Confessions of a Word Churner

Confessions of a Word Churner
Image by Abigail Keenan via StockSnap

Confession: I’m about to go all creative empowerment on you.

Confession:

This week, I finished the first draft of my third novel. In its current state, it comes in at 123,403 words and took me 22 days to throw down. If you like math (confession: I do not) that’s an average of just over 5600 words per day.

Confession:

Two of those days were 12k+ days. Yes. Butt-in-chair for more than 12,000 words in a day. For two days. In a row. My ass bore a fine resemblance to a pancake and I took (insert current scientific estimate here) years off my life.

Confession:

This isn’t necessarily normal. Or healthy. Or sane.

Confession:

I love it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Yep. I’m a word churner. A slinger and flinger of letters.

Not everyone is okay with that.

Word Churners vs. Word Choosers

Let’s ignore that awkwardly worded (heh, punny) heading and move right into real talk.

There are different schools of thought out there–oh, and in case you haven’t figured it out by now, there are different schools of thought for pretty much everything (EVER) but especially writing-related. And most especially for indie authors. (Those aren’t facts. I’m just saying so because I happen to be an indie author and that’s how it feels for me.)

This end of the spectrum: for some authors, 10,000 words in a day happens regularly.

The opposite end of the spectrum and beyond: for others, 1,000 words in a single week or month is a celebration-worthy achievement.

Allow me to say, before I add anything else: both of these camps are fine with me.

At first glance, you can come up with a variety of assumptions. Maybe words come more easily to some than others. Life commitments certainly play a factor. You can also consider the level of dedication–and I don’t mean a love of writing, but rather a person’s current ability to focus (in their overall Life Focus™) on writing as a job versus a hobby–and whether or not that’s even something they want to do. Any of these assumptions, plus a zillion or so others, could provide you some insight.

It all depends on the individual.

Word churn…yuck

Where are my Parks and Rec people at? I know you read that heading in Joan Callamezzo’s voice.

While I haven’t been personally subjected to this, as far as I’m aware up to now, I’ve read and heard the suggestion that writing quickly is hacky. Commercial. Unartistic.

Unartistic? Hmm. How interesting. What a judgy word in a community of creatives.

Let’s be clear. How you choose to write is up to you and no one else. Whether or not others choose to read your writing is a different matter altogether. But those words on the page? Those are all you, my friend.

I admit it. I churn words. For me, racing ahead to slam the first draft down is a huge motivator. I talked a little about this in my post about using Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland to outline Book Three. I start writing each new draft with a hint of imposter syndrome, but as soon as I get those words out of the way: BOOM! I’m reminded I can, and totally do, write books. #authorcred

I see my first draft as a last outline, really. The brainwork comes in when I revise. Revising usually takes me at least twice as long as writing the first draft. That’s when I sit and ponder for hours over a single sentence. The excruciating time I spend in revision mode is my opportunity to find the perfect words for the scenes I’m crafting. It’s eliminating the places where I’ve told when I should have shown. It’s spotting all those pesky spots–whatever they may be–that have escaped my notice in outlining and drafting–then it’s attempting to solve those issues.

My books go through many rounds of revisions and beta reading and editing. Then they go through even more revisions. And beta reading. And editing. I do A LOT of work on the back end that I skip at the front end. I prefer my approach because it means more to me to have a tangible bit of writing than it does to reflect for months (or years or decades) on end without putting down any words. But I’m naturally going to like my approach because it’s mine. I tweak it constantly to make it more my own.

You do you, baby boo

Can someone please, for the love of all things chocolate, tell me where I picked up that phrase?!

Other folks do it in quite differently. I’ve read accounts from all across the board. I’ve read from some folks who outline for years and know practically every word before they sit down for the first draft. Then you have the folks who don’t outline at all (raising my hand on this one for my past sins). There are some who devote weeks on end to a single scene in the first draft.

I don’t do this. But so what?

I say about this the same thing I say about pretty much everything in the creative world, my friend. If it’s not for you, then it’s not for you. (One of these days, I’m going to record myself saying it, so you can just mouse-over that part and hear me chanting at you.)

Let’s stop arguing about whose approach is best. You know whose approach is best? Yours–for you.

Success means something different to each of us, and that’s okay. If a lot of words in a little time give you joy, go for it. If the perfect words in a lot of time are where you find your bliss, have at it!

Plenty of people will want to tell you what you should do. I’ll add my hat to the ring, but only to offer this:

Do what makes you feel successful. Do what makes you feel true to your own dreams, goals, and missions.

Want to self-publish two dozen books for only your closest friends? Cheers! Hoping to publish one epic piece as your life’s work? Cheers!

Confession: I think you should succeed for yourself and not by anyone else’s measure of success for you. After all, if you write one word, you’re still lapping the kid who hasn’t yet picked up a pen.

Over to you, my friend. What approaches have you tried? What works best for you?

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Word Churner

  1. “You do you, baby boo” a variant on a phrase I use a lot…and so does Skiggy come to think of it. So you’ve heard them a lot. Also…your process is your process alone. Perhaps that’s why I’m better on the back end…the editing part. I agonize putting something on the page to the point of the word, the note, whatever being so withered by me fussing over it, that by the time it gets there I’m nearly sick of it. When editing, I feel like that scrutiny is actually put to good use. I don’t care what process you use, just give me more Black Wolf GOLD! Lol.

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