How You Write 190k Words in 6 Months (While Pregnant!)

A couple years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote down a little over 50k words in the month of November that sort of resembled a fantasy novel. I’ve always enjoyed reading fantasy novels as a kid and it was fun (but very challenging) to write one, especially in just one month. It took a lot of discipline to find the time and energy to consistently get in the words.

So when I heard that my friend Julia Dickinson had finished a 190,000 word manuscript of her epic fantasy novel, the Evenarian, I had to talk to her about it.

The Evenarian

The book focuses on a young mage named Turo who learns of a powerful figure named the Evenarian who has been fortold in prophecy to bring the downfall of magic and bring ruin to the world. Turo joins up with a mysterious wanderer named Josh and a band of unlikely heroes to find and defeat the Evenarian. More on the story on their Kickstarter page.

Q: How did this project get started? 

I’ve been working in journalism for 6 years but have always enjoyed creative writing in spare time. In the spring of 2012, was talking with my husband Barnaby – he had an idea for a book. Next thing we knew, we had fleshed out an entire outline for this fantasy novel

Around this time, I got pregnant and started having a hard time with the pregnancy right away. So I decided to quit my journalism job, write the book, and focus on a healthy pregnancy.

Q: How did you feel when your husband approached you with this story?

I was surprised when I first heard the story because I wouldn’t have expected him to have this kind of an idea. He’s very analytical person – a software engineer – and this was such a fantastical idea. But at the same time, we’ve been watching Game of Thrones together, and reading the books. He was also reading other fantasy books and I think the idea emerged from there.

Q: What’s been interesting about writing the story for this book?

I like playing with the established tropes, having to do with fantasy stories and turning them on their head or having them go in unexpected directions. For instance, I have a female character who is not there to be an object of desire or to be saved – those things happen, but she very much has her own agenda. She’s not a mere plot device. There are a number of plot twists that are really playing off the tropes of common fantasy novels.

Q: How long is the book?

It is about 190,000 words. I started writing it in August 2012 with the goal of finishing it before I was to give birth. As it was, I was almost finished when Lucas came out. Then I took a few months off, and wrapped up the first draft when he was two or three months old.

Then it went to the copy editor, I’ve been refining it and looking for an agent ever since.

Q: That is a seriously big story! How did you manage to get it all done?

There was an outline for the story. I know that a lot of writers just start writing and see where the story takes them, but in my case, because the story sprang fully formed from a person’s head, I had the outline, which was a couple pages long.

It was a very interesting collaboration – I was bringing my own ideas to the story, but that vision also was being executed. My pregnancy made my energy levels fluctuate so having someone there motivating me and directing me was what was needed.

Q: What kind of process did you have for writing?

During the weekdays where I would do the work. I had to do three pages a day. In the mornings I would do things related to planning – going over what I had to do for the day. Then in the early afternoon I would really get down to the writing. I would get the writing done between noon and 6pm.

I found that as I settled more into the day, I could focus more and write more. I probably stuck to that 3 pages maybe 80-90% of the time. You don’t get to 190k words without writing diligently.

Q: What does preparing to write entail?

I would looking over what I wrote the day before. I would look at the notes. If I was preparing to write a crucial scene, my husband might’ve already written dialogue for it, so I had to figure out a way to put the characters into a situation where they’d say those words.

Q: Tell me about the Kickstarter campaign

So we did an initial Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2012, which helped me raise the funds for a copy editor. Now that the book has been copy edited and gone through further revisions by me, it is time to find an agent.

Agents are really helpful because they have relationships with editors at publishing houses. An editor then champions the manuscript within their publishing house. If their advocacy is successful, I will be asked to edit the manuscript according to their specifications and resubmit it for publication.

One great thing about this campaign is that we’re using a tool called Kicktraq to monitor our campaign. It shows how our project is doing and breaks it down in a really fine way, by showing how many donations you get in a given period of time, metrics like that.

Thank you for your time, good luck! Readers – check out the Evenarian Kickstarter campaign here.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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