At the moment I'm wrestling with Ye Dreaded Word Count, and I was reminded of an experience a friend of mine had that almost involved death by mashed potato. I'd like to share her experience with you.
A conversation at a dinner party.
MAN: So you're writing a novel?
WRITER: Yeah, trying to. It's not going as fast as I'd like.
MAN: Well, how fast can you type?
WRITER: Sixty words a minute.
MAN: So type for an hour, you’ve got 60 times 60 words - that’s 3600 words.
MAN: So you write for 10 hours a day - that’s 36,000 words!
WRITER: Thirty-six thousand words! That’s half a book.
MAN: You see what I mean?
WRITER: So by your calculation I ought to be able to write a book every couple of days?
MAN: Yeah, why not? You might need another day to fix the spelling and stuff.
WRITER: Put in some punctuation?
MAN: Yeah. Editors probably like that.
WRITER: So following your plan I should be able to write 122 books a year?
This is the point in the conversation where he narrowly escaped having his head pushed into a plate of mashed potatoes...
36,000 words a day! Imagine being able to write that fast....
Well, actually, when I think about it, I don't want to write that fast! There'd be no sparkle in the words, no depth to my characters -- it'd all be fast and shallow and superficial, kind of like a really rushed paint-by-numbers painting as opposed to a painting by Klimt. Not that I'm saying my books are masterpieces, because they're not! But any novel is a work of art, and works of art take time.
I wonder what kind of word count J K Rowling averages per day? Is she slow, or fast? Or Stephen King? Or Nora Roberts? (Actually, I'm pretty sure Nora is one of the fast ones.)
Word count is such an individual thing, really. There are people who can write 5,000 words a day, easy peasy, and others who slog to get 500 words done per day. And sometimes it can depend on the book -- some books gush while others are like squeezing blood from a stone. My current book is a step up from squeezing blood, but it sure ain't gushing!
Would I like to write faster? Yes. 36,000 words a day? No. But maybe I could aim for a tenth of that? 3,600 words per day? Or maybe I should be realistic, admit that I'm not a writing machine, and aim for an achievable twentieth, i.e. 1,800 words. Doesn't have quite the same ring, though, does it?!
Mashed potato. Mashed potato. Mashed potato. Look, six words! And that was another three. Actually, maybe I could write 36,000 words per day! But -- and this is the big question -- would they be worth reading?
And maybe I should leave that question unanswered and head back to my current manuscript and try to get some sparkly, hard-won words written!