Thursday, April 16, 2009

You can write how much????

Roughly 1080 words in one hour, or 540 words in 30 minutes, or 18 words a minute.

That is nothing compared with what secretaries/receptionists can type in a minute. Ten years ago, I worked for a company where this woman easily typed 90 words a minute . . . easily . . . with her eyes closed.

Why am I talking about this subject? Because this past Saturday, I challenged myself to see how much I could write in one hour. No, I did not say “type.” I said “write.” There is a difference when working at an established routine like the coworker where she handled contracts and statements for several years and knew the lingo down pat. It is a big difference when you are creating a story right from your imagination with no idea where the plot is going to take you or what crazy things your characters will say and do.

1080 words in one hour.

So often I hear people comment about how many words they can type. Sometimes they will berate themselves for how little they accomplished in one day. Or other times they will feel proud over how much they got accomplished with their storylines.

I could not care either way when it involves my own stories. I write what I write at the speed necessary to get the story out of my head and onto the word processor page.

On Wednesday, I edited/revised chapters. So I didn’t add anything new to continue with the main plot - 0 words.

Thursday, I wrote 520 words while finishing more editing and revisions to the chapters.

Friday, I wrote 700 while working on my query letter.

Saturday, I wrote 700 words in about two hours before my 1-hour writing challenge.

During the challenge, I wrote 1080 words.

I am proud of myself for the entire week. Even if I just read over my writing, I am proud because I took the time to put my thoughts on paper. I am proud at this very moment in taking a break from my manuscript to make this blog post.

The point I want to make is this: don’t worry about how many words, or few of them, you can write. Feel proud in taking the steps to create something entertaining either for yourself, your friends, your family, your work, or your career as a writer.

Being able to “write” 18 words in one minute will always be a bigger number, and a much bigger accomplishment, in my mind compared to “typing” 90 words in a minute.
I know what you are thinking. I know you want to see the part I wrote in all its naked, unedited splendor so you can say, “What the crap is this? This isn’t anything. This is a bad hack job that she is trying to pass off as a writing challenge.”

Ouch! Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that the part needs major help: incomplete sentences, passive voice, shpellin’ errors, and et cetera. But I said this was a WRITING CHALLENGE, not an EDITING/REVISING CHALLENGE. So you are getting the sneak peek at the rough, extremely rough, draft with NO EDITING DONE WHATSOEVER. So be gentle with the criticism.

*Note: this isn’t at the beginning of the chapter. Middleish -is that a word, well it is now*
“MITER.” I walked around the entire trailer, calling out the bloodhound’s name and listening for any barking. Checked out the ground as I walked, maybe hoping to see something in the dirt. Maybe a few paw prints I could follow. Yet the ground was dry. We had not a speck of rain at the latter end of August and September. Doubted we would see any dark clouds around these parts until near the beginning of November. Did notice a large dog print in the ground. Dried solid like a clay casting of it.

I started through the field toward the edge of the woods. I stayed outside of them, only peeking through the bushes. Grimaced when I saw nothing. An awful suspicion came into my mind. Had the feeling someone took my dog. Had the feeling someone did it to get back at me for something. My body hurried toward the trailer and then walked the few feet to scout around Tony’s property, the bad feelings rising the more I found no sign of Miter. I stared at the dirt path leading to Hanna Mill Road.


No, even that cowardly asshole would not have balls to take my dog even if both his legs worked fine. And he had angered enough people around town with his lame real estate ventures to not have anyone volunteer to pull such a prank on me. He would not pay anyone to do it either.

Someone else had a hold of my mind. Someone lived nearby. They could have done it. The older boys. They worked together to take my dog. Slipped in and out the window, passing the confused bloodhound through into each other’s arms. Then they hightailed it to the truck parked by the main road and drove off although they were still both a year off in getting a driver’s license. I would have never noticed since no wheels would have churned the gravel in the driveway. Miter’s howl was my warning. His disturbed baying had told me that what happened was not right.

I grunted and entered my trailer. Went straight away to Marty’s room and got his baseball bat from the hooks mounted on the wall. Needed something with me when I strolled down the road. I did not own a gun. Had too long of a police record and too mistrustful of a sheriff itching to place me back in a cell for me to own such a weapon. Also, I did not approve of having one with a kid around. Boys were always eager to show off to their friends the things they were forbidden to hold or use. Marty would be such a daring kid to do such a thing.
I made my hike down the road, taking the same path like last night when wanting to kill myself on the train tracks. Just like last night, I would not need to go so far, as I passed by the old fort without even looking at it and entered the brush toward Cotter’s field. I walked straight through, watching the cattle scatter as I navigated around the dark cow pies and neared the house. Both dogs trotted out the barn, took one look at me, and started barking madly. The man came out, never knew what his first name was and never asked whenever I snuck into his henhouse at night for a chicken dinner. Some things a thief never cared about.

“Aye, help y'all with something? Um,” Cotter’s thoughts stumbled on themselves trying to think of my name last. Knew me enough to recognize my face and knew I lived near enough where he did not feel uncomfortable with seeing me on his property. Knew my situation enough where he never called the police to worry about one missing chicken from his coop every couple of months.

“Baxter,” I said with a shrug. I would take the situation lightly, friendly, like two honest men having a conversation before they conducted their business. I would ease into it and bring up the subject offhandedly. “Where’s my dog?”

“Dog?” Cotter took out his plaid handkerchief and rubbed at the sweat on his neck. “Only dogs 'round here them two sheperds right there. Petey! Zeus! Quiet. In the barn.”

Both dogs released low growls before slinking toward the barn at the command. They laid at the entrance and placed heads on their forelegs, their eyes constantly watching me.

I lowered the bat and leaned against it. “Miter. Bloodhound. He’s gone missing. Was in my trailer, sleeping on the bed. Heard a strange noise and he was gone. Doors were locked but the window was open. Too old of a dog for him to jump out. Bad legs.” My hand pointed at his hen house. “We both know about things between us when involving your roasters, yeah?”

The tone in Cotter’s voice turned a bit cooler. “Yea, I know about y'all. Have that sick boy in the hospital. Wife ran off. Makes due with what’s y'all get in the quarry. Sheriff Becken's always heckling me to file a report on y'all for the hens. Never done it. Saw no need to do it, not with all y'all do for the kids and the owners down at the fort. Seen the carvings y'all do for free. Even trade for a lost hen now and then. Think I took y'all dog?”

“I don’t think you did it. But maybe one of your boys? As a prank, or to get even? Don’t want to accuse you. I really don’t. But no one else is around and it happened too fast.” I felt stupid for carrying the bat. Always thinking people want to start a fight and I had to get in my licks first. I needed to stop the brawling. I took in a deep breath, feeling the moisture wanting to streak down my face and holding it in with all my strength. Cotter took me off balance. I was not expecting such kind words from him. “Bloodhound is all I got now.”

Cotter nodded his head. He turned around and shouted at the house. “GREG. GEORGE.”

We could hear the running footsteps inside, as both of the man’s sons came out and jogged toward us. When they caught a look at me, both boys turned meek. They held hands behind their backs. Their eyes gazed at scuffing feet against the dirt.

Cotter caught their expressions and glowered.
That’s as far as I’s got for the challenge. Sorry, people. Can’t tell y'all, um, you if any brawlin’ happens. Can’t tell you if the sheriff gets called out. Can’t tell you, er, y'all, about what’s happened to old Miter or if Baxter(Graham) ends up beating someone down with the bat.


  1. At first, the stilted sentences raised my hackles. I've read other writing examples from you, and it just felt out of place. But as I got further into the story, I felt the voice you were laying down, and then it made perfect sense. So if this is the unedited beginning, its really good stuff. As for typing vs writing, I can do both fairly fast. But I'm with you in that it doesn't matter how fast I type (which ironically can go as fast as 120 wpm sometimes), if my writing isn't any good, whats the point? Anyway, good stuff here.

  2. Not a bad hour's work, Michelle. I agree with you (and Eric) in that as long as the quality is good, what's the damn hurry?

  3. Eric: You are correct, Sir! This is the freshest, unedited version that you will ever see me post. I throw grammar completely out of the equation. Instead, I concentrate mainly on establishing the character’s voice. Imagine - I’m sitting there with my eyeglasses at the end of my nose as I listen to the character at the other end of the phone and write down everything he says verbatim. Then, later, I will go back over my notes and make corrections. Here is what the first paragraphs would look like during the second draft:

    “MITER.” Graham walked around the entire trailer, calling out the bloodhound’s name and listening for any barking. He checked out the ground, hoping to spot a few paw prints in the dirt. Unfortunately, the area had not a speck of rain at the latter end of August. Fresh prints would never mar such dry earth in any type of dog trail he could follow. The old ones he did notice had turned into a clay casting offering little clues.

    Graham hiked toward the nearby woods without going past the edge of trees. Rural country meant rural hunting all year round despite the county laws forbidding it. His face grimaced. An awful suspicion teased at his mind. He wondered if someone had taken his dog, maybe as a prank to get even for something. His body hurried back toward the trailers as he scouted around Tony’s property. The bad feelings stayed with Graham the more he found no signs of Miter. His eyes stared at the dirt path leading to Hanna Mill Road.

    Chris: I don't know why the hurry. Maybe it is the awful procrastination bug that rears its ugly head on occasion. We feel we need to write as much as we can as fast as we can so we can say we did something today.

    I will admit this. I do plan on finishing this manuscript quicker than the rest, maybe in 2 months(or less). I'm not rushing myself. I am just enjoying this story so much that I am eager to see how it ends.

  4. Wow, now the edited version does flow nicely, but it lacks the voice (or at least doesn't have as much vocal impact) as the first draft. Thats not to say its better or worse, but I can definitely tell the distinct change. Nice writing all around though.

  5. neat, michelle... yeah, get it all out then let it lie for a while before going back to hone/edit

    agreed on the typing/writing... i know a woman who types 160 wpm, but writes at around 20 :)

  6. Apropos of nothing... How 'bout them PENS? ;-)

  7. I don't even let MY WIFE see anything I don't consider a finished product, so you have more guts than I do, Michelle!

  8. 1080 words?! In one hour?! I can barely get in half of that in twice the time! Thats really great, good for you, Michelle!

  9. Never count words. Just write until the words stop. Works for me and mine.

  10. Eric: The voice got toned down while working on grammar. I did it really fast so I could make a comment about it. When I go back in and really change it, I hope to combine both. I usually don't hack that much out. Also, I changed the narrative, so this also effects things.

    laughingwolf: It's quite a distinct thing and I believe non-writers don't understand the difference between typing something and writing a story. That's where I believe people get negative over writers - that they must not be doing much if they are not typing nonstop.

    Buck: HOLY CRAP! I listened to the game on Wednesday. Absolutely unbelievable! We smoked the Flyers, tossed them down, and stomped on their necks at the hockey play. Then the Flyers get all frustrated and try beating up on the Pens. Freaking goons!

    Flyer's Daniel Carcillo got suspended for game two because of the cheap shot punch to the back of Pen's Max Talbot. Serves him(the Flyers) right!

    Suldog: I don't mind revealing a smidgen, although I won't do it every day.

    Oren: Just a writing challenge. Ordinarily, I never push myself like this. It makes my brain go all fuzzy and lightheaded while smoke comes pouring out my ears. You are wise beyone words about not counting words.

    Angie: HOT KEYS!

  11. I'm in no position to comment on the writing itself, but, Michelle, don't leave me hanging!

    I want to know if them boys get a good beating.

  12. Buckskins: OOOOO! Those farm gangstas! They didn't swipe the dog. But they did get even at Graham for taking the hens by messing with the steering and the brakes on his truck!

    Regular kiddie mobsters!

    Graham didn't beat them with the bat. And I don't really believe in corporeal punishment (although my parents did). All I know is Cotter took the one boy to the tool shed while pulling his belt out his pants. I hightailed it outta there!

  13. exactly, michelle... i know i'm 'writing' just sitting, looking out the window, no one believes me....

  14. laughingwolf: Well, I believe you. :)

  15. I am proud of you too! WRite write write YAYYY!!

  16. Kat: I'm writing so much that I feel like sending out queries for it, and I'm only up to chapter 10!


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