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918,000 Words
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918,000 Words

I've written 918,000 words of narrative fiction or memoir, short story or book length. This total doesn't include notes or outlines for unfinished works, nor does it include emails, filk lyrics, critiques, blog entries or lots of other stuff I've jotted down or typed up over the last 61 years. (Okay, I didn't actually start 61 years ago, but whatever.)  Once in a while, I've tossed "a half million words" into a conversation. (I talk a lot.) Seriously, I've estimated "a half million words" if I needed to come up with a figure but I was -way- wrong!

Earlier today, an email exchange with a fellow Broad (member of Broad Universe) made me curious about the actual total number of words I had written. I expect to attend ReaderCon in Burlington MA in July. Last week, I asked for information about the con on the Broad Universe list. Mostly I was curious about how people get from the Amtrak train station in Boston to the hotel, but I wanted to know if I could talk to somebody on the concom about being on a panel.  Here's the next part of the email exchange with Elaine Isaak,

EI:  I've been doing Readercon for years and am friends with some of the Concom. They are expecting a bumper crop of pro's this year... and perhaps suggest you might be considered for program next year. 
I gather from your message that you haven't done program before at cons (forgive me if I'm mistaken). 

me:  Smile. You're right. On the other hand, leaving it at that is misleading. I've been going to cons--Philcons/ Darkovercons/ Balticons/ filking cons/ 3 Worldcons-- since the early-mid 1980's. I began writing in '79. I have a contract for a second book, and drafts of 4 more. I should be some kind of expert or other.

Sadly, I'm a very slow reader, with no time. I worked fulltime at a demanding job until I retired on disability a few years ago. I can't even claim that I'm well-read in my own field. Serving on a panel was just a thought. I would have liked to have been on that proposed PhilCon panel about "world-building"! That's definitely something I know about, between my books and serving as a game-master for a decade or so.

Thanks for the information!
See you in July, SherryT

After I emailed Elaine, I got wondering how many cons I've been to. I didn't even try to guess because frankly so many of them blur into each other. On the other hand, I've done a heck of a lot of writing and I knew that good old WORD would help me do an actual word count on all the manuscripts. Now that I've checked and totaled, I'm inflicting the information on you guys. I know the numbers won't mean much but I'll try to make some of the project descriptions a bit interesting.

Seabird = 160,000 words (that's the one Gryphonwood published of course)

Earthbow = 152,000 words currently (first draft sequel to Seabird & unlikely to change length. This is the manuscript that I'm currently revising. I'll provide a description of the plot in mid-May. For better of worse, it currently starts off with a lot more "action" than Seabird did. Probably over-correcting the mistake I made at the beginning of Seabird by not putting in enough action.)

The Gryphon and the Basilisk aka "the behemoth" aka "The sequel that insisted it was a trilogy" aka "The book that intends to eat Delaware." This was really and truly intended to be the third volume in the Narentan Tumults.
I'm not sure what happened, except that the focus shifted radically to different characters and they dragged in their own plot and the next thing you know there was a murder and I couldn't believe who did it but I couldn't tell anybody because that part of the plot became a murder mystery.
And in the meantime there's this angsty romance which I don't even -do- and very possibly a romantic triangle that just sort popped into existence when I looked away from the monitor for a second. I swear I only looked away for a second.
And then, or before that really, there were all these scenes from some werewrights' points of view, and isn't -that- an interesting take on reality? With that tragic death back home it's no wonder the other person goes nuts or maybe they actually don't, but they haven't told me yet which it is.
We get a tour of a sorcerer's fortress and find out this one has an art collection (who knew?), not long after celebrating Yule and visiting some centaur-like people. Extreme winter sports include riding horses down something like a glacier with werewrights in pursuit, followed with a bit of a masquerade and some ghoulish reality "thought stone" TV.

Now, when it comes to the end I know that lots of people are going to die because they're up against a seriously bad bad guy. I'm not sure which ones really do though, because everyone wants to be noble and sacrifice themselves for everyone else but they can't -all- do that or what's the point of sacrificing themselves? Besides which, I'll cry and the readers will kill me if I let them all sacrifice themselves.
No matter who dies for whom or if nobody dies for nobody, how do we outwit the bad guy without -everybody- dieing anyway? He's like meaner than a junkyard dog. Arrgh. I always knew this was coming and I kept thinking I'd come up with something super-clever but it's been years and still nada, and the characters only have weeks to save their skins and save the world. They must be awfully smart.

You see, I put all those guns on the wall all the way through two and a two-thirds volumes to help them out. Now I don't know which are real guns and which are red herrings. How do you shoot a red herring anyway? The characters don't even know about most of the herrings or guns. Is it any wonder all the characters have been having such long conversations about exactly that? Not shooting herrings, but what strategy has even a prayer of them surviving the outwitting of bad guys?

Praying, angsting and debating is a lot of what they've been doing for the last couple of chapters of volume three. They're all waiting for -me- to come up with a solution, and then put it into someone's mouth! I wrote the first two and two-thirds volumes of G&B. It seems to me it's their turn.

Gryphon & Basilisk vol.1 = 157,000 words
Gryphon & Basilisk vol.2 = 149,000 words
Gryphon & Basilisk vol.3 = 101,000 words
, so far (Everyone's still waiting for me to tell them what to do next.)

Marooned = 54, 000 words so far. (four-fifths of first draft is completed) It has or will have 22 chapters, of which chapters 1-16 and chapter 22 or complete and chapters 17-21 are and have been in outline form for a couple of years now.

Starting this one is my editor's fault. Short story, long--he made an assumption and the next thing you know, I was roped into the project. For the sake of the two people who have read Seabird, suffice it to say that something mysterious happened to someone back in that book. I knew what happened but I never expected to write about it. Then Dave (my editor) pushed and SusanW (from Written Remains) kept pulling, and the next thing you know Marooned was born.

The Peace Bride, or maybe it's The Bride Peace. It used to be Jeri'ik (the name of one of the characters)when I first conceived of it. Fantasy but not in the Narentan universe. Darker. More adult. Some very interesting characters and magic and religion, if I do say so. This is a very old story I used to recount to myself for my own amusement. I had others too that were mostly time-travel but I never wrote them down.
Chapters 1-7 are written. Fragments of 8, 9, 10 are written. Very brief notes under the h

eadings of chapters 11-21(?), plus a two-three page outline for the rest of the plot.

The Peace Bride = 26, 000 words that are usable. I -really- like the beginning!

Life Tides was supposed to be a fiction entry for NaNoWriMo but it stalled when I couldn't get the heroine out of her hotel room and up to the boardwalk. (No, she didn't have a handsome man in there with her.) Since I needed to write something between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, I began writing a memoir of my family. The memoir won't have this title but the title serves the purpose for the time being. I'm nearly finished the book and I'm about to start sending out queries for an agent.

Life Tides  = 71,000 words, which will probably grow to 80,000 words before it's complete.

The Memory Well = just  a 3,000 word premise for a novel. I really wanted to write ths last year, but polishing Seabird had priority of course. I also had serious down time due to illness last summer and fall. The Memory Well is an actual gothic romance with a nice helping of magic on the side. It's set neither in the Narentan world nor the Peace Bride world, and concerns a young woman who periodically comes out of a magically induced trance and realizes that family and friends around her are manipulating her memories. Then, she discovers that a young man hired as a musician for the household professes that the same thing is happening to him. Can she trust him?


That's the last of my novels in progress, or novel premises. 

I keep a tiny file labeled "Ocean City Album" which is a proposal and chapter titles for a photo album of 1970's-1980's photographs of Ocean City NJ, with a few bits of commentary. I would never actually make a formal proposal until I scanned in a few hundred photographs and tried manipulating them first for clarity etc. No word count for this.


If anyone asks I always say that I can't write short stories. I do write them but very rarely and they turn out to be decent even more rarely. Actually, I was surprised to discover that I had 18 completed short stories in my file:

winter's season (fantasy), 
baffled by the green door (published in Stories from the Inkslingers, this is creative nonfiction),  nightmare (horror),  circles (light sf/fantasy),  daisy and the paper-mice (fiction with a cat's pov),  dragon's tail tale (tall tale fantasy),  lament (experimental),  long acres (mainstream), a night in the library (horror, and pretty bad writing),  no substitutions (fantasy and even worse writing), the not so great escape (sf and I've always thought it cute but pros thinks it's terrible), the pumpkin-smasher (my misunderstood light fantasy),  the queen of the tor sith (fantasy poem about elves),  rennie's airdrop (frothy bit of urban fantasy, sort of), the sailor's tale (mythic fantasy set in Revolutionary Maryland),  shadow harper (mythic fantasy with a twist),  what became of burro and duck (an attempt at a magic realism picture book),  dingle (never completed fantasy story but I'm hopeful).

Short Stories = 18 x 2500 words (probably more) = 45, 000 words.

918,000 words of narrative writing
College education with an interdepartmental degree in history (meaning lots of history plus helpings of geography and political science) Unofficial minors in English lit & psych. A year of psych grad school.
Probably a member of 30 + conferences and conventions (SF, fantasy, writing, or filk).
A member of three writing groups. (I'm not even going to guess how many crits I've written in the last 30 yrs)
35 years working in an academic library, and a couple of years working part time in a public library.
Misc other jobs, mostly in sales.
Over a decade as a game-master.
Once an avid reader of fantasy, even if I no longer have time to keep up my reading.
Still a very active imagination.

More from Elaine about persuading concom members to let me on a conference panel:
The best advice I recieved about contacting concom's is to tell them something else that's interesting about yourself and what you know.  All sorts of writers contact them, so it's your other expertise that is likely to catch their eye.  This can also include research you've done for your books, unusual career choices, or other enthusiasms you have pursued. 

You know, I can't honestly think of any area of expertise or experience I have that I could tell them about which would be persuasive. Isn't that hysterical?  ;-)

SherryT aka Sherry Thompson, author of Seabird and evidently a total of nearly a million words of narrative

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918k is pretty damn impressive! Good deal on sticking to it. :-)

re: Good deal on sticking to it.

Good advice for all authors. :-)

Someone sent me a true anecdote about five years ago. I couldn't find the file so I jotted down what I remembered as the gist of the story. A 50-60 year old recent widow had been feeling at loose ends. Her children were raised and she had mentioned several times to the one daughter who lived close by that she felt it was too late to begin studying for a new career or to learn the complex skills of an artisan's craft.

Her daughter responded each time with variants of let's spend the day together, get out, have lunch, go for a ride, maybe even shop. She kept putting off the invitation.
Finally, her daughter called up one Sunday & said this is it. We're going for a ride and then have dinner. I'll be at your place in a half hour.

The daughter picked her up as promised, but after a few minutes on a road she recognized, she turned off to a two lane road she had never been on before. She asked where they were going. The daughter said, I just want to show you something.

A while later, yellows, golds, and whites, and creams covered all of the hills up ahead. As they drew closer the older woman realized she was looking at acres of daffodils. She asked her daughter if it was a commercial farm.

The daughter laughed. No, it's private property. A woman began planting these years ago. Each year, she plants as many more as she can.

They got out of the car so the daughter could show her a sign:

Five acres.
50,000 bulbs.
One bulb at a time.
One woman with two hands and very little brain.

The Daffodil Principle --> one bulb at a time.

"How many flowers would you see if she had never started?"


I do have a photo of a tiny portion of the daffodils as part of my screensaver. :-)

Edited at 2008-11-06 06:37 am (UTC)

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