I'm completely brain dead.

I've been sitting here for a full ten minutes now and I've got nothing.  Nothing.

For the last several weeks, I have been struggling to finish my latest book.  I'm happy to say I wrote THE END last night —

— but at a cost.

I'm completely brain dead.

I'm an erratic writer.  The first half of my first book was written in about three months.  The second half took seemingly forever.  

This book was the opposite.  The first 150 pages took me months, while the last 375 were written in just a few weeks.  Frantically.

It's amazing what a deadline can do to you.

I hear about writers writing several thousand words a day, guys like Stuart Woods who only writes, reportedly, a couple hours in the morning but manages to do an entire chapter in that time — and, frankly, I'm amazed.

Nora Roberts is noted for her speed and output (to put it mildly). And from what I can tell, Carla Neggers and others who came up from the romance ranks ain’t slouches either…

But there was one writer who had us all beat. His name: Walter Gibson, aka Maxwell Grant. 

Gibson wrote the novels I loved as a kid — I was in heaven when I discovered the paperback reprints on my used bookstore shelf. He was the man behind THE SHADOW, and in 1932 alone, he produced twenty-four 60,000 word novels for The Shadow Magazine, a pulp that was published twice monthly.

120,000 words a month. Not to mention the some 680 magazine articles he wrote a year. 

And this wasn’t just some isolated year. He did this for at least a decade.

Argue all you want that his stories were substandard. I freakin’ loved the reprints I read. Still have them on my shelf in fact. The first one I bought — probably in the 70’s — was called THE LIVING SHADOW — and it thrilled the hell out of me.

Just for a moment think about your deadlines and imagine having to write 120,000 words a month.

The mind boggles.

Do you ever have those moments when you're just so mentally exhausted you've got nothing left to say?

In the last weeks of trying to reach this latest deadline, I also received the UK galleys on my next book, saw the release of my second book, WHISPER IN THE DARK (Feb. 2), gave a presentation — along with Brett Battles — at Huntington Beach library, attended Bouchercon, got food poisoning, went to Men of Mystery, did the copy edits for book three, and went to two signings, one an eleven hour roundtrip drive that had me writing in the car as my wife took the wheel.

I'm. Freaking.  Brain dead.

As this post makes abundantly clear.

Tomorrow night I'm having a launch party for WHISPER IN THE DARK.  7 pm at the Ventura, California Barnes & Noble.  A portion of all sales in the store go to the education community.  I hope those of you in the area can come.

If you can't make it then, please join me at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood at 4 pm on Saturday, February 14th.

I promise to have recovered by then.


18 thoughts on “Toast

  1. Louise Ure

    Hurray on the completion, and on meeting the deadline. And hurray on the launch as well.

    I’d be brain dead, too.

    I could suggest that perhaps Grant didn’t have to do the blogging, promotion and marketing that we do today (akin to earlier Murderati posts this week) but your other examples belie that. Those authors are facing the same marketing challenges we all do.

    Hell, now I have no excuse.

  2. Stephen D. Rogers

    This whole “brain dead” thing is scary.

    I know there’s a word that will serve the story, know that I know the word, but even though I run through the halls of my brain like a madmen, I can’t find it.

    Exhaustion is the root of all death.

  3. Ann Voss Peterson

    Congrats, Rob! I have a suggestion for you. After a lot of writing, I’ve found my best strategy for a timely recovery is reading. Lots of reading. Any kind of reading. It’s as if I have to restock my mind with words.

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Congrats, Rob

    I’m in much the same boat myself at the moment – the brain dead part, certainly.

    But, sadly, not the finished manuscript part.

    And Ann, I love the idea of having to restock your brain with words.

    Reminds me of a Larson Far Side cartoon, where the kid at the back of the class sticks his hand up and says to the teacher, “Miss? Can I be excused? My brain is full…”

  5. Terri

    Congrats on completing the book! I can certainly empathize with your brain dead status but at least you made it through. (I had to succumb to failure and give up on my wip…but I’m starting a new one.)

    Looking forward to the books, let me know if you do a signing at Poisoned Pen.

  6. Kathryn Lilley

    Hey that happened to me this week too! So I went to Google and looked up “How to find a hot topic to write about.” Seriously. It actually worked. I wound up with a goofy post, but it was fun.

  7. Allison Brennan

    Rob, I totally know how you feel. I just finished copyedits on a book that’s a complex story because of several subplots that come together (or not) at the end. grr . . .

    I can write 120K words in a month. (that’s 6K words a day, five days a week.) Publishable? Absolutely not.

  8. Rob Gregory Browne

    Typing the end is the best thing ever. And if it hadn’t been for my wonderful wife — who did EVERYTHING other than write the book for me (meaning cooking, cleaning, yard work, psychiatric counseling) — then I never would have been able to do it.

    I think she deserves a round of applause.


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