500 Days of Writing

Philip HarrisMetrics, Writing0 Comments

Holy carp! Yesterday marked the 500th day of my writing streak! That’s hard to believe.

On 30th June 2013, I sat down and decided I would write every day. I haven’t missed a day since.

Over those 500 days I’ve spent 24 days 14 hours and 19 minutes writing a total of 380,033 words of fiction – 643 words per hour.

This is how those words racked up.

dailywordcount-500days

(Click for a version you can actually read)

Lots of spikiness but there’s a definite lull in the middle where I was revising The Ghost Smuggler and an increase in word count over the last 100 days where I was finishing The Zombie Book. I don’t have a daily word count target but I’m averaging a fairly respectable 760 words a day. I spend 71 minutes a day writing.

This is the weekly breakdown of word count (the thin line is the 8 week rolling average).

weeklywordcount-500days

(Click to bigify)

This graph is slightly different to the Monday Metrics graph in that it starts on the first day of the streak.

I did manage to squeak over the 10,000 word mark once, thanks to a big push on Leah but I’m generally pretty consistently in the 4-6,000 word range which isn’t bad although again, you can see the last few weeks have been more productive. I’m expecting a drop off from now until the end of the year as I switch to editing existing work rather than cranking out new stuff. More on that later.

As well as tracking my raw word count and time, I note what type of writing I’m doing.

wordcountbytype-500days

(Click to enbiggen)

The band of red was the Ghost Smuggler rewrite. I doubt I’ll be doing that type of rewriting again so that slice of red will probably stay static now. It’s a bit of a weird distinction anyway and could easily just be considered revising.

It’s hard to tell from that graph, but the amount of outlining I’m doing for each story has been increasing. I’ll be starting a new novel towards the end of December and I’m planning to do a pretty detailed outline. I’ll still stray from the outline when I’m actually writing but for me, the writing goes so much more smoothly if I’ve got some idea where I’m going. Otherwise I’ll spend 64,000 words getting a character from one side of town to the other. Yes, I’ve done that. I was young.

There’s always going to be more new words than revised words, that’s the way it works, but if you look at a similar graph showing time spent on each type of writing it’s much more even.

timebytype-500days

(You know the drill)

Unsurprisingly, it takes longer to “write” each word during revision – most of the time I’m just reading the story. That’s also something that is changing over time. I’m spending more time reading and revising than I used to.

So, I’ve written over 380,000 words during my streak. But what have I written?

These are the projects I’ve worked on during that time (in chronological order).

  • The Ghost Smuggler (Novel Rewrite)
  • 12 Things you Need to Know About Merfolk (Short Story) Finished
  • Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet (Novel)
  • The Princess (Short Story) Finished*
  • The Mirror (Short Story) Finished*
  • Lifeboat (Short Story) Finished*
  • The Bone Boy (Short Story) Finished
  • The White Demon (Short Story) Finished*
  • Saviour (Short Story) Finished
  • In the Shadow of Memories (Short Story) Finished
  • The Ride (Short Story)
  • Clockwork Girl (Short Story) Finished
  • Untitled Short Story
  • The Zombie Book (Novel)
  • Mini-aliens (working title) (Short Story)
  • Diary (working title) (Novel)
  • The First Zombie Hunter (Short Story)
  • Immersion Therapy (Short Story)
  • Day 263 (Short Story)
  • Untitled Novel
  • The Face on Benefit Street (Short Story) Finished
  • Leah (Novella)
  • Bottled Lightning (Short Story) Finished
  • Reg vs The Martians (Short Story)
  • Only Friends (Short Story) Finished
  • Curfew (Short Story) Finished
  • In the Shadow of Burning Books (Short Story) Finished
  • The Haunting of Danny Braithwaite (Short Story)
  • Leah Sequel (Novella)
  • In the Hall of Rusted Widows (Short Story)

So, that’s 30 projects – 5 novels (2 of which are just outlines/notes), 2 novellas, 23 short stories (14 finished).

The stories marked with a * were done as part of a workshop and with the exception of The Mirror are destined to stay locked away on my hard drive.

One thing that stands out is the number of unfinished projects I have there. I think that’s partly a side-effect of maintaining the streak. When I’ve finish a draft of a project, I’ve tended to try to keep up my momentum by starting something new, rather than pausing and going back to a previous project.

Some of those projects are really just notes for later, others have been abandoned for good reason but most of them should really be finished off and submitted or published. 380,000 words over that length of time is on par with some full time writers but it’s pretty meaningless if those words just stay on my hard drive. So, over the next few months I’ll be focusing on revising those unfinished projects and trying to avoid starting anything new. Mostly.

That’s one benefit of tracking my writing. If I wasn’t, I might not notice that I have so many almost-finished stories sitting around and just keep blithely starting new projects.

The other benefit of all the spreadsheet shenanigans is that the streak takes advantage of my naturally obsessive nature to keep me motivated. There are many days when I come home from work “too tired” to write but the thought of breaking my streak gets me sitting down at my desk for a few minutes of writing. More often than not, those few minutes turn into an hour or more and before I know it, I’ve added another 1,000 words to my total. And even if some of those words are utter rubbish and will never see the light of day, it’s all good practice – I become a slightly better writer with every story I write.

But the most important factor in my writing streak is my wife. She constantly supports and encourages me, puts up with me hiding away in my office for hours while I write, gives me feedback on stories, proofreads them and just generally acts as my number one fan. Without her, I’d have given up on this writing nonsense a long time ago. So, thank you, Ann.

Now, I know I said I wasn’t going to start any more new projects until I’d finished off the ones I have in progress, but I couldn’t let my 500th day of writing be purely editing and I finished the latest round of Glitch edits quicker than I’d expected so, last night, I outlined and started a new story In the Hall of Rusted Widows. It’s science fiction and I expect it will be 2-3,000 words long. It’s not finished (of course) but to commemorate Day 500 of my streak, here’s the unedited first draft of the opening paragraph.

Elizabeth stood at the edge of the dying city. Ahead of her, barely visible through the ever-present rain, stood the decaying hulk of the storage facility. The war and the years of torrential acid rain that had followed it had taken its toll on the metal, glass and concrete. The rust streaked walls were crumbling away, exposing the metal frame within, and the windows had collapsed outward, scattering fragments of glass across the ground like diamonds. Rain poured from the roof, pooling around the base of the building and turning the road to mud.

[“500 Days of Writing” by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 12th November 2014]

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