Peter Jones – Author & Public Speaker

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Calculating your novel's completion date #spreadsheet #authortools

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I know a lot of authors are obsessed with their daily word count, but to be honest I’ve never found it particularly useful, or motivating. Anyone can turn out 10,000 words in a day. Just type the word ‘wibble’, highlight it (along with the following space), and then hold your fingers on CTRL-V for five minutes. There you are: 10,000 words. Don’t ever say I don’t give you anything. No, I’ve always maintained, in a rather snooty arrogant way, that getting the ‘right‘ words down, first time, is far more important than churning out 10,000 words of wibble on a daily basis.

That is until my agent told me I needed to be turning out two books a year, and suddenly snooty arrogance wasn’t going to cut it any more.

So, if you follow me on facebook you’ll notice that I have, recently, got into the habit of posting my daily word count, usually under a picture of someone at a typewriter. But along side this, and my excuses for the day, is my average daily word count.  

Average Daily Word Count is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the total number of words I’ve written so far, divided by the number of days since this current project began. And for me, it’s a whole lot more revealing than your regular word count.

For starters, being an average it smooths out those peaks and troughs: It reigns in my enthusiasm when I’ve managed to bash out 2,600 words. But it also encourages me when all I’ve managed are a measly 500. It also discourages me from going back and editing previous days, and it punishes me for days when I haven’t been writing. ADWC shows me exactly what kind of a writer I am. There’s no hiding from it.

But most of all, now that I’m working out my ADWC, it’s possible to extrapolate when I should theoretically finish my current ‘work in progress’ assuming I continue at the current rate… and being the total nerd that I am, that’s exactly what I do! I post my estimated completion date! And that is very motivating indeed.

Of course, you’ll realise by now that I work all this stuff out using an excel spreadsheet. There isn’t anything in the world that can’t be achieved with a good excel spreadsheet. If it sounds like something you might find useful, you can download a copy for yourself, here.

word count

To use the sheet simply replace my numbers in the blue squares with your own

  1. In cell C10, type in the estimated length of the book you’re writing. Novels are generally between 60,000 and 100,000 words depending on genre.
  2. On row 16 type yesterday’s date, and the total number of words written so far.
  3. On rows 17 onwards, type the day’s date, and the new total word count. The sheet will work out the number of words you wrote on that day. It’ll also update all the stats above, including your ADWC and your estimated completion date.

There’s even another tab where you can cut and paste today’s stats and paste them into twitter or facebook with minimal editing.

Feel free to share the spreadsheet all you like. And if it works for you drop me a line. If it doesn’t work for you, or you’d like it amended in someway, or you screw something up and need it fixing – well drop me a line anyway and I’ll see what I can do.

And if you like this spreadsheet you might like my other one that helps manage your story’s timeline. You can read about that here.

In the meantime, what’s your ADWC? Post it in the comments below.


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Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Things That Matter : Guest Post by Della Galton

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ice-drop-shadowAuthor Della Galton explains why she’s drawn to write about controversial subjects, and shares the motivation behind her latest novel ‘Ice and a Slice’

I’ve often wondered how we choose what we write. Do we choose to write short stories or novels because we love them, or do we just drift into the form? And what about the subject matter? Why do we choose that?

The first short story I ever had published was called Second Chance, and it was published in a teenage confession magazine called Loving (I wish that magazine was still around, it was excellent).

Second Chance was set in a doctor’s surgery, and it was all about a teenager who was planning to have a termination – blimey, I don’t think I’d sell that story now – it’s quite a controversial issue, even today. But then I’ve always liked writing about controversial issues. I don’t have a copy of Second Chance any more but I can remember the last line, which went something like this:

Throughout her life she would give her baby many second chances, but none of them would be as important as the one she was giving him now…

The first novel I ever wrote was called Prisoners. It was about a woman who works in a pet shop and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (her married boss). There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

If this sounds like an immense muddle, then that’s because it was. I’d had four or five short stories published when I wrote Prisoners. I thought writing a novel was simply a matter of writing 70,000 words.

Moving swiftly on, my first published novel, Passing Shadows, was about a woman who works in an animal sanctuary and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (the father of her best friend’s child.) There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? So why did this novel work and Prisoners not work? Well, partly because I knew a bit more about what I was doing. I was passionate about the main characters, Maggie and Finn. Also, this novel had some strong themes, friendship and betrayal being two of them.

Ice and a SliceMy latest novel, Ice and a Slice, also has some strong themes. It’s about friendship, beating the odds, and love.

It’s also about alcoholism, which is a theme I’ve explored in short stories too, but I wanted to take it further and the only way to do this was to write a novel.

The main character in Ice and a Slice, is called SJ, and she drinks too much – although she would argue until she was blue in the face about that! And if you don’t believe me, then do check out her Facebook page here or her Twitter account here, where she is surprisingly active!

So, why did I write about alcoholism? Well, as I said earlier I’m big on issues. I like writing about things that matter, and alcoholism is a subject very close to my heart. Many of my family suffer from it. Some of them are in recovery and some of them are not. And some have died needless premature deaths.

An alcoholic is not someone, as I once thought, who drinks meths on a park bench. Alcoholism is not a moral issue for weak minded people – it’s a disease that can affect anyone – it can strike doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, vicars, secretaries, taxi drivers, anyone. It’s a disease of our time.

So, yes I feel passionate about alcoholism and that’s why I wrote Ice and a Slice. SJ – or Sarah-Jane Crosse to give her full name – is deeply flawed, but I love her to bits. I think she’s probably the most three dimensional character I’ve ever created. Hence, she has her own social media pages. Do check them out.

You’ll have more luck getting a sensible answer from her when she’s sober – so mornings are good!

And if you like what you see, do take a look at Ice and a Slice too – you can read a free sample or buy it for less than a glass of Chardonnay 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Della Galton x


Della Galton is a freelance writer and tutor. She is best known for her short stories, and sells in the region of 80 short stories a year to magazines both in the UK and abroad. She is a popular speaker at writing conventions around the UK and is also the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. Her third full length novel Ice and a Slice’ is currently available for all kindle enabled smart phones and e-readers from amazon (.co.uk | .com) and will be available in paperback shortly.

To find out more about Della Galton visit her website, LIKE her facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

A chat with Michelle Ward & Sylvia Kent of Phoenix 98 FM

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A few days ago I met up with the very fabulous Michelle Ward, singer and presenter on Phoenix FM, as well as writer, journalist and fellow author Sylvia Kent. We talked in general about books, book titles, as well as How To Do Everything and Be Happy, How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim, and How To Start Dating and Stop Waiting.  The conversation span off into dating disaster stories where, perhaps fortunately, we eventually ran out of time.

To listen to the interview click the play button in the box below, or (if you’re reading this in an email) click here to play clip on YouTube.