400 words a day…

Reading “A Slip of the Keyboard” has reminded me of a goal I used to hold myself to: 400 words a day as a kind of minimum, inspired by Terry Pratchett’s own self-imposed goal from his noob-writer days.

I think I kept this up (on and off) for a few years, but then I got into the editing part of the book-writing process, where there’s no handy-dandy short term goal that really fits what I’m doing.

I could say “I’ll edit a page a day”, but sure enough I flitter between three or four pages making minor tweaks, without ever actually being able to say “yep, this bit’s done.”

So there’s this big amorphous blob of editing that needs to be done, and I’m not sure how to cook it up, so I’ve kind of relegated it to the back of the fridge so to speak. Chucked it in the freezer even.

I’m going to chip off a bit right now before I go to bed, (and before I forget that I’m supposed to be a writer).

Anyone else been having similar feels about this editing lark? Got any good advice for a guy? I’m thinking of just starting on the next book and forgetting about it for a while.

I’ve been trying to fit in a bit of exercise too, because, well, if you work a desk job and slack off the exercise that’s how the skinny-fat creeps in.COC grippers I got me a pair of these grippers that need 140lb of pressure to close, so at the very least I’m fighting off the inevitable RSI by building up Popeye-style spinach guns.

Anyhow, that’s me for now. Have an unrelated picture of a massive, badass dragonfly.20150104_160357

Best regards,


About D.R.Sylvester

A Clinical Research Associate by day (google it), writer by night, D.R.Sylvester lives in Sydney, Australia with his patissiere wife and Siberian Wolf. His interests include travel, music (predominantly Metal), reading, & archery.
This entry was posted in Thoughts, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to 400 words a day…

  1. It’s true, editing is a slog. I always think it’s going to get easier… Just keep going! Cool dragonfly!

    • I think it seems easy enough, but it takes FOREVER. Just keep going. Just keep going. Just tattoo that on my face backwards so I’m reminded whenever I look in the mirror. RedRum RedRum.

  2. Rosslyn_Glasses says:

    A word goal. Why didn’t I think of that solution before? At one point, I had the idea of “a chapter a day” (put in place when I managed to rack off two chapters in one day), but it became so tiring I eventually said, “Screw this, I’m taking a break.” (One of the the worst decisions of my life right there.)

    Evidently, I had to start the entire book over. I’m going to put the “at least 400 words a day” rule and make it a personal goal. It’s better than “a chapter a day” l, THAT’S for sure 😀

    • Do ittt! I really ought to start it up again as well. I’ll be starting it again as soon as I’ve done my editing, for sure.

      Two chapters does sound like a lot, even if they’re short chapters. That’s NANOWRIMO kinds of intensity level… a bit too much for a part timer to achieve without risking burnout (YMMV, I just know I can’t do this without my brain dribbling out of my ears)

      Best of luck with it, whatever you decide to do 🙂 Just keep chipping away

  3. I’m knee-deep in editing, too and I try to get one chapter ready to go to a beta reader every day. My chapters are quite short (1200-2000 words). I might not actually send the chapter, but I pretty it up, put it in my “for beta” file and do my best to forget about it.

    Depending on the chapter, this takes two to four hours. I have a four-phase process, and once I’ve completed the fourth step, I’m done until I get feedback from someone else. So far I’m making slow but steady progress.

    • Ahh that’s a good plan. I maybe ought to set myself a “Beta reader send deadline”, Because I know that I work best when I’m striving towards a deadline (I also burn out ten times quicker and usually miss my ludicrously ambitious targets anyway, but hey, productivity is productivity).

      What are the four phases, if you don’t mind me asking? Always keen to hear how other people wrangle this here writing-beastie.

      • Yeah, I like setting highly unrealistic deadlines for myself. Even if I don’t make them, I at least accomplish quite a bit in the effort. For instance, I thought I would edit my entire 160K-word manuscript this month. Hah! At this point, I’ll be happy if I finish in February.

        I start by reading my draft on my Kindle and taking notes as I go. At this point, I’m not looking for little errors so much as big structural stuff. I make a list of all the problems and give them a number.
        1- big structural changes
        2- major rewrites and added scenes
        3- smaller problems, continuity issues, confusing dialogue and battles (these are the things I’m most likely to make confusing-it might be different for you) This is also where I note any additional research I have to do.
        4- grammar, spelling, typos

        I start by fixing all of the 1’s first. Since I use Scrivener it’s easy to move scenes around and delete stuff without losing it forever.

        Phase 2 is the most fun, I think. I write in multiple pov’s and rewriting scenes from different pov’s was unexpectedly delightful. I had to resist the urge to rewrite the entire book that way, just for fun.

        Phase 3 is a bit more tedious, but still okay. I still do a fair amount of rewriting and adding transitions and stuff like that. In my first draft I have a tendency to start and end scenes very abruptly. I also add in research info and fix names.

        Phase 4 is mind-numbingly tedious. I used to use a massive checklist looking for adverbs, dialogue tags, evil words like “just” and “finally.” I recently started using software (ProWritingAid) and it’s a huge help. It finds all of that stuff in your text and then you can decide what to do with it. I need to find out if they have an affiliate program because I’m gonna pimp them all over the internet.

        Right now, I’m doing phases three and four at the same time because my brain can’t handle too much of either one at once. I’m about ten chapters ahead on 3, because it’s so much faster. Once 4 is done, it goes in the beta folder and that’s it.

        The whole process is hugely time-consuming, but I think I’m getting a pretty clean manuscript at the end of it. A few of my beta readers are reading a few chapters at a time so I’m getting feedback already and so far there don’t seem to be any major problems.

        I got the idea for listing the problems and starting with the big ones from this blog post: http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2012/02/editing-for-people-who-hate-editing.html
        Lots of good stuff in there.

        Good luck!

      • Ahh, now that’s probably where I’ve fallen down: – I’ve been doing loads and loads of #3 & #4 lately, but I’m getting this feeling that I need to be doing something more like 2 & 3…

        Thanks for this, it’s definitely good to get more ideas about this stuff. Oh, and I’m bookmarking that link. It’s very good.

  4. Millie Ho says:

    I edit best on a chapter-by-chapter basis. I can’t imagine not editing a chapter at a time. Did you re-read the previous day’s work to remember your place in the story? I wonder if committing to a bigger goal helps in the long-term since you see the forest of the narrative as opposed to the trees. Being too detail-orientated kills writing motivation, in my experience.

    Thanks for the image of the devil’s needle.

    • “Being too detail-orientated kills writing motivation…” EXACTLY. I am stuffed when I start editing line by line, because I can waste an hour tidying up a few paragraphs, only to realise the following week that they all need to go. Chapter-by-chapter is the direction I’m taking, but I’ve pulled back the scope again (I’m no longer in the clouds, but somewhere near the rooftops. The streets are too dangerous just yet. Plot bunnies with glowing red eyes down there…)

      At the moment I think I might have finally found an approach to second-round editing that works for me – it involves an excel spreadsheet. I’ll write a post about it. SHIZ GONNA BE RIVETING, YO. Because everyone loves an excel spreadsheet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s