Making it Happen
Happy New Year everyone! I've been quiet the last couple of months because I've been hard at work on finishing my fourth draft. Now that it's complete I'm finally able to come up for air.
After getting back from vacation at the beginning of November I had a hard time getting back into the swing of things, writing wise. Jet lag, work, holiday prep, everything seemed to get in the way. And I was stuck on chapter 11. I had a feeling that the new beginning that I had written wasn't going to work the way I thought and it seemed like I had a mountain to climb before I would have anything worth publishing.
Over Thanksgiving week when I finally had some down time, I saw a bunch of Instagram posts and stories about NaNoWriMo (National novel writing month). One of the authors I follow, Lisa Maxwell, wrote 10,000 words in two days. She also had this sage advice - "writing is like exercising, if you don't do it all the time it hurts." I was sick of agonizing over my novel and getting nowhere. I was secretly hoping that if I took my time I could save myself from having to do quite so many drafts. I couldn't remember when I started this draft, but it was either at the beginning of this year or the end of last. No more. I was done waiting.
So I started my own NaNoWriMo like challenge - to write as much as I could until I finished. I did the math - draft 3 was about 107,000 words which meant I had 65,000 left. If I could write about 10,000 words a week I could finish in 6-7 weeks. There were 5 weeks left in 2017 at that point, and I decided to make every one of them count.
It was hard. I wrote an average of 1500 words a day, every day. I came home after work, sat down on the couch with a cup of tea and wrote as much as could in 30 minutes. I took a break for dinner and spent the rest of the night writing. No reading. No watching TV. Just writing. I tried not to think or judge, or worry about how pretty my writing was, or wasn't. I wrote fast and dirty.
After a few days my brain felt wrung out, but I kept going. I pushed through. Every time I got stuck I asked myself, and then what happened?, and went with whatever came up. I had several confidence crises, whenever I put my protagonist through something awful, interestingly. I felt like crap, and that what I had written would never be any good, but I kept writing.
The only break I gave myself was a couple of days in the middle when my brain stopped being able to form sentences and I was so crabby I couldn't even stand myself. But my word count didn't suffer. Even when I realized that I was going in the wrong direction and had to trash 800 words, I almost cried, I made it happen. Week after week my word count grew. 9,000 words one week, 10,000 the next. I reached a point where I could use some of what I had written in my previous draft and it got a little easier.
I finished on December 31, a week ahead of schedule. The draft came in at 98,819 words total. I had written 56,194 words in five weeks and accomplished something I had struggled with all year.
A few of the things I learned:
-I had no idea I could write so much and work full time. While I didn't do much else during those five weeks, I almost completely gave up exercising, I will never again doubt that it is possible. Hard, but possible.
-My inner critic Steve is like a protective bull dog. The high stakes, high intensity scenes had him filling my head with so much awful stuff to steer me away from writing. I've never experienced that before, but now I know when he starts barking I must be close to something good.
-Writing gets easier the more you do it. I'm going to try to write absolutely every day from now on, even if it's only 300-500 words.
I could go on, but I am going to finish with this quote from Winston Churchill. It really encapsulates my whole experience and gives me such hope for the future.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal, the courage to continue is the only thing that matters."