The first draft. It’s done!

Funny story. You remember how I said my goal was to write 50 pages a week, aiming to be done with my first cozy mystery in about five weeks? Yeah, about that. It turns out I was counting Mac Pages, not book pages. One Mac Page has about 550 words with my formatting, whereas a published book page has only about 250-300 words. So it turns out I was writing almost a hundred book pages a week and now the first draft is done! I’m as surprised as anyone. I wrote a book in three weeks. Of course it needs serious editing, but the story is there. Now I just have to make it shine.

pages photo

So how do you write a hundred book pages a week?
Step one: plan and research your book for a year. Step two: open your laptop and write.

Fine, fine, I have a few more dos and donts in case you’re interested. Part one of my accumulated wisdom from being a writer for all of three weeks is here, and part 2 here. This was supposed to be part three of five, but it turns out it’s the final part. Hurrah!

Counting pages

A cozy mystery typically has around 250 pages. So that was the basis for my goal. What the final word count will be remains to be seen but having an overall goal in mind was very useful to measure my progress against. To finish that 50 pages a week meant writing about seven pages a day, or about ten per day if I took some days off here and there.

But with my above formatting revelation it meant I was almost finished after only two weeks. Having that goal kept me going and writing page after page. So even though my page count was all out of whack, I was getting results. And it was actually a relief to realize that formatting thing, as I had been getting a tad worried that it felt like I had most of the story down, but I was still only halfway through the page count (or so I thought). What an earth else should I write about? The story was all there?!

So phew! I’m done. But what to do in future? With all the formatting issues skewing the page count, I have decided to start tracking words instead. As per my research, a cozy mystery is typically about 50.000- 70.000 words long. If I still want to keep my 5-week goal for first draft, that means writing about 13.000 words per week. That’s clear. But I’ve actually been writing about 25.000 words per week.

My goodness. Do you see what this means?! I am actually good at this! Correction: I’m actually fast, it still remains to see if I’m any good.

Me! Me! Read about me!

What has also helped me is to keep writing about writing in this blog. And tweeting my words per day progress on my twitter page. With having to come clean every day, or at least once a week, I realized I didn’t want to admit having been a lazy bug to all you lovely people, now did I?

twitter photoThere were days when the only reason keeping my ass in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard was to have something to tweet about. So I will definitely continue doing that with my future books, even if I annoy the hell out of all of my 300 twitter followers. Sorry about that. But a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do.

Oooh shiny!

What didn’t help with my immediate progress was finding Scrivener, a shiny new tool designed actually to help get the words down. I mean it’s not new new, it’s been around for some years, but I never knew about it until I saw a tweet about it earlier this week. When I started writing my book, I just opened a new Mac Pages document and started writing. What’s that word for someone who is behind their times, and out of touch with all the cool kids and their fancy new gadgets? Neophyte? Luddite? That’s me.

It was getting rather unwieldy as I went on and the page number went up, scrolling back and forth, trying to find a particular passage to check some detail or another. With Scrivener, you can write each scene or idea on its own little snippet of space, and organize them afterward. There are key words you can add, synopses you can write for each snippet, and different views on how to look at the material. It’s super helpful for when you realize you started your book far too early in the story and need to restructure your entire first Act. Like I did earlier this week.

This method actually works nicely with my post-it method: I already think in scenes, rather than in full narrative when I’m hashing out a story. Now I can do it in my nifty new program.

The downside to this lovely revelation was that instead of writing, I spent about two days transferring what I had already written into Scrivener and playing around with the different views. Oh I can see word counts here! Oooh, I can search with the keywords to see only the snippets for this particular character there. Cool!

Yeah, don’t do that.

In the long run of course Scrivener will be very useful. And with ‘long run’ I mean as of tomorrow when I start editing my first draft. But do not change your tool / word editing program / method halfway through your first draft. Stick with it and get the first draft written on napkins if that feels right, and deal with the tool/method change when you start editing, or when you’re between books.

Or, you know, be smart and research what options you have and pick one. And write. And don’t stop until your first draft is done. Good luck!


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