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bear by san

March 2017



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me and a troll

you are the silence in between what i thought and what i said

I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of how much paid writing I do in a given day. Blogging doesn't count; email doesn't count. Tumblr and twitter and facebook? Don't count.

Only words that pay the bills count.

I don't keep the spreadsheet to guilt trip myself into working, or meeting a daily goal. I keep it because I'm a hyper-self-critical, hyper-self-competitive, workaholic perfectionist, and writing it down gives me something to take to my domineering, overbearing boss (that would be me) to prove to her that really, I have been working hard, and we are getting stuff down, and look, there is measurable forward motion here shut up and have a coffee, lady

So I happen to know that, with the exception of the hypergraphia year of 2003, when I wrote over 600,000 words in twelve months, over the course of the past thirteen years as a professional writer (some of it full-time, some of it with a day job in tow), I have in different years averaged between 650-1250 words of paying copy a day. 

That's somewhere between two and a half and five pages. So far, this year, I'm averaging four pages a day. I'd like to keep that range going.

Now, that's an average. That doesn't mean I write four pages every day. (I know writers who set themselves a goal like that, or--more commonly, two pages a day--and I Know some who write ten pages every day! Or more! and some for whom daily averages are meaningless because they sit down and write every novel and short story in a binge, drunk on their word hoards and reeling. I often finish novels this way, but the bulk of them is written in daily chunks.)

And yet, I have a reputation as a very fast writer.

I'm not. I'm just a writer who shows up (nearly) every day and gets something on paper. Some days I write nothing. Some weeks I write nothing. I take days off. I go on trips and teach workshops. Some days I'm editing or researching, for that matter, and those days have no wordcount attached.

 My point is this: Since 2002, when I finished writing the first novel I ever managed to get past the Dreaded 30K Wall, I've written 25 novels (5 of them collaborative) and over a hundred short stories or novellas.

At an average rate of roughly four pages a day.

Up to a certain point, the more you write the faster you learn--productivity breeds practice, after all.

But four pages a day is pretty doable for many people. And one page a day is probably doable for almost anybody.

So if you've been thinking about writing your great book, the story only you can tell... why not write just one page today?

And another page tomorrow?

If you're an artist, draw a thing today, and another thing tomorrow.

(This blog post, by the way, is exactly five hundred words.

...or about two pages.)


That is how we live:)
I'm trying to get there. I know it's the only way to go if I want to be serious about my writing and art.
Damn you Bear, and your pretty much irrefutable logic. *grumble* Off to the word mines I go.
I ought to start doing that. Mostly by going in my bedroom, away from the TV and not coming out until words are done.

(i do have a spreadsheet, but it is looking lonely.)
If you set a quota, make sure it is over the amount of words it takes you to get warmed up.
I find with the art that I have to change up what I'm doing on a fairly regular basis or I get burnt out and start going realllly slooowly on my projects. So it's "draw/paint a thing today, beadloom tomorrow, ooo... let's marble paper the day after that, then the next day we can draw/paint a thing on the marbled paper, no wait let's learn modular origami instead". It all comes round to the same thing in the end, though. Also, that's probably not best practice if you have deadlines and need to make a living. :)
I always find it funny when people ask me about playwriting, because they think that it's a big slog to get through scenes. I can write a 10-minute scene (about 10 pages) in an evening. Four of those are a one-act. Eight of those are a play.
The thing that takes longest for me is not the writing. It's the thinking up awesome things to write about!
Well said.
I dunno if anybody here will find this even remotely interesting, but on the nonfiction end, I read somewhere (Hackos, probably) that you cost out tech writing projects at five hours a page. Now, that's the entire project -- from "I need you to write a book", "oh yeah, what's it about?" to print-ready proofs -- planning, research, more planning, writing, editing, rewriting, more editing, layout, blah blah yackety smackety. And I've learned that I do it in closer to 3 hours per page, at least over the last 1500 pages or so. So that's how I cost it out.

My current gig, they said "I need you to write a book..." and I looked at the project and said "180 pages, you can have it by the end of May". That plan lasted about a week, and they said "That's great, but we need it by April". So we'll cut out this bit and that bit and now it's 120 pages and they can have it by the end of April. "Oh, and we also need it online, in a wiki". So now I'm dumping chapters out to the wiki as I get them done. And I have a tag called "START HERE" that says where I am, and another one called "untied shoelace" that marks all of the stuff I know I'll have to go back and fix later.

I think I could probably write faster if I was allowed to make stuff up, but I'm not sure I'd get paid as well, or as regularly. At some point, I'll make stuff up on my own time, but right now my head is a little crowded with the 75 more pages I have to come up with by April- ...40 hours a week, a page every three hours. Want a day off? TYPE FASTER.
Well, there's definitely a difference between averaging 1200 words for every day in a year and averaging 1200 words every day you write. I'm the latter working towards the former.
Yeah. 'course, if you write four pages five days a week, that's still a 650-word-day average...
Mind if I share this? I know some folks who would find it of interest. :)
It's on the internet. *g*
Never hurts to double-check. ;)
I love this post for making writing seem possible. Not easy, not simple, but not the insurmountable and agonizing task it often seems to be.
Yep me too.

That 30K Wall. Gets me every time.

Until one day, I hope, it doesn't.
You just have to push through it, really. The problem with the 30K wall is that it's a transition--from beginning of book (setup) to middle-of-book (complication.)

So break something.


Fascinating, but Ms Bear has ignored the most important factor, namely, the conditions that cause her to write so frequently and those that cause others to write less frequently. For her, writing means paying the bills, whereas for others, writing means taking time away from that which pays the bills. The contingencies are exactly reversed. To say that if nonprofessional writers would only write more they would become professional writers is like (to re-purpose an analogy from Coleridge) telling a man paralyzed in both arms that if he would only clap his hands together, he would be cured. Alas, he might say, that I cannot move my arms is precisely my problem. The nonprofessional writer could only write more if the conditions under which she lives causes her to do so, i.e., if reinforcement is contingent upon writing, and as the most powerful reinforcements are money and the acclaim of one's peers, Ms Bear's behavior is powerfully reinforced by a reasonable expectation of the receipt of those things, whereas in the nonprofessional's case it is a far more reasonable expectation that her writing will not deliver those things. The prolificness of many professional writers is created by earlier sequences of chance-based favorable outcomes, and maintained by economic contingencies, the power of which can easily be observed in every other walk of life. After all, no one is surprised when economic contingencies cause the majority of the world's population to work diligently for 40 or more hours a week, usually also without the social and artistic benefits that for Ms Bear serve as additional non-monetary sources of reinforcement. Ms Bear touches tangentially on this factor when she says that only paid writing counts toward her quota; only one might ask, how ought nonprofessional writers, whose writing is ex hypothesi not paid (or, in any case, has an expected value indistinguishable from zero), be motivated? To say, "He should just *be* motivated," or "He should motivate himself," is as nonsensical as to say that a person not employed in a car factory ought to be just as diligent in building cars as one who is employed in the factory.

Edited at 2014-05-19 07:26 pm (UTC)

Re: Subject

It's a nice theory, but I did this for years before I was paid, and for even more years before I was full time.

It's not fair, but if you want to learn to write professionally, you have to write.

And if you want to produce work, you also have to write.

(99% of professional writers, myself included, could make more money doing something else. We were not born knowing how to write, and we did not instantly become self-supporting at the trade once we decided to pursue it.)

Actually, I'm not even sure what your point is. I'm not in fact saying that anyone should be motivated. I'm saying that if you want to produce a result, you have to do the work. That's as true of writing as it is of getting a law degree.