I have a new book out today, titled The Ash House. I usually write pretty fast, averaging between 10,000 and 12,500 words per day, but this time something different happened. This time, I ended up writing the entire novel in a week.
I don’t usually talk about how I write, but a few people have asked lately so I thought I’d take a shot.
Warning: mild spoilers ahead regarding the plot of the book.
The basic idea for The Ash House came last Friday (May 5th) while I was walking the dog near the ruins of Sandown Castle. 99% of my ideas come while I’m out with the dog; he should really get a co-writing credit. Anyway, I was wondering what would motivate somebody to return to a haunted house, and somehow that thought led to me thinking about a woman who’s dying, and who wants to go to such a house because she needs to know whether ghosts are real.
As usual, I put the idea on the backburner, thinking I’d get around to it later. But then on Friday evening I had some spare time while I was waiting for a phone call, so I wrote the first 3,500 words. Then for various reasons my plans for the weekend were cancelled at the last minute, so I figured I’d just try writing a little more.
By the end of Saturday I had 16,000 words. I got busy on Sunday too, and by the evening I had 25,000, which for me represents two good, full work days. The book was coming along pretty fast, and I started to wonder whether I could get an entire first draft done by the end of Tuesday. I’d already figured out that the book was going to be around 50,000 words, which is the same kind of length as Annie’s Room and a little shorter than The Cabin. Those books took about two weeks each, but I thought maybe (just maybe) I could work faster this time.
I was lucky that I basically had no other commitments for those few days. I was able to work from 6am to midday, then again from 2pm to 6pm. Apart from writing, all I had to do was look after the dog, which meant regular short breaks for walking and playing. And by Tuesday evening, somehow I had 50,000 words done.
I was also starting to think that if I really knuckled down on Wednesday and Thursday, I might be able to get the entire book finished within a week. Although the idea sounded crazy, I was keen to see if I could achieve that, so I put all my other projects aside and focused.
(For reference, sometimes I finish a novel in about 10 days, whereas sometimes I work on and off for much longer. The Gravest Girl of All (Grave Girl 3) is well into its third year of tinkering, and I’m STILL not happy with that one.)
By Wednesday morning, I was starting to send out copies of The Ash House to a couple of people, to get some other eyes on it, and I was also working on a cover. I spent Wednesday going through the text, making changes where necessary, and then I spent Thursday making a few more revisions. I was quite keen to get the book out by Friday evening, so I could say that I’d completed the entire project in a week, but it was touch and go for a while.
Fortunately, the basic storyline came pretty easily, as did the characters. The biggest change from the first draft to the finished version is the ending, which underwent two big rewrites on Thursday.
The Ash House isn’t the most complex novel I’ve ever written, although there’s some funny business going on with the timelines. At first I wasn’t happy with the ending, but I realized that was simply because the ending wasn’t the real ending at all. So if you read the book, you’ll maybe notice that there’s a kind of fake-out ending, followed by a little extra action.
So for reference, the timeline was:
Friday lunchtime: Came up with the idea.
Friday evening: Wrote the first 3,500 words.
Saturday: Wrote the next 12,500 words (up to 16,000 now)
Sunday: Wrote the next 9,000 words (up to 25,000)
Monday: Another 12,500 words (up to 37,500)
Tuesday: The final 12,500 words (up to 50,000)
Wednesday: Editing, making corrections, expanding a few scenes
Thursday: More editing, proofing etc., rewrote the ending twice
Friday: More editing in the morning, then uploaded
I don’t think I’ll ever try writing a book quite so quickly again, but it was a fun experiment. And I don’t think the novel suffered from the way it was written, although others might disagree. Tomorrow (Saturday, May 13th) I’ll be getting back to the book I was working on before, which is about halfway done, and also working on finishing the sequel to The Devil, the Witch and the Whore.
BTW, I’m not necessarily recommending this as a way of working, and I’m not saying the book is somehow better because of how fast it was written. I’m just saying how I wrote this particular novel. And now I have to go and do a lot of washing and ironing that seems to have piled up over the past week…
The Ash House is out now from Amazon (US), Amazon (UK) and the various other Amazon stores. The usual price is 99 cents (or 99p), but it’s also free to read in Kindle Unlimited. Also, over this weekend (May 13th and 14th) it should be free to download!