Saturday, February 21, 2009

Word Count

Finished Stephen King's book on writing last week. I learn a lot but also there were things I just didn't get at all. Either I'm dumb or I'm just too talented to learn from one of the masters. (Psst - I'm sure I'm the latter one, but usually genius got shot pretty quickly, so I'm keeping a low profile here.)

It might sound trivial to others, but I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. I even had an hour long discussion with a friend yesterday.

The trivia is about word count as in output per day. Mr. King indicated that he wrote around 2000 words a day. When he said "a day", he meant mornings. His afternoons were reserved for nap and letters. Evenings were for reading and family etc. For beginner writers, he suggested us to start with 1000 words / day and gradually build up to 2000 a day.

When I read it, I became momentarily blind as my eyes fell out onto the floor. My dog got hold of it and we did a few minutes tug-at-war before I regained my sight.

Putting aside the argument of quantity vs. quality, 2000 or 1000 words a day to me is a huge demand. I would sell my soul to Mr. King to do that. For me, if I'm lucky and the stars are aligned at one straight line, to get 200 words a day is a miracle. On an average week, my output is around 500 words. And if I count the free writings I do to get rid of the crap in my system before I settle down to do proper story writing - my weekly output would then equal to Mr. King's daily word count.

After a week's long hard thinking, my view on Mr. King's advice is this: 2000 is a symbol which represents the "ideal" to work on.

I don't think all writers are working to a particular word count. Each writer has his / her own ways to develop his / her stories. From this, I'm more into the belief that the word count is about one's innate knowledge of one's own working rhythms. It is about a writer's own understanding of what works to unleash and sustain his / her creativity to write.

If mine is 2000 words a week, so be it. Rather than concentrating on the output, my responsibility is to ensure that I show up regularly and write the story to the best of my abilities. But of course, I'll also keep the ideal word count in sight and work my way to get there.

So let me tell you, my word count today is 1501. Mr. King, I'm coming ...

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