Welcome to my new monthly blog post (Oh! Look What I Found!), all about shit I found while researching for some creative project. I do a lot of random digging and searching and connecting to try and flesh out my stories, worlds, and characters. Now, I want to share some of it with you!
Writing a Book in a Week
So, if you’ve been reading the blog and following my writing journey for the past few months, you know I’ve been gearing up to write a book—a novella to be exact. Books are classified as novellas when their word counts fall between 17,000 and 40,000 words. My aim before writing my first draft was to draft at least 25,000-words. 25,000-words, for me, was a great starting point for my book. My horror novella is meant to be a short, slow, heated tragedy told in fanfictions, diary entries, and traditional third-person perspectives.
I didn’t want to write a happy ending, but I still wanted to maintain hope in a very dark story. The experimental and nonlinear telling is really important to how I see this story. It is its form. I couldn’t tell it in a traditional or familiar way. I wanted to tell it just as it happened with all the weird and impossible moments. I also wanted to deal with a topic that scares the shit out of me. Caregiving for elderly parents who are suffering from dementia. I wanted to talk about the bravery, the tenderness, the fright, the joy, the sadness, the unfairness of it all. But I also wanted to talk about stories and memories and how they shape who we are and how we care.
To help me reach this weird unfathomable end, I spent the past couple of months, sketching the characters and scenes throughout the book. A part of my scene drafting process is deciding on word counts for each scene to help me see the pacing of the story. Too many long scenes stacked together can create long and slow pacing with little space for the reader to breathe. While a bunch of rapid scenes can make it feel like the story is flying by and sorta just happening without anything for the reader to hold onto it. It’s better to have a mixture of scene lengths to vary the pacing and have it feel more natural for the story.
Then between March 14th and 20th, I wrote 25,968-words in the morning hours before starting the rest of my work. I was able to average about 2,300-words a day on my book. While for a lot of people that may not be a lot, I was so happy to see more of the story coming out on the page. A lot of what helped me get the story written in such a short span of time was the fact that I drafted summaries for the scenes and had an idea of my cast of characters.
I work full-time as a writer and editor, so I needed to schedule out my week in a way that allowed me to still work and live. And my home life is going through a lot of change and stressful moments, so finding time and keeping my head in the game was hard. One of the first things I did before my drafting week started was let my partner know what I was doing. I told them my planned schedule and even gave them a very exciting play-through of the story. Since my partner works later in the mornings and my deadlines aren’t usually due until the afternoon, I figured the best time to write was between 7 AM—10 AM.
So each morning I got up at 6 AM to make sure I fed and played with my cats. If they don’t get their morning attention, they—especially my little orange two-year-old cat—will go bonkers and demand playtime. It’s super distracting, so getting that out of the way first helped get my cats cozy and ready for morning naps by the time I sat down at my desk. And what writer doesn’t love looking at their sleepy fur babies while they work? Depending on what the day looked like, I would continue writing past 10 AM and would go as late as noon if I didn’t have any other pressing obligations.
I did notice the next couple of days after these long drafting mornings where I’d write 4,000+ words I would be really exhausted—both mentally and emotionally. Thankfully, though, I had my scene outline to guide me. So even during days when it was hard for me to form sentences, let alone thoughts, I still knew what I needed to write that day to get to the next part in the story.
Instead of spending hours sitting at my desk thinking up what happens next while also trying to write, I spent several months thinking about the idea and fleshing it out a bit so I knew how I wanted it to build, break, and come back together in the end. Sure, I could have written the book while I was drafting the scenes, but I think it would have taken me longer, I would have been more indecisive, and I wouldn’t have had as much fun writing. It probably also would have taken me way longer than 14 hours to draft the book.
And yeah, the 1st draft could be shit, but I honestly don’t think it is. I haven’t read a word of it since I stopped writing and didn’t go back and re-read or edit while I was writing, so I’m not 100%. But I do know that I wrote the story I set out to with all the weird turns, hot sex, and snowstorms without a fear that I wasn’t going in the wrong direction. And and I felt it. I felt those sparks that made me cry, that made me scared, that made me want to stop writing because it was too true, too harsh, too raw. I felt all that.
To be honest, I didn’t even follow my scene outline to a T. I allowed the natural telling of the story and the weirdness I wanted to convey in the structure carry how the scenes ended up being drafted in the end. I even changed ages and occupations for some characters because it worked better for the story on the page and not the one in my head. Even chucked the word count limits I set for some of the scenes. Though I will say, I surprisingly only went over in a handful of scenes.
So, I don’t have anything fun or cool to share from my research except:
I wrote a book and it’s weird. Like really weird. One of the weirder stories I’ve ever written, but also the most emotional and tragic.
My aim is to edit through it over the next couple of months to have it ready for submission in the fall. I’m also toying with adding 40,000 more words to it and turning it into a full novel and querying it. But that would change its tone, telling, and atmosphere. Either way, I do have at least one agent who wants me to send them the manuscript once it’s ready, so there’s that.
Thanks for swinging by and reading about what I’ve been up to the past couple of weeks. I appreciate it. I’d appreciate it even more if you’d consider subscribing to my blog or checking out some of the books, games, and stories I have available for fans, followers, and readers.
And if you have any recommendations for horror novellas, I’d love to hear about them. Just drop a comment below!