Doing the Math: I Could Be Further Along…

Math was never my subject.  There was even a summer school episode between Grade 10 and 11, which I really don’t want to talk about right now.  So I’ve been keeping this hand-scrawled running tally of how many words I’ve written on my Writing Is My Drink book manuscript, which seemed like an important thing to do because 1) I write at a crazy slow pace, 2) I’m keeping all the chapters in separate Word files and 3) the manuscript is due March 1st, which sounds far away but is not.

So today, feeling pretty good about finishing a chapter and about the hefty running total of words I had on my hand-scrawled tally sheet, I was emboldened to put all the chapters into one file and admire how far I’ve come.  Well, things didn’t add up quite the way I thought.  Turns out that I’m six thousand words shy of where I thought I was at. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but it’s certainly a motivator to get going.  The trick is to keep the motivation from turning into panic, which for me often goes straight to a sort of drooling paralysis.

A lot of writers keep on target by having a daily work count that they have to meet: 1000 words being a common one or even a weekly word count.  I’ve tried both of those approaches and what I found was that I was just writing anything to get the number up, all the while watching the number obsessively.  I was writing more quickly, but I wasn’t liking what I was writing.  I thought for a while: okay, I’m just getting the rough draft down and I can always go back in and polish later. But it just made me feel like I was writing a bad book. So I slowed down. And down. And down.

This last chapter of less than 3500 words took me 3 weeks to write. That seems insanely slow even when I factor in all the back-to-school kid stuff I’ve been doing as well as my coaching and freelancing.  But, I actually like the chapter, which makes me want to write more. So I guess I just have to live with my slow-ass self.

Oh, and did I mention that I write everything by hand and then type it up? Next week: Chiseling in Stone: They Said It Couldn’t Be Done.

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at
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2 Responses to Doing the Math: I Could Be Further Along…

  1. Star Roberts says:

    Shyster mysters! I have recently gone through the same experience. Thought I would put my ‘chapters’ together in my collage/fragmented story collection that in my mind equals a memoir and was pretty sure I would be satisfied with my progress. Not so much. I guess it’s a good reality check. But still. I think more importantly it is a wake up call to my complacency. Time to get crackin’. I will look to you for inspiration. Maybe it’s time to word count my ass.

    P.S. Who is doing your little sketches? Loving those.

  2. Theo Nestor says:

    Hey Star,
    Did you try printing out the doc? I do think it’s hard not to feel good when you see all of it together on actual pages. I like the physicality of the printed manuscript in progress. I’m keeping a draft of mine in a binder as I go. If I didn’t do that I really would be terribly confused about the through line of the book. My brain can’t keep track of anything of length I read on screen. Anyhow, I’m happy to hear you’re working on your book.

    Thanks for asking about the sketches. They’re mine. I’m working on sketches for all the characters in the book. It inspires me to write. Either that or it’s my latest form of procrastination. Facebook isn’t doing it for me anymore.

    back at it,

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