Who’s Up for a Million Words Challenge in 2019?

I’m in the mood to share way more than you’re probably interested in reading. As a geek and ex-project manager, these sorts of things get me going. If you’re a writer, you’re more likely to find this interesting.

I track word count annually even though it can be very depressing when I look at what I’ve accomplished around this time of year. 🤣 For 2018, I had set a 2100 words a day goal or a 766,500 total annual word count. Of course I won’t make it. I’ll be a couple hundred thousand short.

Let’s face it. I had a crap year!

While assessing this year’s goals and setting next year’s, I’ve realized that the way I separated out my word count goals held me back a bit. Learning from this year’s mistakes, I’ve set up this year’s word count goals a bit differently.

I don’t just count new words.

I count planning time, new words, and edited words for a complete word count of all my efforts. I have found this to be extremely helpful in regards to balancing time on each area of a story’s life-cycle. Yes, I just used a software development term for fiction writing. I do this because I could very easily spend all my time planning novels instead of following through on a completed project.

How do I manage word count? While it’s easy to count new words, planning and editing are tricky, so I’ve come up with this system.

PLANNING A NOVEL can be a time consuming process in which we writers lose ourselves. In my opinion, it’s important to acknowledge this part of our work, while at the same time making sure we don’t spend too much time on this step. That’s why I set the timer when I research, outline, sketch characters and settings, and do anything related to planning a story. I then credit 200 words for each 15 minute increment of planning time. This may seem like a low-word count, but it does help to keep me focused: less word count credit, quicker time to completion. At least that’s the way my brain works.

NEW WORDS is the easiest to count because it’s word for word. Word count is always based on what is actually written or produced.

EDITED WORDS tends to be more complicated to count because certain passages require more TLC to complete the editing process. Then there’s the fact that as you get further along with drafts, you can edit more words in a shorter period of time. It’s easy to cheat your productivity here, and to pad numbers that mislead on productivity but satisfy the ego. That’s why I choose to follow an editing word count average based on elapsed time. To encourage more time editing, I count 500 words per 15 minute increments, which is the number of words I can easily write for a new draft in the same time period. Unfortunately, while this works during the editing process, it does not work when creating an editing goal estimation, which you will see later. Don’t worry, I have a workaround.

Time to set the dreaded goals.

As I mentioned earlier, I made a huge mistake in equally dividing my word count goal between the planning, new words, and edited words phases. It’s a “DUH” moment, considering it’s a given that none of the phases require equal time to complete a story. No surprise, in 2018, I’ve exceeded my goal for planning, my favorite phase. I was substantially below new word count, and editing was 100K below goal.

This year I’ve decided to DETERMINE TOTAL WORD COUNT NEEDED for each phase. This will include a plan to edit The Courier’s first trilogy through to publication, write the second trilogy, and publish a bunch of short stories online and in books. More specifically, here’s a breakdown:

  • Warrant for Damnation edited through to publication
  • Cause for Redemption edited through to publication
  • Fistful of Temptation planned and written
  • Throwdown with Satan planned and written
  • Last Chance Fanatic planned and written
  • 52 already written short stories edited and published on Patreon
  • 52 Harebrained Fables planned, written, edited, and published on Patreon

Warrant for Damnation as well as Cause for Redemption fall under editing only and will need to go through 5 drafts. The target word count for each book is 45K for a total of 90K for both. Because I over edit, I have no idea what the total editing word count will be based on my 2000 words per hour model. As a workaround, I’ll estimate 90K times the 5 drafts equaling 450K as the goal to add to the editing phase. HOLY CRAP! At the same time, I’ll track editing time as outlined earlier and at the end of the year compare the two. Did I lose you?

For Trilogy 2 there are three novellas with the same 45K word count target each or 135K of new words to add to that goal. I have started to plan this series, but have only completed about 10% of the ideas and outlines. I’m assuming an average of 15 hours to plan a book or 45 hours total minus 4.5 hours already completed. So I’ve got 40.5 more hours to finish planning the second trilogy. Planning gets 800 words an hour, so my goal to finish planning this series is 32,400.

That brings me up to 617,400 toward the million words.

For the Harebrained Fables, I’ve committed to Patreon subscribers 1 fable a week, or 52 fables a year. Average fable word count is 750. So that’s another 39K for new words. Planning these fables only takes about 30 minutes at most so that’s another 20,800 added to planning.

Editing 104 short stories (Harebrained Fables and existing) with an average of 1500 words and 3 drafts equals an estimated 468K more for editing. YIKES! Of course I’m pulling the editing numbers out of my ass, but it at least gives me a target.

Pulling it all together takes me over a million words. DOUBLE YIKES! Here’s the final breakdown:

32,400 = The Courier Trilogy 2
20,800 = Harebrained Fables
53,200 = Total Words Goal for Planning

135,000 = The Courier Trilogy 2
39,000 = Harebrained Fables
174,000 = Total Words Goal for New Drafts

450,000 = The Courier Trilogy 1
468,000 = Short Stories
918,000 = Total Word Count Goal for Editing

1,145,200 Total Word Count Goal for 2019

I’ll be adding the tracking numbers to the main page, more for accountability this year. With this new approach, maybe this will be the first year I get the job done.

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