How I Wrote 85,000 words, from Laredo to Nogales, in 19 Days

I  finished the novel, and I am trying to process what it took, and what I went through.

I would wake up at 3am, have coffee, write. I worked through the day. I did research and made notes. Sometimes I would go to bed at midnight. Most of the time I was asleep by 9 pm, only to awaken at 3, 4, or 5 am again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

That’s how I wrote 85,000 words in 19 days.

I am still trying to process that. I have friends who say they were impressed, inspired, intimidated, happy, gob-smaked, etc. I don’t think it has hit me yet, even now, what I accomplished.

I had not worked on the novel since Thanksgiving of last year. One year to the day, I started work on Thanksgiving 2012. Nineteen days later I was finished.

This has been a long WIP. The final writing took two-and-a-half-weeks, but the project has been going on much longer. About a year and half. But in that year between holidays I wasn’t fallow. I went on research trips. I went to Colorado, Caprock Canyon, Palo Duro, and the trip along the Mexican border from Laredo, TX to Nogales, AZ. (Most of the novel takes place in 1868 along the border from Laredo to Nogales, with a side trip to Montana. I thought about the novel. I never stopped thinking about the novel. I studied and did homework on places, people, and things the main characters would encounter.

Even though I had visited these places myself, Google Earth helped  a lot, haha.

I had four or five false starts under my belt, some of them 130+ pages long. I was never happy with how the novel started. I had a difficult time finding the starting place for the novel. I knew some things about it, however. First, it was going to be very difficult to write, because I wanted to write it in a certain voice, style, tone. If I had written this like other Haxan stories, I could have finished it in three months. It was going to be a challenge. That’s what attracted me to it. I wanted to be tested. I wanted to see if I was good enough to tackle a work of this scope and mirror the vision I had for the thing.

I never thought I could not do it. I didn’t know if I could do it in the way the novel demanded. I never grew impatient. I knew I would find the key to the puzzle, I just couldn’t figure out where it was. Sounds goofy, I know. But that’s writing.

As Thanksgiving of this year approached I knew what I had to do. The novel had to be in 3rd POV. I had tried, failed many times to get the novel started in 3rd. I had switched gears finally and had about 140+ pages of 1st POV, but that wasn’t how I viewed the novel. I had a particular vision what this story was supposed to sound like. How it was supposed to be. I didn’t want to compromise that idea. I didn’t want the story to be less than my original vision called for. This is what made it so difficult, I think.

During this time I talked to other writers, sought their advice, vented, brainstormed. But I never thought I could not write this story, or I wasn’t good enough to write the story. For me, failure was never an option. I never reached a point where I thought the story wasn’t worth the trouble. I never felt that way here. Never.

I am very happy with the outcome. I have told the story I wanted to tell, in the way I wanted to tell it, without compromise. I don’t know if it will ever sell. I don’t know if anyone will like it. That’s not a decision for me to make. I see three rewrites on this. I will do the first, which will be correcting and tightening. Typical rewrite stuff,  with deep attention to structure, grammar, etc.  Second will be a complete read-through to see how it all hangs together. The third time I will read it out loud for the ear, and made corrections as needed.

For me this is the most important story I have ever written. That’s how I view it. For all the trouble, all the focused energy I used up in 19 days, the trouble and struggle I went through in a year and a half….I enjoyed writing this more than anything else in my life. It was hell. Make so mistake. But I never enjoyed working on a story more in my life.

In. My. Life.

That right there, tells me this story was worth it.

I will blog more later about the process and other things, for those who might find that interesting. As you might guess, I am still catching up on sleep. I also want to thank M.G. Ellington, Melissa Lenhardt, and Jennifer Brozek for their interest, suggestions, and belief I  could do this. That meant a lot to me.

7 Replies to “How I Wrote 85,000 words, from Laredo to Nogales, in 19 Days”

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