Today I Wrote More than 5,000 Words at the Library

So as I mentioned earlier, today is a dedicated writing day. Kelly took the kids to visit some friends so I had the morning and early afternoon to myself in order to write. When I write, I generally do it in my office at home. If I have to be out when I am writing, I do it at the most convenient place (hotel room, etc.), but I generally don’t seek out a place specifically for writing.

Today, I thought a change of scenery might be in order. In this, I must admit, I was influenced by something I read in this week’s How I Work post on Lifehacker. This week’s guest, Gretchen Rubin1 wrote,

When I’m doing the hard work of original writing, I go to the New York Society Library, a beautiful 250-year-old library that’s just a block from my house. I love sitting in the stacks to work. When I’m there, I don’t connect to the internet, so it’s much easier for me to concentrate. Plus the quiet and the presence of all those books helps ignite my creativity (plus I love checking out books).

I loved the image of sitting among the stacks while writing. So while I was considered working somewhere other than my office, I remembered this image and decided to head to the Arlington Central Library, which opens at 10 am on Saturdays. I arrived there just after opening, and went upstairs to where the stacks are, and deliberately sought out an isolated table among the stacks. I found one next to a window at the end of several long rows of books which seemed just about perfect2.


I pulled out my Chromebook, connected to the wireless the library provides, opened up my story in Google Docs and began to write.

I was surprised by just how quiet it was there in the library. It was much quieter than my home office, even when no one is home. I think there is some ambient noise from Route 50 at home which trickles in. But it was silent in the library, so much so that I felt my fingers on the keyboard initially sounded loud in my ears.

I spent 3 hours at the library, sitting at my isolated table, writing. When all was said and done, I’d surprised even myself by adding just over 5,000 words to my story. Five thousand words in three hours is remarkable for me.  And it was divided over three periods of writing. I began writing almost as soon as I was seated, and when I came up for air, I’d written 1,400 words. I took a short break, checked out things on Twitter, and then jumped in for round 2. Round two produced 1,300 words, bringing my total to 2,700 words. At this point, I noted on Twitter that my 1-day record since I started keeping such records back in February, was about 3,200 words. I was only about 500 words from beating my record:

I took another short break. I was feeling hungry and was glad that I thought to bring a snack. I munched that down and then went in for the third round. It was in the third round that the library simply disappeared around me. I was completely and totally engrossed in the story. When I finally came back to reality, I did a word count found that I was at about 4,900 words. So I started the next scene, wrote a few sentences and then brought things to a close. When all was said and done, I’d written a total of 5,003 words.

Not only did I blow away my 1-day record (by almost 2,000 words!) but I also passed the halfway point of this story. As things stand, I’m thinking this story will probably be in the 90,000 word range. I started the day at about 44,700 words, and finished the day just shy of 50,000 words. 45,000 words is the halfway mark. That means I am closer to the ending than I am the beginning for the first time since I started writing this story back in early March.

It is still early in the day, and I expect I’ll do more writing before the day is out. Probably not on the long story. I’ll probably switch the the short story I’ve been working on. Even so, anything else I write today is gravy. I wrote about 19,000 words in all of July, averaging just over 600 words/day. In the first 10 days of August, I’ve now written over 17,000 words, averaging 1,700 words/day. I think part of it is due to my desire not to give up on the long story. I’ve never written a novel before, never come close to finishing anything this long, and I am not giving up on it, even when it gets hard. And I’d like to have it finished by the end of September.

I’m taking a break at the moment. I’m listening to the Top 40 countdown from this week in 1979 on Sirius XM 70s on 7. This week in 1979 I was into my last month of living in Somerset, New Jersey, after spending most of the first seven years of my life there. In another month, we’d be moving to Warwick, Rhode Island. It’s a nice little break. When the countdown is over, however, I expect to do some more writing.

How is your Saturday going?

  1. No relation, so far as I know.
  2. There was a big tree next to the window and I couldn’t really see much, so I wasn’t distracted by what was going on outside.


  1. A library is a great idea to write. I’ll have to try that sometime.

    Quick question about the story: you mentioned you reached the halfway point, so does that mean you’ve outlined the whole thing?

    1. Jesse, I haven’t outlined a word. I gave up outlining some years ago. There’s really no point on short stories. I typically know how a story is going to end when I start out (of course, that might change along the way). Beyond that, I like what Stephen King says: “Life is not plotted.” It’s fun discovering things along the way. I knew I was halfway done because, once I passed the 30,000 word mark, I figured I was writing something long, and once you are in that territory, there are few markets for anything in between 30,000 – 70,000 words. I’ve read that publishers like to see science fiction novels come in at around 90,000 words, so that’s what I decided to aim for. When I passed 45,000 words, therefore, I hit the halfway mark.

      1. Ah, gotcha. Makes sense. It would be interesting to hear, maybe once you finish it, how you transitioned from short to long fiction, because I’m trying to do that same thing. It’s a bit different figuring out how to carry the story for a longer length.


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