Nine Down, Three (four) to Go! Or, what it is like to write 16,000 words in a day.

There is no other way to say this: September was a bitch.

It didn't come smoothly, despite finding regular writing times every week, and despite my efforts to not fall behind. But I did. Again.

On the bright side, I only had 16,000 words left on the last day of the month instead of the 20,000 on the last day of August. It may not seem like a large difference, but when the last hours of the month are slipping past and the haze of so much to do hangs like one of those cartoon clouds that only hover over the gloomy character in the scene, raining only on their heads, every little advantage counts.

And in case any of you are wondering what it feels like to write somewhere around 20,000 words in a day, it feels like an absolute blur. It usually begins well, with lots of hope and the words all making sense. And then in the middle, it begins to feel like carrying a weight that is just a few pounds too heavy to carry uphill very far, and you're sure that if you can just get a running start you could get to the top before your arms give out, then it will all be downhill from there.

So you hurry. And as you hurry, you realize that the story is not coming together as readily as you hoped, that you are getting nowhere very quickly. In fact, hurrying seems to have slowed you down. So you decide you are hungry, you need chocolate and dinner and maybe a few gallons of alcohol.

And then you can get started again.

So you take a long break and hope that in the back of your mind you are solving the problems of the little world you have created, and you hope that you can remember all the name of the characters you introduced to flesh out the ending.

And as the night comes to a close, as the end becomes clear, you realize that it is all lost. You can't go on, there is nothing left to write, the story is dead,band you are stupid for letting it all get like this. You shut down the word processor and you close the computer and walk away. Sad, but with the absolute knowledge that you cannot finish, so why even try.

You go to the kitchen for some of that chocolate. And liquor. And you catch a fragment of story as it passes through your head, just a small glimmer of hope that there might be an actual ending after all, a single element to finally tie the mess together.

And you think of all the people you have told about what you are doing. And how they all believe in you.

So you pour another drink. A big one. And make a cup of coffee, even though it is now very late. And then get a bowl of peanut m&ms.

(Or if you are as lucky as I am, you have an amazing significant other to do these things for you, and friends who will remind you that “You've got this.” And these people hover next to you with with encouragement and tough love, like a runner with her coach following her along the sidelines, keeping her feet moving.)

And you open that word processor again, and you decide that as long as you finish before dawn the next day, you will count this as a win, even though there is an excruciating 8,000 words left to go. And every one of them feels like breathing through a straw with an asthma attack.

The alcohol helps. Until it makes you sleepy.

That's okay. You have coffee for this. It'll wake you back up, even if it is cold now.

The story jitters along, sparked by that little stroke of insight that happened in the kitchen. You long ago gave up on remembering all the characters' names, and have settled for things like “kind old guy,” and “suitor seven” to keep the characters straight. Your fingers start to feel vaguely numb, and your brain, if you could see it, would resemble some kind of terrible jello dish. The kind with carrots and marshmallows in it.*

This is your brain on too many words.

The last thousand words happen at long last in a burst of completion, if not speed. And there is exhilaration somewhere beneath a swaddling of fatigue as the word count arrives at 50,000, and then, miraculously, stretches a little bit beyond, just to wrap things up neatly.

You know, for when you get to edit the mess you just left for yourself.

But another day. Because now, you need to sleep. It's a good thing you have alcohol because your mind is chattering like a squirrel having a manic episode, and you wish it could have been so verbose only half an hour ago. Tell it to shush. Brush your teeth. Remember to tell Facebook, or twitter, or at least the cat that you have just performed a miracle.

And sleep. Sleep well.

Tomorrow, you'll write again.


*Forgive me for this. I did grow up in Utah.


3 thoughts on “Nine Down, Three (four) to Go! Or, what it is like to write 16,000 words in a day.

  1. Holy guacamole, woman, I don’t know how on earth you managed that. There’s no way my brain would be able to function after 8,000 words, let alone 16,000.

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