Last night I lay awake for four hours.
One of the things that kept my mind thrumming and my body from falling asleep: A story decided to write itself in my head. Yeah, I know, I shouldn’t complain. But I’m tired. And I still have to write the story down.
I think the brain-writing session (Is that a good word to call it? Thought-writing? Someone help me out here …) was brought on both by a 60 Minutes episode I saw the other night, which reminded me of a topic I’d tried to deal with in a short story five years ago, and by this NYT Magazine article about Amanda Hocking, self-publishing (and now mainstream-publishing) phenom (link thanks to Leslie of Work-in-Progress, a great writing blog). In the article, Hocking says that it takes her two to four weeks to write a novel. Uh. She explains:
But I say that and people are like, “Whoa, that’s fast.” And it is. But the series I sold to St. Martin’s, for example, I’ve been really working on it in my head for over a year. So by the time I sit down to write, it’s already written.
Edward P. James has said something similar about “The Known World,” a novel I love. He was writing it in his head for ten years, and then when he lost his job, he set the book down in a matter of months.
These anecdotes are awesome. But of course, many of us don’t have the time or brain space to think a story, let alone a novel, all the way through. Fifteen minutes in the shower to ruminate on a story or chapter is usually a luxury for me. Of course, that’s mostly my fault. No one is forcing me at gunpoint to have a busy life, although it may feel that way sometimes.
Several times last night I told myself I should just get up and turn on my computer and type the story. But it was kind of cool (if also annoying) to have the story writing and rewriting itself in my head. After all, isn’t that how many of us started out as fiction writers, when we were kids?
Now here’s to hoping the story seems as good on the page as it did in my mind!