Friday, January 31, 2020

Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by guest Carla Laureano

Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by Carla Laureano for Seekerville

If there’s one thing that I pride myself on, it’s being organized. Which is why I’m embarrassed to admit that I came up short on time during the writing of The Solid Grounds Coffee Company. Typically, I start writing immediately after I get my contract, and I complete a rough draft of my book in eight to sixteen weeks. That gives me time to let it rest so I can return with fresh eyes when I do the first round of edits.

But in the case of Solid Grounds, an avalanche of events rearranged my schedule. I was working on the rerelease of my MacDonald Family books at the same time, which required some minor revisions and manuscript reviews. I released a stand-alone novella. Then my editor went out on maternity leave shortly after I turned in my book, pushing the edits out further, immediately followed by a month of marketing for the release of Brunch at Bittersweet Café.

Before I knew it, I was staring down the beginning of March, with a personal completion deadline of May. Not a big deal since I didn’t have to turn it in until October, except for the fact that when I started publishing, I promised my kids I wouldn’t work more than necessary during their summer breaks. In order to keep that promise, I needed to be finished by the time they got out of school the last week of May, then jump right into edits when they returned at the beginning of August.
Are you dizzy yet? I certainly was.

I sat down at my computer and attempted to write. But health problems crept in. Kid struggles. Family issues. Before I knew it, I was only 20,000 words into my book with only five weeks left on the clock.

I’d like to say that I calmly sat down and prayed for strength and guidance. But I didn’t. I panicked. I worried to friends. I started wondering if I was going to be able to write the book. Finally, after a few days of unprofitable whining, I made a schedule and forced myself to stick to it. And I discovered five pretty amazing things in the process.

1. I’m capable of far more than I think I am.


If you had told me that I would bang out the bulk of a 115,000-word book in five weeks, I would have replied that you were crazy. I write fast, but I rarely log more than 3,000 words a day. When you consider that I got a slow start for the first two weeks, I actually wrote the bulk of the book in three weeks: 5,000 words a day, 25,000 words a week. I wouldn’t rely on my ability to do that again, but it’s encouraging to know that I could if I had to.

It reminded me that so often we think we can’t just because we haven’t. In truth, we are capable of far more than we know; we simply haven’t tried.

2. Resolve is far more important than inspiration.


By the time I got through that first 25,000-word week, inspiration was in somewhat short supply. Yes, I was enjoying what I was writing, but half the time, I didn’t know if it was making any sense. I would check my outline to see which chapters I needed to write each day, and then I wrote them. I didn’t look forward. I didn’t look back. It helped that I parked myself at Starbucks each morning and didn’t allow myself to leave until I finished my word count for the day. After several hours of sitting in a hard, slightly uncomfortable chair, I would do anything to get out of there . . . even finish my chapter. It certainly wasn’t inspiration driving the story at that point. It was resolve (and maybe a little bit of desperation).

The prize doesn’t go to the person who is the most inspired; it goes to the person with the resolve and the diligence to get something done to the best of their ability.

3. Writing is like a sport: put in the practice so you can reap the performance.


You would think that the words that I wrote quickly under pressure were pretty terrible, but this was among the cleanest first drafts that I’ve ever turned out. I partly attribute that to the fact that I didn’t have time to tinker as I went or second-guess myself. And because I wrote it in such a short period of time, I was able to hold the full story and the character arcs in my head as I wrote. But most importantly, I’ve written almost a million words for publication. If you count all the rewrites and the numerous unpublished manuscripts that came before, I’m in the range of 2.5 million words of fiction written.

That’s when I realized that I’d been unconsciously training for this writing marathon like an athlete, with dedicated practice over the course of the last twenty-three years. I’ve spent so much focused time on the elements of plot, style, and pacing that I’ve internalized them. Or, to use a terrible sports metaphor, thousands of practice free throws allowed me to nail the half-court shot at the buzzer.

This clearly illustrated to me that time spent writing is never wasted, whether the books are published or not. You’re strengthening your writing muscles and your endurance for when you need them. Every time you employ a technique of fiction writing, it becomes your own, and over time, you can pull it out whenever you need it.

4. I can’t do this alone.


It sounds like I wrote this book through sheer determination, but the truth is, I would not have completed it but for a single faithful friend. Each morning before I started writing, I would check in with my BFF, Lori, and she would pray for me. Had it not been for her faithfulness in praying for my strength and productivity, I know I never could have pulled it off. I could feel her prayers as I worked, and I’ll always be grateful that she stepped in when I needed it so desperately.

5. When God provides an opportunity, He also provides the means.


There are always moments along the writing journey when we question our path or our purpose. I’ve always wanted to write for a living, and yet I’ve struggled and resisted the process every step of the way, mostly because it’s so much harder than I expected it would be. (If I would just learn to rest in God’s provision, things would go so much more smoothly, but that’s a topic for another blog post.) My friend may have prayed for me, but it was God who showed up when I needed Him. Above all else, The Solid Grounds Coffee Company is a story of redemption, of what happens after the Prodigal Son returns, so I can only believe that someone out there, somewhere, needs to read it . . . and God wasn’t going to let that be thwarted by a stressed-out, behind-schedule writer. I wish every book involved the same level of co-creation with God, but even if it never happens again in quite the same way, I’m grateful to have experienced it once.

About the Book & Author

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company by Carla Laureano

Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it—only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.



Carla Laureano is the two-time RITA Award–winning author of Five Days in Skye, London Tides, and the Saturday Night Supper Club series. She is also the author of the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.


Now it’s your turn: Have you ever had an experience where you had to rely on God to complete an impossible task? How did it turn out? Tell me in the comments below, and you’ll be entered to win a paperback copy of The Solid Grounds Coffee Company.

47 comments:

  1. Good morning, Carla. Thank you for visiting with us today.

    I love everything about this post - probably because I can identify all too well with writing under pressure - but this line is the one I am going to take away and post on my refrigerator (because that's the place I'm guaranteed to see it!):

    "The prize doesn’t go to the person who is the most inspired; it goes to the person with the resolve and the diligence to get something done to the best of their ability."

    True grit is what carries us through.

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    1. It's really true! Though I've gotten so good at gritting it out, I've had to really work at handing things over to God. I'm glad you could relate to my experience!

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  2. Oh, Carla. How I love this post. And I love reading about the lessons you learned as you wrote this book. I have so much regard for you as an author and as a person, and reading how you worked through this challenge spoke to my heart.

    I have had times in my life when the "thing" wouldn't have gotten done unless God showed up. There's something powerful and almost magical watching Him work and enable me to accomplish things that needed to get done and could only happen with supernatural input.

    I can't wait to read this book.

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    1. Sometimes we have to get out of our own way or reach the end of our strength/knowledge to see God at work!

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    2. Aww, Jeanne, you're so kind. Thank you. And yes, it did feel almost magical. I love when we get to the end of ourselves and then God is like "So can I get to work now? I was just waiting on you to step aside."

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  3. I am not a fast writer, but I learned a few of those same lessons when I won my first NaNoWriMo. I realized that most likely I am the one holding me back from finishing projects and especially the thing about writing being less about inspiration and more about determination. And these lessons candefinitely be applied to other parts of our life and spiritual walk. Years ago I left my job writing software and moved into a position on staff at a church. Huge change and I wasn't sure I could do it. God showed up in big ways many times over those years and I am grateful.

    Congratulations on finishing the book--it sounds great!

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    1. The Dory method really does work! Amazing!

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    2. Thank you, Glynis! God definitely likes to work through big changes and impossible situations.

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  4. Enjoyed your post, Carla...and I enjoy your books, too! I had same experience as Glynis...took church job with no one to train me. But God showed up in BIG ways to help me.
    I am anxious to read your new book; thanks for the giveaway.

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    1. What's the thing about God equipping the called, not calling the equipped? So true!

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    2. Love that story, Jackie! Thank you for sharing!

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  5. Carla, welcome back! What an inspiring post! I really loved this quote: "The prize doesn’t go to the person who is the most inspired; it goes to the person with the resolve and the diligence to get something done to the best of their ability."

    So true! And I really needed to hear this today. You've motivated me to keep going. Thank you!

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    1. Sounds like Carla needs to make some prints with that line! It's what we needed to hear!

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    2. So glad that you could be inspired by my experience, Missy! It's easy to feel alone in this crazy business. And thanks for welcoming me back...always love being a guest here at Seekerville.

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  6. Lovely post, Carla! I agree with everything you wrote! Especially that God provides. I, too, had to write fast to make a deadline. A book in a month. Well, actually, I had submitted the proposal so a book, minus the first three chapters, in a month. I attended GRW's Moonlight & Magnolias Conference as my deadline loomed and attended a workshop about writing a fast first draft, which was just what I needed. I followed the lessons I learned in that workshop, and God cleared my schedule so I could make my daily deadlines...and yes, I submitted the book on time.

    That experience taught me the value of writing a fast first draft. As you mentioned, I can stay "within" my story and ensure the pieces fit together into a compelling read. I use an AlphaSmart word processor that helps me write fast without editing. It's my favorite writing tool. And no matter how tight my deadline, the Lord always provides!

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    1. I've seen it done (by author friends) but it still amazes me every time!

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    2. Yes, He does, and thank Him for that! Writing professionally has done more to grow my faith than almost anything else.

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  7. Hi Carla! So glad to see you here at Seekerville!

    I'm not a fast writer, but I have been able to meet deadlines that seemed impossible at the time. I agree with everything you said: God, diligence, the prayers of friends, and God. How could we ever write without Him?

    Looking forward to reading your book!

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    1. How do we do anything without Him? Not well!

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    2. Thanks, Jan! The impossible deadlines definitely show us our weaknesses, don't they?

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  8. Great post, Carla. I love this series so would love to win this book! I need to rely on God to help me get the novel I have written revised and ready to do something with. I have really struggled with it and feel at times that I just can't do it but I am determined to try.

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    1. Saying a prayer for you, Sandy!

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    2. Thank you, Sandy. Stick with it! I've found that the ones that feel the hardest to get onto paper are the ones that need to be written the most. Feeling that you can't do it is the perfect place to start because you know it has to be done with God's power and not your own.

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  9. Authors are an amazing bunch of worker bees! I don't know how y'all do what you do, but I'm mighty thankful that you do it!

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    1. Thank you, friend! Pretty sure it's the kind words (and coffee) that keeps us going most days.

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  10. I sit in amazement. And I am awed at what God can do if we allow Him to work in our lives. Thank you for sharing!
    Carla, keep on writing, you and God have a GOOD thing going! :)

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    1. Thank you, Rosalyn! It is amazing what God will do if we let him!

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  11. This was the perfect post for me today as I face down my own Deadline Dragon. It was lovely to learn more about you, Carla. I can't wait to read this book!

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    1. Deadline Dragon! I love that! Best of luck in slaying that dangerous beast!

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  12. I have yet to work under someone else's deadline for writing, but almost all of my books have been written in 30 days because I take advantage of nanowrimo each year. And some of these points resound with me because I can see them happening in my own writing. Every time I do it, it is easier and cleaner. And I agree it may be because of lack of time to tinker or because it's easier to keep it all in your head with such a short turn-around. And, it definitely helps to break it into smaller chunks. Okay, I need x number words each day. And I can do that. :-)

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    1. I think some of us are more comfortable with that kind of pace than others. I have friends who are brilliant writers who write far more slowly, but they seem to be able to hold onto the thread of the story over time better than me. Maybe I just have a short attention span. Ha! Thanks for commenting!

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  13. Ah, this is so timely for me! I need to lay down some serious word count in the upcoming weeks, and you're so right, Resolve trumps Inspiration!

    Thanks for hanging out at Seekerville today, Carla!

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  14. Wow, a book in six weeks sounds amazing as my first attempt has taken me eight years! I will admit I do my best work under pressure and often find myself working on everything besides the pressing task and then flying into action when I have no other choice. Can you share a bit more in terms of conclusions, was Solid Grounds, (love the title), as good or better than your other books and how will this experience impact your timeline on future projects? Thanks for sharing this inspiring post and especially for giving God the glory!

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    1. If it makes you feel better, I wrote for 15 years before getting published, and my first contracted novel (a fantasy novel) took me six years to write. Like I mentioned above, I think it was the repeated practice of writing a lot of words that made it possible...it really does get easier as you go on.

      It's hard for me to judge the quality of my own work other than "am I happy with it or not?" but I've had a lot of early readers say it's the best of the three in the series. As far as timeline for future projects, I wrote the book that will release after this in about 8 weeks, but it needs a lot more work than this one did at the same stage. So I really think this was more of a miracle one-off than an ongoing change to my process. However, it did show me that I do better when fast-drafting because it's easier for me to keep the entire story in my head while writing. Thanks for visiting!

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  15. Yes, I have. God is always right on time. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. Yes, he is! Thank you for visiting! (And sorry for the delay--commenting stopped working for me on the site!)

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  16. I'm the kind of person that just likes to power through things rather than ask for help, but lately it's just all been too much. I'm slowly learning how very much I need God each day, and even better, He always sees me through. Even if if what I think needs to get done doesn't, the things that matter always seem to get done. Thank you for sharing your story and for the chance to win your book!

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    1. Oh, I relate to that statement well. It's definitely a process of learning to rely on His power and not our own. Thanks for dropping by! (And sorry for the delay...commenting stopped working for me.)

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  18. Yes, as an introvert, public speaking of any time is not fun for me. God has placed speaking and teaching tasks and situations for me several times. He has always been faithful.

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  19. Having a prodigal child taught me to trust God more than i ever had before.

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  20. Unfortunately I can’t think of an example of when I had to rely on God for something impossible but I do know I have to rely on God for so much stuff every day!

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  21. can't think of anything
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