When I have commenced a new book, I have always prepared a diary, divided into weeks, and carried it on for the period which I have allowed myself for the completion of the work. In this I have entered, day by day, the number of pages I have written, so that if at any time I have slipped into idleness for a day or two, the record of that idleness has been there, staring me in the face, and demanding of me increased labour, so that the deficiency might be supplied. According to the circumstances of the time,--whether my other business might be then heavy or light, or whether the book which I was writing was or was not wanted with speed,--I have allotted myself so many pages a week. The average number has been about 40. It has been placed as low as 20, and has risen to 112. ... There has ever been the record before me, and a week passed with an insufficient number of pages has been a blister to my eye, and a month so disgraced would have been a sorrow to my heart.
I read his autobigraphy years ago, and that passage, and in particular the phrase "a blister to my eye" (ouch!), has stuck with me. I've never kept a writing journal, but I'm sorry to say that if I had, there would be many a page of it that would be a blister to my eye.
Currently, I'm working on a rather large time-travel novel. By "large" I mean that, not only does the plot cover lots of time and space and deal with large issues, but also it's up to about 100,000 words and is probably only half done. For me, that's fairly large. I'm not sure what the longest of my published novels is so far, but I don't think that any of them is over 125,000 words. (They're all listed on this page on my Web site.)
The plot of this novel is turning out to be trickier and more complex in various ways than I originally intended - so much so that it's having a daunting effect. I started it, I think, about ten years ago. I've nibbled away at during that time, constantly putting it aside to work on other books. Now I'm determined to stick with it and press through to the end. I probably should add that for me, the midpoint of a novel is almost always the hardest point. I should be able to tell myself that I'm at the peak of the hill and it's easy coasting from here, but instead the peak seems ever further away, and the effort to get there seems overwhelming.
So I decided to try keeping a journal, but not a written account of how many words or pages I wrote today, or at least not just that. That sort of detail is good and important because of the blister-to-my-eye effect, but I also want to be able to ramble a bit about the specifics of the day's writing, about the plot problems encountered or solved, about the interesting and unanticipated developments in various characters.
Why not just do all of that in a private place where only I can see it? Why a blog?
Well, first, blogs are cool and I've long wanted an excuse to have one. But I wanted one with some sort of substance, or at least the appearance of substance. At the same time, I'm lazy. I don't want to maintain a blog that requires some kind of investigation or effort on my part. But there is one subject on which I am the world's foremost expert: the inadequacy of the number of words David Dvorkin wrote today.
Secondly, if no one else ever reads this blog, as I suppose is the case with the vast majority of blogs, then this is equivalent to writing all of this in a private place where only I can see it. On the other hand, if other people do read it, and especially if they're interested enough to comment, then not only will not having written be a blister to my eye, it'll also be embarrassing to the point of humiliation. And thus, I hope, this will make me pound out those time-traveling words.
If this blog continues, instead of fading away quickly, then eventually I'll have finished the time-travel novel. Next on my schedule is a horror novel, and I'll blog the progress on that one.