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:
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.
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,
: 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. Mission
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.
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.