Schedules and Word Counts
There was a happy time when I did not care about word counts. My goal was to write a chapter a week, or to fix X problem by March, or write a first draft during Camp Nano. And then I got sucked in by word counts, and the daily targets of different writers. My mind has been a mess ever since.
My obsession with word counts also mucked up my planning and scheduling. I went from being a sensible, organised planner, to an obsessive one, constantly tweaking and amending, aiming too high, then freaking out if I aimed too low (I can do more than this, surely?). My diary became a stream of times (for a daily plan) and my hard drive became a graveyard of abandoned yearly spreadsheets. Looking back, I think I crept onto the spectrum of OCD. It wasn’t healthy, and it wasn’t helpful.
My solution to stop this has been to abandon plans altogether. I’m afraid to put a deadline on a book, or to set a daily word count. Yet, I still track my words. I’m not sure why, but I can’t seem to let it go. I feel like I’m losing some vital piece of information if I stop tracking.
Which is nonsense. And I know it is when I write it out like that.
(So why won’t I let it go?)
I don’t think either extreme is useful; it’s good to have a schedule, to have deadlines to meet. But I’m still learning how to find balance.
Another problem comes from being an indie author. The only deadlines I have are ones I set myself, which can be AWESOME, but also TERRIBLE. Because, how do I decide when to publish? Many indies can produce at lightning speed, but I’m not one of them. Yet the established wisdom is you need to publish frequently to survive, and this is also seeping into the traditional side of publishing. A book a year is becoming standard, especially for new authors, and some are publishing two, even three a year.
When you have all the control, you have to think about your own mental health, and about your work-life balance. You also have to think about your career, obviously, and how hard you’re willing to work. But the quality of the book can’t be compromised, and neither should the quality of your life. (Empty lives can lead to empty novels.) This is an awful lot to take into consideration, and it becomes very difficult when all the decisions land at your own feet.
The question ultimately boils down to this: how many books do I want to publish a year? Because once I have that number, I can figure out my schedule.
I have a lot of thinking to do.