Writer’s Cramp.

Irish Firebrands had been in the works for more than two years when my youngest son came to visit me. He was a man on a mission: to show me the film Stranger Than Fiction. It depicts a writer who controls her characters like marionette puppets. Despite writer’s block caused by a recalcitrant main character, she finally manages to finish writing her current book.

He may have meant it for a hint. I’d never shown him as much as a word of the manuscript, so I think he believed it really should have been finished by then: in effect, that I wasn’t serious about working on it, and that I should just get it done, the way the writer in the film finished her novel.

The kid meant well, but it showed that he’d never written fiction, and especially that he had no idea about how his mother writes fiction. Let’s figure out how much work I did while I was writing Irish Firebrands.

I was attending university, and carrying 9 credit hours (full-time for grad school financial aid), while I wrote the novel. I usually edited during the day, and wrote new stuff at night, producing from -250 (words edited out) to 2,500 words per day. I wrote for 5 or 6 days a week, for 3 years less 3 weeks. That’s like working a regular job with some overtime, and taking a week’s vacation each year.

During that time, I wrote 196,131 words, which divides out to 65,377 words per year. That’s about the length of one classic NaNoWriMo novella (finished, ready-to-submit-for-publication), written each year. Because my book is 480 6×9-inch pages long, that comes out to three 160-page novellas, confirming the prior estimate.

Sounds like a normal amount of work for an average writer, and I only wrote what I was inspired to write, which included a bonus of 6,000 extra words, of the beginning and end of a sequel. I experienced no angst, and even found writing to be fun (which to some gurus would have meant that I wasn’t really “working,” because to them, work can’t be fun).

Now, for the publishing: Leaving out an unknown but likely infinite amount of agent-and-publisher query time that I didn’t use, because I’m an “Indie,” it took me 18 months, single-handed, to get done with editing proofs, interior formatting and creating the cover. That’s in the ballpark for traditional publishers, with their stables of editors, typesetters and designers.

About 6 months into the publishing phase, I also began research for a prelude novel, and then I finished a NaNoWriMo and a Camp NaNoWriMo that were spent brainstorming the new book – again, net 68,000 edited words for a year’s “work.” (I write literary epics, so The Passions of Patriots is still a work-in-progress.)

So, writing Irish Firebrands and starting The Passions of Patriots was the equivalent of writing 4 novellas in about four-and-a-half years. I believe that writing at the rate of a book a year means that I’ve been a fairly productive, albeit fun-loving, organic-pantser writer. Now, I just need to get paid.



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Filed under Camp NaNoWriMo, Fiction, Literature, Novels, Uncategorized, Writing

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