Measuring Progress

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I’m a big lover of goals and targets. Maybe it’s because I was a teacher. Maybe it’s because I never really untethered myself from perpetual studenthood. But whatever the reason, I find setting myself a target is a big help when I sit down to write.

On Saturday I wanted to write a chapter and a half. And I managed it, hurrah! A chapter and a half doesn’t really sound like a lot, in my head. But 5180 words does. If I’d told myself  I had to write 5000 words, I’d’ve flown into the night, laughing.

I like to think that if I achieve my ‘Graham-Target’ (1000 words a day, as set down in stone for me by the late Graham Joyce in one of our tutorials), I can have a biscuit. I usually aim for 3000 words a chapter, but I’m not religious about it. I mentioned the word count for the day on Twitter, and suddenly realised that my way of working in chapters (something I know a friend from my MA does as well), is not especially popular.

So, along came a highly scientific study to find out how people measure their writing. And here are the results:

I love seeing writers’ individual styles. My own scene and chapter planning tends to work something like this:

Ch 1: J and K meet

Ch 2: J and K see the magical fish

Ch 3: J and K kiss

I usually have The One Big Event that needs (should!) take place in each chapter, though this is obviously subject to change. I don’t meticulously plan character’s emotions (though for STARFALL’s sequel I have made a lot of notes on how one relationship should change throughout the book, and how quickly), because I like to give them space to breathe. And I do, usually, work chronologically.

The one scene I wrote ‘out of time’ for STARFALL was one that I was bursting to write as it conveys so many feelings, and is a significant character development point. But when it came to inserting the scene into the story, it needed so much editing as my style had changed and the characters were not at the point I had anticipated them being.

As it works for me, I’ll keep on measuring my stories and progress by chapter, but it has been very interesting to see how everyone else works (and I might try this scene-goal thing out…).

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1 thought on “Measuring Progress”

  1. I think it’s a good idea to find a way that works, a way that makes you productive and that is conducive to getting it done. But I think, like you mentioned where you jumped out of chronological writing to write the scene packed with feeling, that it’s important to write what your heart tells you to write. Chronological writing has its benefits. The flow of a story is usually better rendered, smoother due to the nature of writing event to event. I’m starting to realise that more and more. I wish I could write chronologically. It’s hard to judge just how far you’ve come and how far you’ve got to go when you have bits and pieces all over the place! In saying that, I do appreciate this bit of advice from Henry David Thoreau: “Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.”

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