2016 in review: writing edition

All right, writing process nerds! You and I are the only ones who care about this post but let’s get it down for posterity.

In 2015 I started to track my daily word counts in a spreadsheet (like you do!), so this is the first time I’ve had concrete data for comparison. My general goal is to write a book a year (achieved), but what about the fine print?

Number of days on which I wrote anything: 94
Total word count: 114,537
Average word count per writing day: 1,218
Projects: 3.5 short stories, one book completed and edited, one book begun and temporarily set aside, and two weeks spent frenziedly rewriting an old book before realizing I was zonked out of my mind and it was fine the way it was.

Number of days on which I wrote anything: 197
Total word count: 180,544
Average word count per writing day: 916
Projects: 2 short stories, one book completed and edited, one book halfway done and continuing into new year, no wild diversions.

Okay, okay, a couple things going on here! In March 2015 I had a baby. The vast majority of my writing days took place between January and June–aka, the final pre-baby months plus my maternity leave. After being cracked out on sleep deprivation during the first baby month I was actually able to get a good routine going. Newborns nap every few hours, so I’d get a bit done then, and once a week I’d leave the house for 4-5 hours and write in a coffee shop, just to get some fresh air and 4-5 hours alone.(4-5 hours was the max time I could leave without my breasts exploding, if you were wondering.)

Once I went back to work, writing took a nose dive and I only managed sporadic attention to those short stories. It didn’t help that in those months I was: packing up all our belongings and moving to our first house; promptly unpacking everything in order to host holidays at said house; and working part-time and breastfeeding, which meant being up half the night 7 nights a week and rising early 7 mornings a week (either to work my job or handle baby so husband could work his). I stopped my weekly coffee shop trip out of guilt: the baby was stressed enough with me being at work 4 mornings a week, I couldn’t leave on the weekend, too. Anyway it was a madhouse 6 months!

By January 2016 I was a complete sleep deprived mess with a baby who still wouldn’t sleep through the night. BUT. I decided no time like the present, get writing again or give up on life! (My pep talks are very harsh, I swear I don’t really mean it.) I wrote any time I could: at 4 a.m. after the baby woke me up and I couldn’t fall back asleep; at 8 p.m. after baby fell asleep and I had half an hour before my eyes slammed shut; those precious naps on non-work-days; and finally meal times, as baby learned to eat by hand. Around April, the miracle combo: baby finally slept through the night, breastfeeding wrapped up, and desperate mama could drink coffee again.

Day count comparison: I wrote for twice as many days in 2016, about 2 in 3 instead of 1 in 3. I’ve found that the more days I write, the easier it is to hop in and out of story without wasting time reviewing where I’ve left off. Since I might get anywhere from 15 minutes free to 1.5 hours at a time, I need to be able to jump in without looking back. This has definitely affected my process. I am much more reliant on a detailed outline to keep me moving forward, and on the prose level I write with more abandon, waiting to clean up during edits rather than agonizing over each sentence as I go. I actually think it’s an improvement.

Word count comparison: I’m happy but also slightly disappointed because I’m a hopeless goal-setter! In 2015 I cracked 100K. At some point in 2016 I realized it was possible to crack 200K and immediately this became my goal. I was absolutely on track all year–and then November depression + December holiday madness completely derailed me. I staggered down to a couple days a week, a couple hundred words a day. Ultimately I hit 180K, which is still respectable. Anyway, it gives me a goal for next year, right?!

Word count averages: I wrote more often, but averaged less per day, courtesy of the aforementioned fractured times available to me. I’m actually surprised I averaged over 900 words a writing day in 2016. I had a lot of super productive weekends making up for a lot of painful 300-word weekdays. I think this is bound to be my new norm. I can’t have mega-marathon Saturdays like I did in the good old days of working 3 jobs during the week and doing all my writing on the weekend. If I want to get things done now I have to glean bits and pieces in between baby responsibilities. The kid is happily playing with his blocks for 20 minutes? DON’T DICK AROUND ON TWITTER, GRAB THAT LAPTOP AND GO GO GO.

Projects: Again, I successfully completed my book for the year…but had a slim chance at writing TWO books in a year and was therefore disappointed not to make it. Since I’m entering 2017 with a half-finished book underway, however, there’s good odds at writing THE END a second time this go-around. The factor holding me back: I write monster 120K fantasy tomes which I then have to laboriously strip 10-20K off during edits. I’d look so much more prolific if I was writing novellas.

The final lesson: None of this was possible without giving up basically every other hobby I ever had. At some point, you have to decide what your priorities are, and I made writing one of mine. Baby, work, writing. That’s about it. I kept my book club, basic holiday/birthday parties, a monthly movie night/dinner club with friends, a weekly-ish blog, and the most minimal errands necessary to keep my household alive. Sometimes I even see my husband, in between our alternate work schedules. But bye bye Etsy shop, bye bye arts and crafts, bye bye sewing lessons, bye bye majority of television programming, bye bye Tumblr, bye bye physical fitness (I hardly knew ye), bye bye spontaneous outings with friends or coworkers. I’ll see you all again one day. Proooobably when I’m done having kids and they’re all in school.

Anyway, I think that’s plenty of naval-gazing word count for the day (especially because blog posts don’t count for the spreadsheet! fiction words only!) My kiddo is napping and I am off work for Observed New Year’s Day, so back to the WIP! POSSIBLY FOR AN ENTIRE HOUR!! GO GO GOOOOOOOOOO–

Happy New Year, all. Next time on The Adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Cat: the slightly more disappointing Reading Roundup!