Monday, September 22, 2008

Reaching The End

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?


Evonne Wareham said...

Yes, I have that drawer full of good ideas and handfuls of chapters - sometimes consecutive, sometimes not. I have even more drawers full of competed novels that are like Cinderella, never going to the ball. I'm hoping that one day when I'm famous and sought after my editor will say - Have you got anything else? Ha!
Good luck with the marathon. You'll have to keep us posted.

Savanna Kougar said...

Yep, Mel, raising my hand. Only mine originated from not having time to complete a book at a certain period of my life, so I simply decided to write anything that came to mind or inspired my fancy, no matter whether I ever finished or not. I also put down every idea I could, in snatches of time.
Currently, being under contract is my marathon. Not to mention, I'm hoping to have a release that will resonate with a larger readership. Who knows, though? I don't seem to have that kind of magic touch.

Savanna Kougar said...

Oh, I forgot. A blog about your RWA online experience would be great!
I do think that's value of simply writing no matter what, gets that nasty over-edior out of the way.

Mel Hiers said...

Sounds like you're prepared, Evonne!

I'll have to do that, Savanna! It sounds like fun. A lot different from NaNo - there are points and teams and special bonus days. I'm looking forward to it!