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Author Getaway

I’ve always wanted to get away and do nothing but write. My wife actually gave me a birthday gift, a couple of years ago, of a week away at a hotel in the local mountains. I missed her and came home after five days.

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Recently, friends of mine, who live along a lake in the mountains of Montana, were going away and needed someone to dog and house sit, for two weeks, while they were in France. I volunteered, and my wife graciously told me to enjoy myself. I still wonder about how quickly she agreed. Two weeks without me rambling around the house, turning on the news, not to mention rolling back and forth in the bed. Hmmm….

Regardless, it felt like a dream come true. But dreams are just that… dreams. Reality doesn’t really care about your dreams.

First, let me say I had a great time. My friends have a log house that sits on a lake. I mean the edge of the lake is ten feet from their deck. And it was wonderful to spend time with their dog, Lilly. My dog passed away three years ago, and I have missed the unrelenting love that a dog can shower on a person. Lilly and I went on four mile walks every day, and she didn’t bark when she wanted something, instead she would rub her head up against my leg, and give me sad eyes.

Lilly

So just me and a dog, for two weeks, in a log house on a lake. My friends even left food and wine. What more can an author ask for.

I set a goal to write a minimum of 36,000 words while there. It would be pushing it, but I thought I have been able to write 3,000 words a day in the past. To give you an idea, 36,000 words is 24% of my estimated word count for book two of my Dragon-Called Legend series.

I sat down the first day, after my friends had left, and started writing with a fury. After about an hour, I realized I hadn’t really thought out where the scene was going. In fact, on my 3×5 Plot card, I had just written an ambiguous statement for the chapter. It took me most of the day to figure out that it wasn’t just one chapter, but seven or eight (I already had 23 chapters written prior to these chapters). I figured out what I needed for the first of the chapters and where it needed to go. I only got about 1,600 words written. Even so, I knew I could make that up the next day.

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The next day I got 2,700 words. Not quite the 3,000 I needed to do for that day and the 1,400 I needed to make up from the day before. However, I did figure out where the next couple of chapters needed to go.

Finally, days three and four I exceeded my goal, 3,228 and 3,587.

Then I started a descent. Over the next few days, I had to stop and spend time working through where the next chapter was going, before I could write it. As painful as it was, I plodded through each day, and each chapter, developing the thread of the story that ran through them. Unlike many chapters, these all were tightly connected and highly critical to the overall series story line. So very important to get them correct.

As I got toward the end of these chapters, something else happened. After nine days of developing the story line and writing seven to ten hours a day, I was becoming burnt out. I still wrote for two more days, up until the day I left, but both days combined only netted me 3,000 words total.

At the end of my “author’s getaway” I ended up with 26,000 words. Only about 17% of the estimated book word count. However, I am still extremely pleased with what I accomplished. As I mentioned, these chapters are critical to the entire series; which may be why they were so hard to write. When I returned home, I had 62% of the first draft completed and, after a couple of days of rest, I will be ready to jump back into the book again.

What I found the most interesting is that I started to feel burnt out as I got down toward the end of my trip. I have sat, in my home writing room, and easily written for six or seven hours – until my wife reminds me that we should have eaten dinner an hour earlier 🙂 But this is the first time I have done that every day for a week-and-a-half. My brain was pretty much fried by that point.

I also realized I could never be a hermit. Even though I did go to dinner twice, and breakfast once, with some of my friends’ neighbors (there were a just a couple on the mountain road), I still missed more social interaction. If I hadn’t been able to Skype with my wife every night, I would have gone a little stir crazy. Thank you Wifey.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. But I would do things a little differently. I would plan out a dozen Plot cards, in advance, with a lot of detail on each card. If I had done this, prior to my recent trip, I wouldn’t have spent as much time as I did trying to figure out how I was going to weave these eight chapters together. If given a similar opportunity, and I was better organized, I could probably cap my writing at six hours a day and still end up with a much higher word count then I managed on this trip. Plus, I really enjoyed getting a dog fix.

Lesson learned. Dreams rarely just happen, but may require some good preparation and a lot of hard work to bring them to life. The other thing is that when it comes to isolation, I can do okay, but I am not like Hemingway — if I have too much wine, my writing sucks.

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