122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Monday, June 10, 2013

Slow and Steady Wins the Race...Eventually

I've been driving myself insane. A few weeks ago I finished the edits on my first manuscript and started the query letter process only to find out I'd missed a memo somewhere along the way. My 157,000 word behemoth of a debut novel should be have instead been in the 80,000 word neighborhood. Oops.

Torn between cutting, carving really, my titanic of a manuscript down to something an agent would be interested in or breaking it up into two reasonable length books, I doubled my efforts and got to work kinda doing both at the same time.

For whatever reason I felt like I should be able to make a few changes and have it submittable within a few weeks. I had already spent 18 months writing and editing, isn't that enough after all? Haven't I paid my dues? Well, to be frank, no.

Writing a book is like flying coach. No two people on a given flight pay the same amount for their seat to make the exact same journey. Google plane tickets from Portland to New York and see prices that range from $594 to $1,227. Yowza! The same is true of writing: some need months for their debut others take years and years.

Your point is?

My point is that it takes or costs as much as it costs. You can't rush the process. So, I'm breaking my book up into two and loving every minute of it...now. I was so focused on trying to take the shortest path to the "goal" I lost sight of why I do this in the first place. My writing process is slow. My muse puts together the basics of the story, then I edit edit edit until it's just right. No quick paths. No shortcuts. But I was killing myself trying to speed up the process.

There were days I fantasized about how fast I could get it done if I didn't work 40 hours a week, with an almost 2 hours daily commute. In these romantic notions, my schedule looks something like this:
   7:00 Wake Up
   7:30 Wake Up
   7:45 Wake Up
   8:00 Coffee while Tweeting about the Polish plane that crashed into a cemetery (11,000 bodies were recovered)
   8:15 Writing in hammock
   9:30 Personal chef brings breakfast
 10:00 Masseuse rubs shoulders while telling me how excited they are to read my book
 10:15 Checking retweets of airline crash. Continue writing in hammock
 11:30 Work out
 12:30 Update friends over lunch about ongoing airline crash investigation
   1:00 Camp out in Starbucks, editing manuscript
   3:00 Home to pick up kids, share bad news about plane crash
   4:00 Bike ride/roller blade with friends and/or kids before dinner
   6:30 Dinner made by said personal chef
   7:30 Reading and blogging with glass of wine
   9:00 Review massive number of book sales on Amazon and B&N, respond to emails
   9:30 In bed, reading a couple more chapters

This is just during the week. The weekend is much more strenuous and includes mornings of writing, then trips to the climbing gym, bike rides, hiking, camping, so on.

Kidding aside, I'm the single source of income and I have to pay the mortgage, car payments, and insurance. There is zero chance at this time in my life I can spend all my time writing. I squeeze in what I can, about 8 hours during the week and 8-10 hours on the weekend. But there are so many more experiences that make my life rich.

In the end writing is just a job, granted one were I get to make shit up, but in a few years I'll have a lot more time and maybe I can entertain the notion of quitting that 8-5 that sometimes feels like such an albatross. Italy. I could write from a small Italian village on the Mediterranean while Skyping with my friends as they are partaking on their own grand adventures.

So, take a deep breath, and just keep going. I'm the tortoise and that's okay. Slow and steady WILL win the race....eventually.

Carry on.


  1. When I finished my current novel it was over 130,000 words, and I was faced with the same dilemma. So I broke it into manageable chunks, (about 40,000 words each) and started editing it that way. After the first part was done, I decided that I would also (self) publish it that way, too. But that's just what I worked out for myself. (I'm way too impatient to do queries, etc.!)

  2. Hi M.L. Farmer. Thanks for connecting. 40k words is a great place to start, it really gives you room to expand the story and fill in the characters. It's funny when you do that how much more there is to tell. Sounds like the self-pubbing route worked well for you. Not only do you not need to wait, but it gives you the ability to control every aspect of your work. Good luck in your continuing adventures and thank you for sharing!