Monday, September 12, 2011

60,000 Words in Ten Days

This is not a marketing gimmick. For one, I have nothing to sell... not yet.

This is something that two years ago I would not have thought possible. In the past I never quite finished my stories. And those that were almost there, really sucked. I got over that hump with Aces. But this type of productivity is not the norm for me.

So what did I actually do?

I wrote a 60,000-word romantic comedy in two weeks (ten actual days of writing). And I'm still having a hard time believing it.


Back on August 25th, just before I drifted off to sleep, a seed sprouted in my brain--a story about forgiveness and closure. I dreamt about it and when I woke up the next day I had a surge of flammable adrenalin.

The next day on the 26th, I wrote a blog about my new story. I flippantly said that I was having an affair. At that point in time, I was developing the idea. And as the parts of it came together, I started obsessing over it.

The fact is that I was in love--and I mean that sincerely. I was in love with the idea. I was in love with the characters. I began to feel those butterflies and anticipation and longing that one feels when you fall in love. I could't stop thinking about the story. I wanted (needed) to know how things would come together. Would they come together? Is it possible to fix things that went wrong in the past?

And when I get this way, my dreams are shattered. I've blogged about this as well. My world of dreams and reality get blurred. This is a curse, I admit. I was not able to sleep. I would work off the fumes of love and passion.

As I developed the story, I used a tried and true system that has worked well for me in the past (James Scott Bell's framework for plot and structure). This time, I incorporated what I learned in his seminar which I attended in Los Angeles.

By August 29th I was ready to start. I want to stress, that this is a very short, even by my impatient standards, period of planning time. But I had identified what I needed. I knew my main characters very well. Too well. I knew the conflict and the challenges. What I didn't know was how I would end it... but I never know that.

To get into the right state of mind, I spent time flipping through old year books (oh yeah, I worked myself up). I reminisced, bringing back and tapping into those awkward days. I read the notes that my friends wrote ("You're the best. KIT" -- "Lakers rule!"). Then I hit the mother load. I had forgotten that during 9th grade I kept a journal for about three months. As I read the horrible melodrama that was my life, I knew that I was ready to explode with content.

But I did one more thing on the 29th. I analyzed one of my favorite romantic comedies -- Notting Hill. I even blogged about it for you. My new story is a romantic comedy so I wanted to assure that I had not left any page unturned.

I bagan to write in earnest on August 30th. I wrote the first chapter and stopped there. I have this ceremonial thing that I write the first chapter and evaluate the voice, the dialogue and the characters. The next day I gave it to my wife. She smiled and said the thing every writer wants to hear. "I want to know what happens next."

The surge was unstopable. On Sept 7th I tweeted the following:

The next day, on Sept 7th I tweeted this:

Nine days of writing and I was at 53k words.

By the next day I was sitting at 60k words. Which happened to be the goal for this particular story.

I wrote fast, because I honestly couldn't stop the process. I was scared that I would lose it if I didn't burn through it. Also, I needed to know how the story would end. I used all my tools that I've written about in the past. Scrivener, Evernote and the iPad. Not to mention Nutella (#nutellaWriters) and espresso.

On Sept 9th, I was done. Over the past couple of days I've taken a break. I have to tell you, writing like that has a burn out effect. I was (am) exhauseted. To keep up this clip I would wake up at 4 AM to write until 6 AM. Then from 7 PM until 1 or 2 AM.

Now, I'm done. And a bit shell-shocked.

Now I'm letting it simmer. I'm creating distance from the story. I will return to it in a month (maybe two weeks... maybe one). And I have to say, I'm dying to read it. I'm already considering a few additional scenes... but I must admit, maybe I wrote those scenes already. 

I can't recall. 

It was all a blur. 

A dream, but a real dream.

Fight the good fight!


  1. You wrote in ten days what takes me three months. O.o...

    damn overachievers.

  2. LOL! But I'm not attesting to the "quality" of them words :) Your words are better than my words. This is starting to feel like a kung-fu movie from the 80's!

  3. WOW! Congrats, Ara! Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and just put those words on paper (read: scrivener/iPad/nutella/evernote). Congrats! I imagine the creative hangover must be quite intense. I think the most I've ever written in a day is about five thousand words, and after that, I couldn't tell the difference between reality and my own head anymore. It was AWESOME.

  4. Thanks, Kathryn. You're right, the hangover is still weighing on me. It's a unique type of exhaustion. I hope I didn't break myself and that I can regenerate that type of energy. I think we're literary drug addicts :)

  5. Man, we couldn't even be the cool kind of addicts... Once a geek...


  6. Wow. FANTASTIC job! I think my record word count for a day is somewhere around 6-7k. But sustaining that for ten days...very impressive.

    Definitely let your story sit for a bit before you look at it--it'll help you have fresh eyes when you start editing (which, I imagine, will take more than ten days :D ).

    Great job and congratulations! That's certainly an accomplishment to be proud of.

  7. Thanks, Ava. My ability to stay away from a finished draft is directly tied to what I can do to keep my mind busy. So I've started to build an Arc in my back yard! I suspect my editing will take at LEAST 11 days... or 11 months... or 11 years. I forget the unit of measure :)


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