Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Reverend" Brad Explains It All

HANK: Okay, yes, he's trouble and does nuthin' but create chaos and mayhem wherever he goes. But we can't help it, he's irresistible. Is it the show tunes he'll sing at the drop of a hat? Or even without dropping a hat? Is it the way he'll tease ANYONE, whether he knows them or not? Is it his stable of hilariously rambunctious interns (you can meet them on his website)--maybe. It might just be, however, that he's a genuinely good guy--who's a genuinely terrific writer.

But don't tell him we said so or it'll just make things worse.



Brethren and sistren, children of the great story, writers published and unpublished alike, I come to the pulpit of The Church of A Thousand Words to give you my testimony, and to admit to you that I have been a sinner.

(Well-educated CONGREGATION stirs uncomfortably, because unlike BRAD, it knows “sistren” is not really a word).

Yes, a sinner! You see, oh ye shepherds of the written utterance, before I found The Church of A Thousand Words, I was lost. Aimless. Adrift. I would write when I had the time. I would write when I wasn’t too busy at work. I would write when, when – I can barely even bring myself to admit it – when “inspiration” struck me.

(CHOIR members shift in their seats, some shaking their heads).

And you know where that leads, don’t you? That’s right. Nowhere. Nowhere! Sometimes I’d write. Sometimes I wouldn’t. I’d get sidetracked by one excuse or another, and then weeks or months would pass. Sound familiar?

And then came that day, that most blessed and wonderful day, when I found The Church of A Thousand Words.

(CONGREGATION murmurs. ORGANIST strikes a minor chord, barely audible).

Now my friends, in most aspects of life, I’m a typical open-minded postmodern intellectual, drowning in wishy-washy relativism. I don’t believe in much. What I do believe, I don’t believe very firmly. I’m roughly a half-step removed from those people who get all their news from the Daily Show.

But let me tell you about the one thing I have come to believe in with more conviction than anything in this world: A writer needs to produce a thousand words a day.

I say it loud, I say it proud: I write a thousand words a day!

(CHOIR hums softly. A few members of the CONGREGATION begin fanning themselves).

Now, maybe that sounds like a lot to you. And maybe it doesn’t. But I can tell you about the power of writing a thousand words a day, because I’ve seen it in my own life. Before I found the Church of A Thousand Words, do you know how long it once took me to finish a manuscript? Well, do you? Even now, it’s hard to say it. But I’ll tell you now, because I have been a sinner, and I have seen the deepest of the depths, and so I have to admit it:

Three years.

Yes, it once took me three years to complete a manuscript!

(ORGANIST strikes and holds a mournful chord, crescendos to a mezzo piano).

Now, that I have found you, all ye who toil over your Microsoft Word alongside me? Now that I am a dues-paying member of The Church of A Thousand Words, do you know how long it takes me?

Three months.

(A man in the CONGREGATION shouts “Hallelujah” while a woman extols, “Preach it! Preach it!” A member of the CHOIR faints. ORGANIST plays a series of joyful glissandos).

That’s right! Three months. As I prepare for the Feb. 1 launch of EYES OF THE INNOCENT, the second novel in the Carter Ross series, I testify before you that I already have the third and fourth installments completed. Plus I have a Young Adult manuscript my agent in shopping.

That’s not magic, people. It’s not voodoo. It’s not an act of faith. That’s simple math. If you write a thousand words a day, every day – with no excuses, no trespasses, no trespasses against – you too will have a completed manuscript in 90 days.

And you know what? It’ll be good. That’s part of the power of a thousand words a day. It’s not too fast, not too slow. It doesn’t give you time for writer’s block. But you also don’t end up with one of those crappy NaNoWriMo novels that reads like it was written by an amphetamine-addled hamster. You end up with something you can be proud of, something that approximates your best work.

And, yes, good parishioners, unless you are blessed to be independently wealthy – or have a tremendously supportive spouse – it takes sacrifices to write a thousand words and keep a day job. Maybe you’ll have to get up three hours earlier than you ever did before to squeeze it in. Maybe you’ll have to give up late-night television. Maybe you won’t have time to pore over US Weekly and learn who Shakira was seen nuzzling on the beach in San Tropez.

But I am here to say you can make it happen. It happened for me. It happened for my dear friend, Sarah. Can I tell you about Sarah?

(CONGREGATION is boisterous now, offering encouraging shouts of “Yes!” and “Tell me!” and “Make it quick, this blog post is getting a little long-winded”).

This is a true story, oh gentle readers. Now Sarah, we’ve known each other a long time, since high school. And I am telling you, brethren and sistren, she was always a lot smarter than me. Better grades. Better SAT scores. Better writer.

(CONGREGATION has already figured that out, since BRAD has hauled out “sistren” again).

But she was lost in the great unpublished wilderness. She had been writing for years but was wracked with self-doubt and uncertainty. She had no structure, people! She had no discipline!

Then, in September, we shared coffee at the Boston Public Library and she heard the good news of The Church of A Thousand Words. The next day, she set aside all the transgressions of her writing past – all those almost-finished 75,000-word manuscripts, all those half-considered outlines, all those character Bibles cluttering up her hard drive – and she dedicated her life to a thousand words a day.

And you know what? By November, she had completed her novel.

(CONGREGATION shouts “Amen.” ORGANIST stops the random improvisation and begins playing a jazzy version of “Amazing Grace” in a thunderous forte).

But more than that, brethren and…

(CONGREGATION grimaces in anticipation of the malapropism, which BRAD finally notices).

… Uh, ladies and gentlemen… more than that, she has new belief in herself. She’s going to start shopping that novel to agents soon. And that can be hard on a lot of folks, facing the wrath of those fallen angels. But no matter what they say, Sarah has found the power of a thousand words. Even if the rejection letters pile up higher than the great wall of Jericho, she knows she’s never more than three months away from her next completed manuscript. All she has to do is keep believing in a thousand words a day.

She believes! I believe! Let us all believe!

Now go forth, and sing it to the multitudes!


In 2010, Brad Parks became the first author to win the Shamus Award and the Nero Award in the same year. His next book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT (St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books) releases February 1.

Library Journal gave it a starred review, saying, “Parks’s sequel to his acclaimed debut, FACES OF THE GONE, is as good if not better.”

You can follow @Brad_Parks on Twitter

or just visit him at
and send him a note.


  1. Hallelujah, brother. I have seen the light. That's seven words so far, no twelve...fifteen...

  2. Ro, I don't think the Reverend counts commenting on blogs as part of his words:)

    Brad, what if you can't MAKE yourself get to 1000 one day, is all lost? and do you take the weekends off?

  3. You know, seriously? This is brilliant. And (to prove it) I actually do this. (Sadly, I keep a chart.)

    I don't always manage the 1000, but I can't leave the typewriter without 540. (Don't ask)

    Roberta, some days I miss. But since I have a chart, I know what I have to do to catch up. It's very--reassuring. To me.

    Thanks, Rev Brad. I believe!

  4. Which way to the Kool-Aid? (Hank: typewriter?)

  5. Oh, Alan! You're so right...gosh, I'm liivng in another generation's time zone. :-)

  6. I love it. The Church of a Thousand Words. You'll find many joining the congregation today. Amen!

    But I would say to those who fall short, don't despair. You can have a day where you double your efforts and another day where you achieve half. Set the goal, reward yourself for discipline, and know that revising a goal so that it is achievable is so so so important.

    Write well and with heart!

    ~Avery "Say cheese"
    Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

  7. This was just too fun! Thanks for my morning grins and I cannot WAIT to read EYES OF THE INNOCENT!

  8. I ordered the "Reverend" Brad's book yesterday so that I can have it as soon as possible. Can't wait. Maybe I'll reread the first book to tide me over.

  9. Hey! What's wrong with getting all your news from The Daily Show ?

  10. Amen, Brother! This is hillarious, Brad, but I've been a member of your church for years. Otherwise I'd never manage to complete two books a year! And there is something about the discipline of writing a certain amount daily that keeps one focused.

  11. Welcome congregants. So lovely to see such nice attendance in church today.

    Rosemary -- Silly, blogs and e-mails don't count. It be nice if they did -- I could get to 1,000 before I even had my first diet soda of the day.

    Roberta - Weekends. Holidays. Birthdays. If I'm in a drafting mode -- which is not all the time -- I don't let myself NOT get to 1,000. If I can't get it done in the morning, I do it in the afternoon. If I can't do it in the afternoon, I subject myself to doing it in the evening, after I've put the kids to bed and I really have no brain left. (But, yeah, if for some reason even THAT doesn't get it done, I hang it up and try to be a more devout follower the next day. Luckily, that almost never happens).

    Hank -- I know about your word charts. You look and dress like one of the popular girls, but deep down you're a nerd like me. :)

    Avery - Always room for one more in the pews. Welcome!

    Kaye and Janet -- Thanks so much! Hope you like it!

    Julia -- Figures you would bite on the Daily Show thing. I knew those church references would lose you a little bit. (I have often doubted Clare's piety).

    Rhys -- You can be my deacon ANY day.

  12. I HAS seen the light! For those of us who use Courier, twenty-five lines to the page, that's about four pages a day. Here I quote our celebrated sistern Nora Roberts (loosely), "Bad pages are better than no pages." You can always fix 'em.

    Unfortunately, my books are a little longer than Brother Brad's, but four pages a day will get me to the Promised Land (THE END) sooner rather than later, and then choirs of heavenly angels will sing (the sweet sound of agent and editors swooning in the background.)

    Anyone want to sprinkle water on my head?

  13. Hi Rev. Brad,

    On the risk of being blasphemous, I'm not sure I can be converted to the word thing.

    When I've tried to force the 5 page a day thing (which is just one more page than 1000 words) I found I wrote drivel.

    I think I'm resistant to structure. Or maybe I'm just a heathen.

    But congrats on the all the award and the new book!!

  14. Meant to say earlier:

    Alan -- Kool-Aid is available (with cookies) in the fellowship hall. Please join us.

    As for those who just joined us:

    Deb -- Amen, sister. Glad to know you, too, are saved.

    Jan -- A newspaper person who can't handle 1,000? C'mon. That's like an 18-inch daily news story where you make up a few extra quotes to pad it out. There is still time to convert!

  15. SO I had to go out and cover a story--and while I was gone, EVERYONE came over!Hi guys--and what did I tell you about Brad?

    (And yes, I'm a word nerd. Happy to be so. As a result, I can tell you I'm on 73,643.)

    Brad--can you take a few moments from your 1000 word devotion and tell us a ibt about the new book?

  16. Glad to tell you about the new book. It's called EYES OF THE INNOCENT. It's loosely based on some of the reporting I did at the beginning I did at the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis. I say "loosely" because I think I wanted to write a book about the subprime mortgage crisis... and the next thing I knew there was a fire, a philandering politician, an unscrupulous pawn shop owner and a not-so-nice guy who likes to kill people with a nail gun. Anyway, it's basically Carter Ross -- the sometimes-dashing newspaper reporter -- up to his usual good/no good. (And Hank: Fewer shots at TV news people this time, I promise!).

  17. Very timely! Why is it called "Eyes of the Innocent"?

    And it's out--when, again?

  18. Oh,and thanks for holding back on Tv reporter jabs. I realize we're irresistible...xoxo

  19. The great Johnny Diaz on Jungle Red! You should stick around, mi amigo. You'd like the company. (Though, a warning: Halie reviews books for a very disreputable Boston-based newspaper... nothing but scandal sheet, that thing).

    Anyhow, Hank, as to the title. You may have noticed the theme to the titles (FACES OF THE GONE followed by EYES OF THE INNOCENT). In each case there's a, uh, body part. BUT the body part refers to the victim in some way. In this case, it's two little boys who are the victim of a house fire -- they have the eyes of the innocent.

  20. Hey, Johnny! SO lovely to see you here..will you come guest blog some day? (After we get ridda Brad..)

    What was he like as a roommate? YOu can tell us...

    And thanks Brad--what's book three?

  21. Book Three is Heart of the ... something. Book Four is Arms of the Keeper (maybe).

    And I already know what Johnny would say about me as a roommate: That I was fine, but what he REALLY enjoyed was being roommies with my (now wife) Melissa.

    Everyone likes Melissa better. I'm used to it.

  22. I just want to say I hope this is a VERY long and successful series, so we can see what body parts Brad eventually resorts to using in his titles.