Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Way Monday

This keeps coming up on Twitter, so I thought I'd explain the way I write and how it is that I write so much.

First of all, I don't intend for everything I write to get published... or even be considered for publishing. Due to my OCD, I have stories and ideas in my head constantly. They compete with the paranoia and worries and stress, but since I've started writing, it's the ideas and stories that keep me awake at night. OCD insomnia is pernicious. I can lie awake for hours, staring at the ceiling, despite being exhausted. In my mind, a dialogue or a quirky situation plays like a movie. I can't stop thinking about it. It won't leave my head. I write manically during the first 20K and last 20K of a manuscript. I don't sleep for fear that I'll forget... which is a sincere worry. I worry that if I forget, the story will never get out of my head but stay there in awful limbo consuming me little by little. Typically, the moment I finally feel finished with a manuscript... another manuscript is already there taking its place.

I've had writers envy me for how prolific I am. Truly, don't do that. My mind feels like a special level of hell because of this. I can't even tell you how tempting it is to increase my OCD meds to try and get the obsessive writing to stop. It doesn't appear in 500 word chunks... no... nor is it vague. I lie awake knowing that I'll have to get up and write 3000 words if I want any chance of sleeping that night. I get up knowing that it's hopeless.

On the other hand, I have this awful worry that if the OCD meds just blow my mind's outlet... what if the stories are still there... clawing at my brain and I can't write them? Typically, twice a month... as dictated by weird hormone surges, I can't write. My brain feels foggy like I've taken cold medicine and everything is mostly lost in a static in my mind. It's terrifying if I've got WIPs unfinished because despite the occurrence of these days--48 times now--every time I worry... what if I can't finish those stories? What if the stories never come back into my mind again and they're never finished? What if this static of noise without direction is the rest of my life? I try to sleep through those days just to get through them as fast as I can. Sure enough, just like clockwork, the time passes and I can write again.

So, I write... to get things out of my brain. Some of the stories I'll just send to my sisters to read with no real plans on what to do with them. Some of these manuscripts were just really good practice for me. Mostly, it doesn't bother me that the bulk of the manuscripts I've written will never see the light of day, it's not about that for me... it never was.

Secondly, I write fast and clean. While not everything I write will get published, I work really hard to get the story across. That's what is important to me. It's paramount to everything else. The story has to get out of my mind and onto paper just as I see it. This sometimes makes for "telling" rather than "showing" that'll get worked out of later revisions. Sometimes, it creates hilarious typos with words that "sound like" the word I was thinking of. Time/them, place/plus, there/tear, hears/hers, eat/each, beat/beach... and so on. I do rereads frequently and other than missing words or these substitutions, I write really clean. My rough drafts, according to betas, are the least 'rough' drafts they've ever seen.

Third, I write like a script in my rough drafts. I focus on dialogue and expressions and movement. I don't stop to describe the locations or the exact way something appears... I work on that in a second or third revision. Quite honestly... I skip over descriptions when I read most of the time, so I do the same on my rough drafts. While it's clean and gets the point across, my rough drafts really read more like scripts than manuscripts.

So... how fast do I write? Manic writing eats up time like you wouldn't believe. Sometimes I tell people that I can write a complete manuscript in two weeks and they're astounded... what they don't realize is that I'm sleeping three hours a night and writing for twelve hours a day some of those days. I think it's not uncommon for a writer to write about 750-1000 words in an hour. I've raced writers on Twitter who can punch out 2K in an hour. My mind is being barraged during my manic obsessive phases... so I write and write and write without stopping. So, while two weeks sounds like nothing... it's really 100 hours of work... and I think many writers could do 75K in 100 hours.

So, what brought this up? I just finished my second WIP off last week in a very short amount of time. I've been trying to finish Versus The Bounty for a year now (it was already at 55K and it's story has been finished and eating at my thoughts since May,) but I also decided that the first person needed to be in third person. Finishing it in third person would leave some of it in first and the rest in third... which... there was no way I could do that. (I can't even let my son wander around with just one shoe on... are you crazy?) So, I started the process of conversion and, honestly, next time just rip out my fingernails one by one. This is the tedious and technical bit of being a writer that makes me want to scream. Luckily, it went fast... really fast. Then, I finished it. Reread it. Revised it. Reread it. Revised it. Sent it to my two sisters. Reread it. Revised it. I've just sent it to my husband and told him to ignore all the girly parts. After he is done, I'll revise, reread, and revise again. Then... it'll be done.

My intention is to nudge with this book but, normally, though my books go through this many revisions and rereads and a lot more betas, I typically shelve all my books for six months. I shelve it... let my mind forget it... and then reread it with fresh eyes and a blank perspective. Then, regardless of whether I intend to query it ever... I revise it. Typically, I shelve it for six more months, and then go through the process again.

So, if you're looking at the books on the side... yes, all twenty-two of those books have been through at least three betas, four revisions (or more), and yet some of them will just sit in my computer. My betas find this sort of sad... as if all stories need to find a public voice. These stories have been inside my head and haunted me to the point that I'm just really happy to be able to share them with betas and, more importantly, have them out of my head so I can sleep.

So, that's how it goes... I know I'm an oddity due to how prolific I am but, let's face it, I was going to be an oddity no matter what. The entire series of books known as The Company of Him books... will probably just always be stories that I like to reread and were really good practice for me. Those betas that have read them... it's like a cool secret world between us.

The Honor books... are less likely to go that way... partly because no one who has read the Honor books will allow that. Honor has a weird cult following... and my hardcopy beta review copies have traveled all over as my betas mailed them to family even. (It was truly bizarre.) Honor Among Thieves has been read by at least thirty people. My mother has a full set of the Honor books that keeps circulating among my extended family apparently. I think it's because Honor has a life of her own really. Her character has been there in my mind fully-formed from conception--in all her irreverent, violent, and quirky glory. It's why she has her own Twitter profile... because she is seriously creepy in her split personality aspect of me. On the other hand, Honor Among Thieves needs to have the beginning rewritten in a different way. My plan is to reread and saturate my mind with that world again and then rewrite the first 50 pages from memory. It'll drop all of the unnecessary graft that has peeked in due to rewrite after rewrite after rewrite. That's the theory.

Unfortunately, that project got pushed back burner while I finished "Versus the Bounty" and now... I've got another WIP sneaking its way back in.

In mid-October, I will have been writing for two years. I'll have been querying... seriously... for a little over a year. I've got two WIPs that are nearly half-way finished. Something intrigues me about completing 24 manuscripts in 24 months. I'm tempted. Well, really, I'll have to go on to 25 in 25 months because really I hate even numbers.

On the other hand, I've been told that sleep keeps you from going insane.


BTW, this amount of writing means that I'm always looking for beta readers and I don't have a steady critique partner because of my manic paces. If you ever see anything I'm finished with and you'd like to volunteer to beta, please contact me at wendy at sparrow dot us .

This is what I'm working on right now... and I'm nearly giddy about it. I set it down for the summer so I could write a bunch of short stories out of my brain. When I went back to reread it, I think it's actually my best manuscript to date... but I haven't gotten a lot of opinions on it. So, I might be crazy. I've done tons of research for this one... (which isn't so out of the ordinary--I tend to do crazy amounts of research) and I've also got pictures to refer to. I'm really, really excited about this to the point that I might query it when it's done and drop this "no more querying ever" plan of mine. We'll see.

It's called "The Sentinel's Run" and it's a YA dystopian.

Here is a snippet:

It was only five years. Five years and a chance of one in five that I’d return alive. I poked a stick into the swirling water, catching a small whirlpool and breaking it. This would be the last free day I had… the last time I decided where to go and what to do. Decisions were a luxury item in the Dunn. Decisions like talking to the girl that fished on the shore opposite me. Her long blonde hair would flicker in the sunlight like wheat on the day before harvest, and her laugh would tumble across the water. She was beautiful and elegant and her curves were that of a woman—not a girl. She was from Tanger and while we’d never spoken, in my mind we had. Who would marry her if I never returned? Maybe no one. There were so few males. Sometimes marriage to one girl meant you were taking on the care of all her unmarried sisters.

If I survived, I’d have my choice of females. If I survived.

Before I’d left, I’d been no more than a gelding to the girls around. I was an untouchable. There was no point to looking at a male who was younger than twenty-two. No reason to sow hopes that could be killed when their letter came.

I stabbed at a rock and watched as the soil beneath it spun into the current. What would happen if my letter hadn’t come? Would people have let my time go by quietly and sent their own males off to die? Would I have let them?

Maybe it was as well my letter had come.

Goodbye river. Goodbye fertile ground. Goodbye peace and quiet and hearing the birds in the morning. There were no birds in the Dunn. There was no peace. Not now. Not ever. It was on the front line of defense between the Anbots and the Humans. As long as there were more humans born and the Anbots manufactured more weapons, there would be war. I should be grateful it didn’t spill over into Tereslay. I should be. I wasn’t.

Perhaps it was selfish of me, but I didn’t start this war. I didn’t create the machines that began to feed on us and grow stronger. I would never create a machine smarter than I was. Any fool should have known better than that. I would never insist that every machine have a brain that could be turned against us. I was simply born into this world with its hell.

Father had tried to convince me it would be a growing time for me and I’d come back a man. I knew beneath my father’s word was the word “if.” For the next five years my life would hang on the word “if.” If I survived the first year, I’d most likely survive the next four. If I survived, it might be worth it to me. Veteran sentinels made a lifelong commission and could marry whomever they wanted. If I survived, I might be accepted into town sentinel forces where the worst you’d expect was separating drunks in fights and settling domestic disputes.


It was early, but the girl from Tanger was sliding down the other side of the swift river with a pole. She was sweet as honey and feminine. I waved… sentinel duty was making me bold. It was too late, but that was the way of it. She laughed and waved.

“I leave for duty today,” I yelled above the rushing of the river.

“I’m sorry,” she yelled back.

“What’s your name?” I called. Perhaps I could think about her at night while I tried to shut out the horrors that I’d only heard described. Well, if I wasn’t on night duty…. Perhaps thoughts of her would block out the darkness—the darkness around all hours of the day and night.

“Lauren Fister! What’s your name so that I can watch for you?”

Watch for my name in the casualties, she meant. It was always possible my name would be linked with an award of bravery, but it was still likely to be in the casualties even then.

“Coby Leeman!”


“NO! Coby!” I yelled.

“Colby?” she yelled.

Eh. Close enough. It was unlikely she’d remember. It was unlikely I’d live.


  1. Wow, that's a really long post. I like the story of how people or why people start writing. I have spent nights up looking at the ceiling because I couldn't get the voices to stop. Great post.


  2. So, really bad timing for me, but I AM coming back to comment. Watch for it. Ok. (It may be hours.)

  3. Don't feel bad because I do the same thing to a lesser degree. I have OCD too, I think we've talked about this actually, and sometimes it really drives me to write because I'm crazy scared I'm going to lose the story and I can't stop thinking about it and obsessing over it.

    You are, however, more prolific than I am. I think my OCD works against my writing as much as for it sometimes, maybe that's it... :-)

    Don't feel bad.

    Also, love the excerpt!!

  4. I don't just sit down and start writing at my pc. I don't write a little every day. I don't outline my stories. I write them in my head before they ever see a bit of digital paper.

    Then when I sit down to 'write', I write and write and write, and sometimes for HOURS. I used to think there was something wrong with me that I would see other authors post they had written 500 words and considered the day a success. I on the other hand had just written over 3K probably in that same time frame if not more.

    I don't think I have quite the degree of this as you do, and I am no where near prolific as you are. I have tons of ideas always running through my mind, but most of them just get written down in a little notebook I've started carrying around, so I don't lose them entirely and can come back to them.

    I've been 'writing' a short story for Friday's blog for three days which is actually part of a novel I've been 'writing' in my head for two years. I've just not got it all worked out yet enough to pour it out on digital paper.

    My friends and family who witness my writing say it's like watching it just spill from brain through fingers... and really it is.. it's like somehow it just pours out the fingertips like brain overflow.
    Don't feel bad about any of this, if anything take heart that maybe you are more understood than you realize. :)

    And if you need someone to bounce things off of, I'm willing. I'm not a great critique person sometimes. I don't like the fear of hurting other writer's feelings, but I could use it myself and am seeking that myself, but I know Crys is an amazing critique partner.

  5. I gave up, and just emailed you.
    (Sometimes my email goes to spam, in case it doesn't come through)

  6. Wow... that is a really long post. LOL.

    Clarissa, that's exactly how it is... and insomnia is aggravating. My husband can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and I just don't know how that is.

    Crys, LOL... I'll watch for it... closely. ; )

    Katherine, thanks. Wow... it's good to know other people struggle with this... even to a lesser degree.

    Amie, yes... I write just like that. It really does seem to just flow for hours and hours. It makes me wonder if the fact that it's "easy" says something when I see some writers fight for it and struggle with writer's block. It's so much less of choice than that for me. It makes me feel strangely guilty even though I don't think they really would change places with me if they understood.

    I think that's what I was hoping to get across with this post. I do feel guilty for how much I've written somewhat, but I just don't think people realize how much it costs my family and me. Some weeks, I never get out of my own head really. Plus, I think the assumption is that anything written fast can't be good. As far as I can tell... it's good. Some stories are more compelling than others, but none of it is the "daytime stories" of manuscripts.

    Anyway... this keeps coming up in Twitter whenever I complete something. I know it's a bigger deal for some people to complete a manuscript so I sometimes feel like a fraud for even getting excited myself, but it also means sleep and peace for me.

    I've been afraid to let my mind dwell on this other WIP until I've caught back up on life. Le sigh. My sleep cycle just isn't agreeing yet.

  7. This should be a monthly re-post for you Wendy. At least for a while. Then people would have a better idea of who you are. Oh! IDEA! Every few weeks or so, tweet a link of this post... "In case anyone's wondering why I write so fast http://bitblah111" or "24 books in 24 months, not really as awesome as it sounds http:etc" Anyway, this is a great post, as always completely honest and completely Wendy. #wendyisawesome

  8. I, too, write in manic phases, but my OCD and Bipolar seem to work against each other and my writing. I get so paranoid that what I have in my head is no good that I simply cannot put it down on paper. Therefore, I lay awake endless nights listening to the voices in my head, all clamoring for attention, but unable to give attention to any one of them. It's frustrating beyond belief.

    Wendy, I love to read your excerpts and I would be honored to beta for you any time. Just email me at kkh_writer1986(at)yahoo(dot)com.