I didn't have to do it. No one has a gun to my head. But I wanted to know-could I?
In January, I sent off a proposal to an editor...now, I don't know if you know anything about the book business, but a proposal can takes months for a busy editor to read. (I have a full manuscript on an editor's desk going on 12 months now...which reminds me I need to give them a jingle-see where it is in their process.) I figured I had plenty of time to write the complete 60,000 word book.
Then nine days ago, I got a letter in the mail...this editor wanted to read the full-if it was written, of course...could I send it? Right. Well, it wasn't written. I had 10,000 words and I had already sent her those. So, I was remembering last month's post on the creative process and Dean Wesley Smith's blog on writing fast. I thought, okay- I can do it. If I write 20 pages a day for the next ten days I'll have a rough draft by the 9th. Then I'll take four days to revise and polish and I can have this sucker off to her in 15 days. That editor won't even know it wasn't written.
20 pages a day for 10 days - straight. Dean Wesley Smith said- it's easy- do the math...how many pages can you write in an hour? For me that's between 5 and 10 depending on the scene. He goes on to say- then simply times that by the number of hours per day you'll need to make your page count. Huh- so 2 to 4 hours a day is all. Technically- if you think about it, I should get up to 80 pages in an 8 hour day. It should be a walk in the park. Bravely, I dive in. The synopsis is written so, really, all I have to do is follow the outline, I tell myself.
Day 1- fast typing and done! Day 2- fast typing and...done. Day three- typing...and...done. Day four... Can I talk about the physical challenges? I don't know why but writing a story is like shoving a knife in your gut and spilling your innards out on a page. Yeah that painful- you have to mentally tele-port to the place where the story is and hold it while your fingers type. I don't know about you, but my back and bum start screaming-then go numb. My wrists, fingers, neck and shoulders do the same. It is as if you've got blisters on your body- All I have to do now is sit down in my chair to experience pain-agony and a punishing sort of endurance-which I imagine marathon runners feel at mile 10. But logically, it's only four or five hours in a chair for goodness sakes... right? Day 5- I keep going...but have to take long hot soaks, aspirin, yoga stretches. The energy it takes to keep going is like a hot wire in my hands...I can't turn it off. I stop sleeping. I keep writing. Why? Because I'm about the most stubborn person in the world. I want to be able to brag I did it. Day 6- I am awake at 2 am, thinking about the other proposal I sent off in January- for another book I haven't written- a 90,000 word book...Crap- what if they want to read that? Day 7- my editor sends galley's for Dream Man- 400 pages to read and proof... noooo- I am on a mission. Fine- will add galleys to 20 page a day madness...my left eye starts twitching. Day 8- two rejections in the mail from agents for thriller- one form, one nicely typed by assistant-both saying-not right for us at this time. Mental editor starts whispering I'm a hack. Eye won't stop twitching-now left arm starts to twitch in opposite rhythm to eye. Day 9- must write...must finish galleys... living on coffee and pain killers... back at desk.
What Mr. Dean Wesley Smith didn't discuss in his math is the creative process. If you have ever written a full book, you have discovered your creative process. Here's mine: I LOVE the first two or three chapters- love turns to boredom about the next three chapters but I press on, then something happens that I think is cool-so I am in love again- then I hit the second doubt wall- the "this book is going no where...it's all been a waste of time" wall. I press on. Things pick up...okay- close to the end- then the Wait! I'm going to finish before the word count wall- the where did it all go wrong wall- the are you kidding me-just finish the darn story wall... ignoring said walls, I go on until I type the end and when I reread- I think-huh, it's not as bad as I thought when writing it.
That's a lot of emotional turmoil-but I've learned that happens with every book- every darn book for me. I know a best selling author who writes three endings for every book-then turns in the first every time. She thinks it's her way of letting go of the story, the characters-her creation. It's her process.
Here's the thing--writing fast does not change your process- what it does is compresses the process so that you are slamming into walls once or twice a day- day after day... I have become comfortably numb... in other words a babbling idiot outside my office. My family has been feeding me, taking me by the hand, patting me on the head... lots of funny looks and there, theres... finishing of sentences...concern for eye twitching... whispers of taking me to see "someone"...
One more day to go...that is after I write 20 pages today. What have I proven? Nothing really- except I'm stubborn...and perhaps half mad...but I think those are two qualities you need to be a writer in this mad, mad, mad world.