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Getting the Story Down or Going

December 8, 2012

Well, out of us writing Williamsons in the November novel draft challenge, a couple got to ‘the end’ of their story, a couple got to 50K words or more, and the rest got a ton or some done getting another story project well started. Go Team Williamson! At least an E for effort! And to you who got to ‘the end’ AND 50K words – BRAVO of the highest order! You know who you are! And you were the one who started it all to boot! You were THE challenger amongst us. Is that just desserts or what? At least three cheers to you!

This method isn’t for everyone. If you did it and it didn’t work for you, find another method. Don’t give up if you didn’t get to the finish line the way you planned. As one of my writing progeny essentially said, ‘I write like a turtle, but I’ll get to the finish line eventually’. That would be the ‘write like a turtle method’, I suppose. Yes, contrary to my plans, I employed the turtle method for the first week or two too. The main thing might be: write something every day that you can.

For the November novel-writing challenge, I geared up gradually. I was writing slower than I expected to start with. I probably wrote no more than 1K words a day the first week. I just couldn’t seem to get into this one. It was like the story didn’t quite want to be written yet. I was painstakingly ‘pulling teeth’ out of my characters so to speak. You would think that after 30 years of mulling over this idea in the back of my head, it would have finally come to me, in spades and with speed. But, no. It didn’t want to come easily like some stories do. And I thought my writing stunk too.

But, I had committed to the deal and so I kept on ‘getting the story down’ and pushing myself forward, and then told myself that word-count didn’t matter as long as I got to ‘the end’ by the end of the month. That was the main point – to get to ‘the end’ – to get the rough draft done. Maybe I wrote an average of 1.5K words a day during the second week. Still too slow for my plans. Still like pulling teeth. Still laborious. Like a very long labor birthing a very long-overdue child. Gee, I’ve actually, literally done that a few times. During the third week, maybe I was writing about 2K words a day. Finally. I was supposed to be doing that from the beginning. Oh well, at least I was picking up some steam in the process. My characters finally told me their names and started talking to each other. The novel was taking some shape. Some form. I was even starting to quite like it.

By the last weekish, I was speeding through, sort of full steam ahead. At least 3K or as much as 4K words a day. (Not my very best average of as much as 5-10K words a day rough-drafting a story that really wanted to be written, with characters that were chattering away, and the entire thing really flowing in with my muse happily beside me.) Anyway, at that point, I thought maybe I was creating a Frankensteinian monster of sorts: sketchily piecing together a mish mosh mash of a story and characters. Notes. Plenty of notes scattered throughout. Plot? What plot? Was there a plot or subplots? I wasn’t exactly sure. I just had to keep writing and figure out all that stuff later. Now it seemed as if getting to 50K words was the most important thing. The end? Where was the end? Would I ever get to the end (by the end of the month)? I simply didn’t know yet. The end seemed a foggy finish line way off in the distance. Who cared right then? Not me, not so much. I needed to just keep writing and let the story and characters tell me what they knew. I was just going to write as much as I could until the end of the month and then just see where I was in the story etcetera. I decided that I would iron everything out way later. If I got stuck at some point, I would skip ahead and keep going. Just get stuff down in notes if need be. I told myself that I had to forge towards the finish line, I had to try to get to the end, and I would sort out the bits later. I could absorb any notes into prose later on. I would reshape that monster of a beast into a beauty of a lady later. In December. Or later than that: like next year.

By the end of the challenge and the end of the month of November, I didn’t quite get to ‘the end’ of this story: I couldn’t quite get in the mood to write that romantic ending yet. I did sort of sketch it in, though. Notes. So, a few days into December, a few days ago really, I started in on a sketchy rewrite. More of a first read, really. And do you know what? It didn’t stink. Not at all, really. I kind of like it, actually. It’s a good deal more solid than I thought it was. And at almost half the chapters into it today, it doesn’t even look like a Frankenstein’s monster at all. I’ve absorbed some notes nicely already. This first rewrite is going quite swimmingly so far. Maybe further chapters will show themselves to be stinking or ugly, and maybe this initial rewrite process will get more difficult as the chapters go by, but, so far, so good. And the happy romantic ending is hinting at me more and more. The characters are telling me what should happen.

So, to you who challenged me in the first place, thanks again and again for the virtual kick in the chair, because I don’t know if I would have given this story it’s due time if you hadn’t. You see, I had at least two other novels begging to be written (that I was excited to write), that I told to sit down and hush up until next year because this time, this challenge, it was finally Shannon’s turn to get her story finally told after all these years of literary prose-achy silence. There was a reason it took me over thirty years to finally get kicked into starting to write this novel. I’m not entirely certain, but I suppose perhaps she was simply quite shy.

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