Aug 9, 2007

Writing A Book-In-A-Week? Are You Insane?!?

by Heather Horrocks

I’m in the middle of a BIAW (book-in-a-week) challenge and am now stopping to write this blog. I’m not going to count my blog word count, because it’s not part of my latest book. (Darnit.)

I love BIAW challenges as they are a time to put aside the editor and just let my creator run free. Of course, I’m writing from a detailed outline that my creator had a few days to work on and then my editor fixed for several weeks. So now it’s time for my creative side to play on the pages again and not let my internal editor (the witch!) anywhere near the computer.

In my second BIAW, I actually wrote an entire novel in four days. I finished another novel in the first two days, and then wanted to sit back and say, ‘Okay, I’m done.’ But I had another novel completely plotted (though it was before my detailed outline days) and thought, ‘What the heck. I’ll give it a whirl.’

It was the most exhilarating week of my life! I was working full time and so my writing day began after dinner, usually after the kids were in bed, and continued well into the night. (I can’t do that any more. Now I have to work during the day because my body actually demands that I sleep at night these days, if you can believe that. Lucky for me, I no longer have the day job to juggle so I can actually do it.)

I ran up against my Impossibility Barrier that week. I’d written 40 pages a day for the first two days, finishing up the first book, and decided I could write 40 pages a day for the next four days and I would aim to finish the second book, which is now titled Opening Night Jitters at the WhoDunHim Inn. So I wrote 40 pages of what was then known as Snowed Inn the third day. The fourth day, I wrote about 20 pages and realized that all of my characters were wooden and stilted and cardboard carry-ons. The dialogue sucked big time. Everything was wrong. (What was wrong was that I’d let my editor take a look at the pages, I realize now.) And it was true. I still didn’t really know the characters as this was the first book in a new series.

And so, as my older son was watching the movie Dune in the other half of the family room (where my computer resides), I started glancing over more and more. Finally, after only 20 pages, I walked over to the couch and watched the movie to the end. It was now about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.

And I am so thankful that, when the movie ended, there was some part of me that said, very calmly, ‘You can watch all the movies you want tonight, but you are not going to bed until you’ve written your 40 pages!

So I walked back over to the computer, nearly brain dead from sleep deprivation, and wrote my 40 pages. The dialogue still sucked, the characters still needed to have their one-dimensional cardboard selves carried on and off stage. But when I went to bed (at an obscene hour of the night, especially considering I had to get up early the next day and go to work), I had the 40 pages for the day.

And, amazingly enough, when I started writing the next night, all of a sudden the dialogue wasn’t stilted. It was actually pretty good. And the characters seemed to flesh out and become three-dimensional as I wrote. By the time I wrote 40 pages that night and 40 the next, the book was finished. (Well, at least the drecky first draft of the book was finished.)

I highly recommend that all writers attempt to write a book in a week. It’s an incredibly freeing experience.

My sister, September, has actually walked on hot coals several times (without burning her feet, I might add). And she told me that the first time she did it, and didn’t burn her feet, she realized that something she had thought was impossible was actually possible. And, if that impossible thing was possible, then what else that she considered impossible was possible.

That’s how pushing through to the end of that book in four days felt – like I’d done what I previously considered impossible.

Now I routinely write the drecky first draft in two weeks (a BI2W : ). It is possible.
Now . . . what other things I think are impossible are really possible? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.

Oh, and one funny aside. My sister September told a friend that I was doing a book-in-a-week challenge. He shot her a funny look and said, "What’s so special about that? I read a book in a week all the time." He was more impressed when he learned that I was writing a book in a week.

It took me six months to revise the book (now it takes two or three).

Next time you hit your Impossibility Barrier, push on through. The view from the other side is liberating and amazing.

You can do anything! Remember the scripture: I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Even if it seems impossible.

And this doesn’t just apply to writing.

(And if this blog is a drecky first draft instead of the more-polished version I usually give, it’s because I’m in the middle of a BIAW and I happen to be writing dreck, and doing that as fast as I can – and I want to get back to scene #29!)


  1. What a neat idea. I think I'll try it. Thanks.

  2. How encouraging to find you, too, struggle with some of the same things I do. I'll try to follow your advice, and just get on with it--at least until the draft is finished. Thanks for your imput.


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