Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writing Madness

  • I travel a lot on speaking engagements. I also teach a great deal besides writing five books a year. What surprises me is that most people--both writers and nonwriters alike, are interested in my writing process. But they're not fascinated by the part where I write 1o pages a day every day. What has them hanging on my every word is when I tell them about the deadline crunches and I end up having to write a book in two weeks.

  • This happens far more often than I would like. The process isn't enjoyable. In fact, it's quite miserable, but it never fails to get a response out of listeners. This summer I gave lectures at a group of colleges in California. At one workshop I spent the day talking about story structure and characterization and theme and all that good stuff. Then toward the end of the class, when it was opened up for Q&A and I told the tale of my writing madness, one student exclaimed, "Now this is what I paid $50.00 to hear.

  • Okay, so here it is.

  • When I have to write a 3oo page book in two weeks, the world comes to a halt. My family and friends are put on notice. No interuptions. Do not expect to see me for three weeks. (Two weeks for the writing, a week to recover)

  • The minute I roll out of bed in the morning, I'm at the computer.I know I have to write 30 pages a day for ten pages with four days for revisions. I eat massive amounts of chocolate. I guzzle caffeine. I strap on my noise cancelling headphones and listen to brain sync tapes and Mozart. I chew gum. (It's supposed to stimulate creativity.) I do not stop for any reason. I keep telling myself "Words on the page." I go days without showering. I don't have the time. I write in a blind hot rush, fast, faster, fastest. Sometimes my hands hurt so badly I type with ice bags tied to my wrists. When I finish the pages, I stumbled into bed and fall into a miserable sleep filled with my characters and their problems. I rarely sleep more than four hours then I'm up and back at it.

  • This goes on for fourteen hellacious days. I'm deeply submersed in the world of my characters. I become them and they become me.Day becomes night, night becomes day. I have no idea what day it is, what time it is. I write through the night until I hear the birds singing out my window. I fall asleep at two in the afternoon. My mind runs through this marathon of words.

  • In the end, I e-mail the book to my editor just in time to make the deadline. Then I collapse into bed and........most of the time I can't sleep.

  • The last time I did this I was awake for 48 hours. I tried to sleep, finally got up in the middle of the night and told my husband, "I need a steak." We made a midnight run to a an all night grocery store and we came home and he grilled me a steak. I sated my need for protein and finally fell asleep.

  • It is a horrible, awful, torturous way to write and I don't recommend it to anyone. Here's the deal. You'd think the book would be total crap, right? It sure as hell feels like total crap when I'm writing it. But you know what? Almost all the books I've written this way get better reviews than the books I write the normal, ten pages a day way.

  • Is it magic? I don't think so. I believe it's the white hot heat of creation. I suppose that's what made the woman proclaim, "This is what I paid $50.00 to hear." When she said that, I so wanted to laugh. In order to write like this you have to be 1) Pretty well mad. 2) Masochistic 3) Seasoned!

  • I could not have written this way when I was first starting to write. I couldn't have written this way after I'd published 20 books. I can only write this way now because I've developed the creative muscle. For this woman to attempt my method would be like asking a couch potato to run a marathon in four hours. It ain't gonna happen and many brain cells could die in the process.
  • If you write, do you have any insane writing practices? If you're an aspiring author--stop comparing yourself to other people. Find your own process. If you're a reader, does it interest you to know how the books you love are created? Or would you rather just enjoy the book and not know?



Stacy S said...

It does interest me how an author goes about writing. I'm so glad you have several books come out in a year. I love your books. But no way would I want to write one like that!

Lori Wilde said...

Good morning, Stacy.

Honestly, I don't know how I write like this. I just do it because I have to. I'm sure my doctor would be horrified if he knew. LOL.

peggy said...

as a reader im glad to see all the new books.but we all need to take time to relax. i dont no how you do it.

Yvonne Lindsay said...

Lori, I'm in awe of your level of productivity in such a short period of time.

I feel like I'm on a roll when I'm doing 6-10 pages in a day but for me that usually only happens towards the end of a manuscript. Yesterday I burst through (well, burst through for me anyways, LOL) 18 pages and I expected to be alot more sore today but strangely enough, I'm not. And I can't wait to get the progeny off to school so I can get back home and into the last 30-odd pages of the ms. Now if I could only channel you for today I'd get through to 'the end'!

Leigh Russell said...

You sound incredible! I thought I was fast, averaging 6 weeks a book, but this is amazing. I can't help wondering - WHY are you given such demanding deadlines? It takes my publisher ages to decide on the designer, agree the cover, then there's the editor's reading and the marketing people - it's taking eight months from delivering the script to publication. Surely you could be allowed a little more time at your end?? But what fun to eschew life entirely for a few weeks and go and live in your 'other' world! Does it feel strange when you return? Or do you just slot back again? You are awesome, as the Americans would say! (We've just spent the day with American visitors)

Cherie J said...

As a reader, I am fascinated to learn how you authors create your wondrous works. Thanks for sharing.

Maureen said...

It is interesting. I think I have always assumed that an author had to write when inspiration hit and that this could go on for days.

Diana Holquist said...


You are amazing.


I have nothing else to say but wow.

(The check for $50 is in the mail.)


Yvonne Lindsay said...

Maureen, not sure about everyone else but for me I'm writing to a deadline and I can't afford to wait for inspiration to hit me. I have a routine of behaviour, which includes shutting my office door, lighting my oil burner and dropping in it whatever takes my olfactory fancey, turning on my water fountain (just a little desk top water feature thing) and puttin in my ipod earplugs and selecting something not sung in English. Then I write. LOL!

Actually, Lori, I'm curious, how much plotting do you do prior to your two week marathons?

Yvonne Lindsay said...

oops, please excuse the typos... just painted my nails!

Lily said...

I always love to know more about books and their authors!

Lois said...

Boy, I sure couldn't do it that way, not that I even write, but couldn't be like that. LOL But there were times some of my best grades way back when in school were because of a similarish type of situation. . . :)


Nathalie said...

Nice post!!

Your doctor would be scared... I don't want to know!