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A history of words

For 1107 days, producing an average of 145 words per day, it looks like this if you make a graph.


The graph shows one bar for each work shift, placed at the date when the work shift took place. The length of each bar corresponds to the total number of words in the book, at that date.

We see from the graph that there are periods of productivity, and periods where the pace is slower.

Referring to the labels in the graph, here are some milestones

  • A – March 2012. This was the start, however not from zero. My input data was 57875 words produced during NaNoWrimo 2011.
  • B – Summer 2012. Vacation time from day job, and deciding to do some work. This blog was rather new, and I wrote about giving it a try, and about the theme of the book.
  • C – Summer 2013. The next summer, and I am not done. Time to speed up. I read From where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler, and it was a game-changer. I wrote this post about Hypnopompia, and I became a little bit more convinced that I would make it to the end. We see that the productivity goes up (more words per day, and less days between each work shift). Looking forward, we see that this will happen also the next summer.
  • D – January 2014. Added this is a work of fiction, and a publishing note referring to the year 2014 (it was later changed to 2015). Started using Scrivener for the writing (before this date, I used Emacs with org mode).
  • E – February 2015. Decided to use Bookbaby (I purchased e-book production and Cover design), and aiming for the release. Starting the final edit, together with my first reader (who, like for Jan Guillou, happens to be my wife). Here I used docx-format for the book, since that was the format to be used for the submission, and Kindle Notes for the editing markings. We saved some rainforest and did it using phones, tablets, and computers. In total, there were over three thousand markings – small but significant changes! (In retrospect, this final editing was very well worth the effort).

Here are some conclusions

  • Every day without writing pushes your release date forward. Your book has a certain amount of words – even if you beforehand do not know how many – and every day you don’t write, the release day is postponed by one day. See this picture, which shows the number of words per day, and this picture, which shows the number of days¬†without¬†writing between working shifts – and you will see the effect more clearly.
  • Sometimes it helps to think that you are closer to the end than what you really are (a post published January 2013).
  • Books about writing can help – they did, surely, for me. But beware – count the number of blogs about blogging and the number of writers writing about writing, and select carefully which ones you want to spend time on.
  • Copyediting is painful but productive.
  • Selling and marketing needs their fair share of work. For me Joanna Penn has been a great source of inspiration. And of course, also here you need to Do the Work.

So, even if writing it was hard (well, at least it took time, but it was a lot of fun), I hope that reading it would be less cumbersome.

Perhaps I should give it a try

Perhaps it was due to inspiration from my wife, perhaps it was myself remembering my early attempts as a ten-year-old author wannabe, or perhaps it was procrastination towards writing academic papers.


In any case, I decided to give it a try. Fiction writing, that is. It was August 26, 2011, and I had seen the NaNoWriMo writing challenge on the web. It seemed very interesting, this NaNoWriMo stuff. You committed to write 50000 words in one month, and if you succeeded you could call yourself a winner.

I signed up, using the nickname dr_dynamic, and I was ready to go.

But where to start? How on earth could one write a novel? And in one month? This certainly seemed like a daunting task.

I decided I needed to practice. At the time had an account at 750 words, a very nice site where you make a promise to try to write 750 words of text each day. The site keeps track of your words count, and awards in the form of nice digital badges are given to you as you make progress. The more days in a row that you write your 750 words, the higher ranks you get.

So I used 750 words as a diary, and while writing my 750 words a day, I tried to sneak in some text snippets meant to be seen as “fiction”. I thought of these as possible building blocks, later on, in a novel of some kind.

Being an aspiring Kindle addict (reading books mostly on my phone – I do not own a real Kindle hardware yet) I had also purchased and downloaded some books, where I hoped I would find some hints. At this stage I had acquired a Kindle publishing guide, and also a a book on how ideas spread.

I was most inspired, however, by Steven Pressfield’s great little book Do the Work, a book which I read through directly, without zapping away to any of my other books.