Above Average Insanity: Novel Writing and Long Distance Running

Standard

Marathon: A cross-country footrace of 26 miles, 385 yards or 42.195 kilometers that includes sweat, fatigue and a participant who doesn’t care if people call her crazy in a variety of languages.

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. A writing contest of 50,000 words, not all cohesive, completed in 30 days, that includes sweat, fatigue and a participant who doesn’t care if her words make sense in any language.

NaNoWriMo is, in essence, a marathon of writing, which is probably why it appeals to me.

As in most of my marathons, upon completion of last year’s  NaNoWriMo, I swore I would never do it again, as I opposed, in principle, the idea of writing a voluminous amount of words just for the sake of writing a lot of words. What about quality? What about grammar? What about editing? What about that half-finished novel on my desk?

Thus, when my eldest son signed himself up (he’s already nearing the 50,000 word mark, which means, clearly, he has too much free time) he challenged me to FINALLY work on this wonderful story I’ve been cutting apart and re-stitching together for the past 4 years.

I’m embarrassed when I read the old manuscript now, which I so hopefully sent out to agents. This month, I started afresh with the same main character and similar story, only it is MUCH more readable.

*Note: I apologize to any of you upon whom I foisted my first manuscript, which is a really rough, rough, rough draft bordering on random ideas for a good Middle Grade Fiction Story.

Just as there are different types of runners (sprint, distance, hurdle) so there are different types of writers. There are fast ones and slow ones. Some who wait until “inspiration” hits them, and they write madly until the story has, like a virus, run its course. Others lock themselves in a cabin somewhere until the story comes to life. Still others dutifully carve out time wherever they can find it (even if it means pre-dawn) to work on their stories.

It struck me that I had to approach NaNo with the same diligence I approach marathon training. Fortunately spring training doesn’t begin until December, so this month, I can spend my early morning hours writing, instead of running in the dark.

This month, except for Saturdays (the only day I allow sleeping in), I set the alarm for 5:00 am. When the alarm goes off, I hit the snooze button and think to myself, “My landlady is right. I am crazy.”

Then I smell the coffee coming from the kitchen thanks to the automatic timer I strategically set the night before, and I roll over thinking, “If I fail, I will never hear the end of it from my son,” and also “This is the ONLY time I have to write today.”

I get up, pull on something comfy, yet writerly, usually involving a swooping scarf and my trifocals; and my Mac and I, trailed by my fluffy white dog who wants to be fed, move to the living room for some time together.

The dog goes hungry while I write.

So far, it has been going amazingly well for me–though the dog is losing weight, but he started off pudgy, so it’s okay.

The story is pouring itself out in front of me, and I feel like this time, I have a winner. THIS is going to be my year. I know it will be difficult, and I will want to give up, but if this is my writing marathon, I know I have what it takes to see it through.

My kids, taking the NaNo challenge

Hopefully, this is not another year of bravado or wishful thinking. I may regret even thinking well of my own NaNo project, come December. But my Chief Creative Consultant and Editor (William), encourages me by questioning every detail of my writing, sometimes asking things I’d never even thought about, and occasionally grinning and laughing at my work.

I take this as a good sign.

He is by far the toughest editor I’ve ever had, and I’m certain if I ever DO make my manuscript publishable, his name will have to be somewhere on the dedication page. All of the kids will be there, because they inspire me daily, but William’s questions lead me to give the characters more depth, because he gets irritated by books (many of them, oddly, best-sellers) with flat characters.

Thus, I find myself at 5:30 am, trying to give emotional depth to creatures like dogs, rats and Pixieknobs.

We will see how the story ends in December.

So far, so good!

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One response »

  1. Keri, you and your children are among the most interesting people I know! I look forward to reading all that All of you write. This project sounds really challenging. The challenge is to stay natural in your writing but diligent in your practice!

    Good luck!

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