Word count and free time

Nine weeks ago I finished planning and outlining my novel. I looked at the calendar and worked out that I had eight weeks of typing available. This is because I am house-husband to three lively boys, one at pre-school and two at school. This means that most of my free time is in the morning, before I have to pick-up the four year old from pre-school. And of course, I also have to keep the house ticking over – washing, tidying, cooking, cleaning etc. (Although if you’ve read my earlier post you’ll realise this has slipped a bit!)

Anyway, I had eight school weeks and one half-term to write my novel in. I set an arbitrary target of 2,000 words a day, which should have seen me to around 100,000 words by the end of the period. Now I’m at the end, and my manuscript so far is knocking on the door of 40,000 words. I’ve actually written all of the plot, and am now working back through and adding in description, character, colour and generally improving it. I don’t feel at all down about missing my target. This was an experiment – I’ve never done this before and had no idea how much I could get done. So I’m taking the positive approach, and I’m seeing it as 5,000 words a week. Looking after three children, even when they’re at school is more or less a full time job so I’m very chuffed.

I’ve also been reading a lot of discussions among authors around the pros and cons of using an outline. The anti brigade don’t like the idea of their characters being forced to act a certain way, while the pro lobby find that it makes things easier. I certainly find that it makes writing much easier, especially if you are prone to interruption or can only steal time here and there to write. With a solid outline, you can drop in and out and work on one bit at a time, knowing it will all come together. But I have been listening to the antis as well and trying to ensure that I don’t become too rigidly attached to my outline.

The next phase is a combination of polishing and making it longer. This will have to happen now during evenings and weekends as I’ll be planning a fun and educational programme of events to occupy the children over the holidays. Or, just trying to survive by taking them out to community farms and activity centres!


  1. Hi Susan!

    I commented in another post that I tend to write very short so I’m hopeful that I can flesh it out and also realistic that I’m aiming more into the 70-80,000 word bracket rather than a 200k door stop!


  2. I think that’s pretty impressive for 8 weeks. Congratulations! The outline/no outline dilemma is difficult. I find it hard to pick up my writing in snatches of time, so some kind of outline is necessary, but I also like those moments when you’re writing a scene and your character says or does something you had no idea about. I think, really, getting words on the page is just plain hard, so whatever works for you is what you should do. Good luck with the editing 🙂

  3. Hi Tash

    I know it sounds weird but when I add things in or the characters do things that are extra, then I just see it in terms of the outline. It probably works because my definition of an outline is fairly loose. IMHO there have to be a number of disasters or set-backs building up through the book before you reach a big conclusion. So if one of my characters goes “off piste” then I make sure it’s a disaster and fits in the right place in the plot!


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