Getting Sidetracked – Knowing What Knocks You Off Course


This is the Supermoon rising over Santa Fe last night. It always looks so much bigger in real life. I wonder if that’s just a misperception?

This is a special cross-post from me, since Resident Author Kat Latham is on maternity leave, I offered to fill in from my regular Sunday post over at Word Whores.

I’m a happy camper this morning – and not just because I’m sitting in my riotously blooming garden while hummingbirds zing about – because I get to break out my GRAPHS. See, spreadsheets lead to graphs, like consistent word count leads to novels.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Continuing our theme of encroachment on writing time, this week’s topic poses the question: “Seasonal Writing Cycles: Which times of year sidetrack wordcount the most?”

Now you know where the spreadsheets come in.

Those who follow my personal blog know that last October I started keeping records of my weekly and monthly wordcounts. I’ve always tracked daily and weekly progress, but I hadn’t saved the numbers. Now that I’m seriously considering the transition of quitting the Day Job and being a full time writer, I want better numbers of how I perform over the longer term. I see the lack of steady, predictable income to be one of the greatest pitfalls of being a full-time writer. Many who pull it off have dutiful spouses with salaries and benefits. With my man on early retirement and developing his new practice as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, his income fluctuates also. I’m willing to take the risk, but I want a better sense of what I can expect from myself.

(And by saying I’m seriously considering this transition, that does not mean it’s happening soon. The money is coming up, but it’s nowhere near what I make at the Day Job, alas. I’m just planning ahead.)

I imagine that James, our Masculine Monday Whore and Hulk SMASH! of wordcount, will say that seasons don’t matter to him and he just powers through, regardless. Enviable. For me, the graph I’ve composed so far confirms what I’ve suspected.

Yeah, December is my bad month.

This spring looks lower than the others because I was intensively editing several different things. Lots of work, but not a lot of word count accumulation. June, of course, isn’t over yet, but I expect it will be around 30K for the month.

December is bad for me for two reasons: Day Job and Christmas.

Because of the way our contracts are set up, most of the projects I work on for the Day Job have 12/31 end dates. Sure we roll a lot of those projects over into the new year, but because we’re a private company dealing with government contracts, it often takes weeks to renew the paperwork. January tends to be quiet. December can be hell.

Yes, yes – I know I’m the great champion of Defend Your Writing Time! Still, those lovely people who pay me and count on me to deliver have to come first at times.

And then there’s Christmas. Sue me, but I love it. I love the decorating, the baking, the shopping and the general festivizing. Being the one who cares most, I do the lion’s share of the prep work in our household. I know a lot of people who want to reel back on the celebration, make it less work, but I’m not one of them. Instead, I try to plan my life so I have time to do all the Christmas stuff I love.

It will be interesting to see how I do this year, because I have a novel due 11/1 and one due 12/31. I’m trying to plan ahead (writing the 11/1 novel now, in fact), so that I can finish the 12/31 novel early enough for me to handle both Day Job crises AND not feel rushed with holiday stuff.

Wish me luck!

As a final addendum, I find it interesting that my weekly cycles tend to be fairly rhythmic.

I haven’t decided what all to make of this, but it’s good to ponder. (My weekly count goes Sunday-Saturday and I haven’t done today’s words yet, which is why there’s nothing yet for June wk 5.) If you’d asked me before I kept these charts, I would have said I work at a pretty constant pace. This is clearly not the case.

Just another one of those misperceptions!


Getting Sidetracked – Knowing What Knocks You Off Course — 8 Comments

  1. You always amaze me anyway, but now I find I’m feeling even more underachieving than usual. In the first place, I’ve never yet met a spreadsheet I liked, and now…seriously? Graphs? The truth is that if I’d figured up the productivity of writing full-time, I probably never would have retired from the day job. So now I’m going to go eat a Three Musketeers and drink a Diet Cherry Coke rather than even consider making a spreadsheet or graph for any reason. Great post!

  2. I love how organized and systematic you are about tracking your writing progress! I downloaded a nifty word count tracker a year or so ago, but haven’t really used it other than during NaNoWriMo. I need to do this desperately. I often go long periods of time w/o writing then do a ton of writing in a flurry. I want to be a consistent, prolific author so I need to start tackling my progress today. Thanks for sharing!

    • I think the tracking has really helped me to stay on track, Reese. It’s kind of like weighing myself daily – I can’t kid myself about how I’m doing. Because if I can, I will. Scary how good at denial I can be!

  3. I am anything but consistent in my word production. I find I write in chunks; big production for a while, and then down to zip for a while. I’m trying to be more consistent, but we’ll see. I’m seriously in awe of you, Jeffe!

    • One of my critique partners is like that, Jana. She seems to need to brood and percolate over a book and then she writes it REALLY fast. I think we all need to find our best method. But thanks!

    • I just use Excel, Melissa. I have a spreadsheet I made that I’ve been using for years (5? 6? more?). I’ve shared the template with people before, if you’re interested.

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