The Cozy Experiment, Part Two

Hey there! It’s time for an update on my Cozy Experiment, which I wrote about here. Overall, I have three cozy goals: Have More Fun, Write More Books, and Publish More Frequently. And to test out new writing processes I decided to write a cozy mystery during the month of September.

Oops! A Miscalculation

I started writing in early September, and it was all ticking along nicely until I realized that I’d miscalculated. I knew that I’d be busy the first few weeks of October, but I’d forgotten that the last week of September was taken up with an impromptu family reunion for my father-in-law’s eighty fifth birthday.

My month of writing time had just become three weeks, and I was almost two weeks in. Yikes!

I should have thrown up my hands and finished the book in October. But like a crazy person I decided I’d haul ass and finish the book before the family reunion. I told P that I’d be “living inside the book” for the next week and I did exactly that.

Drafting a Cozy Mystery in Three Weeks

So my September went like this:

  • I spent one week (plus a few days) outlining the story and preparing to write.
  • Plus two weeks writing the first draft, finishing at 10:30pm the evening of my revised deadline.

All in all, I averaged 4,000 words per day across ten writing days. In actuality, though, my numbers started off low (1200/day) and built up higher, ending with a marathon 9000 word session on the last day.

So I met my goal! But as I’ll discuss below, it came with some ups and downs, and I won’t be repeating this craziness anytime soon.

What it was Like to Write Faster

Writing quickly was surprisingly fun! Because I spent so many continuous hours in “the zone,” the creative process felt immersive and put me in a daydream-like state that carried over from day to day. Emotionally, it was like living inside a movie.

To my surprise, writing quickly was in some ways easier than writing slowly.  It was easier to hold the entire story in my head, I didn’t feel like I was losing track of my story threads, and there was less angst about next steps.

Now for the bad news. Writing quickly was exhausting, especially for my hands. I didn’t handwrite this draft, but even then my hands ached after a few steady hours of typing. I survived by setting an hourly alarm to remind myself to get up, stretch, and shake out my hands. I also took mid-day walks to clear my head. Even then, I used up all my mental energy on my long writing days. I felt wiped, like I’d just run a brain marathon.

Admittedly, I got big confidence boost from this exercise. Writing a book in three weeks sounds impossible, and doing something I thought was impossible made me feel pretty spiffy. I may have strutted around the house for a few days.

Pam Poovey from the animated show Archer shouts in triumph as she breaks loose from the ropes tying her wrists.
MUAHAHAA!

 

But What About Quality?

The million dollar question is this: Is the story any good? I do harbor concerns that a book written quickly might be schlock, and I really don’t want to write schlock! But my hunch is that I did just fine. I’ll know more when I pick it back up for editing in a few weeks.

Speed may contribute to quality in a few ways, at least. Writing quickly made it easier for me to keep track of continuity as I went through the story. And because I was having a lot of fun, and the process didn’t feel sloggy, my hunch is that the fun-quotient will carry through to the reader. But this is an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes, right? I guess we’ll see.

My Thoughts Thus Far

In summary, my initial impression of “writing fast” is that it’s a lot more fun than I thought it would be (yay!), but it was also a huge energy drain (boo!) Would this method allow me to meet my three cozy goals of Have More Fun, Write More Books, and Publish More Frequently? Yes! But is drafting a novel in fifteen days something I can do repeatedly? Probably not.

Doing it once was a fun challenge, but doing it over and over would be too difficult.  The writing life will lose it’s luster if it costs me all my energy and my ability to enjoy my non-work life.

That’s why, for my next round of the cozy experiment, I’ll slow down and search for the sweet spot between speed and sustainability. I’ll do all my book prep in October, and then give myself the full month of November to write the draft. That’s still plenty fast, but not so fast I’ll burst into flames.

I’ll check back in December and let you know how that goes.