Monday, September 24, 2012

98,017 Words in 26 Days

A few weeks ago I finished the process of writing a 98,000 word manuscript in a month. Four weeks, actually—which means 26 calendar days. Considering the fact that I also took weekends, that means I wrote the entire book in 20 work days. That’s 5,000 words per day. Here are a few things I learned:

Eat Well:
Half the problems I have had as a writer over the years have involved not eating enough, or properly. Over the course of the month I rediscover one very important skill other than writing: cooking. Since I went without income for the month it was extremely important to dine inexpensively—and the best way to do that is to cook for yourself. That part of the experience alone was an extremely important personal discovery.

Sleep Well:
There’s absolutely no way to maintain a schedule of 5k words a day without a decent schedule. That meant getting up at the same time every day (early) and going to bed at a prearranged bedtime. It’s a job, this writing thing, and being late to the office isn’t acceptable.

I Worked At Home:
Nearly everything I’ve ever written I’ve written at coffee shops or libraries, but this book I wrote at home. Frankly, it was helpful to have food handy when I needed it (see above for the importance of that item).

Usually I jump around a lot between musical artists while writing, however, for this particular book I seemed to stick almost entirely to one artist: Michael Giacchino. His music, which won him the academy award for UP proved extremely important. Mostly I drew from his work on Lost, Mission: Impossible 3 and 4, and the score to one of his latest films: John Carter. Strangely, the artistic consistency I had with the music helped me remain rather consistent in my own personal art, as well. And now that I’m editing, I’m discovering that though I’m shifting artists (to account for the tonal shift in my edits) it is still mostly consistent: James Newton Howard.

I Could Have Done More:
Like Oscar Schindler, I find myself saying precisely that: I could have done more. As taxing as 5k a word each day sounds, once you FORCE yourself to do it, everything is easier. Several days, one due to a visiting friend, one due to errands I had no choice in running, I got behind. One at least to separate occasions I had to write 8,000 words in a day to stay on schedule—and you know what? I did. Once you break into the habit of writing 5,000 words daily, 8,000 is just around the corner. Frankly, now that I’ve done it, I realize I could have written 8,000 every single day and not had too many problems.

Good Social Support:
Even though I performed the Herculean feat of busting out that many words for that many consecutive days, I went a little crazy each night. I would lay on the couch giggling like a madman as my roommate stared at mean as if I were precisely that. But I had people who were willing to let me be a little insane. Without them, I never could have gotten anywhere.

It Isn’t Horrible:
Most surprising of all is that the writing is actually pretty good. In fact, it may be one of the best first drafts I’ve ever written. Sure, it needs edits—but every first draft does. But the fact that I wrote it so quickly gave a consistency, continuity, and quality to the work I don’t think I could have accomplished if I’d picked at it for a few months, taking it out only every so often.

Final Thoughts:
It can be done. That’s all. Whoever you are, wanting to write, stop whining, stop lamenting writer’s block, and write. Get over your insecurity, or at least let it be overcome by your work ethic. Miracles do happen—but usually you have to make them happen.


Jillian Kent said...

First of all, congratulations! Second of all, are you on drugs or in an induced manic phase? :) How did you do that? How much pre-planning/plotting was involved? More details please. Heck, if you'd waited till November you could have won NanoWriMo!

Conlan Brown said...

It's an idea I've had cooking in the back of my head since I was a Sophmore in High School. Really took the idea out again back in April, had three or four really strong planning sessions, worked on it mentally for the months of May, June, and July, then realized I was going to have to crank it out in less than a month if I wanted to get back to work. So, with that timetable I just did it. Stopped thinking about my insecurities, and went for it.

Additionally: I have an issue of Rolling Stone magazine with the '500 Greatest Songs of all time', complete with a great many stories about how great songs were written. Most of the best stuff was written in a short time (one sitting, less than 20 minutes) and several interviewed artists said that if they spent too much time working on something it usually wasn't any good. Also, one of my favorite film scores of all time, Troy, was written in 2 weeks (a process usually taking 2 months). And lastly, the television series LOST went from idea, to script, to casting, to air in 11 weeks. So, I came to the conclusion that spending too much time on a creative project is just the best way to ruin it.

Darrel Nelson said...

Keep it up while you're young. I remember writing with wild abandon years ago, back when things just seemed to flow. They don't do that anymore. Now, it's one step forward, then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then the next step forward and ...well, you get the idea. Congrats on your herculean accomplishment.

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm in the process now but my word count goal isn't as high as yours. I'm inspired. Now to shut down the Internet so I can actually get something written. Thanks.

Conlan Brown said...

Oh yeah, and this: Don't reread or rewrite anything until you're done. There's time enough to fret when you're finished, until then getting it written is your only job.

Diane Darcy said...

Congrats on this accomplishment! Thanks for sharing and inspiring. =)