So Scalzi has an interesting statistic on his blog, about how many words he's written this year. Now remember that he's a professional writer and this is his full-time job, but 650,000 words is still quite a lot. Since I know that LIT SOUP has tons of aspiring writers that lurk, my question to you guys is: can you do that? Is it better to be more productive in terms of increased wordage, or is it better to write less words, but have them count more?
Let me show you an example in my case:
This year, two of the things that I've written outside this blog have been difficult for me to do. One is a story involving the Holocaust, which is titled "Angels Are Always On Time" (note to any WoTF judges; you don't know that I'm the one who wrote that, really, you don't =) The story is 5600 words long, but it took me a good two weeks to get the first 1500 words of it written; I would sit there at the computer and just struggle because the subject matter was so difficult for me to write about. Every one of those first 1500 words was fought for so hard, and then suddenly something clicked. Part of it was because I was working under a deadline to get the story done (October 1st, for all those that care, this being my entry into the Codex Writers Annual Halloween Contest), and part of it was that things just started to flow again. It wasn't writer's block, per se, but as soon as I got to a certain part of the story, it just started working. I wrote the last 4100 words of it in two days, and delighted in constantly giving Chris (playing video games at the time) cheerful updates about the plot, such as "They've arrived at Birkenau now!" To which, Chris replied, "That's nice, dear", and went back to killing random things.
The second thing is the current anime column that I'm writing for IGMS. The people who run the online magazine are incredibly kind and patient with me, despite the fact that my columns are never quite turned in on time. They may fire me, at some point, for being so late with my columns, but in the meantime I'm going to keep writing this one for them. What's so difficult about writing an anime column, you ask?
Simply the fact that the anime I'm reviewing is "Ima Soko ni Iru Boku" ("Now and Then, Here and There" in English); I adore this anime. It's depressing and violent and says such poignant things about the human condition. But the real problem is that I need to convince people that they should love it as much as I do, which is made especially difficult by the fact that it involves children being tortured. How do you convince someone that torture is good or bad, without going insanely political? How do you explain that the torture is a necessary part of the series, and without it, the resolution at the end wouldn't have been as good? How do you rationalize the abuse of children, which is at times painful to watch?
Those are hard things to do in writing. I have started and deleted this column for nigh on forever. In its current iteration, it's got 790 words, which I've fought for every single one of them. I've gone sentences at a time, paragraphs at a time. Never writing more than I could because the words just wouldn't come (note also, this was complicated by my being sick). I need at least another 500 or so to finish the column up, which I'm hoping to do tonight. And then it will be turned in, and hopefully published, if I've done my job well enough. But even though it's just a simple anime review column, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to write in my life. Hell, I could have churned out a twenty-page term paper on espionage literature (which I did in college), faster than I've written this.
Although my word count for both the short story and the column are relatively low, I still think that my words count every bit as much as Scalzi's. I don't know whether I'll ever be able to write as fast or productively as he does, but I know that once I'm done writing something, I am finally happy with it. And that's a hard thing for me to achieve.