Posted in Exercises

Exercise: Writing Sprints

If you’ve read a few of my previous posts, you probably already know that sprints are one of my absolute favorite tools. They’re especially useful when you don’t have a lot of time to sit and write.

Sprints are easy to set up. Get a timer and set it for however long you like. Five, ten and fifteen minute sprints are ideal, but you can set longer sprints between twenty and forty-five minutes if you want (you may see these longer sprints referred to as ‘marathons’). Then, just sit and write as fast as you can.

The best part of a sprint is that you don’t have time to sit and think about word choice, ro sentence structure. The idea isn’t to get a good paragraph down, it’s strictly to get something down for later.

As an option: If you choose to, you can track to see how many words you can write in a given time. Start by writing your current word count down, and then doing a sprint. Mark down how many words you end up with, and subtract how many words you started with. The end result is how many words you’ve written during your sprint.

Sprints are great for friendly competitions as well. If you have a group, set a timer and go. Who can get the highest count? Who can work in the most puns in?

Posted in General, writing

Stats and Tracking Progress

One of the things I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on as we roll over the start of 2020 is wrap-up posts, and that got me thinking. Although I do my monthly recaps, I’ve never really paid much attention to how much I’m writing throughout the year. I’m usually pretty good about keeping track of where I’m at and what I’m doing in my planner, but that doesn’t give me the option to review the year as a whole.

Out of curiosity, I’ve set up a tracker in Excel. I already keep track of my daily word count in my planner but I also wanted to keep track of where those words are being written. I already have project list set up to track what state each project is in and keep an eye on how large my WIP list is so I ended up adding a new page to that. Full Tracker

I don’t need to track much, mostly just the monthly totals. I’ll have to remember to update and add in the daily counts as I go. I’ve also included three categories of project: Completed, Started and Editing. I’ve also included rules for myself about what counts for each category. Although it’s basic, I’m happy. I can’t wait to see what it looks like at the end of the year.

How do you track your writing stats?

Posted in General

Measuring Progress

I’m one of those people that keeps almost obsessive track of my word count. I like seeing how much I’ve added at the end of the day. Some portions of the writing process take time, and that time often feels like it’s wasted when you’re plodding through something the size of a manuscript. Marking the progress helps curb some of that frustration by giving you a mark of how much you’ve accomplished. While writing something, keeping track of that is easy. It’s during editing that it gets a little harder to measure progress.

With editing word count does work to some extent if you’re tracking the number of words changed. It’s easy enough to note how much your word count changes from when you start editing and where it ends at the end of the day. One problem I’ve encountered while doing that is during early edits, when entire sections can be cut and rewritten resulting in a negative change. During later drafts when there’s mostly fine tuning to be done instead of big changes, the change coming up can be minimal.

Another option might be pages. They’re easy enough to number and counting the number of pages you’ve edited through today negates any inconsistencies incurred when dealing with word count. The problem is with formatting. A double-spaced manuscript will have a lot more pages than something single-spaced, and certain fonts and font sizes will get more words on one page than others. As long as your formatting is consistent during your editing, the problem is solved. If neither pages nor words works one final option is to measure the amount of time.

Counting the minutes and hours spent revising a piece makes it easier for you to set goals and deadlines for yourself. Keeping track does become an issue if you don’t have the option of setting down a given amount of time for editing.

Regardless of what option you use, selecting a measure can help if you find yourself frustrated with your writing process.

Posted in General, writing

The Short End of Word Count

As a writer, one of the things I have to keep an eye on is word count. A lot of advice out there tells you how to cut down your word count. After all, something that’s too long won’t sell. Readers don’t want to spend three hours reading something that could be read in an hour and a half. This is especially true when handling short stories. Keeping your word count below the upper end of the range is a good idea.

However, every writer is different, and some writers (myself included) have a tendency to draft short. When editing we can realize we’re well below the upper end of the range. We may also find ourselves below the lower end of the range.

I’ve been making what (I hope) are the final edits to a project I’ve had sitting on my computer for a while. Officially the title is Crimson and Gold. The word count sits just over 13,000 words. Roughly 7,000 too short for a novella. Although I have sincere doubts I’ll be able to bring this up to a novella, there are a few things to be done about a short word count if you need to bring it up a little farther.

Starting with descriptions some of the things you can do are simple. Setting and sensory descriptions can help by adding in details to fully immerse readers, as well as providing more information. An example:

  • A kettle hung over the fire.
  • A worn kettle blackened from use hung over the fire.

The idea here is the same: there’s a kettle over a fire. The second one, while longer, provides more detail and tells us this isn’t an unfamiliar occurrence. The owner of the kettle clearly uses it often.

Sensory details are often overlooked in initial drafts, so think outside of your sight. Take a look at sound, smells, hearing and feeling.

To expand on this, you can also use details to help bolster quiet moments between characters. When and where they appear, quiet moments can be used to help with characterization and character relations. A father noticing how his wife’s hair is styled while she tucks their toddler in for the night is one way of adding in details. It can also be a chance for the father to reflect on the fact this is probably the third or fourth time of putting kiddo to bed.

This isn’t as simple as you have to also be careful not to overextend your quiet moments. Dragging them on can make your story slow down too much.

Full names are also one way to add in a few words. Note that they should be used appropriately. You don’t need to call him John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt every time, but if he’s someone’s uncle they might call him Uncle John. For characters with family, trouble has a way of bringing out middle names. Keep in mind that with some family dynamics it’s not only parents using the dreaded middle name; grandparents and older siblings might use it as well.

Although these can help if your word count is just a tiny bit short, keep in mind that you won’t be adding thousands of words. The trick is to find places where the use of details, quiet moments and full names can help if you’re just scraping the bottom of the range you need to be considered ‘novella’ or ‘novel’. With most short stories it’s inadvisable to try and boost your word count. Adding too many words can water down the story.

Posted in Stories, writing

Word Count

Word count is one of the most important pieces of information for determining what type of story you’ve written (short story, novella, novel, etc.) and for helping sell your story, be it to a traditional publisher or to help figure out independent and self-publishing.

Some typical counts for various story formats include:

  • Flash or Microfiction: Less than 1,000 words. Microfiction especially can be less than a hundred words.
  • Short stories: between 1,000 to 7,500 words or so. There’s still a lot of leeway here, as there isn’t an exact definition or cut off between having a short story and having something longer.
  • Novelettes: are about 7,500 to 17,000 words. Again however, this isn’t a hard and fast definition, since there’s plenty of bleed between this and a short story.
  • Novellas: somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 words. Notice the huge gap between this and the novelette? Depending on the genre as well, what you might think of as a ‘novel’ is far too short for that genre’s standards.
  • Novels: 40,000 to 110,000 words. Though generally, you’ll find a traditional standards and guidelines ask for around 60-80k. And again, depending on the genre you might have a slightly different range.

Genre can change a lot about the accepted range for a piece as well. Science Fiction and Fantasy tend to have a little leeway on the upper end of the range as they rely heavily on world building and description to immerse readers in the world. By contrast, romance novels can be shorter because the focus should be on the characters and plot.

If you’re planning on publishing your story with a publisher or a house, always check and follow their guidelines. If you’re looking at self-publishing, you may want to consider how long other works in the same category and genre are.