years spent apart, all the love they’ve held onto but are trying to deny, and all the conflicts that will keep them apart for the rest of the book. And of course the heroine has a sexual hang up. You didn’t think I’d make it easy on myself, did you?
So yeah, not so simple. It means my word count per day is averaging 600wds and a lot of those are rewrites. But I’m working through it, making the scene better bit by bit until it matches that image in my head. I am following my process, which means I’m being true to my voice. This does not make me a very fast writer. But it does make me the writer I was supposed to be.
So yes. I am definitely okay with that.