This Is Why I Don’t Set Word Count Goals

Trying a new format this week, with a write-up after my session each day. I want to give it a shot, because usually at the end of the week everything I’ve done has blurred into a mass of black squiggles on a white page. I’m hoping that breaking it down, day by day, will help me track my progress as the weeks move along.


Giphy 2
That GIF represents my feelings about writing today quite well.

Rather than doing my hour first thing in the morning, I ended up sitting down later in the evening (around 9 PM). Mostly because I spent the afternoon playing inFamous: First Light (it was great, I’ve no regrets, but more on that in a non-ROW80 blog). As the title says, I am so glad that I didn’t a word count goal for ROW. They always kick me in the ass because I have a compulsion to edit as I go, rather than waiting until the draft is complete. It’s just how I function, I’m learning to work with it rather than against it.

Looking over last week’s work I basically hated it. Not burn-it-to-ash hate it, but it felt all kinds of wrong. Wrong characters, wrong place in the novel, wrong timeframe for an opening chapter. I admit, I’m a fan of flashbacks and prologues, but opening chapter one in present day only to jump back three years on the second page didn’t make sense.

So I scrapped it. Or to be more specific, I stuck it in a drafts folder to be refitted into another chapter later on the novel. I’m of two opinions about this move at the moment: one the pro side, I’m happy to have set it aside for now, with potential for later recycling, and spent tonight writing up my original idea which I wrote in a treatment back in October. On the negative side, I’ve got a voice in my head and a seed of doubt in my chest that for the next seventy-some days I’m going to be on a constant cycle. Rewrite, scrap, repeat.

I do feel better about the opening scene, even if I know some of the prose as a weird narration vibe to it, because my main characters are in the scene immediately, rather than spending six pages weaving around flashbacks and secondary characters, waiting for Charlie (the supporting lead) to come to Jamie (the lead) with his crisis. It gets the story started on a sprint, which is how I wanted it to be.

Now that I have better footing I just want to make sure I move forward, and don’t continue circling around the same point. I hoping to get my session done earlier tomorrow, if a short appointment doesn’t prevent that, because I felt clearer writing in the morning last week. I’m also planning on writing on at least one day over the weekend. Because I think four whole days away from The Secret Nerd Project might have been too much.

Thankfully in the end though, with help from chip tune / 8bit playlist on Spotify I was able to work my way into a groove. I spent over an hour writing, and finished with just over four pages and 1,346 words.



Tired boo
This is beautifully accurate. Today has been a long day. I came to the desk late again. Had every intention of getting there after hitting my afternoon appointment, but by the time I got home, ate and relaxed there was an impromptu visit to a pet store to look at adopting a cat. Now, I know, lots and lots of writers would tell you to stay at home and keep your ass in the chair!

To which I say, how about you kiss my ass instead? [cue smile] I understand that, in theory one won’t get very far in this venture if writing never happens. But there is a magical thing called balance, and I don’t believe that involves chaining myself to my desk. I resent the whole “forsaking all others” mentality that seems to waft around writing like bad perfume. As someone learning to work with depression, that spikes in the winter, if I’m given the opportunity to get out of the house in weather that won’t make my joints lock up thanks to the wind cutting through me? I’m gonna take it. Winter’s hard enough, without giving myself more motivation not to the leave the house.

I also deeply resent that most writing “advice” seems – in my experience – to come out of the mouths of white men typically over 50, with no small children at home, and no outside jobs because – surprise! – they’re already getting paid to write full-time. It seems super … high and mighty to be sitting on your pile of best-sellers, with your multiple homes and childless existences, extolling the virtues of writing every single day or you’ll fail to people who might be, for example, managing a home and family with a full time career. This is not exactly my situation, but the point still stands. It makes me want to growl and things, because … well, if I go down that road this we’ll turn into a fully fledged rant. I’ll try to save that for another post.

Despite all the virtual teeth gnashing, I had a decent time tonight. It probably took me three hours to get through my planned session, because there was much rabbit hole researching and because I am tried. Right now it feels like the first two chapters of TSNP are the hardest to get through. Primarily because it starts at the opening of a (fictional) nerd expo and Jamie (Lead #1) has to solve a technical support issue at the very list minute for Charlie (Lead #2, Love Interest). Now, I consider myself fairly adept at solving most problems for the home user, but Jamie has a degree in this shit and 10+ years of experience. I’m pretty sure she dreams in code, like the green scrolling Matrix screensaver but without the random Kanji.

I am not so highly educated. I’m of the “try it and see if it breaks” school of thought. Everything I’ve learned has been through experimentation (and much failure). I’m trying to write Jamie as this intelligent professional who knows all the technical terms, and I feel like my lack of a college degree is splashed on the page in neon ink. A large part of me wants to run it past someone who does this for a living, so that I can make sure both the problem and the solution are correct.

Chances are this is routine anxiety taking over, and my hope is that once I clear these first few scenes, things will smooth out and I’ll get to focus less on technical jargon and more on character development. I know it won’t be perfect, I just dread it sounding like typical fiction science bullshit.

I’m so glad I don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow and I can just stay home reading, writing and possibly napping. 708 words, 2 pages. I’m content and very very tired.

Wednesday – Friday

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Wednesday night I wasn’t feeling so great and in an attempt to thwart an oncoming sinus cold, I popped some Mucinex DM Maximum Strength. I’ve always been sensitive to cold medicine, particularly congestion treatment, because it messes with my blood pressure. (As far as I know, I don’t have high blood pressure.) But my family, who’s been fighting the same thing and had been taking the same OTC to good effect. I went to bed to around 9:30 AM and woke up five hours later having to use the washroom.

And then shit got weird … and scary.

Getting out of bed was harder than usual but I chalked it up to being sick. I thought it was kind of strange, sinus congestion didn’t normally cause feelings like this. I kept moving and tried to stay calm, but by the time I got to the end of the hall I could barely move, all my muscles felt like they were locked together into one solid mass. Sitting on the bathroom floor I was hyperventilating and every time I tried to get up, my legs collapsed underneath me. Thankfully I was able to get help, take care of what I needed and get my breathing back to normal.

I went back to bed, though going back to sleep was hard. After waking up I took another dose, and the episode – which I thought was a fluke – got much worse. After a couple hours on the second dose, I was so tired and dizzy I couldn’t keep my head up (though I did manage to somehow write 411 words on a short story …) and decided to lay down for a nap. Less than and hour later it happened again. Struggle to get out of bed, hyperventilating, muscle weakness and spams, tremors, stomach issues, zoning out, rapid heartbeat … and this time I was home alone.

I wound up laying on the floor next to my bed, wrapped in a blanket with a pillow. I think I laid there for a couple of hours feeling like I was high and drunk at the same time. I don’t have much experience in either state of being, but I assume what I was feeling is pretty close. When I was able to get up – my poor nephew saw me and said, “Aunt Jessie, did you fall outta bed?” – I was sitting in the living room and could see my legs and feet spasming.

Suffice it to say, I did not take any further doses. I also did some research and apparently I’m allergic to the main ingredient. Good to know! It’s Friday as I write this and pretty much all the symptoms have past, besides lingering muscle stiffness and pain.



[me, post successful writing session]

Today things were much improved, but I was still worried that I wasn’t going to be able to write. For much of the evening I puttered around, avoiding the task entirely because I’d hit a sticky spot and I wasn’t sure how to work through it. I was writing a scene earlier this week and Charlie kept coming to the page like a stuck-up douche. That was not how I saw him in my head at all, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I emailed a close friend about it and she – kindly – suggested I do some in-depth character profiles.

It was a sensible answer and by all accounts … except I hate character profiles. I would rather do two hours of math than sit down and fill out a character profile. They feel like the fiction equivalent of a survey or a pop quiz, I know every single one says that a writer doesn’t have to fill the whole thing out, but whenever I see those empty lines and pages waiting to be filled out, I can’t not want to fill out the whole thing. Not filling it out “properly” feels like failing.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. While on Skype voice chat with my dear friend Kelly, I found out she hates them too and it was a huge relief. After some commiserating and laughter, I was able to flip the negative (Charlie’s shitastic attitude) and flip it into some deeper character development, thanks to some excellent questions from Kelly. If I had been left to my own devices I would’ve been stuck going through worksheets for days, and I worked out the issues in a matter of hours with Kelly. It was a great way to end the week.


Categories: ROW80, Secret Nerd Project, Writing
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2 Responses so far.

  1. [blush] Well I’m incredibly proud to inspire you! The logs are specifically for , I’m not sure I’ll keep them indefinitely, but they are quite helpful for this challenge. I hope it helps with content creation for the site; if I can ever help you whip some content, articles, blogs, whatever for your site let me know!

    I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on the technical jargon and practical experience. If you’re free this weekend, lets set a date for a Skype chat.

  2. Kelly says:

    You inspire me so much to write more. And I love this idea of an actual log of the weeks events. I’m not going to steal if for content creation on my business website as I was at a huge stand still with creating content for that! Also I don’t have a foolproof answer for you but I might have a helpful suggestion for the technical elements of your writing as well as actually solidifying your practical experience with technical jargon (You and I are yet again alike in that way. Technical manuals and hours of mind-numbing lectures are not the most productive to me.)