My Writing Retreat Roundup

Since I used my last two posts to set up goals for this week’s at-home writing retreat, I’ll recap what progress I made and what I learned about my writing process.

I’ll start with crunching numbers. In my post on May 31st, I said my goal was 2,500 words. I felt like that goal would be a bit of a stretch but manageable if I stayed focused.

I didn’t hit that goal every day. I managed it for the first three days, but that’s only if I counted notes about things I still need to research. These cropped up while I was drafting scenes, but I didn’t want to break the writing flow by digging into them right then. I decided that notes count toward my daily goal because it’s all a part of world-building.

On Thursday, I only managed 1,512 words. As the day progressed, I had a headache centered over and behind my left eye. I decided that resting my eyes mattered more than the word count, and I went to bed early.

Today, I made up for yesterday’s failing. I clocked a whopping 3,751 words today. It might be the most I’ve ever written in a single day. (And that doesn’t count today’s blog post.)

My total for the week was 13,319 words, which includes revising material I wrote the previous day. (That’s not a regular part of my writing process, but I tried it to see if it would help me get into the flow at the start of the day. It did.)

Word count doesn’t mean much to people who aren’t writers, so I’ll translate that data into figures that might make more sense.

Most people estimate that a double-spaced, typed page is 250-300 words long. When I take my notes out of the total count, I wrote a Word document that is 11,709 words or 55 pages long.

That might sound like a lot, but it’s not when compared to polished, published fiction.

While the averages vary by genre and publisher, most agree that novels should be between 80,000 and 120,000 words. Science fiction and fantasy novels routinely come in between 100,000 and 120,000 (or even longer for books with elaborate world-building).

In other words, I’m a long, long way from having a completed draft of this novel (If it’s even a novel. I’m still not sure it won’t turn out to be a novelette or novella.)

But it’s 55 pages of prose that I didn’t have before. I have some notes about the research I’d like to do. And I think I’ll spend a little time tonight putting together a rough outline of what I think happens next in this story. I won’t be able to take time off from my job to work on it for the foreseeable future, and I don’t want to lose my train of thought.

What I learned this week is that I genuinely love writing. Yes, it was hard getting myself to stay focused and hit that daily goal, but I pushed through the times when my attention or energy lagged. I shook off soreness and kept working. I even resisted the siren call of the books I was reading.

(And, by the way, I finished reading a book I’ve been working on for two months. I then promptly read two more and started reading another book today. Take that, Internet distractions and dumb time-wasting tablet games!)

I only turned on the TV once, and that was last evening when I woke in the middle of the night, too sore to stay in bed. I streamed a 1980s John Hughes film and returned to bed when it was over.

I learned I can definitely pound out the words when I’m engaged in the story and enjoying the work. Reading and writing are what energize me. I’m happier and better centered when I do both regularly.

That’s the lesson I’m taking forward from this week. I can’t always dedicate all my waking hours to my craft. But I can do a better job of making it a priority in my life.

(Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash)

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