Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Fastest Writer in the West

I admire NaNoWriMo, the every-November project to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, but let's be honest -- with a computer that's not exactly ball and chain drudgery. Fifty thousand words divided by 30 is 1667 words per day. If you use voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking (which I do for first drafts) you've met your daily quota in about half an hour; forty-five minutes tops.

Try writing an entire book on an electronic typewriter in six weeks, from rough draft to finished, perfect manuscript ready to ship to an editor. That, my friends, is a challenge.

I know because that's how I wrote Tainted Gold in 1985.

The ink on the contract was still wet when my editor called me to tell me they'd had a book fall through. She asked if I could turn in Tainted Gold in six weeks to plug the hole in the line. I told her I'd do my best.

Of course I did. I was young and stupid. Tainted Gold was only my second book. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My husband Michael was in California for two months running a plant for his company. Ours sons Chris and Paul were out of school for the summer. My cousin Ginny loved kids. She offered to take the boys, and they wanted to go, so I shipped them off.

I wrote like a fiend, day and night. I wrote a chapter, edited the chapter, typed it clean with a carbon copy and set it aside. I finished the book right on the nose of the deadline and sent it overnight to my editor.

I came home from Fed Ex, fell face first into bed and slept fourteen hours. Then I called my cousin Ginny and asked her to bring my boys home. I dedicated the book to them: "For Chris and Paul, who sacrificed their summer vacations."

I have never worked so hard in my life. I swore to God that I never would again. When I received my acceptance check for Tainted Gold I bought my first computer, an Epson QX-10 with dual disk drives, a dot matrix printer for drafts and a Brother daisy wheel printer for final manuscripts. Those three machines, plus a dinky 8-inch green-on-black monitor cost me $2500. Worth every penny ten times over.

Did I get a bonus for half-killing myself to write the book in six weeks? Why yes -- just today, as a matter of fact. Samhain Publishing's Retro Romance is re-releasing Tainted Gold with a gorgeous new cover.

Any time a book gets a second chance to reach new readers and introduce them to the author's work it's a windfall.

So there you have it, NaNoWriMo participants. If I can write 60,201 words in six weeks on a typewriter -- you can write 50,00 in a month on your PC or laptop. You don't even have to make a carbon copy.

You've got ten more days. I'm cheering for you. Good luck!