Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Word count writing challenge

Last year, I took on the writing challenge to write a short story every week for the year. Now that I was able to accomplish that particular writing challenge, I have decided to take on a new one, for this year.

When I was writing the stories last year, I recalled hearing about “word wars,” in which writers were challenged to write something in so many words. There was the challenge to write something in 500 words or 1,000 words. I did write such stories last year but it looks like I’ll be doing it again!

And it also looks like I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. Yay! And THIS TIME I will finally write a novel that is 50,000 words long – because that will be the word count challenge for November (when NaNoWriMo kicks off). I wasn’t planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year because I already have a novel that is currently unfinished. But because I am also going to work on finishing certain WIPs this year – including the novel – I should have it done by then. I created a schedule of WIPs to work on each month to finish them and it should be done before November rolls around (and I know exactly what novel to write for it, too! I already have notes and stuff).

Here is my writing word count challenge for 2017. Each challenge is for one month. I tried to keep it in numerical order, but I already completed the January challenge, so there’s that. But the rest are in numerical order:

January: Write a short story in 15 words. (Title is not included in word count.)
Source: From the Depths Penny Fiction call for submissions

February: Write a sad story in only four words.
Source: Pinterest meme

March: Write a story in 50 words.
Source: Fifty

April: Write a story in 100 words.
Source: 100 Word Challenge

May: Write a story in 500 words.
Source: Word war

June: Write a story in 1,000 words.
Source: "How To write a 1000 Word short Story" post on the Prescott Papers website

(Need inspiration? Check this out: Exactly1000words.com)

July: Write a story in 5,000 words
Source: "Challenge: a 5000 word weekend - Word Count 49,388 (wp) 61,000 (pr)" post on the blog of Stuart Neville 

August: Write a story in 9,000 words.
Source: "The 9k-a-day word count novel writing challenge" post on the blog of E.S. Wesley (I turned it into 9k in a month)

September: Write a journal of 15,000 words
Source: NaJoWriMo

October: Write a story in 30,000 words
Source: "Results of the August Count Challenge" post on the blog of Sheryl R. Hayes

November: Write a novel in 50,000 words
Source: National Novel Writing Month

December: Write anything that is 75,000 words   
Source: "Daily Writing Habit: How to Write 75,000 Words in a Month [30DHC]" post on the Develop Good Habits website


Monday, January 16, 2017

Your plan for success is not another person's reason for failure

If you want to achieve a goal, you have to have a plan. You have to have a strategy. You do need to have a very clear idea of what specific kind of goal you want to achieve, yes, but you also need to make sure that you have a plan to get there. Sitting around and twiddling your thumbs while you just hope you will magically achieve your goal without any effort is not going to do it. You need to have a plan for things to do to achieve your goal and you actually have to put in the time and effort to get there.

Last year, for me, it was to write a short story every week. Of course, there were many times I was tempted to flake on my plan of writing a story each week because of one thing or another. I was sick, I was too tired, I had an eye injury and could only write with one eye open, or I was too busy. Or it was the broken keyboard or writer’s block.

But you know what all of those things were? EXCUSES NOT TO WRITE! And this year, my motto is, “I want results, not excuses.” That was pretty much the status quo for last year, and I followed through on my plan. Because I took those excuses and threw them out the window, I accomplished my goal to write a short story every week. It was hard and of course I realized nobody gave a shit if I accomplished that goal or not so why bother, but I did it for myself and I made it to the end. I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I failed that goal, so I didn’t give up!

But if some writer came to me whining that they can’t do the same thing because of this reason or that reason, I’m not going to get on my soapbox and scream at them, “YOU’RE JUST MAKING EXCUSES!” No, I’m going to talk to them and figure out what is going on.

In my opinion, that is the right thing to do. I’m not going to look at what I myself used to accomplish my goal and think that just because someone else can’t do it, they aren’t doing what I did. No, things are different for everyone. It could be any number of reasons that is keeping them from accomplishing a goal. It’s not because they’re not doing what I did. Really, it could be anything!

I was reminded of that this morning as I read an editorial in which a successful freelance writer was claiming another freelancer was not doing what she did to achieve freelancing success just because that person hadn’t accomplished their goal. I had to disagree with this claim, because that’s EXACTLY what I was doing for the 10 years that I worked as a freelance writer – five days a week and for at least 8 hours for those 5 days – and I didn’t achieve the same goal that she had. I don’t know why I failed. Sure, I could chalk it up to being deaf and therefore unreachable by phone. Or maybe I didn’t have such a good enough idea for their current needs. Maybe I didn’t query the right person or they already covered that topic or they thought I was a spammer. Or maybe they just didn’t like my name! Who knows??

The point is, I had done exactly the same thing for all those years. I achieved mediocre success and I was happy for that. I was writing for a national newspaper and I was happy for that, too. But I did not accomplish my goal: To break into the glossies. I tried for 10 years and I was consistent and I doubled up my efforts, but nothing came of it. I either got a rejection or no response at all.

But do I look back on that and think, ‘Oh, gee, if only I had tried harder and been more consistent?’ Absolutely not – because I did and I was. I gave my efforts my all. (I believe that if you are going to do something, you should do it 100%!) I just couldn’t accomplish that one goal.

And that is one of the two writing goals I was unable to accomplish. I am grateful I have been able to accomplish other ones.

But if a writer came to me upset that he or she just couldn’t do something that he or she was trying to do – write a book, sell a short story or get a job writing for a newspaper – I would want to go over everything that they have tried so far. I would want to know their background, their plan and what happened when nothing else was working. I wouldn’t automatically assume they weren’t making time to write or that they weren’t sending their stories out or getting the training they needed in journalism first. I would want to know where they came from and where they are now.

I think this is a better thing to do rather than automatically assuming that they aren’t practicing the same strategies as me. And I think it would be ideal if a lot of other successful writers out there who are adopting a high and mighty attitude would come back off of their soapbox for a minute to realize this importance. It’s just a lesson in humility. Maybe those writers out there ARE doing the same thing you are doing. Maybe they already tried your strategy for several years already.

It would just be nice to not automatically assume they are not even trying!

Maybe I would have accomplished my goal if I had tried longer. Maybe it would have taken me 11 years or 15 years to finally break into the glossies. I don’t know. But I don’t regret walking away from it, because I just got to a point where I was done. I wanted to move on to other things. I did try going back to freelancing for a while there, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and that’s when I knew I had to give it up because if there is no passion – no fire or no drive – to keep doing a creative endeavor, then it is best to not try doing it at all. The passion has to be there. But at that time that I did try to work in freelancing again and I just didn’t feel that passion anymore, that was when I knew I would have to accept that perhaps freelance writing is NOT the way for me to break into those magazines. I DO still want to accomplish that goal, but there are other ways to do it. Perhaps some other strategy is in order.

The bottom line is that all of us – successful and newbie – needs to understand that it’s not a good idea to automatically assume another writer isn’t on your level just because he or she isn’t doing what you’re doing. Maybe they are! And maybe what they need from you is just a little bit of encouragement or new ideas to help them keep going.

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Monday, January 02, 2017

Page count and word count

One of my writing goals for the new year is to revise a novel. I had done this last year and I wanted to do it again this year! Thing of it was, I had planned to revise a novel that I wrote fairly recently. Then, a couple of days ago, I remembered another novel I had written before that one. I decided to revise that one instead. (Both novels are fantasy, but the older one has vampires in it.)

So yesterday, I opened that one up and started reading it over. I prefer to give a book I am revising a good fresh read first and make revision notes along the way. With this one, though, I noticed something about it that was puzzling. It was only 81 pages. And all this time, I was calling it a novel? Really? Maybe that’s because I wrote this one for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). So I thought it was a “novel.”

But then I ran the word count on it. The word count came in at 30,054 words. It wasn’t even 40,000 words – the minimum word count for it to qualify as a novel! Heck, not even the 50,000 word minimum for NaNoWriMo.

This got me thinking: What’s the word count for the novel I revised last year?

I opened that file up to find out. I noticed this one was just 129 pages, but I ran the word count on it, and it’s 42,030 words. Well, at least it is a minimum of 40,000 words.

But both of these books were written for NaNoWriMo. And NEITHER of them are a minimum of 50,000 words! For crying out loud! (Well, neither is that other fantasy novel I wrote. Hm, maybe a writing challenge I can take on would be to write a novel for NaNoWriMo that is ACTUALLY at least 50,000 words?? Maybe. I have other ideas for other novels.)

So, it looks like my goal for the current novel revisions is to get this manuscript up to at least 40,000 words. My main character gets caught up in a vampire war at the end, so maybe I can expand on that. Make the war last a little longer than just one chapter. And maybe I could also write the scenes for something my character was going to do at the beginning of the story but that stuff never happened. There’s quite a few things I could do with this story to make it longer but I need to finish the read-through of it before I go in that direction.

I know that for the most part, a story is going to be as long as it has to be. But in this case, I WANT the story to be at least 40,000 words. Also, it feels like it needs more. Like it’s lacking stuff. I hope to figure out what that stuff is during the revision process. Maybe my beta readers will figure that out, too.

In any event, I am glad that at least I have a better idea of how to improve and fix this story than when I first sat down to write it. The first draft is just a matter of getting the story down on paper and not so much reaching a word-count goal, or even a page-number goal. But I think that, during the revision process, page and word counts are something to be taken into consideration.

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