120,000

I mentioned in my last post that things tend to speed up when I near the end. That post was only a week ago, but already I have passed the 120,000 word mark. I became so engrossed in what I was writing that it passed me by without my noticing, and the total now stands at 122,882 words – the last one being ‘written’. So that is just under 13,000 words written in a week, which is fairly intense for me.

I know of authors who claim to write 2,000 words a day consistently, but I don’t really believe them. I daresay they can keep up that output if they are just churning out formulaic doggerel, but if they are writing anything that requires a bit of thought and reflexion, no. My own average output is closer to 1,000 words a day, but that is only a vague approximation. It can be double that – or even more – during particularly productive periods, but it can just as easily drop to zero or thereabouts when blocked.

The reason for the spurt was because I discovered that I needed to indulge in what I call ‘a little open-heart surgery’ on the book. No, not on me. The book. The way it was written originally, the climax occurred in November 1942, just after the Second Battle of El Alamein. By that time, everything that I had been working towards had been done. The problem was that the story does not complete until the war is over, and there were still two and a half years to go at that point. The solution was to move the climax on a year to late 1943, just months before D-Day, but that required a lot of passages to be moved around and modified to fit. It soon became a real nightmare deciding where to put what.

The solution came in the form of a spreadsheet. For anyone who doesn’t know, a spreadsheet is a computer program that presents everything in a grid of ‘cells’, which can be enlarged or moved around. This enables complex calculations to be carried out easily. Although primarily a mathematical tool, used heavily in anything that involves finance, a spreadsheet can actually be put to all sorts of uses. I used it to create a timeline of the book’s events. By presenting the story with one event per cell, I can see the progression at a glance and tell whether anything is out of place. Reworking the events produced one chapter of over 60 opages in length. This isn’t unheard of, but it looks out of place in a book where the other chapters are, roughly, 20 pages in length. I split that chapter into two, resulting in one more chapter than I had originally intended.

Fortunately, I did not have to buy a spreadsheet, as I already have one. The book is written with Microsoft Word, the world’s most powerful and sophisticated word processor. Word is not normally sold on its own, however. In fact, it isn’t usually ‘sold’ at all. Instead, you rent it from Microsoft for an annual fee. This means, of course, that once you have rented it for a couple of years, you will have paid as much as if you had bought it outright. On the other hand, future versions download without further charge. It comes as part of a package, called Microsoft 365, that includes spreadsheet, database and presentation apps. You may have heard of the presentation app. It is called PowerPoint. The spreadsheet is Excel. That is what I used.

Anyway, thanks to the clarity provided by Excel, I can now move on to the conclusion of the story. I am now on Chapter 20, which does most of the tying up of loose ends. After that comes an Epilogue, which brings the tale to a close. I may hit 130,000 words, but it shouldn’t go much further than that. In any case, the final figure will be significantly less after editing.


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