The 8-Hour Book Challenge

Oh gosh. Hold on a sec and let me catch my breath.

Okay, author J.A. Konrath wrote a post on (among other things) maintaining the joy of creating without fussing over commercialism or perfectionism, and he ended with a challenge to create an entire book in just 8 hours.

That’s the entire book project. Writing, revising, formatting, creating a cover, and publishing. Complete.


Getting Started

I found the challenge at 4 pm, and as I was working on other things I wondered what story I should write. I even went so far as to open up a new Word doc and title it “The Kirin, the Kappa, and the Kitsune” — a title chosen wholly for its catchy alliteration, and for which I have absolutely no story idea at this time. (I’m saving that title, though.)

But then I went out, met my family for dinner and killed some time, and when I came back I decided to go with this pseudo-Victorian magician piece I wrote down a couple of sentences for about 10 years ago. So I had an idea of how it would start, and how it would end, and nothing else.

It was roughly 9 pm by this point. I opened a stopwatch app on my tablet. Ready, go!

I started by browsing a couple of image sites for potential cover art, since covers are much less intuitive for me than, say, words. Also it gave me a chance to get in the gaslight mood. Look, gas streetlamps and steamships!


The first part went much more smoothly than I anticipated, but perhaps that had something to do with the multiple pints of Coke Zero and the big bag of Almond M&Ms…. Anyway, I was trucking along at about 1000 words/hour, even with occasional research Google visits (on my tablet rather than the laptop, to keep me focused), and feeling pretty good.

And I was doing so well. But how am I going to end this thing?!
And I was doing so well. But how am I going to end this thing?!

Until about two-thirds of the way into the story, when I headbutted against the fact that I really had no idea how to get to the ending.

I had a great mental visual for the ending, all dramatic and featuring a steamboat on the Thames. Glorious action sequence! I just, you know, needed the plot to end up there somehow, and I didn’t have a clue how that would happen.

I closed my eyes and did author-brain for a few minutes. I don’t really know how to explain author-brain; it’s kind of when you drop all logic contingencies for a second so you can see the big ball of timey-wimey and all its possibilities, rather than the linear road map. Note: this stage of author-brain is significantly enhanced by consciousness-altering substances such as caffeine and chocolate.

So I got an image of another ending, only this one didn’t involve the Thames or any steamships at all. Well, good thing I spent that half hour on the clock browsing royalty-free steamship images up front, huh? /sigh/

Wrapping the First Draft

Keep writing. Much slower now, and I’m making notes on the side for things I’ll want to go back and revise, but still plugging along.

I’ll be honest, I did stop the clock several times for bathroom breaks and pet care, etc. Maybe that’s against the rules, I dunno, but it felt within the spirit of it to me. I mean, no one’s producing ebooks in the bathroom. I hope. I really hope.

Aargh! Computer memory fail, and all my potential images and notes are gone!
Aargh! Computer memory fail, and all my potential images and notes are gone!

I didn’t lose much time, though, if we compare actual elapsed time to the stopwatch’s count. And, ah ha! First draft complete! Now I’ll draft a cover, and then I’ll come back to do some basic revision. Fortunately I actually feel pretty good about this first draft, so let’s just go back to–

AARRRRGH! Computer glitch, and all the images I’d browsed for potential cover art are lost. As are all the browser tabs for guidelines, etc. I’d be beating my head into the keyboard except that I don’t have time for that. Get those image sites open and start searching!

Cover Design & Formatting

But in the end, of course, I buy a completely different image, based on the recurring scent of incense which I hadn’t really planned when I started. Figures. Fonts, fonts, fonts…. Oh, geez, I have literally thousands of fonts. Is this one available for commercial use? I think so. I hope so. I’ll look it up after.

Why is my computer running so slow? Honestly, there’s something going on with the memory, and it’s really struggling with the image software now. No time to mess with it, though. Press on!

I did save some time, though by starting this draft right in a (renamed) Kindle-formatted file from another published book. As long as I remember to change all the title instances in the front and back matter and stuff like that, I should be okay.

Which is good, because I totally don’t have time to reread what I’ve written. Time to triage. I alt-tab to my notes on what I want to revise.

  • Okay, I really hate this character’s name. Quick Google search for Victorian-era male names, find/replace. Done.
  • Pretty sure that housekeeper’s name never would have appeared in this era. Swap the placeholder for… oh, look, a convenient surname on a nearby printed surface. Done.
  • That little plot hole I was going to fill in? Well, drat, can’t do it. Let’s just hope no one notices it. But in case anyone does, you should know that I totally have an explanation.
  • I’d like to go back and make the smoky imagery more pervasive and more coherent, but there’s just not going to be time. I haven’t even reread this yet! And crud, I need a table of contents before I upload it.
Made it. Barely. But made it.
Made it. Barely. But made it.

Go, go, go, go, done! Seven hours and fifty-eight minutes.

Oops, Kindle upload found a typo. Add a few seconds for correction.

My world is a hazy swirl of caffeine and chocolate. I should probably write a blog post to document this, to show that I really did it and how. Oh, I just did.

Smoke and Fears, a gaslight fantasy

May I present Smoke and Fears, a gaslight fantasy of 7500 words. I wonder if I’ll hate it in the morning. I’ll post a proper link when Amazon finishes processing and it goes live. (Oops, typo in my Amazon title. No, I’m not tired! Will have to fix that tomorrow after Amazon’s done processing and will allow metadata editing.)

And now it’s somewhere between 6 and 7 am, and I think I should brush my teeth and go to bed.

(Also, Konrath will be sharing all the 8-Hour Challenge Books on his blog on Friday, and I’ll share that here as well here they are.) Please note that Smoke and Fears will be free during the blog event, so grab it starting Sept 29, 2013!


8-29-13: I am uploading a new version with a different protagonist name, as my gaslight valet shared a name with a popular gaslight butler. Also, I corrected one spelling error and, as long as I was mucking about, I changed two sentences for clarity, so maybe that disqualifies me from the challenge. But I have no regrets /grin/ and it was still a major undertaking!


Smoke and Fears peaked at #8 on the Free Historical Fantasy list before the free promotion ended and the title had to start earning rank again from scratch at regular price. Yeah, Iā€™m happy with that!

Marsden cannot remember his real name, nor how he came to be a valet for the schoolboy son of a powerful magician. Phantom wisps of incense and narrow glimpses of memory are all he has, until he chances upon a family secret which only compounds intrigue. What might his young master Abel know of his amnesia? What binds him to the Wensleys? And why does he, a simple valet, know fragments of magic?

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. That’s amazing!

  2. That is just all sorts of awesome. As was this blog post. Can’t wait for the Amazon link!

  3. Love your cover. That sounds like 8 hours of hell to me. Particularly the all night part.

  4. Thanks for the link to J.A. Konrath post. Interesting read.

  5. Came over from Konrath’s blog. Congrats on finishing the challenge! Sounds like equal measures of fun and hell. :-) The cover is definitely cool, and I’ll be picking it up, ’cause it sounds interesting and I love fantasy anyway. :-)

  6. Thanks for giving me a heads up to this as well! My neck still hasn’t forgiven me for eight solid hours of staring at the screen, but I’m thrilled to have completed something like this, and to actually have an author page on Amazon now. :D

  7. I love your original title. I don’t know what kind of story you’ll get out of it (a qirin, a kappa, and a kitsune walk into a bar…) but I’m sure it will be a fun read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *