85,000 Words, Written One at a Time by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I started writing fiction when I was 24.
I got an idea in my head that it would be fun to write a short story so I came up with some ideas and sat down in front of the computer. The first scene I ever wrote was absolutely terrible. So I erased it and tried again. And then again and again.
On nights and weekends over the course of a year, I’d tinker away at the story. I didn’t have any word count requirements or deadlines. I figured I’d just write when I felt like it. I wasn’t very focused. If I was writing and someone called and asked me to do something, I’d happily shut my computer and join them.
And then, as New Year’s Eve of that year approached, I decided that I wanted to finish the story by the end of the year. So I sat down and got serious. I wrote after work. I wrote during my holiday vacation.
I finished the story a little before midnight on December 31st, 2008. Satisfied, I put down my computer, got dressed up and drove across town to ring in the New Year with my friends.
It took me one year to write that first draft of a short story. The majority of which was written between Christmas and New Years.
Seeing what I got done in that one week, realizing what I could do if I put my mind to it, was what made me decide that I wanted to be an author. Pretty soon after that, I figured I’d probably need to write a novel if I wanted to be a novelist.
I saved up some money, quit my job, and went to the library every weekday for six to eight hours. That’s how I got my first draft done. Gone were the days of writing on lazy Sunday mornings or leaving my computer if I “wasn’t in the mood.” I wrote as if it were a job. So I wrote nonstop for hours a day.
The first draft of Forever, Interrupted was written in a month. I took one week off from looking at it and then I printed it out and read it start to finish. I could tell that it needed a lot of work so I woke up the next morning, went back to the library and started editing. Each weekday for another month, I wouldn’t go home until I had edited the chunk of pages I assigned myself for the day.
Once that second draft was done, I had to go find a job! My savings was running out and it was time to make some money. So all subsequent drafts were done on weeknights and weekends. I can’t tell you how many times I had to turn down dinner with friends or even worse, brunch with friends to get the work done but I loved the story so it always felt like the right decision.
Once you find an agent that loves the book or you finally sell it to a publisher, that work doesn’t end. If anything, you work harder. You edit and re-edit. You listen to critique and try again. You proofread until your eyes fall out. And when the book is truly done, you start all over and write another one.
I really believe that what makes someone a writer isn’t necessarily talent or skill as much as it is discipline. If you make time to sit down and write until you have nothing left, you are a writer.
I knew the only way I was going to write my first novel was to sit down and write my first novel so that’s what I did.
I wrote Forever, Interrupted. And somewhere in there, I became a writer.
Taylor Jenkins Reid is from Acton, Massachusetts. She graduated from Emerson College in Boston in 2005. She worked in entertainment and education before becoming a writer.
In 2012, she signed a two book deal with Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Her first novel, Forever, Interrupted, is available now. Her second novel, After I Do, is scheduled for publication Summer 2014.
She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Rabbit.
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