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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Trouble With Page Counts

The only writer who finishes is the writer with a schedule and goals.

I've noticed that I can spend whole days writing and not move much farther ahead in my manuscript, so I decided to complete a set number of pages per day. It's something I can track and it moves me in one direction--forward.

That's what I thought.

I'm working on rewrites for Family Matters, and I intend to finish 10 pages per day, minimum. Here's the problem.

My manuscript needs big changes. I'm getting rid of a few ancillary characters who, though they amused me, didn't contribute to the story. So every time I come upon one of their passages, out comes the editing scalpel.

I've been working for two hours now. I started with 327 pages. I'm down to 324. And I know I've written at least three pages worth of new material.

So how do I track my pages when I'm rewriting and editing. Seriously. Any suggestions?

I suppose I could write down the word count of each passage I delete and subtract it from the starting word count. The result should give me the total numbers written per day, and divided by 250 should give me the number of pages.

I'd love a less cumbersome idea, but I haven't come up with it yet.

I'd also love to know what other writers think is a reasonable amount of time to spend writing each day.  I know it's subjective, but can anyone be productive in front of the computer for six or eight hours at a time? (Although my Farmville crops are flourishing nicely, thank you.)


  1. Jack, you've put your finger on the problem with page counts: they can be deceptive. Some days I only grind out a page or two -- heck, some days just a PARAGRAPH takes way too long. My approach isn't quite as goal-oriented, but I track time spent, not pages written. I set my timer for 60 minutes (gasp -- I feel like such a slacker compared to you!) and when it goes off, I'm (theoretically) done for the day. I don't always quit then -- my nifty timer also has a stop-watch function so I can keep going and track the extra time -- but after an hour, my brain usually stalls and I need a break. I think it's like a muscle, though -- I used to do well to log in 15 minutes a day (although my paying day job burned up 10-12 hours too), so I've quarupled my minimum writing time. And that's just the time I actually spend putting fictional words on paper, not the research, marketing, networking, etc. But for me it's enough to mentally qualify as a writer.

  2. I spend as much time as I can at the computer on a daily basis. If another project pops into my head, I go ahead and do that. I actually have gotten many projects out of the way, utilizing that time and I feel like I have accomplished something even if it isn't writing. At least it's doing.

    I have grown to hate cleaning and cooking, so I now do it faster now. Solved that problem. My crafts, those are the projects that pop into my head, are done faster, too. Those projects are now out of the way, so I don't have to wish I had more time to do them. Solved that problem.

    I reread an on-going work maybe once a week to clean up areas of the piece that don't feel right. If I get that nagging sense that something doesn't work, I change it. I don't think about. I change it. It is always better when I am through, so that part is fixed. Another problem solved.

    If I don't know exactly where I am going in a particular area, I let the characters tell me where they are going. I will get them into a conversation or monologue and all of a sudden they are telling me where the scene is going. It works every time. I type out this conversation so I don't let it slip out of my head and there it is, the scene I was looking for. Another problem solved.

    As for pages, I'll count them when I think I'm finished. I work on content and quality, not page numbers. Polishing the stone as I go works for me, but writers need to find what works for them.