With everyone under quarantine or self-quarantine right now with the COVID-19 Virus, many people have endeavored to finally start writing more each day.
I did not expect to be one of those people.
Because I recently finished a book with a friend (contract in the works at the moment) in February, and because I write 6,000-7,000+ words weekly for freelancing jobs, I figured I'd take a break from book writing.
Until, my grandma passed away two weeks ago.
I'd meant to write a book titled, "A Country of Their Own," for my living grandparents, a book that explores generational tensions, but when she passed unexpectedly from organs shutting down (read more about her condition here), I decided to write the book I put off for two or three years. And I dedicated it to her.
So I started writing.
Part of me wanted to get it done relatively quickly while all the emotions from the sudden passing were still fresh. I wanted to write this book as a tribute to her, so I tried something I never had before: I wrote 5,000+ words a day, while working 3 jobs, while still writing 6,000-7,000+ freelance in addition, and while grieving.
Ordinarily, when I write a book, I tackle about 3,000-3,500 words a day, and finish the project within 3 to 4 weeks.
So this time, I decided to add 2,000 to that daily number. How did I handle it?
Oh my goodness, guys, there's a reason why I cut myself off at 3,500 before this.
For some reason, those last 2,000 words sap all of your energy. Your brain hurts, you have to do breathing exercises, everything within you aches. You desperately want out.
In short, it's painful. I already didn't have much of a plan going into this book. I decided to pants about 80% of it, even though I function best as a plotter. So I already walked into this process at a disadvantage.
But still, I managed to accomplish what I thought impossible.
Let me lay out some lessons I learned from writing 5,000 words a day until two weeks later, I had a 75,000-word book.
1. You Learn Your Limits
Even though I did accomplish my goal, oh goodness, did this process hurt. I did fall in love with the characters, the setting, and marveled how the twists managed to intertwine at the end. Maybe there's more to this pantsing thing than I thought. But I will never write 5,000 words a day again.
Part of the reason I reached this conclusion is even when I plotted ahead for the next few scenes, I never reached that 5,000 word count. I'd have to go shower, go exercise, do something to help plan out the rest.
I think I'll still keep my goal at 3,500/day next time.
2. You Learn There's a Reason Why Authors Don't Write Books in 2 Weeks
It's not that it's impossible.
As we learned above, I managed to do it.
But you don't realize how much a book will wreck you emotionally, physically, and mentally until you start. It really is like running a marathon. The book takes a toll on your body, mind, and emotions.
Although most of this book didn't deal with heavy content, unlike certain other series I have written, it still deals with death of loved ones and how elderly people we care about can pass from this world so soon, so unexpectedly. I had to kill off one character in this book (at least), and only got to meet them for thirteen days before removing them from the picture.
3. You Learn to Accept the Messiness of the First Draft
You don't have time to edit when you write a book in two weeks (and work three jobs).
I'm pretty sure one of my side characters switched jobs halfway through the book, and I'll have to go edit it. I didn't even name some of the characters. I just put [Name] and plan to adjust that in the second draft.
Although I will wait a month before editing this, I already know plenty of areas I need to fix. But because I didn't give myself time to fix every comma and word, I learned to accept that I had to write a horrible first draft. And that's OK.
4. You Learn that You Have More within You Than You Thought
Writing a book is a frightening process. Once you reach the middle, you hate your story with a burning passion, and wonder how in the world you'll tie the A-plot with the H-plot, and all the other plots in between.
But through this process I learned that I had more strength, gumption, and perseverance within me than I thought possible.
Although I don't plan to write 5,000 words/day for a book again (or anytime soon), I learned that even though I've written twenty novels since I started in high school, that I still can challenge myself with each project.
Do you purposely try to give yourself challenges when you write? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.