In early January, I usually take a minute to reflect and write a blog entry about the past year. I’m not doing that this year. To be honest, most of 2016 is kind of a blur to me, and the election overshadowed pretty much everything else — up to and including my book release. It all feels very raw, so I’ll do my reflection in my personal journal and spare the internet my angst. You’re welcome.
Instead, I’m going to do a roundup like I did last year — here was my 2015 in writing.
First, just for fun, here is a glance at my tracking sheet:
This is what a reasonably standard set of weeks looks like for me: writing sessions a few days a week, for time spanning from the short (30 minutes) to the ill-defined “hours.” I track what I do, even when there’s no word count associated, because otherwise I feel listless and like I’m not making progress. But in fact, almost half of my writing sessions last year didn’t involve new words — revisions, page proofs, copyedits, etc. That notes column gives me a more specific idea of what I did (chapters worked on, for example) and sometimes also how I felt about it.
So, what did I do?
Writing sessions: I did 97 writing sessions in 2016, which is down from last year’s 150. That’s writing about once every 3.8 days, or roughly twice a week. But actually, it was a lot of weeks when I did 3-4 sessions and weeks when I did none. Why the difference from last year? I’ll get to that in a bit.
In terms of actual time spent, it was 108 hours, averaging 66.5 minutes/session. Again, the total is down from last year, which you’d expect — but the session length is practically identical. My shortest was a single 20-minute session, where I sat down, finished an in-progress chapter, and decided not to continue and start the next; my longest was a bit over three hours when I revised the final five chapters of book two.
Word count: All told, I wrote about 115,000 words last year. But that mostly only includes drafting. Not entirely — there were a few revision sessions that were flat-out rewrites, especially near the end, where I recorded what I wrote. But in cases where rewriting was minimal in the midst of revisions, well, that’s hard to track, so I didn’t.
Fifty-four of my writing sessions have associated word counts. That means I wrote approximately 2,128 words/session — only a tiny dip from last year. Both my session length and my average word count are pretty steady now. I have a consistent process in place that seems to serve me well. It’s possible I’ll find a way to level that up in the future, but it is pretty effective as-is.
So what did I work on? Last year, I actually worked on three different projects: finalizing BBB&S (a mere eight sessions), starting what I hope will be my next project (eleven sessions), and the rest was all spent on re-drafting the BBB&S sequel.
I qualified that as re-drafting, by the way, because if you look at last year’s roundup, you’ll see that I wrote a complete draft of book two in 2015, and then in November decided that the draft was too flawed to revise. Instead, I spent most of December outlining a better second book, and started writing it over the holidays. That’s the book that occupied most of last year.
I started that re-draft on 12/20/2015, and completed it on 4/3/2016. It clocked in at over 90,000 words, almost 20k longer than the first version (and 10k longer than BBB&S). My massive revision to it took all of June and most of July. I was then entirely done and ready to send it in, making my deadline (yay!), when I had a great idea. It would really smooth out one of the rockier aspects of the book. But it would also involve tearing out an entire subplot — roughly a quarter of the book — and rewriting it. But it was worth it. That revision took another month, wrapping up in late August.
After that, well… there’s nothing on my tracking document for quite awhile. I didn’t begin my newest project until late November. And that span — September, October, most of November — is the longest I have gone without some kind of writing project since before I started tracking. My guess is, honestly, since 2012 or so, when I began working consistently on the book that eventually became BBB&S. (I had non-workable previous versions of it I’d been poking at on and off since 2009 or so, but that was when I got serious.)
So, what was with the break?
I dunno, y’all.
Some of it was exhaustion. I’d been on deadline for ages — finishing various drafts of BBB&S, writing an entire sequel, tossing it, writing again and trying not to push the schedule back at all. That’s both difficult and stressful. (Lesson learned: I’ll probably ask for more time if I find myself in that position again. I probably could have last time, but was sure!! I could do it!! on time!! And while technically I could and did, it was not the best writing experience.)
At the end of the day, I think I just needed a break. Some breathing room. But the flip side of that is several years of momentum just ground to a halt. I’ve become very disciplined but have felt that lacking since getting re-started. Some of it is a lack of deadline pressure, some of it is stress from other places in my life overwhelming my urge to get up and write, but some of it is just habit. I don’t think it will be hard to rebuild that habit; at the end of the day, I love writing, and especially drafting. And I am beyond excited about my next project.
I also found this happened with the rest of my life. The first half of the year is a deadline-based blur, in which I was highly scheduled but got so much done. I went to the gym regularly, I did a lot of stuff at work, I went to Wiscon and other vacations (including an awesome trip to Greece with my sister) and saw friends and had fun. But once I didn’t have writing to schedule my weekends and evenings around, that sort of fell in on itself. The second half of the year feels more like a blur. I didn’t get many items crossed off my to-do list, because I didn’t have much going on in terms of schedule or structure. (Outside of work — all of this is on top of a full-time job.)
It’s totally possible it was all in my head because, well, I wasn’t recording anything. (I love tracking sheets.) And I definitely overextended myself in the first half of the year; not all the exhaustion was from drafting. So there has to be a happy medium. Here’s hoping I find that in 2017.