Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Page Games

Over the years as I’ve written books, I’ve tried various ways to parcel out my daily writing. It’s only in writing this current book—my fifteenth—that I think I’ve hit on my favorite.

And let me say--in hitting that daily count, man, have I played games.

For the first few years I typed in single space and had a daily word count. The single space made for less scrolling. As I plugged away, I’d constantly have to highlight the words I’d written that day and run Word Count. Oh, the joy when I hit 2000!

No real way to cheat here. But that was to come.

Next try—double-spaced page count. I thought, “This is silly, always having to highlight and do that word count thing.” So I looked at my past few manuscripts, saw how many pages they were, and figured my current wip would be about the same. Took those pages and divided them up into the working days I had, and voila—the daily page count.

All this time I always had Word’s orphan and widow control on. Now these were real helpful when it came to page count. Because if you figured the paragraphs just right, one line on a page could actually count for three, since it shoved those lines onto the next page. Heh-heh. Plus at the beginning of chapters, my habit was to space to line three for the Chapter Number, then space to line six to begin the chapter. More cheating.

Then I got hard on myself. I turned off widow and orphan control. Now one line meant one line, so when it came time to edit, deleting one line didn’t roll three lines to the previous page, making me lose a bunch of pages. I also started typing the Chapter Number on line one, and the first sentence of the chapter on line three. Wow. No more line cheating. However, this did reduce the final page count on my manuscripts to about 330. (After the rewrite, which typically shaves 15-20 double-spaced pages as I'd tighten the writing.)

On this current book I tried something different. Back to single-spaced lines—but still counting pages.

I had to do a little figuring on this, using the last 330-page manuscript. When I single-spaced it, the thing came out to 190 pages. (You don't get an actual half, because not all of those double-spaced pages were completely full.) I divided the 190 up—and a new voila. Number of single-spaced pages I must write in a day. These pages still have orphan/widow control turned off and start the chapter at the very top of the page. In short, they're the most crammed pages I can get, still using the adequate left and right margins. (That's one thing I won't mess with--editors like those margins.)

I like this format a lot. It’s not any less to write, of course, but it makes it seem less to me, dealing in smaller numbers. And it is way less scrolling when you single space. Even less if you get rid of the spaces between pages. (Put your cursor between two pages. Two little arrows and a “Hide White Space” will pop up. Click the cursor once, and the space disappears.)

I have one of those way cool 20-inch Gateway monitors that rotates 90 degrees to give you a long screen. With my new page format and this monitor, plus hiding the space between pages, I can see over a page and a half on the screen. That’s time-saving.

But there's still a game to play, oh yeah. If I can just s t r e t c h that chapter out enough to go, say seven lines to the next page--voila! The fastest page written ever.


Kristy Dykes said...

Love this author trivia--details about the writing life. Thanks.

Christina Berry said...

Funny how head games make writing easier! I keep a running total of the word count in a journal and do the subtraction in my head because I love math. "Ah," I think, "only 400 words to go."

I know Roxanne Henke also writes by pages, but I'd cheat and have very short conversations for pages at a time. ;-)

CHickey said...

Thanks for the "cheating" tips!

Lynette Eason said...

Ok, now that you brought up the whole writing thing, word count, page count, etc., exactly how do you decide to put on those pages?

And if you've already answered this in a previous post, just point me in that direction. How do you plot your novels. Do you start with a character sketch, an idea? Or, when you have that blank page in front of you, do you just start writing? Do you use Randy's snowflake? (I seem to remember that from somewhere.) And how do you make sure you've got all your plot holes plugged?

I know every writer has his or her own style of writing a novel, just wondered what yours was.

Just curious,


~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Howdy, Lynette.

You can always check the sidebar for links to posts about the craft and industry. In this case, follow the links to "plotting" and "plotting twists."

Cara Putman said...

I have to laugh! I play the same kind of games. Mine is I create an excel spreadsheet where I keep track of chapter, chapter POV, date, one sentence summary and then the magic word count. I am COMPULSIVE when I'm writing about plugging in the word count. But the real trick is the final column which keeps a running word count. This way I can see how much I've written that day. I like to hit 2000 words on the intense days. So this way I can watch that number tick up. Now if I could just figure out how to have it automatically do that from word :-)

Valerie Fentress said...

Missed you at Mount Hermon!
Hope our ankle is healing fast :)

Easter Blessings,