By Mary Curran Hackett, Author of Proof of Heaven
The Wall Street Journal blog recently reported that Paulo Coelho, author of the multimillion-selling The Alchemist, current best-seller Aleph, and several other books, takes two weeks to write his books. “Once every two years, he writes for ten hours a day for fifteen days until his book is completed,” reports Barbara Chai. In his own words, Coelho describes the experience similar to “making love to [the] computer.” [Note to self: Find out what computer he’s using––and ask him if it comes in a Javier Bardem model. (Just sayin’––that might make it easier for me).]
I am a huge fan of Coelho. I believe him when he says he can churn out a book in two weeks, because I did that too. Although, I doubt he and I share the same “vision.” These days, my idea of “making love” means watching said Javier Bardem in his latest movie, killing a bottle of wine with my husband, and hoping to make it to the bedroom moments before our six-year-old son barges in wearing his brightly shining miner’s light, while groggily ordering us to “move over.”
Then again, that’s exactly how it was for me when I wrote Proof of Heaven. I felt inspired––almost as if an electric charge was bursting through my entire body (sort of like the one I get watching Javier on screen). I also felt a little dizzy, maybe even drunk on the prospect of what I was writing and creating, and then I made the mad, crazy dash to get it all done before I lost the moment, fell asleep, became distracted, or was interrupted.
As a full-time editor, adjunct professor, freelance writer, wife, and mother of two children, I don’t have a lot of free time to write. I have to squeeze in––not seize––moments to write every day. So when I sent my little chapter called Proof of Heaven to a New York City agent on a whim and she wrote back enthusiastically asking for the rest of the book, I told her that I could get it to her in two weeks and that I just needed to “tidy it up.”
What I needed to do was write the next 300 pages.
I don’t recommend this method and know it’s not for everyone. But as a veteran rejection-letter recipient and owner of several dusty, never-to-be-read manuscripts wrapped in rubber bands in my top desk drawer, I have earned my stripes and heard my fair share of “No, thank you.” Like, Chad Harbach, the writer of The Art of Fielding, I labored for years (almost eighteen in my case) writing various novels and memoirs and hoped for a “bite” from an agent or a publisher. I just kept at it and hoped all that practice would pay off. So when an agent saw potential in my latest story, I knew this was a rare opportunity and I had to take advantage of it.
For two weeks (after my husband came home from work at 6:30) I wrote until dawn. During the weekend I worked fifteen to eighteen hours a day. I drank several pots of coffee, ate innumerable M & Ms, and slept in two hour bursts. Unhealthy? Yes. Productive? Absolutely.
The ironic thing is I never heard back from that initial agent I sent my query to until long after several other agents showed interest in the book as well. (I sent queries out to a few others, because I thought if one agent was interested, there might be others. It was a good gamble.) I ended up with a fabulous agent and champion, who worked with me and my editor over the next year and a half to polish and refine what I had initially blasted off in two weeks. Yes, I may have written my book quickly, but it took almost two years to make it to the shelves.
So I guess I could even make the concession that writing a book in two weeks is less like making love and more like making a baby. Sure, it takes no time to get the initial deed done, but the gestation and development take time and great care. In the end, when I finally beheld Proof of Heaven in my hands, it wasn’t totally unlike the feeling I had when I held my firstborn. At once, I knew she was all mine and I somehow played a part in bringing her into the world, but at the same time I couldn’t believe I played any role at all––she seemed otherworldly. I don’t know, maybe I could go so far as to say she seemed to me to be proof of heaven?
Mary Curran Hackett, author of Proof of Heaven, is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati, freelance writer, and a book editor. She is also a wife and mother of two children, Brigid and Colm.
For more information about the writing of Proof of Heaven and her Story Behind the Story please visit http://www.marycurranhackett.com