Those of you with a drawer (or box or computer file) filled with abandoned three-chapter novels, raise your hands. Yeah, I thought so. Me too. It seems like we all go through this stage at the beginning. We see a bright, shiny idea, we eagerly start to write, and then something happens. We get stuck. We have doubts. Maybe we fiddle with the opening a bit, rework the plot in our heads, scrap the whole thing and start over only to hit a brick wall. Until the next bright, shiny idea comes along.
Getting to "The End" is hard. Some of us never make it. The rest of us keep at it until we find something to get us to that finish line. For me, that something was the writing marathon.
I joined in my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2002, and had a complete blast. If you're unfamiliar with NaNo, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel, or at least the first 50,000 words of a longer novel in 30 days. For a newbie writer, this was a daunting task! I finished, though. And along the way I learned more about my own process than I ever had during the Shiny Idea phase.
I found that I do better with lots of tiny goals instead of one big one. For example, "Write 1600 words tonight" instead of "Write a book." I also work better with deadlines and tend to be more successful if I'm accountable to someone else. You have to prove to the organizers that you wrote those words. And there's a whole community of folks in the NaNo forums that you can go to for support and motivation.
I brought all of these things into my writing routine for the rest of the year, and for the most part it's worked pretty well. Now I know when something really isn't working as opposed to me falling prey to plot bunnies or the new Shiny Idea. I stick to a words-per-day schedule, I work toward a deadline, and I tell my writers' group to expect me to complete those goals.
There's one more thing, perhaps more important than all of the above, that I learned how to do during NaNoWriMo: I learned how to beat that infernal internal editor into submission during my drafting process and to accept that my first drafts aren't going to be perfect. In fact, they're going to be crap. There will be plotholes. There will be continuity errors, spelling and grammar problems, and I tend to have compound word issues. But I can't fix any of this stuff if it doesn't exist in the first place. The writing marathon forces me to create.
This year I'm going to try something new. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I'll be taking a class over at RWA Online - Fast Draft in 14 Days and their Kia Writing Marathon. This is a new challenge. I can do a first draft in a month. Can I chop that in half? Wish me luck!
So, tell me. Do you all do marathons? How do you reach the end?