Making writing a priority

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner, and I’m champing at the bit to get started. But while NaNoWriMo is a challenge, I’m taking it a little bit farther than that. 50,000 words in 30 days is great, but in the spirit of kicking it up a notch, I’m going to do 500,000 words in 300 days. NaNoWriMo times ten.

Here’s the plan. For NaNoWriMo, I’m starting with Revelation, the first book in the Between Heaven and Hell Trilogy. This book introduces Daniel Cho and drops him into a web of intrigue, deception and ancient secret societies that make the Illuminati and Masons look like the 4-H Club. I plan to write this novel through to the end, rather than stopping when I hit 50k or the end of November. At a pace of 2,000 words a day, I expect the first draft to take me about 6 weeks, finishing about a week or two before Christmas. And the day after I finish it, I’m starting on Crusade, then Jihad to round out the story of Daniel Cho. Then we jump forward a century or two to the Unification Chronicles Trilogy: Mistaken Identity, the story of our disastrous first contact with an alien species, The Nemesis War, the galaxy-wide struggle we get pulled into, and then a break to write Sins of the Mothers, a spin-off novel of one human leading the oppressed half of the alien race we fought in Mistaken Identity in revolution after the Nemesis War is over, before finally wrapping up the seven volume saga (what am I, Tolkien?) with Unification. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll finish Unification just before DragonCon 2010 on Labor Day Weekend, and I will make my trip to DragonCon a celebration worthy of someone who just finished writing seven novels in less than a year.

And because I can, while this manic manuscript marathon of mayhem is going on I’m also going to record and release four podcast novels (Do Over and the three books of the original Between Heaven and Hell), file bankruptcy, settle into a new job, move into a new apartment and try to lose 50 pounds. My only regret is that I can’t get married, have a kid and get divorced in the same time span just to round out the list of Most Stressful Things A Human Can Go Through. Maybe I’ll get hit by lightning instead.

Why am I doing this to myself? Good question. Clearly, because I’m stark raving mad. Or maybe I’ve just decided that with my high school graduation twenty years ago this past summer that in two decades of coasting by on as little effort possible, I’m tired of half-assing my life. I’ve never really pushed myself to my limits, even in Basic Training. As far back as I can remember, I’ve done as little as I could to get by. Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations,” and I don’t know mine. I’ve never really come close. I feel like my whole life I’ve been driving a vintage Porsche 911 (my writing ability) around the block to the grocery store and back. I want to know what I can really do once I get out on to the highway and really open this baby up.

Twenty years ago, I was living with my parents, working a McJob, and dreaming of being a famous writer. And now, twenty years later, I’m living with my parents, working in IT tech support and still dreaming of being a famous writer. I’ve achieved more than I had any right to expect, don’t get me wrong. I’m deeply thankful for every one of my fans, and in a lot of ways, I’m returning to Daniel Cho and the world he created for you. But I’m also doing it because while I’ve kinda sorta set out what I intended to do, I haven’t done it really. What I really want is to be a speaker at DragonCon, for people to fill a room to hear me talk about writing. I want, when I’m old, for people to look back on the giants of speculative fiction and name out Heinlein, Asimov, Kirvin.

Can I get there? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s the point. I still don’t really know, because I still haven’t really been tested. I’ve taken the quick and easy path (the Dark Side, if you recall) ever since elementary school.

That ends right now.

Starting November 1st, I’m going to get up every morning at 6 am sharp, regardless of how late I dragged myself to bed the night before. I’m going to wake myself up with a shower and think about the novel I’m working on. Then I’m going to sit my ass at my desk and write until 8 am. I’m going to do this every day, seven days a week, no days off and no vacations. If the muse is with me, I’ll get my 2,000 words for that day in that 90 minute session. If I don’t, I’ll write on my lunch hour or after work, but I’m not allowed to go to bed until I have my 2,000 words. Following the advice of Anne Lamott, Stephen King and Mur Lafferty, I do not care how good the words are. If I’m “blocked” and the muse just isn’t showing up, then I’ll get 2,000 words of gibberish or something later in the book or anything I can think of. The words don’t have to be usable, they just have to be there. I think most of them will be good. But I’m not going to sweat those that aren’t. That’s what rewriting is for, after DragonCon.

And that, dear readers, is the difference. That even though I’m going to have all this other stuff going on in my life, even though I have so many non-writing things to accomplish, writing is going to by my number one priority, coming before all else. Writing is the most important thing in my life. It has to be, or the next twenty years will be just like the last twenty, and I won’t have that.

Everyone I’ve told about this plan thinks I’m nuts. I don’t think that’s true. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day, James Rollins does about 1,500. The quota itself isn’t all that much more than the 1,667 words a day every NaNoWriMo participant shoots for. It’s only when I phrase it as “writing seven novels in a row” that it sounds crazy. But if I pull it off, if I succeed, I will have finally Accomplished Something that no one can take away from me. Is it the end of the road? Hell no. As mentioned above, there’s rewrites, finding a publisher, agent, promotion, etc. and that’s if I go the traditional publishing route. I could also go self-promotion podcast/CreateSpace/Amazon route, self publishing in tradition of Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau. (Walden was originally a podcast. Look it up.) But those are worries for another time. First, I have to write. I have to get these stories out of my soul, so I can make room for new ones.

And I’m taking you, dear readers, along for the ride.

10 thoughts on “Making writing a priority”

  1. Abso-freakin-lutely awesome! If there is anything, ANYTHING, I can do to help you I’m more than willing. You know I will like the efforts of your novels so I’m being selfish here. Now I see why you’re too busy for that collaboration thing. 🙂

  2. Dude I think you rock. You and I have a lot in common. 🙂 I wish you much luck and if I can be of any support please let me know. I’m aiming for one book written…one book podcast by DragonCon 2010. Here’s to us both!

  3. When you phrase it like that it sounds like an awesome goal. You know I’m on board with the Between Heaven and Hell rewrite after our talk the other night. I think you’ve got some great things in store and a fresh take on the story. More than anything though I’m excited for you to get all these out of your system so I can start reading new stuff.

    Have you thought about making this a challenge to other writers? Maybe hosting some sort of word count app on the Max Geek site and getting some competition going? Sort of like a 300 day NaNo but far less organized, because let’s face it if Max Geek is involved it’ll be less organized. Just a suggestion. Do with it as you will.

  4. Yeah, I’d still like to work with you on something, but the next 14 months (plan on finishing Homeworld and rewriting Ghost Ronin after DragonCon) are all about clearing the decks of all the projects I’ve been dragging around for far too long.

    And I think you’ll be pleased with the new books. Did you get the Google Groups invite?

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