50,000 words

Yesterday afternoon I hit the magical 50,000 word mark in my Birdland manuscript.  50,000 words!  This comes just over two months after I hit 40,000 words.

Since I do a ton of revising during and after I finish a chapter, two months spent writing 10,000 words feels about right.  I actually came within 150 words of 50,000 when I finished chapter 7 two and a half weeks ago, but when I went in on revisions, I ended up chopping out about 300 or so words.  Now, after writing the first couple pages of chapter 8 and then revising those same pages, I’m sitting at 50,047 total words.  Here’s the paragraph that put me over the top:

Three pigeons in aprons and crown-feather nets huddled behind a dumpster next to the kitchen’s alley door. Their arms were jammed in their pockets, and their shivering beaks sucked on hastily-wrapped blunts.

Now that I’m half-way through writing this novel (based on how I’ve reworked the rest of the story’s plot, 100,000 words feels about right), I’ve learned a lot about how I prefer to work.

  • I never sit down in front of a blank page without a clear idea of what I’m going to write.  This means I spend a lot of time “daydreaming” the story.  This is done during my walks to/from work and while I’m out running.  To me, sitting down without having already figured out a guiding framework is a waste of my time.
  • I work out stories/plots/characters that I’m excited to write or would be excited to read.  If what I’m writing is something that would cause my eyes to glaze over if I were reading it (like what I’m reading now in Naked Lunch and/or Bleeding Edge), then I throw out the boring stuff I’ve written and go back to the drawing board to figure out something completely different.
  • A corollary to that is there’s no more fear to throw away words.  In truth, I’ve probably written closer to 80,000 words–of which I only kept 50,000.  That’s how it goes, and I’m completely comfortable with that now.
  • Music is critical for me.  I use it to brainstorm scenes/characters/plots by free-associating while listening to music I like.  Then I play it in the background while I write to help maintain the mood/feeling I’m after with each section.  Right now this means I’ve been listening to a lot of Cliff Martinez (primarily the Drive and Only God Forgives soundtracks).

Some of this is cliched writing advice (bullet 3), and some is particular to me.  And for me, the most important is the second bullet.  If I’m not excited to write what I’m writing, then my motivation drops off completely.  So far, though, motivation has been less and less of a problem as I get further into this thing.

Final note: I’m still on track with my one-chapter-a-month plan.  It still looks like I’ll be finished by December.  December!  8 more months!



  1. Luigus

    I wonder how Herman Melville preferred to work…

    1. dasfuller (Post author)

      Of course you wonder. Maybe if you just–


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