I wrote The Lodestone in the middle of a full life: husband, father to four, (very) full-time job. Here’s how I did it.
First, I had some specific ideas on the questions I wanted to answer before I started writing. I thought the book Plot & Structure was helpful in putting together specific goals: three acts with two doorways, the LOCK, the hero’s journey, etc. But that was pretty much it.
Next, I headed to a Starbucks after dropping my daughter off at a church youth group event, a pen and pad of paper in hand, along with Evernote on my laptop. Thirty six days later I completed the first draft at just under 60k words.
I’m not going to lie. It was an intense 36 days.
Sitting in the coffee shop with a blank piece of paper, I started jotting down rhyming couplets. I have no idea why this worked, but it kicked my imagination into gear. Then I pulled open Evernote and began writing and rewriting book blurbs for this novel I had decided I wanted to write. Within an hour I had in mind a few key ideas and a couple of main characters. Then I brainstormed the climactic scene, and came up with an outline for the final confrontation, the showdown, the payoff. I put all these ideas into an Evernote entry.
The next day I spent my commute to and from work (I have a long one) hammering out ideas and taking voice notes in Evernote. That evening, I cracked open my entry from the previous evening and got the very beginning of the book outlined. Day three I started writing.
The Daily Pattern
I primarily used Word to actually write the book and Evernote to keep track of my ideas. On my commute each day, I put on some music and talked to myself, working through where the story was and the next 5,000 to 8,000 words. I was always driving toward a predetermined ending, but each day would see my pseudo-outline of what happened along the way morph and change. Over lunch at work I’d generally log my thoughts in Evernote and then frantically type out a few hundred words of the story. At home that evening I’d repeat.
My Evernote files were two-fold: a journal-like log with a date followed by bulleted notes (reverse chronological); and a timeline (the story timeline, not my writing timeline). Each day I tried to add to the journal notes on three topics: what needed to be written next, what problems I needed to solve to keep writing the next couple days, and any thoughts I had on how I wanted to map out the remaining word-count to get me to the final scene at around 55k to 60k words. Then, as I actually wrote the chapters, I documented the highlights in the timeline along with any critical information pertaining to my world-building or character development.
I generally wrote six days a week. The first couple weeks were far less productive as I was consumed with extensive world-building, note-taking, back story-developing, etc. By the final three weeks, though, I was writing well over 2000 words on days I wrote. Over the 36 days, I averaged over 1600 words a day, including days off.
So that’s what I did, but the actual experience was far more intense. I was totally consumed. I had trouble sleeping. All non-essential household tasks were put off. I felt like my brain was on fire. In the final week I was writing close to 2400 words a day with the desperate desire to finish before we took a planned family vacation, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest otherwise. I type pretty fast, but I struggled with mangled sentences as my brain raced ahead of my fingers. It was madness.
I finished with 8 days to spare. The vacation was terrific.