01 May 2011

The Joys of Raw Word Count

During the first four months of 2011, I have focused my writing efforts on editing, polishing, and submitting pieces in my existing stable of short stories, in the name of getting my name out there a whole heck of a lot more. I have come to the conclusion that pro markets are super, super hard to break into, and editing is even harder.

I've learned a lot about taking my stories from first draft to something resembling acceptability. I've learned that I often forgo logic in place of aesthetics, and that this means my early drafts are messy and hard to fix. I've learned that you can't polish a turd: if there is something seriously wrong with the first draft, it will not become a shiny story just because you correct grammar and trim excess and add a few neat tricks. You have to make a story true. Just because it's fantasy doesn't mean that you can skimp on compromise or conflict. Just because it's horror doesn't mean you automatically earn the right to make everything relentlessly terrible.

All this editing has slowed down my raw word count output substantially. By raw word count, I mean first draft, fountain pen on lined paper, pantsing like it's 1999, and otherwise just enjoying the act of trying to get story down on paper. I've drafted a few shorts in the name of Write 1, Sub 1, but for the most part, I've been trying to get stories out of the virtual trunk of my hard drive and into the world.

It is time to do something a little bit different, since this slog is getting a bit stale. I woke up yesterday excited about the prospect of Story a Day in May, because I'm really looking forward to the chance to just practice laying out beginnings, middles, and ends for a while. I plan to get out some substantial raw word count this month - maybe even reaching NaNoWriMo proportions.

For today's story, I used my "Agonize" post as a story prompt. The piece I wrote features a disgruntled actor in ancient Greece who wants to be more than part of the chorus.  The working title is "Goat Song." It came in at 2032 words, and took me about two and a half hours to draft, in between conversations with my writing pal Chris Kelworth at a local cafe. Good times!


Trisha said...

You can't polish a turd - I love it! ;)

I have heaps of short stories just gathering dust, myself. I'd love to get in on the publishing action with some of them (or, more to the point, TRY to :P).

Deborah Walker said...

Writing first drafts is my favourite part of the process. I am going to enjoy Story-a-Day. I'm going kick back and let the word flow.

You've made a great start. Elizabeth. Here's to a great May.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Trisha: That turn of phrase is Stephen King's. Wish it was mine! The more I get to know editing, the more I realize it is an art.

@Deborah: I am so looking forward to this. I'm a good chunk into story #2 and it is feeling pretty great. The best thing about this whole new-story-each-day deal for me is letting go of yesterday's story and getting a fresh start each day. We all deserve a fresh start!

Chris K. said...

Hey, thanks for the shout out! I got some good stuff done at our meeting myself, from blog surfing (which is important!) to goal-setting for May and word count on my Roswell/Pern crossover.

Congrats on the first of your May stories, and good luck with all the rest of them.