I Wrote A Hundred Thousand Words In 2016


Well, let me rephrase that. I wrote1, edited2, revised2, outlined1, translated3, reviewed4, critiqued4, and miscellaneous-othered5 100010 words.

I set my goal for 100,000 words way back in January, performed some long division, and set up a Beeminder Goal for 274 words a day. Halfway through the year, with Summer approaching, I felt all stressed out and took a much-needed break. By Summer’s end, I was lagging behind, and had to ratchet up my daily target to 337 to get back on track for the hundred thousand.

And two days ago, on Wednesday 14 December, at 5.36pm, I came to 99,999 words, typed the Dutch word ‘een’ (Dutch article ‘a’), and was done.

Lessons Learned

Things this writing year taught me:

  1. I am much more productive when my writing time is limited and constrained than when I have whole days to myself. Most of my writing time in 2016 was allocated in 45-minute increments, on my train commute between Amsterdam and The Hague.
  2. I haven’t really challenged myself yet with this goal. In 2015, I started out with a goal of 100 words a day, quickly increased that to 150 and later 200, and ended the year with a 250-word target. That prompted my new goal for 2016 to write my 100K. It seemed crazy-steep at the time, averaging 337 words a day in the interstices between my family, my career, and my Netflix cravings, but on the home straight, I averaged over 900 a day.
  3. Beeminder is an excellent tool to keep myself on track. I’m liable for only $5 if I derail from my Beeminder Yellow Brick Road, but that measly threat, partnered with the pride of never derailing, are sufficient to keep me going.
  4. Writing lots of words is conducive to a myriad related lots (submitting, getting rejected, talking with other writers, participating in forums, and selling).
  5. There is a direct correlation between the number of words I write on a day and the level of peace I feel with the world. No writing –> grumpiness, some writing –> okay with life, major wordage –> buoyant.

Fruits Of Labor

Projects I worked on over the course of 2016:

  • Three novels, one of which is now halfway and with an agent.
  • Ten short stories, three of them new, eight of them completed, two of them sold, four under submission.
  • Seven flash fiction pieces, all of them new, five of which are completed, three of which sold to professional markets, four under submission.
  • Fourteen critiques of other writers’ fiction.
  • A whole slew of miscellaneous other work.

And the wordage breaks down like this:

Writing activity Words towards goal Total words touched
Drafting new material 44788
Editing 19214 144177
Critiques 9079
Translating my own work 4769
Outlining 4583
Translation jobs 2123
Reviews 775
Other 14679

Achievements Unlocked

With that many words, it’s no surprise that some major milestones were also achieved, and records broken:

  • Reached the halfway point of my Dutch thriller novel WIP, and submitted it to an agent.
  • Made more story submissions than in any previous year.
  • Received more rejections than in any previous year.
  • Made more professional story sales than in any previous year.
  • Made more first story sales (as opposed to reprints) than in any previous year.

 

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The plan, of course, is to have 2017 leave 2016 in the dust.


1 Writing new material (be it prose or outline) counted 1:1, so each word counted towards my goal. All other writing-related activities counted only if they furthered my ultimate goal of making a living with language.

2 Given my light touch in editing, editing and revising counted at a rate of 1:5 or less, so for every five words of edited material, I counted one word towards my goal, or less, depending on how lightly I felt I had edited. This means that the total number of words I edited is more than five times as high as the editing words I counted towards my goal.

3 Translation counted at a rate of 1:2, regardless of whether I was translating my own work or doing a paid translation job.

4 Reviewing and critiquing counted at a rate of 1:2, meaning that for every two words of review, critique and inline comment I wrote, I counted one word towards my goal, regardless of the length of the piece critiqued.

5 All other writing-related wordage (such as a lecture for a literary festival, the required accompanying materials for a submission to an agent) counted at a rate that seemed reasonable to me at the time.