We writers love to talk about word counts, don’t we?
Whether we’re bonding together during sprints with rally cries of ‘500’, ‘1000’ or ‘yeah, ten, just ten’, or going it alone with self-congratulatory statements worthy of a one-page ad in The Times about our 10k marathons, we LOVE talking about how much we’ve managed to churn out.
And why not? Writing is hard, man.
Ten words or ten thousand words makes no difference when each one feels like you’re giving birth to a tiny baby idea, that’s probably going to throw up on you about five times before you’re done and chuck a spoonful of mashed banana at your face.
Writing an online serial is particularly hard, as Wattpad writers like me know only too well. You write something. Upload a chapter. People like it (if you’re lucky). People want you to upload more chapters. That’s kind of how it all works.
Now, if you’re smart, you’ll have pushed out that baby before you start uploading. And I don’t mean just the head, I’m talking about the whole thing, right down to the cute little feet (yeah, yeah, I know I’ m stretching this a bit far now). But if you’re not smart, or perhaps just a glutton for punishment, you’ll write a chapter, upload it, write a chapter, upload, feel a bit smug that you’re winning at this Wattpad shit, get hit in the smug face by life and then… nothing.
Hours stretch into days, days into weeks and meanwhile, back in the world of Wattpad, your readers have jumped ship and hailed a passing reliable writer with a lifeboat that’s going full speed and ain’t stopping until it’s done.
No prizes for guessing which kind of writer I am.
I always have good intentions to be the smart writer. I really do. In fact, at the beginning of every new WIP, I swear that I’m going to be that kind of writer and it all starts off great, but it’s not long until life smacks me a good one and I’m left waving at all my readers as they speed away to a life full of regular updates from those more reliable writers with the snazzy boats.
I’ve sort of come to a natural acceptance that this is the norm for me, and won’t ever change as I’m busy juggling a job, a daily London commute, a house, family etc and that’s perfectly okay. That’s just life for most of us, right?
But, I am starting to wonder whether I can make things easier on myself.
My daily writing routine is virtually non-existent. I don’t always get the chance to write every day so there’s no routine, no schedule, no event in my diary to sit down and devote my time entirely to just churning out those words. What I do tend to do, is wait until the weekend and then I’ll don my running shoes and slog through a marathon of writing, which usually culminates in a 2am bleary-eyed update. 5 hours of sleep follow and then I’m awake again, thinking WTF happened last night, as if I’ve been on a 24-hour piss-up and have woken up not quite knowing how I managed to get home.
This happens on average every couple of weeks. I’ll run a marathon session and churn out (here’s that word count rally cry!) 5-6k and then I’m left so exhausted from it all that I can’t bring myself to touch the MS for a week or two. I allow myself to procrastinate. In fact, I bloody rejoice in it, because it’s the easiest way to avoid writing again, or avoid thinking about writing, and that all comes down to the fact that marathons just drain me. I don’t just sprint. I run. And then I have a nice lie down.
Now 5-6k doesn’t seem something to sniff at. It’s a good volume of words. In the world of Wattpad, where shorter chapters are popular, 5-6k is practically WINNING.
Only it doesn’t really feel like winning to me when it’s like a never-ending cycle of running yourself into writing oblivion every couple of weeks. It doesn’t feel particularly productive or even a healthy way to write. It feels harder. Now of course, many of my (kinder) readers would tell me that’s just pressure I’m putting on myself and that they’ll wait as long as it takes and celebrate whether it’s 2k or 6k and I love them for it, I really do, but if I’m being real honest, the facts speak for themselves.
As each week goes by and updates become less frequent, reads can decrease quite significantly and have done with my latest work Hedoschism. I’ve even had some readers tell me, without malice or agenda I might add, that they didn’t finish my previous series because they struggled with my sporadic updates. I get that. I understand it. Because, you know, snazzy life boats and shit. Reliability. Continuity. We want that in our Wattpad writers. We want to know they aren’t going to leave us stranded without a ride back to shore.
I want to update more often, but most of all I want to write more often. What’s that phrase? Less is more. I don’t want to kill myself every time I write a chapter. I don’t particularly want to churn out 5-6k words in one sitting, because there’s nothing celebratory about that if I can’t even bring myself to open the MS for a week afterwards. And so, I’m going to try and make some small changes. Even if the updates don’t yet come more frequently, I would at least like to be more productive with the time that I do have and not end each writing session viewing my MS like it’s a dead animal that needs poking with a stick to see if it really is dead or whether it might suddenly open its eyes like the cliched ending of a B-grade horror film.
I’m going to try and go for that whole less is more mantra. Sprints. Not marathons. I’m going to keep the running shoes, but I’m going to resist that nice lie down afterwards and just keep writing.
Say it with me. Less is more. Less is more. Convincing, right?