Brief Stats Update: I appear to have written two more books

On May 6th, I congratulated Mark Guzdial on his 1000th post and I noted that I had written 102,136 words, an average of 676 words per post, with 151 posts over 126 days. I commented that, at that rate, I could expect to produce about 180,000 more words by the end of the year, for a total of about 280,000. So, to summarise, my average posting level was at rate of 1.2 posts per day, and 676 words per post.

Today, I reanalysed the blog to see how I was going. This post will be published on Tuesday the 9th, my time, and the analysis here does not include itself. So, up until all activity on Monday the 8th, Central Australian Daylight Saving Time, here are the stats.

Total word count: 273,639. Total number of posts: 343. Number of words per post: 798. Number of posts per day: 1.23. I will reach my end of year projected word count in about 9 days.

I knew that I had been writing longer posts, you may remember that I’ve deliberately tried to keep the posts to around 1,000 where possible, but it’s obvious that I’m just not that capable of writing a short post! In the long term, I’d expect this to approach 1,000 words/post because of my goal to limit myself to that, with the occasional overshoot. I’m surprised by the consistency in number of posts per day. The previous average was a smidgen under 1.2 but I wanted to clarify that there has been a minor increase. Given that my goal was not to necessarily hit exactly 1/day but to set aside time to think about learning and teaching every day, I’m happy with that.

The word count, however, is terrifying. One of the reasons that I wanted to talk about this is to identify how much work something like this is, not to either over inflate myself or to put you off, but to help anyone out there who is considering such a venture. Let me explain some things first.

  1. I have been typing in one form or another since 1977. I was exposed to computers early on and, while I’ve never been trained to touch type, I have that nasty hybrid version where I don’t use all of my fingers but still don’t have to look at the keyboard.
  2. I can sustain a typing speed of about 2,500 words/hour for fiction for quite a long time. That includes the aspects of creativity required, not dictation or transcription. It is very tiring, however, and too much of it makes me amusingly incoherent.
  3. I do not have any problems with repetitive strain injury and I have a couple of excellent working spaces with fast computers and big screens.
  4. I love to write.

So, I’m starting from a good basis and, let me stress, I love to write. Now let me tell you about the problems that this project has revealed.

  1. I produce two kinds of posts: research focused and the more anecdotal. Anecdotal posts can be written up quickly but the moment any research, pre-reading or reformulation is required, it will take me about an hour or two to get a post together. So that cute high speed production drops to about 500-1000 words/hour.
  2. Research posts are the result of hours of reading and quite a lot of associated thought. My best posts start from a set of papers that I read, I then mull on it for a few days and finally it all comes together. I often ask someone else to look at the work to see how it sits in the queue.
  3. I’m always better when I don’t have to produce something for tomorrow. When the post queue is dry, I don’t have the time to read in detail or mull so I have to either pull a previous draft from the queue and see if I can fix it (and I’ve pretty much run out of those) or I have to come up with an idea now and write it now. All too often, these end up being relatively empty opinion pieces.
  4. If you are already tired, writing can be very tiring and you lose a lot of the fiero and inspiration from writing a good post.

I have probably spent, by all of these figures and time estimates, somewhere around 274 hours on this project. That’s just under 7 working weeks at 40 hours/week. No wonder I feel tired sometimes!

I am already, as you know, looking to change the posting frequency next year because I wish to focus on the quality of my work rather than the volume of my output. I still plan to have that hour or so put aside every day to contemplate and carry out research on learning and teaching but it will no longer be tied to an associated posting deadline. My original plan had an output requirement to force me to carry out the work. Unsurprisingly, oh brave new world that has such extrinsic motivating factors in it, I have become focused on the post, rather than the underlying research. My word count indicates that I am writing but, once this year is over, the review that I carry out will be to make sure that every word written from that point on is both valuable and necessary. My satisfaction in the contribution and utility of those posts I do make will replace any other quantitative measures of output.

My experience in this can be summarised quite simply. Setting a posting schedule that is too restrictive risks you putting the emphasis on the wrong component, where setting aside a regular time to study and contemplate the issues that lead to a good post is a far wiser investment. If you want to write this much, then it cannot be too much of a chore and, honestly, loving writing is almost essential, I feel. Fortunately, I have more than enough to keep the post queue going to the end of the year, as I’m working on a number of papers and ideas that will naturally end up here but I feel that I have, very much, achieved what I originally set to to do. I now deeply value the scholarship of learning and teaching and have learned enough to know that I have a great deal more to learn.

From a personal perspective, I believe that all of the words written have been valuable to me but, from next year, I have to make sure that the words I write are equally valuable to other people.

I’ll finish with something amusing. Someone asked me the other day how many words I’d written and, off the top of my head, I said “about 140,000” and thought that I was possibly over-claiming. The fact that I was under claiming by almost a factor of two never would have occurred to me, nor the fact that I had written more words than can be found in Order of the Phoenix. While I may wish to reclaim my reading time once this is over, for any fiction publishers reading this, I will have some free time next year! 🙂


2 Comments on “Brief Stats Update: I appear to have written two more books”

  1. […] saw Nick Falkner talking about the number of words in his blog, claiming 273,639 words in 343 posts.  I was curious about how many words I had in my blog, but […]

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  2. […] many words I’ve written. This is no measure of worth or quality, more a metric of my mania. As I noted in October, I was going to hit what I thought was my year target much earlier. Well, yes, it came and it went […]

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