[writing|process] Sunspin milestones and metrics

Yesterday afternoon, I finished the light revision pass of section two of Calamity of So Long A Life, which is book one of Sunspin. The further adventures of the Before Michaela Cannon and her crew of antagonists and allies is off to first readers.

For this tranche, I wrote and lightly revised 72,800 words in the course of 52.5 hours. That’s over 36 calendar days, of which I worked 31 days. Time expended included a nontrivial amount of effort revising and poking at the outline, as well as the revision effort itself (approximately 6.75 hours). The total word count, 2/3 of the way through the draft, stands at 133,000 words, which jibes nicely with my estimate 180-200,000 words. My throughput in this revised process is 1,400 words per hour, which means that when I start working again on this project I can expect another 50 or so hours of effort to wrap this first draft.

I know some people are pretty critical of me reporting these numbers. A few people have been critical of me even tracking them.

Tracking these statistics just part of my process. By evaluating my throughput, I can size future work efforts and plan my time. This is how I know it will take me 5-7 more working months to finish this project in first draft. That’s not a guess or a hope, it’s a projection drawn from existing baseline data. As a working professional, it’s crucial for me to know what dates I’m going to hit.

Reporting these statistics is perhaps a more arguable act. The arguments I get run along the lines of “You’re intimidating other writers” or “You’re misleading other writers into thinking this is how it should be done”. Really, this is my accountability to myself. If I report in public every day on the state of my work, I have a strong incentive to keep working.

With rare exceptions, everything I say about writing is descriptive rather than prescriptive. When I talk about my productivity and my work, that’s all I’m talking about. My productivity, my work. I would hope that anyone paying sufficient attention to my blog to know what I have written and how I’ve been writing it would be inspired rather than intimidated or misled. This is how I inspire myself.

Meanwhile, Sunspin marches on. As previously mentioned, I’m laying the project aside for several weeks to knock out some short fiction efforts and then revise Kalimpura, which I owe to [info]casacorona by June. So my poor characters shall wait within their wells of tension until I return with my bucket of words to once more draw them out into the light of story.

6 thoughts on “[writing|process] Sunspin milestones and metrics

  1. anon says:

    As a walking corpse of a fiction writer, I for one very much appreciate the tracking of your statistics, your daily count, everything. It’s reassuring and in many ways an inspiration. Don’t know if I’ll ever come back to life and write fiction again—seriously—but your tracking methods are pretty cool. So keep on, Jay Lake.

  2. Mattaui says:

    I always enjoy your posts and find your hard numbers to be especially insightful. Why anyone would find them threatening is beyond me, since in just about any other profession people clamor to know what others in their field are doing and what their methods are. Looking forward to more, as always.

  3. MLE says:

    It’s your farking blog. Do whatcha will and whatcha want. It’s part of your process and inspiration, so it’s all good. If’n others feel bad/upset, it’s their issue. Two-cents worth concluded now.

    Best wishes w/writing the smaller stories in the interim. 🙂

  4. Cora says:

    I like seeing your wordcount and progress metrics, even though I am not nearly as productive as you are. But all writers are different and guess what? That’s okay.

    Otherwise, this reminds me of something that happened in my classroom today. I gave my students a short text to translate and some of them did not want to do it and started to argue.

    So I said, “Come on, it’s just a really short text. It’s not even a hundred words, it’s only 96.” [I had done a wordcount to see whether the text was suitable]

    Whereupon one boy gave me a very weird look and asked, utterly perplexed: “What sort of person counts words?”

    A writer, that’s who.

    1. Jay says:

      Hahahah. I love that question.

  5. Griffin says:

    My brother, an avid reader and drinker, asked me during one night drunken debauch, “What the hell do those numbers you kept posting on facebook mean?”

    I told him it was my word count, and why I was tracking it.

    “Wait, shouldn’t the story take as long as it takes?”

    I stared at him, trying to give an answer he would appreciate.

    “No, really. Why?”

    “OK, you got me, I just like to know how many words I put up for the day. Feels like I’ve been productive or something.”

    “But. the story only takes so long, or not, right?”

    I could not argue with that logic then, and I find it hard to now. I still do it. It makes me feel better.

    Blasted drunk logic.

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