Between January 3rd and 17th I wrote a novel, which I’m currently calling Disgusting, Beautiful, Immoral. The total came to just around 107,000 words which is far longer than anything I’ve ever written. In comparison The Island on the Edge of Normal was around 60K words by the time it was published.
I’ve since sat back and thought about what the experience was like. Here are a few things that I’ve learned:
1. I like to write in bursts. I knew this, but I had never really allowed myself to write this way. I’ve done some epic sessions before, but this time I gave myself permission to write the way it felt easiest.
2. I had to let go of other things. Like cleaning, meeting friends, and generally being a responsible adult. This required permission from my partners as well as myself. But I felt guilty about writing so much, and I finally had to ignore that feeling in order to keep going.
3. I overthink things. I’ve known this is true, but I hadn’t realized how much it impeded my ability to put words down on a page. Should that really happen next? Is that realistic? Can I seriously write another sex scene? Didn’t I just do that? Writing so quickly let me do far less of this than I might otherwise. I had some moments towards the middle and end where I started to wonder if I should go in a different direction and I had to decide to trust my instinct.
4. Writing a whole lot is disorienting. I found myself stuck in the world I was writing, and often had trouble focusing on the people around me. I was distracted at work, at home, and everywhere else I went. At times I felt nearly drunk, although I wasn’t drinking all that hard during the process.
5. I can’t control when or how ideas arise. For months I’ve been trying to come up with an idea for a new novel. I’ve started at least five different books and never got anywhere. I kept at it, and kept thinking, but when this novel started it felt completely new. It wasn’t something I had considered, but it just kept on coming and I had to write the words down. I had to let go of all the other things I thought I might write. It was nice to know that ideas do arise like this, but I can’t make it happen, and I have no idea if it will happen again.
6. I can write far more quickly in first person than anything else. When it comes to simply putting words on a page, I’m enough of an egotists to know that first person is key. I can write about me all day long.
7. I like it. This is simple, but I think valuable. This was not a miserable, gruelling experience. It was fun, exciting, thrilling, and easy. It took up a lot of time, and it was hard work, but I enjoyed it completely. Rather than feeling exhausted and overwhelmed when I was done, I thought to myself, what’s next?
So, there you have it. I’m not sure if it will be helpful to anyone else, but it’s been to think about. I’d love to hear how you write, and what you learn from yourself by your process.