Status Check on Current Project

I’ve gotten a number of friendly solicitous questions about my current writing project and schedule, so I thought I’d answer a couple of those.

1. As for what the project is, I’m keeping it close to the vest at the moment. It’s not a huge secret — I’m not reinventing literature as we know it — but it’s something I think is best revealed when it’s done and ready than while in process. Guessing in the comments will not avail you, since I will neither confirm nor deny your stabs in the dark. You’ll know when I’m ready to tell you.

2. I’ve noted that I’m writing to a quota each day, and some of you are wondering what the quota is. It is: 2,000 words, or six hours daily, whichever comes first. The weekly goal is 10,000 words, which is (if you do the math) five 2,000 word days. Generally speaking I hit the 2,000 word goal well before the six hours is up, which is not terribly surprising to me since I am typically a quick writer and have, when pressed, banged out 10,000 words in a single day (my record, I think, is 14,000). So 2,000 is a good daily goal for me because it’s a fair number of words, and yet at the same time it doesn’t leave my brain feeling entirely worn out when I’m done. This means I have some thinking ability left over for editing and plotting out future scenes.

Usually I write slightly more than 2,000 words daily, on account that stopping exactly at 2k words would leave me in a middle of a scene or whatever, and I might as well finish the scene or thought. Excepting the two days where I didn’t write at all (which I budgeted in because, hey, it’s nice to let your brain relax), the least amount I’ve written on a day is a shade over 1,000 words; the most just a shade under 4,000.

3. The reason I’m writing on a daily quota schedule is to see if I can and what effect it has on the writing. I’ve had a tendency with previous novels to write very little for several days and then bang out most of an entire six or seven thousand word chapter on a single day, which is a little like laying on your ass for four days and then running a 10k. It’s doable but you don’t necessarily feel great afterward. I wanted to find out if a more regular writing regimen was more congenial, both in how I feel at the end of each writing day and on the quality of the writing.

Since I’ve only been at this for a couple of weeks I’m not ready to come to any long-term conclusions about it one way or another. I will say that so far, writing this particular project has been a very pleasant experience — it’s nice to see the words click by at a more or less constant rate, and there hasn’t been a point where I’ve hit any major plot snags, which may be a consequence of the project, or may be a consequence of having enough brain left over after writing that I can work out plot snarls before I sit down for more writing. Again, too early to tell.

4. Without going into any detail about the project, I will say two things. One, I’m happy with the writing itself; I’ve enjoyed reading what I’m writing, and so has my reader, who is also my wife. Krissy is not the sort of person who just genially encourages me (she kept pounding on me until I got Zoe’s voice right, you may recall), so if she’s happy with the writing, I feel like I’m generally on the right track. Two, I’m having fun writing it, fun being a quality that is not always in abundance when writing, especially the closer one comes to a deadline. But one of the reasons I’m doing this particular project is that I thought it would be fun to do, and it is. For various reasons, this is a good thing.

So that’s what’s up with the current project.

44 Comments on “Status Check on Current Project”

  1. In numbered paragraph 3, “…and there has been a point where I’ve hit any major plot snags…”
    Should that perhaps be “there hasn’t been a point”? Or am I misunderstanding something?

  2. “not reinventing literature as we know it”…how disappointing.

    I was really looking forward to the Scalzi version of literature as you’ve never known it heretofore.

    Guess there’s still pictures of cats to anticipate…wait… maybe not so much with the pictures of cats, either.

  3. I knew you were ghost-writing Cheney’s memoirs. This just confirms it (especially your refusal to deny it – that’s as much proof as you can get with you people).

  4. nice little peek inside your writing strategies. I wish I loved my job/was good at my job even half as much.

  5. Why do people always jump to cats and bacon here… (no need to actually answer that)…

  6. Finally getting that Goatse double-penetration felch hentai novel published, eh?

  7. It’s really Savitri’s story, as she is actually the manifestation of an hyperintelligent being of Pure Energy(tm) and not just an efficient and sarcastic personal assistant.

  8. Given that the previous writer who claimed to write 2000 words a day (“3 hours in the morning, 1 in the afternoon”) was Ian Fleming, should we expect an announcement of a move by the Scalzis to Jamaica? Or, like Sebastian Faulks did, are you imposing the “Ian Fleming regime” to write the next James Bond novel?

    On the other hand, maybe I’m giving in to flights of fancy…

  9. AH HA!!! A CLUE!!!

    or even two

    1) it’s a novel. hence, it’s not the idiot’s guide to even more of the universe, or some such thing.

    2) It’s got a plot – hence it’s fiction.

    These great revelations tell us every…

    well, not much actually. CURSE YOU SCALZI!

  10. That’s it! He’s writing the Bond novels from the POV of the Bond Girls!

    First out: Pussy’s Tale

  11. I believe that I saw a program discussing Robert J. Sawyer and he mentioned that he wrote 2000 words a day (not sure if he took any days off) but he did not write until after 4 pm since that was when he was most creative. I suppose that puts you in good company…

  12. Robert J. Sawyer is wired strangely, then. My brain turns to tapioca in the late afternoon. Mornings are prime writing time, and evenings are okay in a pinch…but late afternoons? Those are for corn dog stupor, naps, or blowing away zombies by the battalion.

    (Don’t even get me started on that Toby Buckell character, writing in the middle of the freakin’ night. That’s just plain unnatural.)

  13. John found that hitting the 2000 words per day mark was very easy once he found the cut and paste function:

    “All work and no play makes John a dull boy. All work and no play makes John a dull boy. All work and no play makes John a dull boy. All work and no play makes John a dull boy. All work and no play makes John a dull boy. All work and no play makes John a dull boy….”

  14. Writing 2,000 words a day is easy.

    Writing 2,000 good words a day, now, that’s the mark of the true professional…

  15. Interesting. I always assumed you were a little more consistent than you are. Makes me feel better about my procrastinary ways.

    I’ve seen the method used the other way. Say, 2000 words or 4 hours, which ever comes second, so you writer for at least 4 hours per day – which is almost a half day of work. Sort of like one of those real job things…

  16. I am not a prolific writer. In fact it may be said that I am an anti-lific writer.

    And c’mon! Don’t I get even a rotten tomato thrown at me for my cat-bacon-Bond puns in 19?

  17. John, thanks for sharing a glimpse into your writer’s life. I was curious as to what your regimen was? That said, I love your writing style. You’re one of my favorite authors in the twenty-first century (er, it’s only been the twenty-first for going on a decade now, but you get my drift). I love breezing through through your books, trudging back through them with my advanced high school writing classes. Now, please be a trooper and release ‘Scalzi on Writing’ in mass market paperback, nudge TOR if you have to. You’re . . . John Scalzi . . . for [insert god with an apostrophe s here, i.e. the evil galactic ruler, Xenu] sake. A tout a l’heure.

  18. It’s too early in your career to create a new religion for the masses. Think of all the time it will consume. Plus it’s already been done.

  19. And then we start hearing about this new book from Scalzi titled “The Current Project” about a secretive electrician in space; and the first-person blurb runs like this:

    I’m keeping it close to the vest at the moment. It’s not a huge secret — I’m not reinventing literature as we know it — but it’s something I think is best revealed when it’s done and ready than while in process. Guessing will not avail you, since I will neither confirm nor deny your stabs in the dark. You’ll know when I’m ready to tell you.

    I call it… the Current Project.

  20. John, you will need a spokesman, so I will volunteer to jump up and down on Oprah’s stage couch.

  21. So you’ve done fantasy and sci-fi, is this a foray into a new genre?

    Danielle Steel style Bodice Ripper? Though if you do I’m with comment #35, don’t skimp the zombies!

  22. 2000 is one of those magic all-round numbers that isn’t impossible to reach but leaves you feeling super-satisfied afterwards. I’m boggled that you could hit 14k in one day – that’s approaching Morecock levels. Do you go into a trance sometimes, like Morecock, and just awake to find pages upon pages of text?

  23. John, did you realize they have the description posted on GoodReads? (At least, I think so….)

  24. @Xopher – say what you like about the quality of Morecock’s writing, but you have to admit, his output was RIDICULOUS. Regularly pumping out a novel in under a fortnight, then drinking until the next idea came along. A master!

  25. A writing quota worked for Trollope. Good luck. Can’t wait to snap up your next book(s).

    #28 … I didn’t know Asimov did the same thing. He also wrote a significant amount of non-fiction if I recall, though I’m not sure how much of it remains in print.

  26. Hmmm. Now (I shouldn’t really say now as I have been aware of these projects being worked on for sometime) this is 3 people that I know of who are connected all working on some mysterious Project X.

    I doubt that they are related but if they are, I think I would implode with excitement.

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