Writing: It’s not all about the word count.

writerWhen you tell people you’re a writer there are some questions that almost always get asked. The most annoying is ‘do you have a publisher?’, not because of the question in of itself but the reaction to anyone who says no. That ‘ohh’ with declining intonation and the subsequent changing of topic is well-known code for ‘so you’re not really a writer then?’ Musicians don’t get this reaction when they say they’re not signed to a major record label yet.

In any case, I digress. When people choose not to be annoying, there are two questions that are more common than all others. Number one is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’. After that, the favourite interrogative is, and this one usually comes from the genuinely interested, ‘how many words do you write in a day?’.

I’ve had this discussion with other writers and read some things on the topic and I have to say I find a lot of it very curious. You see things like Somerset Maughan supposedly saying he wrote 600 words a day without fail. I find that somewhat implausible but it may have worked for him, I can’t say.

Now I’m not claiming to be a writing God or some such but I can fairly say that I’m well versed in putting words on a page. In one series of books, I worked out I’ve already written over a million words, so whatever other failings I may have, prolificity isn’t one of them. All the same, when writer friends of mine ask me how much I aim to write in a day I feel that it is in part the wrong way of looking at it.

I understand the need for a metric. We want definitive proof of progress and a word count provides that. Over a longer period of time, I too set myself word count targets as a way of making myself really get down to the discipline of putting in the hours. Likewise, word counts can give you a fair estimation of how far into a novel you are or even at what point you should finish it. Word counts can be useful; just not on a daily scale.

Why do I think this? For one, not all words are equal. Which words are easy and which are difficult may vary from writer to writer. Personally, I find dialogue reasonably easy to write. Therefore on a day when I’m writing dialogue I can probably get a high word count without much trouble. Other things take more work. Action scenes can be exhausting to write and often you can spend a lot of time on choreography to see if what you’re writing is actually physically possible or plausible. As a result, word flow can be choked.

typewriterEqually, some chapters are more difficult than others. I get chapter block far more often than full-on writer’s block. I can always write something just not always where I need to write it. Those 300 words you bled to get out may be the ones that bring a breakthrough and get you to a part of the story where the flow becomes much easier again. They are the chiselling that produces cracks in the wall of inertia.

By the same token, not all days are equal and this is where arbitrary daily goals become most absurd. If I wrote 1,000 words a day, every day without fail that would mean there would be many days where I have to stop mid-flow and many where I have to exclude all other life just to get them done. Neither makes sense. Writers have to be human beings too.

I understand that daily goals are about discipline. I just think that there are better ways to employ that discipline. If word count is your sole measure of productivity what do you make of those days where you get a lot of research done? What about the days where you write a ton of notes and plan out chapters to come? Both of these can be the platform that launches you into another cycle of creative outpouring but they may very well be days where you increase the word count of your current chapter by a sum of zero.

None of this is to say that judging yourself by word count is without merit. Just as the person who has made the choice to eat less and do more exercise may well find their weight goes down, so too is there a correlation between word count and overall success. By the same token, weight loss is only one way of looking at progress and in of itself might not be that meaningful, so on an individual day it might be with your word count.

What then can you use to apply discipline to yourself if you accept that word counts might not be the thing? Where I think the aim of a daily word count is going right is that it recognises that writing a novel is a labour that you have to stick at and put into most days, certainly all the days you can. Instead of focussing on the number alone, it is equally useful to think about how much time you are putting in. Likewise, effort is harder to quantify but you know when you’ve expended it. Any day where you’ve dedicated yourself with all your energy to making what you’ve written better than it was yesterday is a day you’ve been a real writer.

In the end, the way to be a writer is by writing things. It can be a slog, it can be isolating and can often feel fruitless but if you persist you’ll get to the end of the story. How you get there each day is a matter of what works best for you.

Long-term, word count matters. Generally, if I’m working full-time on a novel I do average about 1,000 words a day, on average being the important point.That average will include crazy days of 9,000 words done and painful days of a few hundred. It will also include days where I went for a walk or watched TV instead.

It’s right to treat writing as a job but what kind of job never gives you days off? Of course, there is a flip side to this: few jobs give you more than two days off a week. So if you’re a writer and this is your third day on a break, stop worrying about the word count and get back to work.

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The Elemental Cycle continues

Things have been a little quiet on the website front for a bit and we’re hoping to rectify that. The reason behind this is we’ve all been busy with our principle task of producing exciting new books.

While we hope to get back to producing web content soon, in the meantime we thought we’d provide an update on the writing front. In short we are well under way.

VlakyriegoldvrperValkyrie Rising: Valkyrie Rising is in the editing process now and we fully expect it to be ready for release in advance of the July release date. At around 100,000 words it is slightly longer than Enchantress Apprentice/Destiny and a bit shorter than Enchantress Awakening.

It is a new story with a new set of characters and requires no prior knowledge of other books to read, though those who’ve finished The Book of Water will get something extra from it.

FallenstraightenedMars Fallen: Mars Fallen is at present about 85% complete and we hope will be ready a long time in advance of the October release date. At this point, we’re not ruling out the possibility of an earlier release but we’ll wait on that last 15% before we decide anything.

Overall we’re very excited by the rate of progress. We had always hoped to have the first five books out by the end of the year and we’re on target for that.

Never fear that the Elemental Cycle will be be done too soon. When we started out we saw it as a 6-10 year project to bring the series in its fullness to life and we’re still in the beginning of month 2. There’s a long way to go yet.

 

Where is the Dragon? New Edition for Apprentice released!

Yes. The spellbound edition for Enchantress Apprentice is now available on Amazon. Click on the link below to find it or go to this page to choose between the spellbound and stone editions of the book. Dragonard2

Links for spellbound edition by country;

US, UK, Can, Aus, Fra, Ita, Ger, NL, Ind, Jap, Bra, Esp, Mex

What kind of wizard are you? – A Quiz.

Ever wondered what kind of wizard you would be? No, we not talking sorting hats here, we’re talking about how your personality and power would come together. In the Book of Water (Enchantress Trilogy) by our author JW Whitmarsh there are four different kinds of wizard; enchanters, illusionists, seers and druids. Each have distinct approaches and perspectives but, ultimately, it is the person inside who shapes how the wizard comes to their power.

After a quick word from the author find out where you would sit

Nexus-Fiction: We’re trying to decide what kind of wizard people would be if they were born gifted in the world of the Elemental Cycle. Maybe we should start with some famous examples.

JW Whitmarsh: OK, but bear in mind this would mean they would have to be limited by the lore of my world. You can’t really dump a character from another world into a distinct fictional construct cohesively.

NX: Indulge us.

JW: Very well.

NX: Right. Let’s start with a biggie. Gandalf?

JW: Difficult. I think you’d have to treat Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White differently. Gandalf the Grey seems to have an affinity with fire magic principally, which says enchanter, but he also does defensive wards and shields in the manner of a seer. I’m going to say seer with exceptional skills in elemental charms. Gandalf the White on the other hand is all about light magic and in the Elemental Cycle world he’d probably be a summoner like Loreliath, but that’s not an option in this test.

NX: Alright, Merlin?

JW: The recent TV Merlin on BBC seemed to be a seer mostly but if we’re talking about the Merlin of legend he would definitely be an illusionist.

NX: Prospero?

JW: He is quite controlling and gets others to do his bidding a lot so I’d say he’d be an enchanter.

NX: Who’d be a druid?

JW: Radagast the Brown would fit very comfortably into the druid role, I think. Or Herne the hunter.

There you have it. Now it’s your turn to decide what you would be.

Question 1: If you had to face one of the following, which would you LEAST want?

  1. Going blind
  2. Losing both hands.
  3. Losing sense of taste and smell
  4. Going deaf

Question 2: It’s raining hard outside and you want to pass the time. Pick the game that would amuse you best.

  1. Poker
  2. Chess
  3. Blackjack
  4. Dominoes

Question 3: Your bedroom is drab and spartan. You can cheer it up with one thing, which would you choose?

  1. A teddy bear
  2. A plant
  3. A ceiling painting of the stars
  4. An encyclopaedia

Question 4: You have to go onstage and entertain a crowd for a short time. What is your act?

  1. A Stand-up routine
  2. Juggling
  3. Magic tricks
  4. A poetry recital

Question 5: Which danger sign would most likely adorn your workshop.

  1. 1024px-Flammable-symbol.svg 2. electricity 3. 2000px-WHMIS_Class_D-1.svg.png4. 2000px-Danger_radiation.svg

Question 6: You’re worried about security for your home, which do you invest in?

  1. A state-of-the-art alarm system
  2. Beefing up the neighbourhood watch
  3. A guard dog
  4. Hidden traps

Question 7: Which of the following phobias bothers you LEAST

  1. Crowded places
  2. Spiders
  3. Heights
  4. Snakes

Question 8: You’ve got some time to relax, what do you want to do?

  1. Take a walk in the park
  2. Visit an art gallery
  3. Listen to classical music
  4. Have a massage

Question 9: You have to commit a bank robbery and want to use as little violence as possible, how would you go about it?

  1. Fill the bank with smoke and set off the fire alarm to get all the employees out first.
  2. Hack the security cameras so you can pass by unseen.
  3. Convince the bank manager that you have his family hostage
  4. Pump a sedative into the air conditioning to send everyone to sleep

Question 10: You are in fear for your life, how will you protect yourself?

  1. Find a vantage point from where you can see anyone approaching.
  2. Escape to deep within the forest
  3. Surround yourself with the best guards you can find
  4. Retreat into a cave network that you know intimately

Answer Time.

Add up the following scores for each question. Pens and pencils ready.

1: 1)d  2)b  3)a  4)c        2: 1)d  2)c  3)b  4)a    

3: 1)b  2)a  3)d   4)c       4: 1)b  2)c  3)d  4)a

5: 1)b  2)c  3)d  4)a       6: 1)c  2)b  3)a  4)d

7: 1)b  2)d  3)c  4)a       8: 1)a  2)d  3)c  4)b

9: 1)d  2)c  3)b  4)a        10: 1)c  2)a  3)b  4)a

Mostly As Click Here     Mostly Bs Click Here    Mostly Cs  Click Here     Mostly Ds Click Here

 

Enchantress Awakening New Edition Available Now!

We’re pleased to announce that the Spellbound Edition of Enchantress Awakening is now available for purchase on Amazon. Meanwhile the Stone Edition is still available for the same price so now you have the choice of which cover you prefer.

 

Soon they will be joined by the Spellbound Edition of Enchantress Apprentice and in early May by both versions of Enchantress Destiny, which will be release simultaneously in both formats.

Quick Link to Spellbound Edition US, UK, Can, Aus, Ita, Fra, Ger, Ned

Quick Link to Stone Edition US, UK, Can, Aus, Ita, Fra, Ger, Ned

 

Trilogy or Epic – A reader’s poll

In light of the forthcoming release of the third part of the Book of Water, Enchantress Destiny being released at the beginning of may and the complete trilogy version being released a month later. We thought we’d look at this question more generally.

The trilogy is a well-known staple of films, books and games. So much so that almost everything now has to be a trilogy. The number three is very satisfying but is it always what people want?

Tolkien famously never regarded The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy. That was his publishers idea. Yet when it came to making the films splitting it into three was a no-brainer. Is this the eternal truth? Is it that writers prefer a single, complete story whereas the audience needs a more digestible chunks?

We’re polling this on twitter at the moment and would be really interested to know people’s thoughts with regard to books and fantasy books, in particular. In the meantime, here’s a (very) short case for both sides.

Trilogy

Every writer wants their book read and many people would be intimidated by a 900-page brick. Length can be an initial barrier for many, even if in the event they would be able to manage. This remains true even once a reader has decided to take it on. War & Peace is famously one of the least finished books. We all like a sense of progress and huge books don’t make it easy for us. When you’ve read 100 pages you should feel like you’re well into a story and not just scratching the surface. Reading is a time-consuming process the less like a slog it seems the more people will do it.

Epic

First of all, a distinction should be made. There’s a difference between a book having two sequels and breaking up a longer tale. The reason writers don’t like their books split into three is because they are not three separate stories. It is a single story that should be read in order. Who wants to read Return of the King if you haven’t read the other two first? Also, this artificial split puts a lot of pressure on the first book to be the gateway to the others as well as being a complete story in its own right. We don’t judge films and plays simply by watching the first act. Novels should be no different.

Obviously there is a lot more you could say on both sides but it’s a start. Give your vote and your opinions here  or use the hastag #trilogyvsepic with your thoughts.