Friday, 19 September 2008

Strange Mugs & Aspirations

Welcome to my first coffee morning. I'm still gathering myself after six weeks of family visiting and a couple of whirlwind days away attending the RNA talk by Penny Vincenzi and visiting my step-brother, so please bear with me.

A couple of years ago I bought an entire collection of plain white mugs, liking the idea that my crockery would be uniform, however, I now only have two left and the cupboard is full of a strange assortment of mugs in all shapes, sizes and colours. Here is a picture of one of two identical ones that I use whilst in the shed. I have no idea why I like these because, let's face it, they are pretty dreadful, but I've taken a liking to them.

During Penny Vincenzi's amusing and interesting talk, one of the questions asked was how she measures her working day. Did she write a certain amount of words a day, and did she stop when she'd reached the desired word count?

She told us that rather than have a word count in mind, she wrote for a specific amount of time each day (didn't say how long) and it depended on how well the day went as to how many words she actually wrote. Penny told us that she managed seven thousand words one day.

I go to the shed with an aim of writing 100 words a day, thanks to Helen's brilliant brainwave, and usually end up writing for as long as I can before being interrupted. I'm always happy to write 1,000 words a day but usually it's several hundred during the week, although on Fridays and the weekend I can usually do more.

So my question to you is, how do you judge your working day? Do you have a word count that you aspire to? Or do you sit down for a specific amount of time and do the best you can?

35 comments:

liz fenwick said...

I too have cups I use when writing....one of the many strange rituals of the job so to speak.

I aim for 1000/day Sunday through Thursday (the working week here) but sometimes its just an overall 5000 words for the week if the schedule has gone t*ts up. I should say that is only when I am in full writing mode. When revising it is done by time chunks...

Let me just say again I am jealous of the Penny V. talk!

Caroline said...

I have writing mugs - all Penguin ones. I then have different mugs for when I am not writing!

For me, I write for an amount of time and to a word count. I have to write over 1000 words in each sitting - averaging 1500. This would be 5 days a week, as I tend not to write at weekends.

This works for me as my days are divided into writing (including blogging) and work (morning/afternoon).

x

Kate said...

I think 1,000 words on a writing day is a good thing to aim for, though it varies for me. At the moment I've been under some quite tough deadlines so I've set myself higher targets - working out the number of weeks before I need to finish first draft, then dividing it by the words, and then working it out from there. I managed to keep it up most of the time, and the most I've managed in one day is maybe 4000-5000 but not on a regular basis. It also depends how clear I am on where I am going with the story - some chapters write themselves, almost, because I know the scene in my head, but others are harder work because I am planning and writing simultaneously.

The kind of writing is a huge factor too - dialogue speeds along like a rocket, description takes forever...

Currently waiting for verdict on new MS so not writing anything, though I am planning next one! Have also started blogging again, well, a wee bit, maybe once a week.

Debs, sorry I missed Penny V, sounds very interesting.

Flowerpot said...

If I'm writing a novel I usually write between 1-2,000 words a day but when I'm writing journalism as well I do what I have to do if you know what I mean. I've just been to a talk by Patrick Gale which was fascinating - see today's blog for details!

CC Devine said...

At the moment I'm at the editing stage so tend to set a target of x number of pages or chapters to complete. When I'm writing, however, I tend to try to hit a daily word count target of 800-1,000 on week days and then go all out at weekends when I have more time.

Ideally I like to sit down, reach my target and then walk away but some times it doesn't work like that - depends on how much time I have available and what's going on. As Kate says, it also depends on what you're writing and how clear in your head you are about what you want to achieve. Some bits practically write themselves whereas with others it's a struggle to get a few hundred words out.

Helen said...

I have an Emma Bridgewater Blue Tit mug that I like to use whilst writing (It has infact just had it's photo taken for a post on my new blog which I'll put up some time today).

I work in time as opposed to amount of words as I have my posts for Trashionista to do first. Normally I work from about 9:30am until about 1pm. Then I take a break, watch some TV as I'm pregnant and knackered by then. If I've got any oomph left I'll do some more until I pick son up from school. Evenings are out for me at the moment as I'm just whacked out!

Cathy said...

At the moment family stuff is having to take priority so I just feel grateful to write a shopping list, let alone set myself targets. But I hope that will start to improve next month.

My favourite mug is from the 'Born to Shop' range and has the words 'Good morning, let the stress begin...'

Lane said...

At the moment I can't write in a designated space of time because of 'real life' duties. It's a case of fitting in however much can be done each day whether it's early morning, late at night or snatches during the day. Because of this I tend not to work to a word count but just to get a scene down. If there's time for another scene/paragraph/segment all the better.

And mugs? Oh yes, I have mugs. Quite a few:-)

JJ said...

I'm total obsessive about mugs, so it may be best to ignore that part of the questions!

I try to put aside my morning for writing. I'll write Sat and Sun too if we have no plans.

Helen's 100 words a day has been a huge help to me. I write really, really slowly which occasionally makes me anxious, but I haven't planned to the enth degree so I'm writing and planning at the same time.

Leatherdykeuk said...

I generally aim for 1000 a day on the current novel (when I'm writing one - which I'm not at present) plus 250 - 500 words on Jasfoup's Blog, a 100-300 word flash on Laverstone Tales and my routine three poems (haiku, cinquain and tanka) that I write at the beginning of every day. I aim to do Jasfoup and Laverstone before lunch, but other than that I'm fairly lax.

Rowan Coleman said...

At my writing desk as we speak in them and one that's growing its own eco-system. I am excellent at bringing mugs to my office, not too good at taking them down again, at least not until the mug supply runs out...

I tend to write in terms of time, usually 10 - 5 with a lunch break at 1.30 and the word count depends very much on how the writing is going. At the moment I'm on the second draft of the current novel, the bit I really enjoy, when you start to see it as a whole piece and pull it together - but my daily word is minimal - less than a thousand a day. My maximun in one day? I think probably about four of five thousand words if its really going well......Penny Vincenzi is a writing goddess!

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Ah Rowan I have the same problem with mugs and glasses my desk heaves with them.It also heaves with pots of glazes and paintbrushes and water jars. I have sometimes ben known to accidentally drink from a paint water jar or clean my brushes in cofee whihc ight explain some of my wierd writing a. Like Lane at present my real lif is gettign in teh way of anything but the odd half hearted blog but when I am free I write as logn as I can get away wiht it be that 10 minutes or all day.

NoviceNovelist said...

I'm with Lane also - working life takes priority at present but I am aiming to settle into a routine of writing at least 4 times a week hopefully for 2 hours minimum time and I shall be grateful for whatever comes out of that! The winter is easier for me as there are less disruptions - I hope!

I have one plain cream mug and it is always on my desk unless in the dishwasher - probably an OCD - any colour would throw me!!!

What is Penny Vs secret?????? A butler, personal massuese, PA, chef???? I'd need all of that to get that many words down!

sheepish said...

Hi everyone, I am making a slow return to the real world. Can I just thank everyone who took the time to leave a message for me after the death of our son. It helped to know that so many people were thinking of us.
I am just getting back to my wip as all i have managed recently are some poems about my feelings[some are on my blog].
In an ideal world I try for 1000 words on weekdays but it rarely works like that. I can procrastinate to Olympic level so staying focussed on the page in front of me is tough. If I am completely stuck then I try either some forward planning or some research. And I do my morning pages everyday[except sunday] when I allow myself to write complete drivel if nothing else comes to mind. It helps get it out of your system before trying to write something a bit more meaningful.Doesn't always work of course.
Anyway I'm glad to be back and once again thanks for all your support.

Graeme K Talboys said...

I have an Acme Coffee Mug with Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote on it. It was bought for me by a perceptive boss in my first museum job. My first book was a museum book. The mug has graduated from coffee mug to pen holder.

As for the working day, I have an absolute minmum of three hundred words a day. I often go beyond that, but I do not stop until I have those three hundred.

It's interesting, though. Some days, three hundred words represent hours of work, with lots of false starts and re-arranging - not so much editing as I go, but wrestling to formulate a 'first' draft that will make sense to me when I go back. Other days, the words flow. Which often makes me wonder what constitutes a first draft.

Captain Black said...

My mugs are all completely random. One I use frequently has a picture of William Riker and Deanna Troi on it. How sad is that? And before you ask, no I don't fill it with "Tea: Earl-grey, hot".

It does seem that 1000 words is a magic figure that many writers quote as their daily target. If we all wrote five days a week, as per most "proper" jobs, then we would get a novel of 90,000 words drafted in only four or five months. I wonder how many of us actually achieve that target. Certainly not me. For all you 100-word-a-day people, your novel should take just three and a half years to draft. Two and a half if you work seven days instead of five. I hope I haven't scared you too much.

Since I started writing, ahem, seriously, in April 2007; I've written a grand total of 161,372 words across all of my projects. This averages out as about 390 words per day, assuming a five day week. This means I'm writing to about 40% capacity, according to the above-mentioned yardstick. Hmm, a bit of a process rethink might be in order...
My maximum word count for a single day, so far, has been 4,084. The minimum has been -201. That brings me to an interesting question: How should you count words that are lost during editing? That's the reason for the negative score, if you were wondering.

I don't tend to write to either a time limit, nor a word limit. Instead I try to finish at a significant point, such as the end of a scene or chapter. That way I can more easily pick up where I left off, the next day. It doesn't always work out like that though, as I can be distracted or interrupted by things in the real world.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Seven thousand words is a lot of words! I aim for 1000 if possible but recently it's more like 100. I love the mug, cheerful and colourful.

CJ xx

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I have a special mug for when the going gets tough. It's big, painted by me (it says 'writers love words' in wibbly letters round the outside of the rim, and has hearts on) and, as I paint about as well as the average five-year-old, no way is a photo of it ever going on my blog. But it cheers me up when I need cheering up, because I have a special rule that says this particular mug may only be filled with hot chocolate.

I'm a 1000-word-a-day woman for first drafts. That takes me anywhere between 45 minutes and 4 hours. So in theory I could do much more - but I find I need a day or two of thinking/mulling/imagining time inbetween the writing sessions. I found three 1000-word days a week was ideal for my latest novel, which meant I got the first draft done in six months.

Calistro said...

I too have tons of mugs (recently culled to about 10 because, really, how many mugs does one person who lives alone need?) but don't have a particular favourite for writing. Maybe I should so I develop a sort of Pavlovian response - drinking from the Wonder Woman mug therefore should be writing?

Anyway... when I'm in full flow writing mode (which I haven't been for a while with all the editing) I aim to write 500-1000 words a day, six days a week. Ideally I'd like to do all those words in one sitting so I can just close down the laptop and do something else but I seem to write in fits and starts. 200 words, check email, 100 words, play Mahjong, write 300 words, go on Facebook etc etc.

The most I've written in one sitting is just over 5,000 when I was writing the end of novel #1 and the words just spilled out of me because I knew exactly how the final scene played out. I wish it was always that easy...

Kate.Kingsley said...

Like JJ I write slowly too ~ my aim, when I get in from work, is 500 words ~ I’d love to be hitting the 1000 mark, but by the time I’ve got in, cooked & eaten my tea and get the pencils sharpened I’m only good for 500, usually. This can take half and hour or three hours, depending on how the ‘flow’ is going. So I try and keep going until they’re done (although there has been precious little of that over the last week or so as I have seemingly been bitten by a tsetse fly and have a raging form of sleeping sickness!). At the moment, apart from the exhaustion, fitting writing around my work, counselling training and house renovations is proving super-tricky. Something has to give, and as we need a house to live in and money in the bank the writing has had to slide a little for the time being.

We have some rather spanky retro patterned china mugs that we got as a wedding gift, and they are so fab that I smile whenever I look at them, so those are my favourite drinking vessel for the time being 

Lovely to see you over here again, Sheepish

Debs said...

Lovely to see you again, Sheepish.

Glad to see I'm not alone with the mug 'thing', and I have to say that Penny V's talk was great fun and very entertaining. I just wish I could remember more of what she said.

Dx

Graeme K Talboys said...

Update: 751 so far and still the evening to go.

Captain Black said...

Ha! I'll see your 751 and raise you 1,183.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I don't use any particular mug. As long as it has coffee in it, I'm fine. But I don't drink coffee while I'm working usually. I write at night, so it's generally Mountain Dew or iced tea.

In the past I've tried to work with a set amount of time, and also with a set number of words. Now I just make the commitment that I will do something writerly every day - be it writing or editing or working on submission materials. I usually work for at least an hour. Sometimes it's more and other times it's less, but usually that the amount of time I have available and can work before my brain starts to melt. On a good day, I can crank the words out for a couple hours and get out anywhere from 1500 to 3000 - but if I only make 500, I don't fret about it. I guess it depends on the story, what is going on in the rest of my life, and how badly I need sleep. ;o)

Helen Shearer said...

Welcome back, Sheepish.

Thank you all for your comments over the past two coffee mornings. I haven't been able to respond to them as I've been internet-free for much of the week but I will get back to it. I don't have a daily word count that I aspire to but I find that almost every time I sit down to write the first 700-800 words come spilling out in an hour or so then I usually reread what I've written and manage another hundred or so. When I worked as a nanny I had plenty of time to write when the children napped or watched Toy Story or Aladdin for the millionth time. Now that I have a real job there's not as much time, but I do write something every day. My best day so far has been about 8000 words but that was in the middle of the 3 day novel contest so 7950 of those words were drivel and therefore can't possibly count.

hesitant scribe said...

Oh What an interesting question... and apologies for my sustained absence! As you'll see from today's blog post, I now need to start work again as fast as possible, and am most encouraged by everyone's 100s, 1,000s, and even 7,000s (although perhaps 7K is a bit much and has the opposite effect?!).

I haven't 'worked' much at all this year, through chemo, and then radiotherapy, but now I may be facing chemo yet again, I do need to find a work ethic and try to stick to it. 100 a day seems fair to me, to get started!

The most I ever wrote in a day was probably around 7,000, (when working on MA thesis/short story collection) but I'd be happy with 1,000.
Or 100 even!

And I have lots of mugs - cuurent favourite is Spanish one that says if you want to reach the top you have to start at the bottom!

L-Plate Author said...

Welcome back Sheepish xx

I do the magic number too. This week I have started the first draft of a new book so am sitting down every night, no matter what the time and doing the words. At the beginning of the week when the blank page was staring at me and I didn't really know my characters, the words were tough and I'd click on my word count until I pass the 1000 marker. But I'm into the swing of getting to know them so it's flowing easier now. Once I get to know them is when it slows down but I aim for 1000 a day.

As for mugs, mine says shopaholic all over it....

Graeme K Talboys said...

Your 1183 and raise you 1339.

wordtryst said...

I don't aim for a specific number of words. I write until I'm satisfied and/or tired, and this might be after 100 words and a bit of editing, or, as happened a time or two, after 5000-plus words. When I start making typos, I know it's time to stop.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Oh gosh. If I stopped when the typos started...

All the talk of word count reminds me of a book I have been helping to edit (of journalism and other short non-fiction pieces) by Mike Moorcock. He went through a period (when keeping New Worlds magazine and his family afloat) of writing a book a week. The weekend would be for planning, and then he would do 15,000 to 20,000 words a day. Friday was for taking the typescript to the printer and having an afternoon off. Makes the eyes water.

Clare Sudders said...

It depends. Sometimes it's just a time thing, i.e. I work for x hours per day, but normally I have milestones. When I wrote the 1st draft of my most recent novel, I aimed for x number of words per week. Sometimes I aim for x number of scenes per day, or if I'm editing I might count page numbers or words in the finished ms and aim to edit x words per day or x pages per day. I do try and schedule my work so I normally have some milestone or other that I'm aiming for on a daily or weekly basis, but I'm quite flexible about achieving it... well, I have to be. I have kids who makes many demands on my time, so at the end of the day all I can do is the best I can, and if I haven't reached my milestone by the end of the day or the week, I just have to shrug and rearrange things to suit.

KayJay said...

If I'm enjoying something and it's flowing, I'll do a certain number of hours. (Now that I'm supposedly doing this full-time, it's about 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week. But even that feels like slacking off - I've been on summertime hours.)

If something is hard and I'm hating it, I'll aim for 1100 words per day. I'll just write something, even if it's bloody crap, just to get the words on the page. It might take an hour, it might take six, but at least I got my words done and I can't feel too guilty. Later I'll probably go back and do a massive cull, but at least I worked the muscles which I think is good in the long run.

Fave writing mugs - Dr Seuss, Wonderwoman and a huge Starbucks vat. Strong tea or non-fat latte, no sugar. I have to control the urge to go out an buy new mugs rather than do the washing up.

KAREN said...

I'm in love with my Pants of Peace mug at the moment, and need it to be topped up at all times. With tea, I hasten to add!

I find as soon as I set myself a wordcount and I can't meet it for whatever reason, I get tense and cross with myself so I just do what I can, when I can and hope for the best :o)

ChrisH said...

7000? My max is 1500 when I'm in the zone (wherever that is). Good topic, Debs.
(Ee - I'm a bit jealous of the Pants of Peace mug)

ChrisH said...

7000? My max is 1500 when I'm in the zone (wherever that is). Good topic, Debs.
(Ee - I'm a bit jealous of the Pants of Peace mug)