Writing Odyssey: The Binge

By the time I finish writing this article, I’ll have written 123,000 words in fifty days. The output constitutes two short-book-length works (one novel, one reference work), nine blog posts, two commissioned articles, and some odds and ends of work on another novel.

For the first half of the duration, I did it by accident. So, I thought it might be worth something to those of you who write or want to if I documented the experience.

It started off with a chat with another author who asked me some questions about guns for a book she was working on. Over the last couple years, this sort of thing has gotten pretty common as I’ve inadvertently acquired a reputation as something of a level-headed gun nut.

I got to thinking that much as I enjoy the excuse to talk shop with other authors, the volume of conversations I’d been having on this topic should tell me something: A lot of the current generation of authors simply don’t have first hand experience with firearms, but almost all of us use them in our fiction. Wouldn’t it be handy if there were a special podcast episode that went over the basics?

It seemed like a harmless enough project when I posted my first call for questions on June 22nd.

The questions came in fast, and in a large volume. By July 5th I had an outline for a fifteen episode podcast series, each episode being roughly fifteen minutes covering information on a single topic. So, on July 8, I started writing.

By July 15, I knew I was writing a book. The chapter list had grown to forty, and I’d split it into two books. I decided to write the first now, and the second in a couple months when I had a break.

On August 4, I finished the book. At fifty-five thousand words, plus illustrations, tables, and references I thought it would shape up to be a very nice e-book release. A companion podcast goes without saying.

But I was also on a roll, drunk on my power over the English language. I’d just done over fifty thousand words in a few weeks. Some of those days I put out more than ten thousand words, others only a few hundred. I had terrible RSIs, I was having trouble keeping up with other stuff (particularly paperwork), and I nearly missed an article deadline, but the words were still coming.

I needed to get back to fiction though. For one thing, if I wrote one more word about firearms I was going to want to use one on myself. For another, I desperately needed to finish Free Will so I could get on with my next projects.

But Free Will wasn’t ticking over for me. It was going to take a lot to get back into it–a couple hundred pages of reading to get back into the characters. I needed a good short story to get my fiction juices flowing again, so I pulled the pilot project for a new series of mystery shorts up and started working on it. Those of you who were at my reading at Balticon remember this one–you were all laughing pretty hard. For those of you that weren’t, think Douglas Adams writes Chinatown.

It was just supposed to be a nice little story, about six thousand words, pleasantly twisty with an appropriately bizarre solution. That was my idea, anyway.

The story itself had other ideas. In the last few weeks, I’ve written it twice. Once as a 20k word novella, and then (after being told it was far too dense) as a nearly 60k word novel (which I finished today). I suspect it’ll grow by another 10-20k over the next couple weeks as I revise and polish it.

Which is, I suppose, a long way of saying “Projects have a way of growing on me like a fungus.”

So if you want to do something this ridiculous and write this fast, how can you do it? Click here for a list of the lessons I learned from this little adventure that might make it replicable!

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