Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Math time!

As much as I hate math, I find myself fascinated with numbers. I’m particularly interested when those numbers help me understand things I’m interested in. These numbers for me usually revolve around money. 401K size, how little is in my wallet, etc.

Today I want to talk about numbers surrounding my novel.

I’m currently sitting at 48,000 words.

In Scrivener, the software I use for writing, I have all my chapters broken up with scenes in individual documents. I’m currently at 42 scenes already written.

This puts me about 1100 words per scene. Only I didn’t start with 42 scenes to write, I started about 15 or so.

As I write a scene, I find I end up writing additional scenes. For every scene in my rough outline, I estimate writing two additional scenes. I either find I need to do more exposition, or my discovery writing method takes me in an entirely new direction that still requires me to write the original scene in order to move the story along.

So right now I have 36 more scenes left to write. If I assume these 36 scenes will more than double when I’m done, I’ll be left with 90 new scenes to complete. That makes for an estimated 132 total scenes.

If those numbers hold true, that means the novel will end up being around 142,000 words when it is all said and done. Or, I am about one third of the way complete.

I’m not sure I have enough story left, but scope creep always seems to rear it’s ugly head, and there is plenty of stuff swimming around in my head trying to get out.

Here is some more math for you.

I currently write 750 words minimum a day. Yesterday I wrote 876. Today I wrote 2023. Every two weeks I increase my minimum word count by 250. By October 24th, I’ll be up to 2000 words per day and an estimated word count of 125,750 words.

Now 750 words is a minimum, I always go over, sometimes by a lot. I keep track of all this in a spreadsheet. Entering today’s numbers my minimum estimate will be 128,818. My goal is to have my book completed by Oct 24th, which means I will need to make up a solid 24,000 words somewhere in there based on previous scene estimates.

Luckily excess is already built into my model. Since I have a quota I hit each day, anything past that will get me closer to my goal.

This is teaching me a few things.

First off, I talk way too much. On the other hand, the scenes I love the best in this book came from discovery writing and were not in the original outline.

Second, I will have a hell of a lot of editing to do. Anything over 110K words tends to turn off many publishers.

Third, I can’t allow scope creep to take over my novel. I have a deadline for completion of my manuscript. I will have to be picky about when I allow myself to invent new scenes and when I have to stick with that I have so that I have a complete storyline done by my deadline. New scenes are wonderful, but I have NaNoWriMo coming up and I don’t want to leave the book hanging without an ending for a month. I would rather see it done with notes on additional content to write during editing than leave it short while I work on something else.

Welcome to being a writer, Tom. Seems deadlines and having to prioritize work follows you around everywhere.

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