Counting pages

I’ve been through a dilemma with Siva’s story.

Aside from the fact that I burst into tears at the end of chapter 22 today while I was writing it (yes, the words I had written caught me by stark surprise), I feel as if I should’ve been done with it already. Now granted, this last month has been hectic with all sorts of “life rolls,” but it’s not going to get any better in the near future. In fact, if I know if I want to continue with the ground I’ve gained in clearing out mind weeds, I’m going to need to make some changes.

Back in April, I stopped doing my daily word count because it wasn’t a true assessment of what I was accomplishing. If I wrote a scene and threw it out later, then it wasn’t true consumable words. Even though I’d made some adjustments for deleted words, I never gave myself discouraging days though I could have had them. There’s nothing that says “lack of progress” like writing 3,000 words in a day and then deleting another scene that then leaves you at -400 words for the day. So, I’d just write my words, log those, delete the scene, then adjust my total word counts on my spreadsheet down for the deleted 3,400 words. But that so overinflates the numbers that I’m producing. Then, at the end of the year, I see that I wrote 500,000 words, but I only published four 50,000 word novels, for example, I must wonder where the other 300,000 words went. Granted, this is a simplification of things, but you can see the point.

Since I stopped the daily word count, I haven’t been hitting my weekly word goal, which isn’t surprising since my finished consumable words per day have dropped. It’s pretty much only my blog and finished short stories. Some day I’ll be able to drop all the words I’ve been writing in Siva’s story and it will feel like a “Woo hoo!” week. That’s why I need to have surplus words roll toward the next week’s goal like I have set up for my painting, but I haven’t adapted my Excel spreadsheet for it yet because I don’t know if I’m going to keep this idea up. I might just have to go back to counting daily words. An accurate reflection would be to thrown in the negative days. But, I’m not ready to give up my attempt at keeping track of finished consumable words either.

Yet, I need to see that I’m getting things done. I’ve been trying to mentally keep track of pages per day lately because, as I said above, I should be done with Siva, so why aren’t I? Yes, I’ve written several short stories and that might account for it. Or, am I just not getting the words done as I think I am?

But keeping track of pages per day hasn’t worked well since I’ve just been doing it in my head because I didn’t think it through to a logical end. It was easy to think, “I got 7 pages done today,” “I wrote 3 pages today,” or “I wrote 5 pages today,” and not link them together toward the goal. Besides, by the next day, I’d forgotten how many pages I’d written the day before. Was it 7 or 5 or 3? Yeah. So, I realized I had issues with that.

Then, while my son and I were at a thrift store looking for items for his new apartment, I happened upon a cute little calendar board. He wasn’t sure if he wanted it, but then decided he did. Here’s a picture he sent me today (and used with permission) of it hanging in his apartment — it has the perfect spot.

When I saw this in the thrift shop, I thought it would be perfect for recording daily page counts. Well, he ended up with the board and left me to find my own. This is the one I got:

I just found it this week and started using it. Can you guess what date? Yeah. It was Tuesday and I knew I’d done a page and a half that day. At the top is the number 24. That’s my weekly page goal. I downscaled it for this week since I have no idea how many pages I did on Sunday or Monday. I did on those days, but as I said, I forget them quickly. What’s my eventual goal? Well, here’s how I did my calculation:

I know that a typical manuscript page is about 250 words per page. I use a different standard font than what’s used for manuscript format. I get an average of 300 words per page because of that. I know that I want to write 8,000-10,000 words of fiction per week. That means I need to do 27-33 pages per week or 4-5 pages per day. Which still makes me wonder why I haven’t finished Siva’s manuscript.

I did see a possible ending a couple days ago as I was working, so I know generally where it’s headed. And now that I’ve gotten that from my creative voice, I feel done with the manuscript and I’m ready to get onto the next. That always happens. It’s a good sign. Maybe I’m within two weeks of having it completed and I can move on, especially if I strive for this page count.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to incorporate this into my tracking system, but I’ll see if this works first. Especially as I turn to my next manuscript which is partially written so I need to outline and catch up on it and I wonder if my page count will temporarily drop.

At least this method allows me to look out at a week, estimate what I can get done, and then help to focus me down to get the words done in the same way a daily word goal does. Because I’m not recording words, even as estimates, then I can focus on telling the story without worrying about overwriting. That’s going to happen. It’s part of the storytelling process as exploration. Some ideas just don’t work well and you have to go back to when it last felt right and try a different direction. That means deleting words, maybe even pages. But keeping track of pages I’m writing allows for those changes to the manuscript without negative judgements (“Ack, wasted words!” the critical voice screams) and a cleaner consumable word count for the year.

Count on!

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