Word Count

I’ve received this query before so thought it makes a good topic. What is my word count? Do I strive for a daily figure?

A spinoff from that is to ask whether there’s a wrong or right way to do this thing called writing. Most courses and advice books will tell the writer to write ‘every day’. I believe this instruction is erroneous. Truth is, most writers work more than anybody. Many have day jobs, family, friends, need to do the washing, get food in, and clean the house same as everybody, but they write and see to those necessities that. Once you’re a writer, and once you’re serious, there’s no such thing as having ‘spare’ time.

I think writers need to make time. I’ve promised myself to be productive, but also to take time off…a subject on which I could fill another blog as I live in the vain hope of doing so. The point I’m making is that writers get sick, they get beyond tired, and can get exhausted. They get tired, annoyed, frustrated. Everyone gets time off — why not the writer?

Mostly because it’s difficult to stop our brains from ticking along. We can take a holiday and get ideas every day we’re away. Fine. Jot them down, just try not to begin the project. What these courses should say, and often mean, is that a writer needs to write regularly. For many writers this means a daily word count.

What that word count should be varies. I’ve known writers for whom 500 words feels like a huge number. Many settle for 1000, but for me 1000-1500 words feels as if I’ve barely got started. Stories often come as if I’m reading, the only difference is that the ‘book’ I’m reading from is inside my head. I need to ‘fall into’ the story the same way I do when I’m reading, forget time, block out everything around me. I often write from A – Z, page one to infinity.

At around 2000 words, I feel as I’ve put in a good day’s work. I aim for 2000 words a day, five times a week. Many have told me that’s a huge amount, but let me add that I’m a fast touch-typist. If the story flows (a big IF), it’s surprising how fast I can put 2000 words on the page. An average document in an office can be longer than that, and it wouldn’t take a professional typist long to transfer. If I have the time and the story is streaming, I have written more.

The most I’ve ever written in a day was around 10,000 words. I was on holiday, and I woke up one morning with a story fully formed in my head. I spent 8 hours typing, scurrying to grab drinks and a sandwich and taking bathroom breaks only when necessary, but I don’t recommend it, found it exhausting, mentally, emotionally, and worse of all, physically. Not a good idea to spend those hours sitting in a chair. Still, I have managed 4000-4500 words on a sunny afternoon feeling nothing other than accomplished. That makes up for the days when I’m unable to write.

It happens to most every writer. There are days I can stare at a blank page on the screen, and I’ll be lucky to write a sentence. James Joyce apparently once said if he wrote a couple of sentences in a day, it was a good day. So I may say I’m aiming for 2000 words a day, five times in a week, but if I get a day where nothing comes I seldom try to catch up. Sometimes I catch up naturally — a day of high-productivity can follow a torturous one — but I never push for it, because it feels too much like forcing the story. That’s not the same thing as trying to force oneself through a block. Sometimes the write must insist on sitting in that seat with fingers on the keyboard and lump it. That is often the contrast between a wannabe writer and one who has any hope of making a career of their writing.

Women in Horror Month

It’s time to celebrate the 10th year of Women in Horror Month. Many may not have heard of it. Others may question why it’s necessary. Women writing horror are often under appreciated. Alas, it remains a fact some women and men writing certain genres are more likely to be passed over. Men have often written under female pseudonyms because of the perception men could not write good quality fiction in genres such as romance. In the world of horror the same mistaken impression often applies to women. I’ve heard the most common accusation being that women ‘hold back’ when writing anything bleak or nasty, a claim I refute. It’s a perception error that means many excellent authors risk being overlooked.

To those who’ve read my softer titles my interest in horror may come as a surprise. My appreciation began with the first horror book I found hidden away on my parents’ bookcase — books shoved together in no particular order, which to a booklover is next to sacrilege, but its odd, all black cover drew my attention. Had it not I may never have come across Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT. The black cover revealed an embossed face with a single spot of red: the tongue. I’ve never seen this edition since.

I was of an age where I wasn’t supposed to read such a book so I squirrelled it away, read it under the covers, took it to school where no one ever asked what I was reading. Next I discovered James Herbert’s THE RATS trilogy and did nothing to hide my choice. In my teens I was reading Mills & Boon’s (because it’s what all the other girls read) along with John Steinbeck, Stephen King, and James Herbert. I’ve never looked back. My interest has wavered somewhat — I remember a period where I favoured fantasy — and I admit my reading activities have always been eclectic so my choices remain diverse, but the writing I love the most always seems to carry a dark thread. Though I’ve yet to finish writing my first horror novel, most of my short story work carries this darkness. As to why horror appeals to so many I’ve my own theories I may address sometime but not today in this blog. Today I want to raise a toast to all the women who work and promote in the horror field. Join us. Buy a book by a female horror writer this month.

Starry, Starry Night

Dealing with some life issues, busy working, and in the editing cave at the moment, so for your viewing and listening pleasure…




There has been much speculation and factual evidence documented concerning Van Gogh’s reported madness, including, but not limited to temporal lobe epilepsy, bipolar, sunstroke, hypergraphia, and lead poisoning. He wasn’t mad in the true sense of the word, but simply ill. I’ve also heard the suggestion that he may have suffered from some type of synesthesia. Vincent may have seen the world in bright colours leading to sensory overload. It’s painful to think that one man’s suffering led to such beauty, and essentially created the much-loved artist’s work we know today. The words of this song are a fitting tribute, and a beautiful melody. A friend of mine loves Vincent’s sunflowers, but my favourites are Cafe Terrace at Night, and The Starry Night.

Let it Snow…or not

A blanket of snow covered much of the UK last week. I love/hate snow though I dare say the same applies to many of us and the fun is over when it turns to ice. I remember visiting Canada and when they talked about the temperatures and conditions they face I felt embarrassed by how we struggle in the UK.

A friend of mine can be snowed in by a mere four or six inches. She lives at the top of a huge hill and no way can cars get in and out of those streets when they’re iced; she and many of her neighbours park at the base of the hill and walk up during winter. Bad planning on the part of the property developer. At times she’s walked out of her estate to take a bus… if buses are running. She’s been so cut off she’s trudged into town, hoping there are enough supplies, and carted food home on a sled. Every winter there’s often a shortage of bread or milk because of people stocking up. In some years this has left not enough for everyone. Some years shops have considered rationing, and I’ve never forgotten the year friends close to London tried to visit one of the large supermarkets only to discover it was closing the doors. They tried another and got told the same: closing early owing to staff shortages.

Fortunately, this year we’ve not had it so bad. Last year was worse. There’s a reason people and services are often caught out in the UK. We’ve gone from winters where many of us recall walking to school and disappearing into snow drifts up to our thighs (my husband used to tramp across deep fields of snow only to be told to turn around and go home; a health and safety nightmare nowadays), to winters that have for many years been mild. We’ve had several years without snow so local authorities got rid of the snow ploughs. Everyone has had to reinvest, including ourselves. We’ve bought good snowboots — the kind we can walk across a skating rink on and not slip. I make sure my husband has his in the car when he’s going to work as well as thermal gloves, hat, and scarf. I‘ve even made him wear a pair of my earmuffs when the weather’s terrible (though I gave him the plain ones, not the fluffy animal print ones I have).

Of course, it used to be we cleared our own drives, paths, and pavement out front. We didn’t just expect local authorities to do it. I can definitely remember my grandfather, shovel in hand, so why is it that street upon street these days there’s so much snow left untouched? There’s a good reason for it in the UK. Apparently, people are afraid to touch the snow on the pavement because if you clear it and someone slips they can sue you — a state of madness heavily discussed. The rules here aren’t entirely clear as this old article on the BBC clarifies: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8443745.stm

Apparently, if someone slips on pavement you’ve cleared there’s as much of a slim chance you may be sued as there is if you don‘t clear your personal land — so drives and paths are the homeowner’s responsibility, but not the pavement. It’s difficult to decide the best answer — if the law stated we must clear the snow, this would cause hardship for those who cannot do so. And let’s me truthful — the days when people offer to do the ‘neighbourly’ thing for those who need help can be rarer than the snow.