Tonight’s revelation: 2,000 words is not that much.
I mean, it is. Sort of.
On my average writing night I used to produce between 1000-1500 words a night. That was only once a week, after work and I still felt this was enough to keep my momentum up. And it was. It kept me going, kept me interested and I still felt like I was working towards something. So I decided it was nothing to sniff at.
Now the pressure is on, however, I’m sitting down to write every night. And sometimes in the morning too. I manage more at the weekend but after work I’m averaging around 2,000 words in an evening.
In real terms I still think 2,000 words is nothing to sniff at when bashed out in a single sitting. It certainly still physically feels like Iv’e achieved something. My eyes are sore and my make-up is all over my face from where I’ve rubbed at it and I go to bed pleased. But when I actually take a step back and see how much the story has progressed in those 2,000…it’s often not very much.
I mean it’s a given that prose takes longer to write than to read. This is not even counting the editing and polishing part. The actual physical act of typing a word takes a hell of a lot longer than reading it, or even saying it. Except maybe antidisestablishmentarianism. That might be a close call.
But generally, it does take significantly longer to type than to read. So where as you feel good getting that 2,000 down and you’re pleased you have, you read back through it and you’re like “Craaaaaaaap. Am I still in this scene?”
I’m planning scenes all at the time at the moment. When I’m walking to work and on the way home, when I’m eating lunch, even when I’m going monotonous manual admin tasks like faxing or franking post. By the time I come home to sit down and write I can have the next couple of scenes at least with detail, dialogue and all, floating around in my brain-case.
So I sit, I type, I drink my tea….11pm rolls round and I still haven’t finished the very first scene that I came up with, let alone the second.
Sometimes I wish I could just open my skull and have the narrative just plop right out. But as is pointed out in a very interesting post by fellow blogger T. James Moore, you cannot reproduce something exactly as it is in your head. Not only because trying to open one’s skull can result in rather grave injury, but also because, even if we did, the stuff that’s in your brain cannot exist in the same way outside of your head.
I’ve known this from the very first time I started to draw as a child. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and I’ve drawn, painted and written stories since I was old enough to talk. And I’ve been frustrated so many times when I see something so clearly in my minds eye only to have it come out disproportioned, clunky or just…different than I initially imagined. The main reason for this is that the brain-realm is fluid, indefinable and doesn’t really exist. Letters, words and pages do.
You’re trying to capture an ethereal, ever-changing and often extra-ordinary concept made up of images, feelings and ideas in 26 exact symbols in a finite number of combinations. Darn.
So, yeah, it took me my half an hour walk to work to plan the next meeting between my significant characters, the journey back, some of the consequential follow-up and the next scene in the story, in detail, with plot points and dialogue. Tonight I’ve sat and I’ve bashed out my 2,000 and I’m feeling good, but I only have the first scene. And not in any way shape or form that is ready to be considered ‘done’.
But it’s fine. No, really, it is. It’s the name of the game.
2,000 words is everything and nothing all at once. The figure doesn’t matter. The step further along does, even if it’s not as big a step as you’d hoped.
There’s always time for another 2,000 tomorrow.