Progress: What Markers Indicate Success?

image from open by Firkin

July is one of the Camp NanoWrimo months and it’s made me reflective.  NanoWrimo is all about encouraging a person to write because a story-teller can’t do anything with an idea in their head.  They need to express their concept outside of their mind and writing is one format.

I, like Nano,  judge my success by word count.  A thousand words an hour is the bare minimum required to claim success.  If the other writers achieve a hundred or two hundred words in a blitz round robin, I want to double it.  Out pace them with verbiage, the quality of the story spun be damned.  Do all the articles and adverbs just make my writing clunky?  Do I spend too much time hammering a point?  All of it takes a back seat to the count of words I’ve crammed together.

I’m very frustrated working on my novel right now because the words are taking so long to come out.  I’ve “completed” a new third chapter.  It’s about 2,500 words and took me five hours to write.  That’s so slow for me, I never got the victory high completing story elements offers me.

I’d told a fellow writer it would take me two weeks of dedicated work to rearrange the novel.  I made those claims based off of the word count I predicted I’d add.  It’s been longer than two weeks and I’m not that far in.  I’m still asking myself questions over the new third chapter, that keep me from moving cutting the rest of my chapters open and finishing them (though I will attack the fourth chapter today no matter what).

Even Nano, knows writing is the first step to crafting a story.  November is their traditional writing month (outside of camp), but January/February focuses on the editing and publishing process.

What, besides the story idea itself, drives you to write and how do you measure your success?  How do you push through editing or slow word counts ticks?  I’m straining to think of other elements I can track that might show success.  Is there a search for emotional depth or for a “realistic” action?  Does a writer need to fall in love with their own writing and style, seeking achievement through reveling in the quality of their story development?

Opening the floor to the other writers: if word count isn’t your measure what keeps you sane in the writing process?  How do you leash your agitation at the slow pace of progress?

And anyone working through a Nano Camp run, happy typing!

Looking for a better way to count those words or encourage the words to keep coming?  Try our Bells and Whistles: Fancy Tools to Encourage Writing

4 thoughts on “Progress: What Markers Indicate Success?”

  1. As a longtime newspaper reporter with daily deadlines, I had to learn to let it go. It was hard because I would read my story in the paper the next day and see things I could’ve done better. However, it was the best story I could have written on that day. Write it and let it go. If it’s not good enough, hopefully, a beta reader, editor, writing group member will let you know. But you’re a talented writer, so don’t let lack of confidence bog you down. Trust yourself. Write it and let it go. That’s my mantra, and it’s allowed me to have a dozen or more stories submitted with another three dozen on the backburner waiting for a market to find. And all those stories I could improve with more time, but they were the best stories at the time I wrote them, and that’s got to be good enough, or you’ll never get in a rhythm or move on to new projects. What keeps me going is the next story I’m going to write, not the one I just wrote. Hope that helps. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Lionel. I agree, for me I think I just wonder where that max capacity point is. When do I stop editing and just accept what’s written? There are times where I’m “finished” and the writers’ group has found thousands of mistakes and issues that I’d overlooked. I appreciate the feedback and it has made my stories better, but it’s also makes me wonder: why are my stories less complete when I’m “done” than when other writers in the group are “done”. Am I being lazy or too relaxed in my writing? If I need to improve the quality of my writing, how do I do that?

      My novel is important to me beyond description. I there are large chunks of it I’m certain a larger audience would love. The original problem I had was “how do I get readers to the good parts?” Now, I’ve got a plan, and the question is “how to a edit and cross stitch the standing work together so the important sections remain cohesive to both the new “interesting” parts and some older needed information.

      This process is sooooooooo slow (and only rewarding when large chunks are complete), and because some sections are “super” edited and other sections are brand new–there’s an inherent disconnect.

      But thank you for the advice. I may be just too much in my head and too worried about reception at a point where I should only worry about completion.

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