18 January 2011

By the numbers: writing-a-book edition

I finished my first full draft on Sunday! Woohoo!

Date of book deal: 2 June 2010
Date of completing full draft: 16 January 2011
Form of celebration: Surly Darkness! And a delicious, impromptu feast of pasta and pork tenderloin (thanks, Sebastian and Becky!)
Manuscript deadline: 1 March 2011
Editing that I need do before then: Well ... a lot
Target word count: 70,000-75,000
Current word count: 91,810 (gulp)
Total chapters: 12
First word: It
Last word: Friends
Most over-used punctuation: em dash
Elements of Style rules broken: probably all of them
Shortest paragraph: 1 word ("And.")
Longest paragraph: 374 words
Shortest section: 32 words
Longest section: 1,598 words
General section-length target when writing: no more than 800 words
Shortest chapter: Zurich (just barely beating out Brussels)
Longest chapter: Vienna
Median (length) chapter: Amsterdam
Easiest chapters to write: Berlin, Munich, Zurich, Madrid
Amount of time spent on each of those chapters: about two weeks each
Most difficult chapters to write: Paris, Venice
Amount of time spent on those chapters: about a month each
Rough percentage of time spent writing in various locations:
... at desk/table in apartment: 10
... at downtown Minneapolis library: 20
... in easy chair in apartment: 60
... in other locations (e.g. coffee shops, various places while traveling): 10
Percentage written while not wearing pants: 92 (kidding!)
Cities included in "other locations" (i.e. where I wrote on the road): New York City, Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore, Seattle, Key West
Preferred writing fuel: Bolthouse Farms' Blue Goodness Smoothie
Preferred writing music: Pandora station with classical guitar, instrumental jazz/hip-hop, low-key electronic (nothing catchy, nothing with lyrics)
Computer mice killed in the process of writing: 1
Post-It flags currently in my copy of Europe on $5 a Day, marking Important Things I'm not sure I ever got around to mentioning: 12
Books used as sources for research component of writing: at least 20-30 (I'll try to compile a list and post it sometime)
Newspaper/magazine articles: countless
Frequency of selected words in draft:
... tourist, tourists, touristic, or tourism: 433 (!!)
... travel, traveler, or traveling: 269
... Arthur: 229
... Lee: 176
... Mom or mother: 130
... I: 2,092 (Yikes! Well, it is a first-person memoir)
... croissant, pain au chocolat, or pastry: 17
... awkward, awkwardly, nervous, nervously: 14
... whizzer: 1 (regarding Manneken Pis, "the wee whizzer")

The 125 most common words in my current draft

Tour guides with extended cameos in book: 4
Number of those tour guides used as case study of everything wrong with tourism: 1
Readers of various sections and/or the proposal that started this all: 11 (in the aggregate; some have read only a few pages, others have read everything, all were invaluable)
Special thanks to the superstar readers: Hannah, Jason, Frank, Maggie
... And the proposal guru: Dennis
... And especially the sidekick and reader extraordinaire: the one and only Lee
... And! My brilliant and supportive agent and editor, without whom, no book: Elizabeth Evans and Marian Lizzi
Amount of my gratitude to you all: Boundless. (Wow, that really sounds cold and rote when it's just shoved into a list. Really, truly: molto grazie, all; I'm fortunate to have such a good network.)
Amount of time I plan to take off from working on or even thinking about the book before diving headlong into the editing: two weeks
Likelihood of me actually resisting revisiting/tweaking/obsessively worrying in that amount of time: Ha! Probably nil. But it's a goal.
Anxiety that I forgot some important point or left out a crucial scene or didn't include enough history or enough jokes ... or generally screwed up and everyone's gonna hate it: Pretty high, to be honest
General contentment with how it's all turned out, in spite of the above: Also pretty high. Go figure.


  1. That Bolthouse Blue Smoothie is good stuff.

  2. No way! You're DONE?? Sort of?

    There once was a writer named Doug:
    An amazing artistic young thug.
    His words float, then they grip:
    One is smote with each trip.
    This book let's loose the traveling bug.

    Congratulations on reaching this milestone. Now the hard work begins (smile)

  3. Maybe you need to up the number of comments about croissants and pastries? You might have to redo the trip and sample more.

  4. @Anonymous 1: Wow, thanks--that made my day! Even more so because I can't figure out who might be ...

    @Anonymous 2: I know, I was shocked by the lack of pastry-mentions, too. Not to worry, though, there were at least two scenes built around my croissant obsession. Maybe I used other synonyms, e.g. "buttery baked bliss without which I cannot survive"?

  5. Only one mention of the word 'whizzer'? It's not a real book unless 'whizzer' is used twice, or there's an albino monk!

  6. Congratulations. That's quite a milestone.
    Good luck with the editing.

  7. I absolutely loved reading this. Congratulations on this terrific milestone and best of luck with all the milestones to come. I am eagerly awaiting the publication of your book.


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