Six Months On and Not Counting, or: How I Stopped Worrying About Deadlines and Continued to Ignore Word Counts

Six months? Already? Well, certainly as the calendar reads, but who ever believes those things anyway? What follows is a brief interview with a mirror…

Are you finished?

In short… no, “Glade” is not ‘finished’.

Despite having largely written “Glade”, I cannot bring myself to call it ‘finished’. There are a few more scenes that need to be removed, altered, or added. My commitment to this process has been at the expense of almost all other things in my life (this blog being one of them). I’ve also avoided that shady lot on Twitter in recent months too.

Any reason why?

*exhales* Well, much of this has been enforced, due to the devastating loss of my old friend, Mac (EDIT: he has since risen from the grave – see earlier post), and the lack of an internet connection (EDIT: also now rectified – see same earlier post). I also decided to limit my online interaction so that I can focus more upon “Glade”. This doesn’t just relate to Twitter and the like, but also to email and online news, etc.

Even so, for all those that have retweeted some of my posts in the last few months – cheers. It really is appreciated even if I’m not always around to say it.

That’s very nice of you to say.

It is, isn’t it? In fact, I’ll say it again – cheers for the retweets!

So… when will “Glade” be finished?

After the first deadline that I set myself passed me by with a shake of its head, I felt a tad guilty. The second slipped by largely unnoticed, although it did offer a knowing wink to the third deadline that was waiting in the wings. The third deadline made it halfway before I heard the front door slam and caught sight of a taxi being hailed…

After a sparse response, I took down the “Deadline Wanted” notice and just made do without one. Anyway, I work better without the sound of my calendar flipping away in the background or the rhythmic ticking of a watch.

As you can tell, I have cunningly avoided answering the question.

I know.

Oh, you saw that? Damn.

Alright then. It’s close… closer than yesterday anyway (and the day before that too if you’re counting – which I’m not). If I was to be honest (and I generally am) I’d say another month… probably closer to two (can I say two and three quarters?). In the wisdom of the Stone’s, “I can’t get no satisfaction”.

Any problems?

Just a tad. During the course of the past month or so, I encountered three of the most difficult chapters for “Glade” that I have written to date. They had it all planned; lying in wait for me outside my window. I’d just sat down one morning when the first two dived in, rolled across the tiled floor, and came to a halt before my desk. It was very much a Bodie and Doyle moment. The third used the door.

Smartly attired and with Martini in hand, it just plonked itself down in a chair in the corner, quite content to watch and wait its turn.

The difficulties I had were not entirely unfamiliar. It had nothing to do with writer’s block or any other such creative malediction, but rather a struggle to contain the words; to prevent them from spilling out across the page like an overturned inkwell.

It was one of those moments when you just have to rein yourself in or else lose yourself entirely to ideas and constructs that should be ‘hidden behind the veil’ within the writer’s mind. I don’t know if that makes any sense to you, the reader, but it does to me (so there).

Anyway, the aforementioned chapters have been dealt with now. It was messy at first, but eventually we all saw eye to eye and departed on relatively good terms. We might not be friends, but we have a working relationship.

That’s… good. How’s the word count going?

Truthfully? I haven’t checked.

Really?

Have you ever seen a more honest face?

Well…

I never really bother looking at the numbers until I have the story that I want. If it falls under 80,000 words then so be it. I doubt very much that it will, but I honestly haven’t checked. When I first eyed the story up, I saw it as being an 80,000-90,000 word story. If I was to guess at what it will end up at now, I’d hazard at around the 100,000 mark. Still, what do I know. It might end up shorter than I thought… or much longer.

Writing by numbers just doesn’t work for me. I understand that it can be used as a motivational stick or goal post, but I feel it can also force a story in a direction that it doesn’t necessarily want to, or need to, go.

I rarely bother looking at chapter lengths either. I know that some are long and some are short. I basically end the chapter whenever I want the reader to dwell upon the scene or moment and not because the previous chapter was bang on 3000 words.

I have nothing against short chapters that consist of only a few pages. If it fits the story then fine. I’m not bothered by overly long chapters either. If I’m enjoying the story then chapter length is not an issue. When I start flicking (or clicking) through the pages just to see how many remain, I’m not really in the story anymore.

Have you thought of running a competition?

What do you mean?

Well, you know those “Guess the number of beans in the jar” competitions?

*looks dubiously at the mirror* Yes…

So, you could run one where the readers have to guess the final word count!

And what do they win?

Well, you could offer them a signed copy of “Glade”…

Or maybe just a pat on the back?

Hmm. Maybe not…

They might prefer a pat on the back.

I somehow doubt that.

Still, you might be onto something there. I could charge an entry fee as well! *rubs hands*

No… I think you missed the point.

So what you’re saying is, I should let people guess… for free… and give them a signed copy of “Glade” if they win?

Pretty much. Yes.

Hmm. I don’t know. I can’t see people going for it.

Any last words?

Originally, I had plans for a spring release. Looking back, I’m happy that I didn’t. Why? Well, if events had taken a different turn and I had been able to focus entirely upon my work, I sometimes wonder if “Glade” would be the story it currently is? The answer is probably not.

Would the new ideas and flashes of inspiration have still come… only sooner? Was the story always meant to be this way?

These are interesting questions that I’m certain all writers have asked themselves. I’ve done that with a number of stories that I’ve written and looked back upon: “What if I had not missed the bus?” “What if I had not met that girl?” “What if…”

Would the story still have found a way to be told in the way it is or would it have become something entirely different? Of course, this is a story waiting to be told if one was to gently gather the threads together and weave it…

I’m rambling a little now, but an often asked question is what you would do if you had a time machine? There are the usual comments regarding famous events in history, walking with dinosaurs, or meeting long dead people.

I would like to go back and alter something in my life (butterfly effect be damned) that would change the way I wrote a story… just to see in what way it would change. Ignoring the fact that I would probably no longer remember the original version (as it would never have been written), I would be curious to see, if only for a fragment of time, what it would turn out like.

There will be some who will shrug and say that it is a given that if we changed something, the story we write will always be different from what could have been. I agree… but… there remains that curious part that wonders at whether or not it is the story itself which chooses how it wants to be written. You might see that as rather fanciful, but I quite like the notion.

That was rather more than ‘a few’ words.

Sorry about that… hang on… I’m writing the questions so I can damn well reply to them anyway that I want.

You’re right. Go on.

Glad that’s settled. So, demands of ‘real’ work (or rather the never-ending search for it) have also caused some delays in finishing “Glade”. At least, I looked at it that way to begin with.

A few days spent landscaping gave me time to cast my mind back over my writing and search for any holes that might have escaped my attention when deep within the forest of my work. While my reward from shaping dirt came not in hard currency, but rather in the form of a cold beer, some cheese and a loaf; I found the reward from taking a step back from my writing an insight most satisfying. In this way, I feel that the enforced ‘breaks’ have contributed to the formation of “Glade”.

As is often the case when doing physical work (or even exercise), a part of me turns and shapes ideas that have been collecting in the back of my mind. In some ways, it’s very much like I am holding a ‘Rubik Cube’, puzzling out stories with a twist or a turn until the colours, or thoughts, eventually fit harmoniously together.

With that Eureka moment comes a burning desire to share my idea with someone. This is quickly quelled with the realisation that I cannot. Instead, I scribble frantically; the sensation somewhat similar to what I would imagine attempting to hold back liquid fire with your fingers is like. The surge of inspiration burns and it is as close to a ‘religious’ moment as I might get.

I see. A final self-assessment?

As an old English teacher of mine once said, “Could do better…”

Just what I was thinking.

Is that so?

Uncanny, isn’t it?

Something like that.

Well… if that’s all… perhaps you should stop talking to yourself in the mirror and… do some actual writing?

It’s eerie when we share thoughts like that.

Look… we’re not actually sharing anything, its… its…

What?

Doesn’t matter. Anyway, it’s goodbye from you.

And it’s goodbye from me.


If you think that mirror-me was right *snorts* …and trying to guess the final word count for “Glade” is a good idea, then please feel free to put your guess in the comments section. Don’t expect a quick outcome… it’s me writing this after all… but it will be quicker than anything that has ‘thrones’ or ‘games’ in the title.

When “Glade” is finished, I will post the winner so that all can marvel at their magnificence while I pat them on the ba… er, I mean… while I award them with their hard-won book.

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2 thoughts on “Six Months On and Not Counting, or: How I Stopped Worrying About Deadlines and Continued to Ignore Word Counts

  1. Ah, that sound of a deadline running by. Very familiar to me. But then, I think the same as you: deadlines might be good, but the story comes first. If I (and it) need more time, then I’ll give it to it.

    This said, I’m very curious about this story :-)

    Liked by 1 person

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