Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Twas Brillig

Mark My Words: (Belated) January Edition

posted on: February 8, 2018
in: Blog, Writing

For at least five years now, I’ve tried to keep track of my yearly word count, and I’ve always failed. Partly because I work on so many different projects that it’s a monster of a job just to try and keep track. And partly because I know that word count isn’t really indicative of anything. As much as I rewrite and rework, or write whole chapters that never see the light of day, or erase and rewrite, the numbers turn out to be liars. But, this year Scrivener added a new feature that keeps track of it for you. It tells me how many words I’ve written each day and each month. And I have to admit I’m curious–I had no idea how many words I might write in a day, or a year, or five years. Do I write every day? (I already know the answer is no). Do I write in streaks? (Probably).

I meant to do this check at the end of January, but it got away from me, so here’s January plus a week in February. You can see that I wrote on 18 days this year, with an average of about 1400 words on each of those days (I’ve chosen to keep track of deleted words, so these aren’t how many I wrote exactly–I wrote more, but then deleted them, so they don’t count). But some days are bigger and better than others (yesterday, for example, was a high-word day for me, where all I did was put words on the page. I rarely have those kinds of writing days.). So far this year, I’ve written about 25,000 words (note that this is just game and fiction writing; it doesn’t include blog posts, web articles, and the like).

So what am I writing? What will all of these words become? Scriver helps me keep track of that too.


Green stuff is game writing–I’m working on the next book for Invisible Sun, as well as a Numenera adventure for Gen Con. Orange is short fiction. Red is for novels. Yes, I’m working on all of them at the same time. That seems to be my best process, even though it takes forever for me to finish anything that way.

Is all of this interesting? It is to me, because I always want to learn more about my processes. It might be to you too, if you’re a writer with questions. This shows that you can accomplish a lot without writing every day. That all of those single words add up quickly. That you can go from nothing to something in just a month (plus) of time.

Here’s an excerpt of the story that’s currently titled SSSA (Six Syllables Sung Aloud):

After Ben died, I locked my voice in a box. The kind of box doesn’t matter, nor does the lock. What matters is box and locked. Said together, like that. Throw the key away into the surf. Think better of it just before the shore claims it as its own, and grab it from the white foam, hide it somewhere warmer, quieter, more dangerous.     

My husband, Erik, wanted to know what I wanted for dinner.

“Do you want—?” he asked from where his top half was submerged inside the fridge. I could hear him moving things around inside, and I knew what was in there: greens gone wet and brown, jars of liquid skimmed in algae, crumbs of bread nibbled from all sides. “Pasta or potatoes?”

I sat at the kitchen table and watched my husband’s scissored legs be cut off at the waist by a steel box and thought how none of those words made sense anymore. All those p sounds, like something small and round you’d squish with your fingers and their insides would pop out and you’d be grossed out and try to wipe them on your shirt when no one could see. But you’d still feel it and feel it, even in the shower. Even in the moments you’d forgotten about the something small and round, you’d still feel what was left upon your skin.      

My husband is a good man. Everyone says that about their husbands, I guess, but sometimes someone says it and it’s true. He’s not perfect, but he holds me up the way water holds up oil. 

Do you keep track of your word count? Work on multiple projects at once? Use Scrivener in a cool way? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on process!

Kiss kiss bang bang,
s.

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3 comments

  1. Aaron Sapp
    posted on Feb 09, 2018 at 4:44 AM

    As a new writer, especially one whose study of the craft was limited to one creative writing class in college, I have wondered how much I need to write to have a meaningful output. How many words go into all of those big, glossy RPG books? How about the digest sized indy ones on the shelf above them? If I don’t right 1000, or 5000 words a day will it take me until I die to write one of those? So, this is nice to see. I have figured out that the 5600 words I wrote for a one hour class lecture I was to give is way too many.

    • Shanna Germain
      posted on Mar 02, 2018 at 10:17 AM

      Those are great questions! I could do a whole blog post on that 🙂 But I believe that every bit is meaningful output. A medium-sized RPG book is about 80,000 words (very roughly). At only 500 words, five days a week, you could still write 2 a year!

  2. posted on Feb 08, 2018 at 4:26 PM

    I only keep track of words when I’m actively drafting something. Otherwise, as you say, it’s disappointing when I have months of revisions (which are no words) or game words (which are slower words because I’m usually designing at the same time). Mostly I just track how much I get written per day so I can keep putting one food in front of the other.

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