neil gaiman

March Update: How Many Words Are Enough?

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At the start of the year I decided I set myself the goal of releasing four books in 2017. I recently sat down and did some rough maths to figure out how many words I need to write per day to achieve that. I discovered, rather unsurprisingly, that it would require a pace that’s just unrealistic to keep up every day. So I decided that instead of rushing out content I’m not satisfied with, I’m scaling back my expectations made during that naive period of New Year enthusiasm and aiming to release a more realistic target of three books this year.

The Maths

Working 5 days per week (everyone needs a few days off sometimes) gives me ~20 days per month.

3 books per year means I get 4 months to spend writing each book, so that’s 80 days.

6 drafts at ~80,000 words each means 480,000 words written/edited per book.

480,000/80 = 6,000 words written/edited per day.

So that’s my target daily wordcount to stay on schedule and release 3 books this year. I’ve been keeping to it for a couple of weeks now, and it seems achievable. I wrote a post about the wordcounts of some famous writers back in 2015 when I took part in Nanowrimo. Back then I was averaging just over 2,500 words per day, so I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with my productivity since then.

The downside of all this is that I’ve hardly found any time for reading so far this year, which as a writer, is a shameful thing to admit. Also my blog has suffered, with my posts coming nowhere near as frequently as I had hoped at the start of the year. (Weekly posts? Hah, past me was so naive).

So what do you think, is 6,000 words a day too many or not enough? How many words do you write per day? Every writer is different, and I’m always interested in other people’s methods, so let me know in the comments below.

Current Project

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Solace Within, the second book in the post-apocalyptic Fielding series and follow-up to my first book, Forged in the Dawn, is coming along well. In a couple of weeks it’ll be nearing completion, however I’m holding off on rushing it through and releasing by the end of March like I originally planned. Instead, I’ll be pushing it back a month to line up with my new 2017 schedule. An extra benefit being that I get more time to polish the finished product and make sure it’s up to a standard I’m satisfied with before releasing.

Planned Release: April 2017.

If you would like to follow my work, you can keep up to date with progress on all my writing from my current projects page, otherwise you can follow my blog for updates.

Other Random Stuff

Despite having already been covered a million times, I’ve been thinking about making a post on the subject of opening lines for a while now. Until I find time, here’s a Reddit discussion on people’s favourite opening lines in a fantasy book.

I stumbled over this song by Weird Al Yankovic and it made my day. Anyone with an affinity for words or irrational hatred of the lazy way people talk on social media will appreciate this one.

Lastly, here’s a video of the rockstar author Neil Gaiman himself giving out some advice for aspiring writers from a couple of years back. Pretty inspiring stuff.

So that’s my update for March. TL:DR is things are moving forward and my next book is coming out soon, but it’s at the expense of finding time for everything else I want to do.

I hope your own writing/reading projects are going well. Until next time, never give up, never surrender.


Solace Within images Copyright © 2016 Gavin Zanker

How Do You Start Writing?

Just sharing a bit of amusing advice from the rockstar author himself, Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline).

Of all the questions I see from aspiring writers, asking how to get started is probably the most common. And there really is only one answer: just write.

This sort of question always reminds me of the irresistible simplicity of this quote from Bukowski’s Factotum.

‘You think you’re a writer?’

‘… I’m still writing.’


National Novel Writing Month 2016

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We all have incredible stories knocking around our heads. They often bounce around up there for years, slowly fermenting into world-shattering epics, terror-inducing horror shows, and enduring tales of human connection. For most people, that’s where they stay, never leaving the shadowy recesses of their minds. But wouldn’t it be great if you turned that fantastic idea in to a tangible creation you could actually hold in your hands?

Well, you know the old proverb,

‘The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.’

Next month is fast approaching, and with it, National Novel Writing Month. It’s a simple enough idea: write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. That’s a lot of words you’re probably saying, and you’re not wrong. But it is achievable if you just keep writing one simple word after another. I took part last year, and while I found the forums to be less than helpful, I did get access to all sorts of fancy stat tracking, gamified achievements, as well as pep talks from published authors.

If inspiration from your favourite authors sounds like your cup of tea, you can check out the archive of pep talks. Here’s a sample of one of my favourites from Neil Gaiman.

neil_gaiman_2013_800x1065‘You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

‘A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It’s a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn’t build it it won’t be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.’

If you have any writing aspirations then you owe it to yourself to give it the old college try at least once. And if you do decide to take the dive? Good luck, it’s worth it.


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Neil Gaiman photo by Kyle Cassidy licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.