Monthly Archives: April 2014

Word(s) Count

15466. That’s how many words I’ve written so far in two years worth of time spread over nearly five years for one novel. It makes me feel pathetic and proud all at once. I crossed the 10000 word barrier earlier this year and hadn’t checked my word count ’til now. I’m nowhere near finished with my first draft, but I’m okay with that.

A lot of people in college seem to make a big deal of word count and pages. People I knew were like that in high school too. Me? Not so much.

I could care less if you wrote sixteen pages for your report on this-and-that. Did you say anything meaningful?

Some people love a four page long description of the coffee table a character sets a coffee mug on. On the other hand some could care less about the character’s surroundings, the action is more important to them. I don’t belong to either of these groups.

Quite frankly, I don’t care how many words it takes you to explain something, but you’d better tell me what’s happening and why that coffee table relates to the character’s inner condition or else don’t tell me at all. Half-cooked is how people get salmonella and the like. Reading a half-baked description makes me queasy; I feel like you’re asking me to drink the run-off from the bag of frozen chicken you accidentally left in your car last week.

Chose your words carefully; each one is a two-edged sword.

It’s your words that count, not your word count.

-RJ

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New Beginnings… Old Habits

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Beginnings are a funny thing, aren’t they? They may incite excitement or perhaps trepidation. A beginning is a start; that place at the trailhead with a sign showing the mileage from here to there. There’s about a thousand ways to get started off on the wrong foot when you step to the other side of that sign; and about a thousand more to start your journey off right. Maybe you’re dreaming about the end of the trail; that place of bliss where you can yell at the top of your lungs that you did it. You FINISHED the trail. Maybe you’re looking down the path and can’t see what is beyond those scary looking trees; you’re thinking “Well, maybe this was a bad idea.”

Writing is like that. Sometimes you’re thrilled to start something new; other times you wonder if it even really matters. I know (as someone who loves the art of storytelling) I’ve been there before. I’ve stood there at that sign and looked at that seemingly HUGE number. That number is miles, chapters, words, novels, and so on. Sure, you want to write that novel, but by default that means you have to write words… lots of words.

Maybe you start making excuses. You’ll get around to it next year, you don’t have time, it’s too difficult, your friends will think you’ve lost your mind, you might actually lose your mind. Excuses are just cardboard walls painted to look like they’re made of stone. Cardboard doesn’t hold water well. That story in your head is fluid; it changes, moves and responds to outside forces. That box of excuses isn’t going to hold that story in forever; that story will leak out in some shape or form.

If you’ve written before you may have tried to adopt some habits that keep you writing instead of twirling your pen over your thumb. I know I formed habits that reinforced my writing behavior. I (reluctantly) joined a writing club in high school; we wrote something, anything each and every time. Even if it was terrible and frustrated us to no end. Each and every week I wrote something. Then a funny thing happened. I started writing more often. Writing must do something to a person’s brain; in the same way runners get “runner’s high” I got “writer’s high.”

Then “real” life sneaks up on you. There’s standardized tests, applications, work, and the stuff that just won’t go away- like the laundry. Suddenly, you’re laying on your back saying “Hey. Hold up. I haven’t even had time to write anything!” That’s right. So, now you’re back at square one. No motivation, a plethora of excuses and that trail sign. Those excuses aren’t going away, and odds are (if at heart you are a writer) that trail sign isn’t either. The choice is yours, you can walk away and say “maybe later” but you’ll be back. You’ll be back because at the end of the day it’s not about being published, it’s not about money, it’s not about fame or friends. That story you’re dying to write is dying to be written because YOU are the only one who can write it. If you don’t write it, it dies with you.

You were made for your story. The art of story-telling is your purpose, your gift, your call. You have something to share.

“No one really believes that,” you say.

Well, I do. So if you want to stand there a moment longer and contemplate that trail sign that’s fine. I’m setting off on this trail; it’s going to be rough, but I’ll get there sooner or later. One word at a time this story will be told. I’ll reform those old habits that were helpful, I’ll put the pen to the page, and I will finish.

Care to try a new beginning? Care to start over if nothing else but for what you’ll learn along the way?

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I say that may be, but the shoes will tell the tale.