Writing a 12,000 Word Story in Two Weeks

I know, I'm bad at this whole schedule thing. Thank you to everyone who keeps reading despite my lack of consistency. I'm working on it.

Ok, so it was actually 11,574 words. Still, it was the longest thing I've ever written. Without giving the whole plot away (since I am trying to get this thing published), here's the synopsis I sent to the publisher:

It's not easy being Rick. He was a high school football star and now he works in a warehouse stacking boxes all day. He lets in a mafia boss, Marco De Luca, during the night so he can meet with his associates privately. Rick likes De Luca. Rick would like to keep working for De Luca so he can leave his lame job. Of course, things get more complicated when the lights go out and people start dying. Now Rick's gotta help his boss, no matter what he hears in the dark. He might need a little help first.

It was my first time writing horror, and I went all in (as I tend to do). I didn't expect it to be quite this long when I started, but these things tend to happen when you follow the story rather than trying to force it into going where you want it. I'm shamelessly paraphrasing Stephen King here, but he essentially said that writers are spectators rather than God. You aren't making things happen so much as you're trying to relate them as best you can. Never has that been truer than in writing this story. It's not the first short story I write, not by a long shot, but I'm used to forcing words to do what I want, molding them into the story I want them to tell. It was at the beginning of this month, after walking through the National Gallery of Canada (and being thoroughly inspired by master artists) that I did something different. First, I had to decline an invitation to isolate myself in a coffee shop and just write. That's because you don't write when it's convenient or comfortable. When you're struck with the need to write, you need to get it done before you can move on (my travel buddy in Peru learned this when I got up to write in the middle of the night). I didn't know what I'd be writing, I just knew that I needed to do it. I spent hours in that coffee shop, typing away on my tiny laptop. When I'd finished, I felt (for the first time really) that I wrote something good. Not necessarily something that people would like to read, but something that was meaningful. I let the words happen rather than forcing them to come out. It felt like writing the truth, and it was liberating. Now fiction isn't truth, but I feel like there's something similar to writing a story the way it naturally happens. This story was the first one I wrote without a clearly defined outline and structure, and I'm confident it was all the better for it (honestly the only thing I figured out ahead of time was what the antagonist would be). That was my first real lesson: let the story happen rather than making it happen.

Now for a few rapid-fire lessons to break up this post a bit

I learned that I can write quickly. My first draft was done over a few days, half of which was written in the span of four hours. I'm thinking that's a good thing.

I learned how to format a story for submission. Even if my story doesn't get published, knowing this is invaluable going forward.

I learned that music with lyrics with affect your word choice, and not in a good way.

I learned that if you think you'll get writing done in a room full of people and cats, you're full of something else.

I learned that it's better to write a hundred words in a day (even if they're utter garbage) than nothing at all.

/rapid fire 

Here's a crucial lesson: how much review a story really needs. It's not the most enlightened revelation, it's not the most interesting topic, but I need to mention it because it's crucial. I hate reading what I write. It's a strange feeling since I'm a raging narcissist, but there it is. Still, I read this story over and over again. Because even when you let the story happen, what comes out isn't going to be perfect. There's going to be mistakes, sure, but my meaning here is that it won't be the best story it can be. That's the crucial difference. The first draft needs to just happen but then you've got to go over every single word multiple times. I must have read my own story about a dozen times. On my last reading (which was when I was formatting it for submission), I still picked up mistakes or stylistic choices that needed to be reevaluated. That's the real work part of the writing progress, a part I'd largely ignored so far. My writing suffered for it, but I'm expecting it to make a full recovery.

My writing suffered for it, but I'm expecting it to make a full recovery.