valley of ashes

By Cornelia Read

So, just to glom on to JT’s word counts of yesterday…

Turned in the first draft of my fourth novel yesterday at about 3 p.m.

Deadlines blown: all of them

Pages: 395

Word count: 81,568

Word count last Sunday: I don’t remember. I think 50,000

What I remember of this last week: Um, in one straight twenty-five-hour stretch, I wrote 80 pages. Then I slept for 13 hours, and woke up and started writing at 4 p.m., and had written 60 more pages by 3 p.m. yesterday, at which point I’d reached the 81,568 word count above.

Year it feels like I’ve been awake since: 1952

What my brain feels like:

Favorite line written this week: “I felt like I was being sodomized by my own life. And not the fun kind of sodomy, either.”

What I looked like yesterday at 3 p.m.:

What I imagine my editor’s response will be:

What I felt like, around Thursday at 4 a.m.:

What the overall process of writing this book felt like:

1. I am in labor with a child who has a six-foot-wide head

2. Scratch that, I am undergoing a caesarean section with no anesthesia

3. Oh my fucking GOD, I am being forced to perform a caesarean ON MY SELF with NO ANESTHESIA 

4. With stone knives and bear skins

5. I’m a doctor, Jim, not a magician.

6. I’m not a doctor, Jim

What I would like to be doing right now:

What my brain felt like last night, and also how everything was starting to look around me:

How I wish the writing process actually went:

Song I think we should all be listening to right now:


Title of this book:

Valley of Ashes

Projected pub date:

March, 2012


32 thoughts on “valley of ashes

  1. Debbie

    As soon as I saw the title of your post today, I drew in my breth in anticipation. Admittedly, I knew it was going to be there, having seen your triumph on the fb newsfeed. I felt your anticipation with the, I've just have one chapter left, and elation with the submission to editor. Congrats! Oh btw, I love the fact that despite your lack of sleep, your brain feeling fried, and the pressure you've been under, this post is fun and humourous. Going to go listen to your link!

  2. Shizuka

    Hope you're in 20-hour sleep mode or getting an at-home massage from the world's most gorgeous man. Can't wait until March 2012!

  3. MJ

    Oh goodie! I read your first book and then tore through the next two – loved them, cannot wait for more Madeline Dare!

  4. judy wirzberger

    That kind of trauma can't be good for your love life. Perhaps for the next book you should only start five weeks before the damn thing is due. You must work better under pressure. Hope you are not sleeping alone. Loved your favorite line and the mind goes to answering what kinds of sodomy feel best? Another book, but found on a different shelf. All good things wished for you. Trio lunch with Terri when you're around?

    Back to wrapping Christmas presents. Mundane things make the world boring.

  5. Gar Haywood

    Good God, Cornelia. Eighty pages in 25 hours???

    Well, yeah, I guess I could do that, too, under the right circumstances. Like these circumstances, for instance:

    1. Take a loaded gun.
    2. Put it to my head.
    3. Cock the trigger.
    4. Place a photo of my wife and kids on the desk in front of me and say something to the effect that they'll be next to die after me.
    5. The 80 pages all involve an incredibly long stretch of dialogue between two unbelievably boring and taciturn people, i.e.:

    "You won't?"
    "I suppose…"
    "Do you?"
    "Not now?"

    I didn't say I could write anything even remotely readable. I just said I could write 80 pages IF MY FRIGGIN' LIFE AND THE LIVES OF EVERYONE I HOLD DEAR DEPENDED ON IT.

    Short of that, 15 pages is about my limit.

    Congrats on getting to THE END.

  6. Zoë Sharp

    Congratulations, Cornelia!

    I hope this means you get at least the rest of the weekend off …?

    I think this is another one that qualifies as enjoying 'having written' rather than the writing itself ;-]

  7. Karen in Ohio

    Who was it that said writing is like opening a vein? You personify that quote, Cornelia!

    Yay, you! I've read your first two books, but am saving Invisible Boy for an especially good treat for myself. Have to pace these things, if your next one isn't out until 14 months from now, after all.

  8. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Deadlines suck.

    I actually had to fake a two-week medical leave of absence from my day job just so I could spend fourteen ten-hour days writing, which enabled me to finish Beat in time for publication.

    Congratulations on being on the other side. Sleep tight, jello-baby.

  9. Spencer Seidel

    I'm with Gar. I don't think I could this! I actually finished my last manuscript early. I'll go hide under my desk now and wait for everyone to curse at me 🙂

  10. Fran

    Oh CONGRATULATIONS! Your editor will not give you epic Fail, because this is bound to be absolutely brilliant! Let me add my name to the list of those who can't wait to read it.

    ((((Big Ol' Virtual Hug)))) to a seriously wonderful and intrepid Author. Eighty pages in 25 hours ought to get you into the Guiness Book, in my opinion!

  11. Tom

    Let's hear it for The Colossus of Plot and Character usually known as Cornelia.

    Karen in Ohio – yeah, save INVISIBLE for a special time, It's her best, and the first two were damn fine.

  12. PK the Bookeemonster

    My question is, once you've got that going, how do you turn it off? You know, after the collapsing part, the brain is saying "let's go, let's go!" And you're saying, "we don't have to do that anymore" and that brain says, "Oh yeah?"

  13. JT Ellison

    Oh, Cornelia, you are fabulous. 80 pages in 25 hours is insanity, the GOOD kind! I imagine your editor will be entranced, as we all are, by your brilliance. I ADORE the title too, that's really evocative. Good for you. Raising my virtual glass in a toast to finishing!

  14. Cornelia Read

    Your post reminds me of something Robin Williams joked about. He asked his wife what it was like to give birth. "Imagine pulling your lower lip over your head and that will give you an idea"! I have enjoyed everyone of your books. I can't wait for Valley of Ashes to be published!

  15. Cornelia Read

    Ah, delicious… just slept for another five hours. Feel practically sane!

    MJ, thank you, you're lovely to say so…

    Judy, did have a nice raunchy Saturday night a couple of weeks ago…

    Gar, you are SO FUNNY! And for all I know, I might have written 80 pages of toaster-oven instructions in Lithuanian…

    Zoe, oh, the beauty of "having written," and I have the weekend off except for the Chinese student I'm picking up at the airport tonight who's coming to do an interview at Exeter. But that should be fun…

    Louise, LOVE YOU, thank you…

    Karen, it is exactly an opened vein, and probably a uterus too. And thank you so much for wanting to save IB. I hope it's worth it when you need something to cheer you up, although it's not exactly a "feel-good" book…

    Stephen, mon semblable, mon frere… I had a feeling we were process-twins. That's exactly something I would do…

    Spencer, I can SEE you under that desk, you #@%@#$$^ person! And I wish I worked that way–this way just makes you feel like a really stupid naughty third grader, and not in a fun sense…

    Fran, you gladden my tiny black heart, and big old virtual {{{{{}}}}} right back…

    Oh, Tom… I heart you utterly….

    PK, it's not really a struggle to turn off. My brain goes, "and can you just fucking go into REAL ESTATE now?" and I have to remind it there will be a second draft, and it goes "you are an IDIOT! I'm not going to play anymore!" and then I sleep…

    JT, I just think you're awesome and a total genius, and my glass is raised to you for having your book out to the Betas!!!

    Alex, all sympathy is most welcome, but not the coronary kind… <3 <3 <3

    Dusty, YOU rule!

    Reine, you are my hero, and thank you!!!!

    Toni, it probably reads like I had a gun to my head. And not in a good way. Thank GOD for second drafts!!!

  16. Reine

    Not a hero, Cornelia – just fucking desperate to do the things most importsnt to me like reading and writing. Very satisfying to figure out new ways. Feels real good.

  17. Andi

    if the damn thing is not released March 8 or 9, by the way, heads WILL fucking roll. ya think?
    anyone into language lesson time? Right under this little post box is a sentence which reads. "All HTML will be escaped".


  18. Allison Brennan

    I've been there. It seems like every third book I'm late. Love Me To Death–I was on time for everything, had two wonderful rounds of revisions, ended up with a 120K word book (first draft was 85K.) Kiss Me, Kill Me? Late . . . late . . . late . . . except for copyedits and page proofs which I did on time and rushed.

    A couple times I wrote 80+ pages in 2 days. It's not pretty. I'm not pretty.

    But fortunately, revisions usually fix things. 🙂

    Congrats on your rough draft!

  19. mbh

    March 2012?? Fuckaduck, I was hoping it could be my birthday present THIS year! Like March 2011.
    Massive congratulations, and a coupon for drinks on the dock or anywhere else designated as an official outpost of the Sinkeytowne Yacht Club. Remember, you have boatloads of fans and family manque, here, in NZ, all round the planet!

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