Claire Bidwell Smith: How to Write a Book in 10 Weeks

Claire Bidwell Smith, blogger, volunteer,writer and psychotherapist, wrote a book in 10 weeks. She’s leaving LA for Chicago, but found the time to tell us about the process.

FBLA: Once you quit your job, and committed to the book–any tricks/techniques that kept you writing, rather than all those little tasks that distract the rest of us from writing?

CBS:It was definitely a daunting task. I really quit my job–my “pay the rent 9-5, benefits, vacation, etc.” job–on a whim. I suddenly just knew that it was time to write this book I’d been talking about writing for so long. I realized that it was never going to be the right time, that all those things I was waiting for to fall in place–finishing grad school, having enough money, etc.–might not ever just fall into place and that if I really wanted to write this book I just had to do it. It felt like jumping backwards off a cliff.

And I took it really seriously. I mean, you don’t quit your job to write a book and then not write the book, right?

Part of taking it seriously meant preparing. I told everyone in my life what I was doing and that I was dropping out my social scene for a while. I cleaned my whole house, getting everything really organized. I bought a lovely new desk (my old one was really a cluttered mess) and I stocked my kitchen with a lot of healthy brain food and strong coffee.

The other way in which I prepared–and I say this because I really credit it for getting me through the process–was that I spent some time getting really clear on my intentions for this book. I sat down and I really thought a lot about why I was writing this book. What it meant to me, what it would mean to accomplish such a thing, and what I wanted from the end result. And every time I wavered during the writing process I went back to these intentions. They became affirmations in a way.

The first day of writing was definitely scary. I’d made so many preparations, had told everyone what I was doing, had really just put a lot of pressure on myself. I felt like I had to produce right away. The first few chapters were okay (throughout the whole ten weeks I wrote at least a chapter a day) and then it all just started to flow. The biggest trick I used I suppose was that I just kept writing. I refused to let myself get hung up on an individual chapter or a section. I knew that I had to just keep plowing ahead, that I could always go back later.

That’s the biggest advice I can give to other writers. And I know it’s been said a thousand times but it’s true: just keep writing. Don’t let yourself worry about whether or not it’s good, about whether or not your mom or your boyfriend will like it, about whether or not it will sell or how you’re going to pay the rent when you’re done. Just write, write, write.

FBLA: Anything you’d have done differently?

CBS: I’ve been sitting here for two whole minutes racking my brain and I can’t come up with anything. That’s a good thing, right? Maybe I would have amassed a larger collection of nighties. That’s all I wore everyday. It became a running joke with my neighbors: What nightie is Claire wearing today?

FBLA: TEN WEEKS? (Mickey Rourke’s torture was only 91/2 weeks)

CBS: Crazy, huh? I had a feeling wouldn’t take me long but I’m still surprised that I managed to write 290 pages in 10 weeks. If you break it down though, it’s not that hard to imagine. I wrote between 750 and 2K words a day, 5 or 6 days a week. I think what impressed me more than the daily word count was that I managed to write almost every day.

FBLA: Why did you decide on blogging about the writing and your progress?

CBS: In my opinion, blogging is a tricky thing. I think it really helps to have a subject, a theme of some sort. Otherwise I think it’s easy for both the blogger and the readers to get bored. It was fun to have something so specific to report on everyday and I knew that my readers were interested and invested in my working on this book.

FBLA: You have written. The best place to be. But how long on this precarious ledge? What’s the next step? Rewriting?

CBS: Oh, the ledge has suddenly become so precarious. I’m teetering as we speak. I really took my own advice. I let everything fall to the wayside. Two days after I was finished writing I finally sat down with a stack of bills that had been steadily piling up for 10 weeks and I wept. It wasn’t pretty. Still isn’t.

I’m now in the process of searching for an agent and a publisher—a challenging task for any writer. I’ve sent the manuscript to a few literary heads in New York and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Several friends have read it in its entirety and genuinely seemed to love it, which has been incredibly encouraging.

FBLA:And how do you psyche yourself up for the rest of the journey?

CBS: Oof. Good question. Right now I’m trying not to think about it too much. I wrote the book. I accomplished what I set out to do and now it’s kind of out of my hands. All I know is that I feel really good about the work I’ve done. And no matter what happens, no matter how scary my credit card bill looks, I will always be proud of myself. I wrote a book! In ten weeks!

FBLA wishes her well in Chicago, and can’t wait to read the book. Smith’s an inspiration in many, many ways.