Friday, February 3, 2012

And They Call Me Crazy


Almost two years ago, I sat in a workshop given by the amazing Joyce Maynard.  I had just finished her book Labor Day (and loved it) and so of course my ears perked up when she started talking about the process of writing that particular novel.  Afterall, I was in the middle of writing Ragtown, and wanted to know everything I could about the process that others, read as, 'great' writers go through, hoping to find some similarity, something that might ease my mind about the blood I was sweating over my keyboard.  Then she hit me; a slap wouldn't have produced such a sting.  Eleven days.  It took her eleven days to finish the rough draft of Labor Day.

I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly, and verified this with her later in the day.  Slap, slap. Yes. Eleven days.

It took me two years to finish Ragtown.  Granted, it is my first major piece of work, and there was a lot of historical research involved.  But two years versus eleven days?  I'm not worthy.

Every November, National Novel Writing Month, better known as NanoWriMo, comes around.  It encourages writers to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days and offers peer support and encouragement along the way.  I've never participated, basically because I didn't see how it could possibly be done.  I know people do it, but me? Never.

A friend of mine, Leif G.S. Notae, finished his 50,000 words in three days.  Then wrote an article titled "How I Wrote 50,000 Words in Three Days (And You Can Too)".  I read it and thought, no, I can't. 

One of my favorite authors of late is Russell Blake.  I've been devouring his books and one of my favorites is King of Swords, which was followed by the prequel, Night of the Assassin.  Then I read an interview with Russell---King of Swords, fourteen days.  Night of the Assassin---eleven. 

Granted, the novels I've mentioned above and the time it took to write them are pre-editing, but still, two weeks? Eleven days? THREE days?  No way. NO (insert your favorite curse word) WAY! At least not for me.

On January 10, I pulled out a very short story I had written last year, thinking I would pretty it up and send it off to some journals.  I sent it to a good friend, Darren Leo, for editing.  I also mentioned the possibility that I would, one day, write a novel and use this piece as the first chapter.  One of his comments really caught my eye. "I would definitely like to hear more about these characters."

I knew where I wanted to go with this piece.  I thought about Joyce and Leif and Russell and all the NanoWriMo-er's, and again thought--- No. I can't. 

Then on January 11, I wrote five thousand words.  By the end of the day, I was starting to say, 'well, maybe I can.'

Three days and 20,000 words later, I realized: Yes, I can.  And even better: Yes, I will.  My mojo was working overtime, my muse was on speed dial and I knew my story.  I couldn't type fast enough to get it all down.   

And I did it.  55,362 words. 16 days. THE END.
  
Sure, it's rough, and I'll be revising and editing for several months, but I did something I had thought was out of my reach, something I thought was only reserved for really 'great' writers, something I thought I could never do.  All I had to do was find my story and start typing; and like the little engine that could, start saying 'I can' instead of  'I can't'.

I recently talked to Joyce Maynard, two years after that workshop.  This time, instead of feeling that sting, I found myself nodding my head when she said "all of my books have been written in short, intense bursts...But I believe in getting in the zone and staying there."  

And now I get it. Story. Zone. Butt to chair. Fingers to keyboard. Yes, I can.
Yes, I did.


For more about And They Call Me Crazy, check out my 'Work in Progress' tab above. 


34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe in burts as well, then going back over and over and over, but definitely bursting/spewing while in the moment. Never did more than 10K in one day and usually get sidetracked to another project or two before I ever finish the original 10K piece (if I finish it), but sometimes the momentum takes you and you best to go with it.

Of course this can also happen when I eat a single slice of pizza and before long we're ordering a second pie ... but that feels pretty good too.

- Charlie

Jen Boissonneault said...

Well done, Kelly. I always knew you could do it! I works in bursts as well; I can't seem to write one page a day to meet my deadlines.

Best of luck with your new project. :)
Jen

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

i didn't stop for pizza, Charlie. That could have been my downfall. :)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Am I the only one that never wrote in a burst? I guess I just needed the right muse.

Russell Blake said...

Glad to see you've found religion. I've always said, it's the discipline to just do it that is one of the toughest things to develop. Right now, I'm into my next WIP, a sequel to King. I have a goal of three weeks to finish it. I will do it. 100K in 21 days? Sure. That's less than 5K a day. If you aren't working on something else, that's 6 hours a day of writing, maybe 7. It can be done. But as with all things, one must do it.

Congrats on your book. Now go write another one. Wink.

Leif G.S. Notae said...

Now this is a tale I am glad to be a part of. So glad to see it working out for you and how it will affect you in the future is anyone's guess.

It's on now, BOOK COLD WAR! hehe

Thanks for the mention, glad I could help.

Wendy Van Camp said...

I'm glad you had a positive NaNoWriMo experience. There is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you hit the 50K goal toward the end of the month. Good article. :)

Loree Huebner said...

Nice work! Congratulations!

I had heard, and I don't know if it is a true story or not, that Stevenson's novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was written in three days...then his maid burned his manuscript on accident, and he re-wrote it in like 4 - 6 days.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Russell. Looking forward to the sequel. And if I get another great idea, I just might do that. :)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Leif. I really loved the article. I plan to have this one edited, another two completed and one of those edited by December. Lofty goals for me!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Well, it was more like my own NaNoWriMo, KelNoWriMo in January. Thanks, Wendy.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I think I would have burned the maid. :)

Beth Ann Garland said...

Kelly Stone Gamble. You continue to inspire me beyond the writing of mere words. I can. I can.

Tyler 2.0 said...

You are amazing and I aspire to have your drive. I can't wait to read this new one!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Little engine that could, Bethie.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Tyler. Funny, now that I'm editing, I've scrapped the entire first chapter that was the original short story and am rewriting the entire opening. The other 50k+ I'm okay with for now. lol.

-RWWGreene said...

I don't know that I've ever had six sequential hours to do such things with. I don't even know if I can sit still that long.

Krystal Wade said...

We can totally do it! The only thing preventing us from writing faster is us. I wrote a rough draft of Wilde's Fire in 6 weeks (and I have a day job and three kids when I get home).

I'm proud of you. Now if I could only sit down and write Wilde's Meadow. LOL.

Can't wait to read Ragtown OR this new novel! Smile, edit, and write the next!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

It helps that I don't sleep much at night. Russell, however, is a machine.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Have to keep smiling, that's for sure!

Kenya Taylor Wright said...

Awesome i will try this tommorow!!!!


www.kenyawright.com

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Just start typing!

Ciara Ballintyne said...

No, you're not the only one who has never written in bursts. I simply don't have that kind of time. 6-7 hours writing a day? I would have to give up sleeping, or otherwise take leave from work and ship my child off to her grandparents. On a good day, though, I can do 3500 words in 2 hours. For now, I'll settle for that.

You have my admiration though.

debrakristi said...

That's fantastic Kelly! I only get those kinds of bursts when the kids are gone. Like out of town gone. But when that happens it is awesome! Now that you know what you're capable of you'll be cranking out the novels left and right. :D

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

3500 a day is an amazing amount of writing! I would be happy if I could steadily do half that.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Oh, I have big plans, Debra. Yes, my kids are grown and gone, so it's a lot easier without having to manage the family at the same time.

Kellianne Sweeney said...

Go Kelly Go! Congratulations and I can't wait to read it. My biggest obstacle with a writing block like that is my small loving children. Too loving. Like clinging loving. Like Daddy is not good enough loving.Maybe I should go to a hotel for a weekend and write there....

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I think the greatest thing a spouse can do for a writer is to give them a weekend in a hotel alone. Even better if it is a luxury hotel on top of a mountain, but, hey, Motel 6 would do.

JustinBog said...

I love the way you went about your writing here . . . the post and your new novel. I look at this book called The Nine Muses as a touchstone, crack open the title and search and then write, write, write. You are an inspiration to so many writers and other creative and noncreative types. Thank you for sharing your process.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thank you Justin. I think this will be my new process, because I enjoyed it, and now, am loving the editing.

Suzanne Shumaker said...

Wow! I'm super inspired (I can't do it, but I'm inspired to know that you can - lol)... thank you for the kick start I need.

Amberr Meadows said...

Bravo, Kelly! I knew you could do it. It almost makes me think I can, too. You've gotten a new look fairly recently, haven't you? I like! :-)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks for noticing, Amberr. Yes, I needed a change, thought I'd go black. They say you never go back. :)

Tim said...

Yes.