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Racing For WordsMay 26, 2011

Ahhh. I've had five days off with one more to go, and while to some that means long hours of leisure and relaxation, right now to me that means writing as fast as I can. I've got this project stuck in my craw, and I can't let it go. I'm trying to ride it while I can (and, apparently, mix every metaphor available). This week has reminded me of a few things:

When writing 20 pages a day (5000 words-ish), by nightfall the English I don't speak it so good. It's as if I use up all my thoughtful words and I'm only left with Huh? and Wha? None in Chez Hehu stand in awe of my rapier wit and mastery of our mother tongue, that's all I'm saying.

When writing quickly, there are hundreds and hundreds of typewritten words scrolling across the screen in front of you that you KNOW will die by the fiery red-pen of death. They're awful words. Terrible. Possibly the worst words ever linked together on a page (I like to compete in all things, including mind-numbing prose. Mine is the most numbing!). So you get that terror that we all get (often), the fear that says YOU SUCK SO MUCH YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GET A DAY JOB. Wait, you have a day job. YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GET ANOTHER ONE, TO BOOT, AND QUIT THIS CRAP. You see one terrible idea after another splat on the page in front of you, and right when you're about to quit FOREVER, you realize that the thought that was so dreadful, isn't, really. It's kind of okay. Later, you figure out that part was pretty good, actually. It's a good thing you were writing quickly because it was only a fluke you typed it in the first place.

This leads me to the Most Difficult Thing About First Drafts: You never know which parts are good and which are terrible when you are writing them. Ever. You can't tell. There is no way to figure that out, so you just have to keep writing. The parts you thought were genius? They'll be precious and over-wrought. The parts you thought were flat and stupid? They'll end up containing the entire THEME of your novel. The parts that were meh? Some were, and some weren't.

You just gotta keep going. And the faster you go, it feels to me, the more exciting it is. It's kind of like driving. If you drive like you're racing (which I don't--I own a station wagon, but I think this is true), you have to hold on tight and be ready for anything. You might have to swerve, and fast. On the other hand, if you're going fifteen down a country road, you might have to dodge a bunny or two, but you can just keep one hand on the wheel.

I'm kind of liking this death-grip racing thing. It's working right now, anyway.Sheepish


And hey, to celebrate books, I have one to give away--I already gave away my galley copy of Catherine Friend's Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet, but her publisher has graciously agreed to send a copy of the real, finished book to one random commenter (I can't bear to give up my own copy: I am a BLURB on the back, along with Garrison Keillor and Novella Carpenter!). 

Leave a comment, enter to win! Easy-peasy. (I'll draw a winner on Sunday.)

And scrappy, ratty, skinny, grumpy ole Digit says hello. And now he will attack.



Oooh! I would love to win this!

I like what you're saying about writing. It reminds me of Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird; she says you have to write a really shitty rough draft to get anything good later.

I'd love a chance to win, sign me up. I feel like I'm at the point in my day when words stop making sense and I didn't even spend the day writing. Well a little writing, but not 20 pages.

20 pages a day, for several days? Wow. Just reading about it removes the capability for elegant language.

And yes, I'd love to win that book!

Digit is a cutie.

I'd love to win.

As the spouse of a writer, I have noticed the phenomenon of word-exhaustion. He does a lot of "what am I trying to say?" at times, but fortunately I have plenty fo words for all!

I'm pretty sure that my words never make sense... Written, spoken, texted, tweeted... But we all put up with it!

I would love to win this book - it looks wonderful!!

Oh I would love this so much ( hello, totally relevant to my interests)! I've tried to find it in the store but haven't had any luck at Cole's yet.

In any case we definitely plan to buy the kindle version as well as the hardcopy as soon as we have the extra money. Thank you so much for telling us about this book, I'm so excited to read it!

Love Catherines' blog, and would love to win the book.

I am in awe of you writing 20 pages a day, even if it does take away your ability to speak coherently. Feels like most that I can get done these days is feed the demanding sheep and knit a bit.

pick me! I can't wait to read this!

and Hi, Digit!

Oh, pick me, pick me!! I'd looove to read that book. I can totally relate to the complete loss of the ability to speak proper English later in the day. My excuse, however, is not from writing 20+ pages, but is due to being a morning person. At 5 A.M. I am full of brilliant things to say and write but after 9:00 P.M., I've got squat... :0

Ooooo, ooooooo, pick me! I have been waiting and waiting for this book to come out!

Also, I am in awe of your 20 pages a day. Holy moly.

I would love to win this book. I admire your ability to write 5000 words a day. If I finish a sentence it's a good day.

wow.. good luck everyone.. I wish i could read 20 pages today!! i've finally finished a knitting project, and now i will cram some reading in this weekend coming up. I'd love to win if i can :)

I have been lusting after this book... Please!

I've seen this book a couple of places now. Everyone seems all giddy about it, and I'll admit that it's made me curious. PICK ME PICK ME! :D

Random comment. Also, HI DIGIT! And? You do not suck. You are fabulous with a side of awesomesauce.

Oooooo... me... me... purty, purty please pick me!! Please and thank you Miss Rachel... I'll love you forever - I swear!!

Okay, so I'll love you anyway but a little teasing is okay when necessary... lol.

Digit clearly still has attitude. And I'd love a chance at the book - thank you! :) XO

Wahooo...looks like a lot of fun, reading the book I mean....the writing, well I am very happy that you are so motivated and work so hard. You are awesome.

I keep not getting around to commenting on your blog posts so I might as well do it all here...

Very pretty wedding shawl! I'm jealous of your stand-up desk; my spare bookshelf is too tall, so I'm still spending too much time on my butt. Thanks for the peek into your journal; very interesting. And hi kitty!

would love to win this as well!

Oh boy, I wish I could turn the editor in my head off when I'm trying to write!

And the book looks great!

You are the most adorable thing ever. :) Knitting and writing and Uke and everything. Can I be you when I grow up? XD

The book had me at sheep~ ;D

This book looks interesting...
Would love to win it! :)
PS Love your books, too!!

Is that enough of a comment?
OK then.

Go, Speed Racer, Go!!

Books are awesome. Always.
Words, wily.
You, witty.
Digit, priceless.

This book looks great!

You may start out with heaps and piles of mixed dreck and gold, dearest Rach, but your books are proof that you have a terrific ability to sift/edit/rewrite/polish. I started your latest this morning and am *loving* it. It's even better than your first.

Thanks for the drawing, too. I'd love to win.

What's up with Digit and why is all scraggly lookin'? Is he getting to be an old-timer? Quincy says hey.

Sounds like a great book.

Thanks for the Moleskin Table of Contents/Page Number idea in the last post. I love not being bound by "rules" in a creative journal. Great idea!

I love to read, and i'm glad you write. I finished "love song" and now into " heart back home". I have a shop in OR. And we are carrying some of knitted wits yarns to go with your characters. What fun! And already have to order some more books from unicorn. Keep up the good work.
And I'd love to win the book!

I tell my fabric students that you have to produce ugly stuff before the good comes. Similar to your situation. Love reading your blog and really enjoyed your books.

I don't write fiction but I do have to turn out long documents for work usually at really short notice and I get that same feeling of riding a runaway train until the first draft is finished; it can be quite an adrenaline high when you finish.

I don't have a way with words. Thank God for the people who do! Would love to read this book!

Please sign me up for the giveaway. And good luck with the project :-)

LOVE the cover--WANT the book.

Hi to you and Digit from me and Lucky (also skinny but a lover not a fighter).

Book! Book! Book!

Keep up the good work, Rachael. It's all worth it when you see your book complete and sitting on book store shelves. Hi to Digit from my cats, Squeek and Diamond!

I have to write proposals sometimes that way--locked in a room with almost a stream-of-consciousness deathgrip on the keyboard. Then I have to walk away for at least a day before I can start editing/revising. Afterwards, all I'm good for is a blow-em-up action flick with the kids--something stupid like the A-Team movie. No deep thoughts after crazywriting!

Love reading about your writing process - it makes me feel better as I am a scientist and while I love to write, it often is a painful process.

(and to the random number generator: pick me! pick me!)

All this has reminded me that I really need to focus on perseverance with my writing. I just get entirely too caught up in my individual words instead of just going with the flow and getting the words on the page. Anyway, I love contests and thanks for the chance to have my very own copy of this book!

Ooh, sounds like an interesting book! I'd love to win.

I'd love to win the book.

I swear, 5,000 words a day. I did 2,000 a day and by nightfall (I can't belive I spent all day on that) I was talking gibberish, and wondering if I could con anyone else into making dinner. (It didn't work)

I'm always up for a good read! Add my name to the list of hopefuls, please.

I heard that this was a great book. Thanks for the opportunity win it!

Hi Digit!

I really need to find out how Elvis and Sheep are related???
Sounds like such a fun book, I would LOVE to win it for a great read.

I won't be sheepish about it......I would love to win this book to read! Just what I am looking for, a summer read to bring a smile to my face! Please count me in!

I would like to win, please. Thank you. That is all.

All those words and no trees died such magic:0)
As I am a fairy godmother to a wee flock who have recently delivered four lambs in to the hands of my co-fairy godmother I'd love to win the book for her as its been a steep learning curve

Oh it's like drawing! I have to do a bunch of quick sketches before I get one that feels right, and I can't tell which one it is until I have several done and can really step back and look at them as a whole. The "winner" isn't always the one I thought it'd be. It's often a surprise!

Thank you for the giveaway opportunity!

Oh, Pick me, pick me. I would love a new book.

I read the Sheepish e-book on my Kindle and absolutely loved it! She initially calls yarn enthusiasts "fiber freaks" but then goes on to love all things wool herself by the end of the book...even wool underwear! I learned a lot about sheep and wool in this book and would recommend it to everyone!

Summer reading about knitting and wool- what could be better.

Aw..... I love a good shot of Fingers.

And, I love a good giveaway.

By the way, you're not the only one who don't speak so good after a long day writing.

I love Digit's striped I-Just-Broke-Outta-Jail look. He should sit in front of the blinds more often. Congrats on all the mad race-car-paced writing you accomplished on your time off. (Apparently we disagree on what the phrase "time off" actually means.)

Yes, what they all said.
Pick me, pick me!

Today I saw a video clip about a small speedboat which rides higher in the water the faster it goes. It showed them zipping up shallow, rocky rivers and rapids. Driving it requires quick decisions (TURN NOW!), much like what you described. Dangerous but exhilarating. Do whatever works for you - your fans love the results!

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. " - Anais Nin

You get a third taste when you edit! Thanks for your thoughts today.

Digit makes me want to give him snuggles!

Also, I love to read: sign me up!

Aw... Digit!

Thanks for the chance to win!

I always love a giveaway! To me, writing is harder than giving birth. Hats off to those who do it for a living!

I read once that everyone has a daily word quota. (Apparently for most women, it's 20k-40k, for men, 10k-20k.) If you don't get to use them up, that's a source of stress (stir crazy! need social interaction! talkytalkytalky!), and obviously, if you go over your quota, that leads to stress of the kind you describe: exhausted. Whu? Um? Huh.

Sounds familiar, right?

Speaking for myself, I *far* prefer the former problem; but only now that I'm realising written words are just as important as spoken words does it become clear that I can always use up my excess with a little online time...

Looks like an awesome book and I'll probably get it eventually if I don't win it. But I think it would be so much cooler to win it. :)

That is a fascinating idea that you write like you are driving... I have always wanted to be a writer and you inspire me so much.

This does sound like a very interesting book and i would love to win.

Digit looks like the velveteen rabbit. Well loved and REAL.

20 pages a day? What's in your water? At 10 pages a day, I'm really smokin', and can barely get out of bed the next morning!

And thanks for doing a Sheepish give-away... no need to enter me :-)

Just finished reading both of your books, and totally loved them, then happened across your blog. Love to have new reading material!

I'd love to win. Digit reminds me of my Jensen who is also ratty, skinny and grumpy and an old man of 17 1/2.

Love the Digit attitude!

Hi Digit!

am so impressed that you are churning out 20 pages a day! That is amazing. Thank you for the opportunity to win Sheepish. I'd love to read it.

The thought of actually typing 5,000 words--of my own thoughts--in one day is truly mind numbing. I can hardly type this comment. I stand in awe of your writing awesomeness!

Nice artsy shadows on Digit. Always nice to see him.

I would love to rub Digit's belly so he could claw my arm to shreds!

Hello, Digit! Make sure mama draws my name, okay?

Thanks for giving away the book! You are my favorite author/ knitter. No really - I mean it! And you are so pretty too...

I would love that book! Sheep in a scarf and hat are so cute!

Would love both the book and a nose kiss from Digit, but distance and personal safety say that the book is by FAR the safer option!

YAY Digit! Scruffy? GRUMPY?


nah, won't happen. He is just a love...........

Silly tweasel.

Thanks for the chance to win! I would love to read this book.

I love seeing Digit looking for a fight....hope he does so for a long time to come!

Would also like to win! :)

I needed to read this post, because I have gotten in an rut with my writing and I really need to get back into it. Thanks for the push to get through my first draft and write, write, write. Please give Digit a pat me from.

No bloodshed, Digit!

I know very well that writing is hard hard work. Also an illness.

I hope the random number generator picks me! This book looks like so much fun.

Love Digit, and I'd love to win!

I do so enjoy seeing pics of Sir Dig. Attack cat or not, he's completely stolen my heart.

I read and enjoyed Friend's "The Compassionate Carnivore" she has a sensible attitude towards what she does and it matches what we're trying to do in our butcher shop. I'd love to read the new one.

I would love to win this book! It's been on my "to read" list since you first mentioned it.

I would love to win this book! Thanks!

I have no words today-brain overdrive from hauling my boys to UC Davis for State Presentation day yesterday to compete with their speeches...and we came home with a rooster(insane but true and a great story for you sometime). The book-I needs it. Happy last vacation day!

Rachael, you are amazing. Thanks for the insights into writing. It's like having another window into a world that I wish I understood better. mary in Cincinnati

Rachel, 5000 words is awesome! I can still remember the pain of 3000 words a day assignment schedules when I was at University, and when I was writing boring law stuff I used to be lucky to do 1000. Good luck. I am almost inspired enough to start my first draft for my current project. Judith

I so need to read a book like this right now

Even your writing about writing makes me want the next book to be ready NOW.

Is it Sunday yet? I am traveling and although know where I am, I don't know what day it is. Would love sheepy book.

I loved reading your thoughts about first drafts. I find the first draft easier than the revisions because there's little pressure yet to make it really amazing. You know you're going to go in there with a scalpel and so my torture has been in the revisions. Having a couple of great readers has really helped but I'm on the third draft of my first novel and only just relaxing into revision mode- letting myself tread lightly but thoughtfully through it.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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