Herculean Effort

An MRFW Author Post

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20, 000.

I have written 20,000 words in a single day. My wrists burn, carpal tunnel snaking a life-long promise up my forearms and into the hinges of my shoulders. My neck cracks and doesn’t crack back. My brain is all used up.

I do not care.

adult-1850177_1920I have written 20,000 words in one day. I feel exhausted and invincible and intimidated of the editing stage, but proud. Writing – word count – this is where I shine.

I write quickly, I always have. Before National Novel Writing Month was mainstream, the only people who did it were the nerdy kids who liked English class too much (cough) were the only ones who did it. Back then, I beat the clock 7 out of 8 years I tried, my very first attempt as a Freshman in high school, handwriting in a binder that never again saw the light of day. I wrote voraciously, with manic focus and flying fingers, and I got far, told the stories I wanted to tell.

The writing has always been the easiest part. Of all the things I have learned as a writer, in my quest for understanding the craft I have devoted my life to, I never really had to learn writing. I learned the mechanics and grammar and passive voice. I continue to gobble up all I can on research and outlining and plotting and characterization. My toolbox grows larger, the more I realize that I don’t know. But actually putting words to the page, that’s never really been a problem.

I suppose I’m a lucky writer. I write in big, steaming chunks. When I’m in the middle of a brand new first draft, the day feels incomplete unless I’ve put down 4,000 or 6,000 words. I’m lucky, because a lot of the stuff I don’t know can be learned – researching techniques and character elements, that’s craft. I can learn craft. If I were to pick one element of writing to make really, really easy for myself, it would be the writing. After all, as Nora Roberts once said, ‘I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank page.’

The problem is, I’m not nearly so fast at fixing those bad pages as filling them.

mistakes-1756958_1920Don’t get me wrong. After nearly two years of self-publishing and another nearly two years working with independent presses, I’ve grown adept at self-editing and recognizing the superior intellect of my editors. I’m a good editor, I’d hazard to say I’m even a really good editor – especially of my own work. But I’m a slow one.

It’s kind of hard to be a Type A artist sometimes. When I’m writing free flow – the best kind of writer’s high – and the words are coming faster than I can type them, the obsessive element of my nature shuts right down. Go for it, it says, we’ll iron this stuff out when you’re done.

But then I’m done and I suddenly get very, very invested in the minuta. I’m looking up the word origin dates and the distance between cities. Suddenly that whirlwind adrenaline junkie who popped off 10k in an afternoon is replaced with a school marm who wears her reading glasses too tight and makes noises without ever moving her lips as she edits your essay in class.

I understand that being a fast writer and slow editor go hand in hand. When I take a step back, I’m pleased with the way things landed, as far as my writing process is concerned. But that doesn’t change the fact that coming off a writer’s high-speed, progress, progress, progress, to the editor’s methodical, detail-oriented task is frustrating. It is.

Sometimes, I need to simply remind myself that this is the writing process. We struggle and we excel in different areas. I can write a whole book in half the time it will take me to edit. Okay, step one, book is written. That ain’t nothing.

I do my best to treat writing like a business. It keeps me focused and involved and I don’t get to rely on writer’s block or lack of inspiration to take a day off. But sometimes, too, it’s important to remember that writing is an art, and art takes time, room to relax and figure out where it needs to be. As authors, we’re often very hard on ourselves. I mean, 20,000 words in a day, that’s nuts. But we are the very central point of our operations. If we don’t treat ourselves well, there’s no book at all.

I’ll do my best to keep that in mind for next time.♦

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