Graham Greene – 500 words a day.
J.R.R. Tolkien – 245 words a day.
Tom Wolfe – 135 words a day.
A professional writer can be identified by his or her ability to write every day. Or so I’ve been told.
Whether I’m feeling it or not, a much-published acquaintance told me years ago, I plant my butt in the chair and turn out words. Good sentences, bad sentences, entire pages that go nowhere – it doesn’t matter. I don’t finish for the day until I’ve done my 3,000 words.
I didn’t know if she was simply stating a fact, or bragging, or bragging while stating a fact. She shared that Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) famously wrote 3,000 words a day. As did Erle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason). She was following in their footsteps, although she didn’t create mysteries. She wrote Harlequin romances.
You know who wouldn’t have been impressed by my associate’s daily word count? Michael Crichton, the Jurassic Park author. He went into his office and didn’t turn out the lights until he’d done 10,000 words each day. That’s a head-swimming number. If he didn’t rewrite his manuscripts so often, he could have put out a novel almost weekly.
If I could put out a solid novel once every seven days, I’d work for seven days a year. Or, if a Barbie convention was coming up, maybe fourteen.
In our house, five hundred pretty decent words in a day is a solid effort. My partner and I have done a multiple of that on those days when the creativity is really cooking – or, once upon a time, when we were on deadline and running out of time – but there have also been days when we wrote diddly-squat. Hell, there were years when we wrote diddly-squat.
(Just so that you don’t leave this blog without learning something today, the phrase “diddly-squat” originated as “doodly-squat”, according to the Historical Dictionary of American Slang. Its origins date back to 1934, but nobody seems to know why it came into use. Over the years, doodly-squat got twisted into diddly-squat, both words meaning “almost nothing” or “the least bit of something.”)
Do you know how many words we added to our current project, the serial fiction story, in the last eight days? The least bit of something. Three hundred words. Not three hundred words per day. Three hundred words in total. We only made it that far because we were able to resolve how to start the billionaire’s portion of our serial fiction, the section that was stumping us last week. Using the billionaire’s assistant as his surrogate allowed us to tell the reader how flawless, brilliant, handsome, and wonderful the billionaire is without it sounding like the fellow is bragging about himself.
Rereading the words this morning, I realized our 300 words need a rewrite. (Michael Crichton could relate.) While the assistant does tell the world how flawless, brilliant, handsome and wonderful the billionaire is, as required, he also makes fun of his name. Gently hints that his employer’s a thief.
It’s almost like he detests him.
I find this a more interesting read, but it’s probably a bad approach if we want to sell some eBooks. You know who I should ask for help? Michelle Douglas. Her book, Cinderella and the Brooding Billionaire, comes out from Harlequin.com in October! I wouldn’t know this if I hadn’t decided to check if Harlequin was still in business. They are and, presumably, this is because they know what sells. Billionaire romances sell. Brooding billionaire romances sell very well.
I imagine the Harlequin group also knows what doesn’t sell. Going through their catalog, I see they aren’t offering any eBooks where the focus is on the billionaire’s indispensable assistant who rather dislikes his employer.
Food for thought.
I see this blog is about to pass 650 words, a solid daily effort, so it’s time for me to plant my butt and paint another gourd bird. I have a dozen of these to complete before all is said and done. Have a lovely week and I’ll see you next Tuesday.