Adding it up

As I mentioned earlier this morning, for all of 2020 I wrote a fifteen minute writing prompt each week day. I am personally, very proud of myself and I intend to do the same thing in 2021.

I know I have talked (often at length) about why I like writing prompts, but some of you may be thinking that writing one every day is a bit excessive. Perhaps it is, but there are reasons I chose to do so.

First, I like writing prompts. They wake up my brain and shift my thoughts so they are in writing mode, regardless of where I started the day.

Second, it made certain that I wrote every day. Even if I ended up writing only those fifteen minutes a day, I wrote those fifteen minutes. Sometimes I came up with utter nonsense, but I did write for those fifteen minutes. It didn’t matter if I felt like writing or not, I did it. And by doing so, I created a habit. Whatever else I did in a day, I had to sit down and write. Period. The habit is now stamped into me.

Third, the writing prompts cleared my brain of whatever fluff was decorating the insides. sometimes it was a character that was half formed or a story idea that had no home. It got them out of my head, recorded on the page for use later and thus purged from the brain pan, let me get on with whatever I had actually scheduled to work on that day without worrying that I might lose some brilliant idea that I might want to come back to later.

This spills into the fourth thing I got out of this and that was a boat load of story ideas and starts. While some of my writing prompts netted nothing of value, some of the ideas are things I will be going back to later and fleshing out into full blown stories. Because of the year of writing prompts, I have an entire line up of potential story ideas. Or even scenes I could use to work on existing stories.

And the fifth benefit is that it stretched my brain out of it’s familiar patterns. Some of the sentence starters were dialogue and lent themselves to practicing dialogue, some were starters that led me to stories I never would have found on my own. Just look at this week. I ended up writing a blurb that could slide into a steampunk story, another that could easily go western and then I wrapped up the year with demons. The sentence starters let me simply take the sentence and run, often times on tracks my brain wouldn’t naturally go.

Because it was ultimately writing that didn’t matter. I could throw it away if I didn’t want to keep it. It wasn’t part of something, it wasn’t going towards a deadline. It was just practice and I could take it anywhere I wanted, some times to places I never expected. Trust me Westerns, whether reading writing or even watching movies, are really not my thing, so the fact that I have a westered story idea sort of boggles my mind.

Each week day morning I started my day writing on one of my fifteen minute writing prompts. While these prompts were posted, first on my old website and then here, I also copied them down in one file. Not only did it keep my writing sort of organized and prevented me from having a lot of individual files to keep track of, it let me add up the writing.

As you can see from the posts, fifteen minutes does not always net me the longest piece of prose in the world. In general, I get between 500 and 700 words per fifteen minute writing prompt. The variation is because sometimes my brain is slow to kick into gear and other mornings the sentence starter just kicks something into high gear and my fingers blaze away across the keyboard.

I was curious as to what fifteen minutes five days a week for an entire year would end up looking like. And while I could use basic math to get a range of expected numbers. It is entirely different to look at the bottom of a document and see the word count for yourself.

Do you know what I ended up with? A word count of 148, 404. Now, that does include the last two days of December 2019 as 2020 started on a Wednesday. If I took those two out it would knock the total at best down to around 147,000 words.

To put it into perspective, most of my novels are around 100,000 words. I think my longest one is around 160,000, but in general I hit around the 100 k mark.

Which means that writing fifteen minutes a day for five days a week for one year netted me as many words, if not more, than a novel.

I hear some of you scoffing as I used a different prompt each day so it isn’t one continuous piece of writing. You are right, of course. Writing a different fifteen minute storyline every day is different from working on a full blown novel.

So this year I am going to do both.

I will be doing my daily writing prompts, each with a different sentence starter for the day. I will also be picking one of my previous writing exercises and writing on it for fifteen minutes everyday. My plan is to use the last sentence from each day’s prompt to start the following day. I’m sure at some point I will have to do some planning, and I’m sure at the end there will need to be a massive amount of editing. But I will still do fifteen minutes on the same story all year.

As I write I’m sure ideas will occur to me that I will need to incorporate in different points to make the story work out in the end. I’m sure some days the fifteen minutes will be so bad they need to be removed entirely from the manuscript at the end. So I’ll run a notes file along side my fifteen minute novel.

But that is the editing process maybe even a combination of editing and research as I’m sure there will be things I need to look up in greater detail for a final draft. But this is not something I will be doing during the timed writing. I will take notes so I know where I do need to go back and add or take away at other times throughout the day, but the plan is to write without a net. To see how the story develops in fifteen minute chunks. It could be an utter catastrophe or it could end up netting me an extremely rough draft of a novel by this time next year. It could even be something in between.

I honestly have no idea.

But I think it will be fun to find out.

It will be my 2021 experiment. Feel free to join me.

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