Why didn’t anyone tell me that reaching the end of this draft would feel like winning the lottery, or meeting the entire cast of Lost, or finding out that Starbucks would like to give me free lattes for the rest of my life?
Or, that finishing a second draft (also known as a complete rewrite) would feel utterly satisfying, but in a drastically different way than finishing the first draft did?
Or, that knitting a zillion strands of gossamer spiderweb, without leaving loose ends, would be as rewarding as it was challenging?
Or, that by the end of the novel, when you’ve basically just been this diligent stenographer spying on the lives of your characters for months, watching them struggle and conquer and feel, they peek at you through that fourth wall, satisfied with you for being patient enough to see them through to the last page and tuck them in for sleep?
This is how I feel.
Months of patient plotting and planning and crafting did not prepare me for the satisfaction I felt when I typed word number 78,000 yesterday. That’s a full 8,000 words past my original goal (hence the title of this post, as 78K is 111.43% of that goal), and I’m more than pleased. This way, the manuscript can gain or lose a few thousand in edits and still be a good length.
Because this post will turn into a jumble of randomness if I don’t structure it somehow…
…here are some things I learned along the way.
1) Goals are Good. Seriously good. Diligent December was a raving success, as I wrote 26,290 words this month. Though I didn’t get to write every day, I tried. When I did get to write, I made the most of it.
2) I Can Write More Words/Day Than I Thought I Could. I wrote 26,290 words this month, with only eleven days of actual writing. That’s an average of 2,390/day. Turns out 1,500 words every single day is hard for me, but 2,300 every other day works well for me. Weird.
3) I Like Writing By Hand. With the exception of the last chapter, I wrote everything in December by hand, and then typed it up as I went. That means I drained at least two pens of their poison and filled two Moleskine notebooks. (One was fuschia, and the other was lime green.) This helped me feel more attached to my characters and their stories, possibly because I felt like I was journaling about my own life. Also, it was easier not to dwell on how many words I’d written without a running total at the bottom of my screen, and it was easier to remain focused without the Internet at my fingertips.
4) It’s Important To Feel. Without feeling, words are dead. Without closing my eyes and trying to experience what the character is feeling, or think how she’s thinking, it’s hard to get into a scene. Conversely, it’s amazing to get wrapped up in the emotion of it all. The word visceral comes to mind.
5) Therefore, It’s Important Not To Rush. The last day I posted (22 Dec 09), I was so incredibly tempted to FINISH, since I was only 2100 words away from my goal (even though I’d already written 3600 words that day). I made the decision to wait, to not rush the climax. It was a good one. Monday rolled around, and unlike most first-days-back-from-long-vacations, it was a Monday of Awesomeness. I wrote 3450 that day, putting my heart on the page, but it still wasn’t done. Same story with Tuesday; several hours and 3834 words into that day, I was so ready to be done, but again, I didn’t want to rush the end. Wednesday came around: 2810 words later, with heart and soul and time put into it, I reached the end. I’m glad I ended up with 10,000 extra words of quality conflict and resolution, rather than 2,000 words of crammed, subpar, just-to-say-I-made-my-deadline-and-I-really-want-to-finish crap.
6) Enjoy the Process. It’s been over a year since I started working on this novel, and I’ve still got several months of edits ahead of me. I’ve loved every single challenging minute of the process so far, and I think that’s an imperative part of being an aspiring author. I love learning how to do this, learning how to be diligent, learning how to use so many different parts of myself to their maximum potential. Being a writer, you have to create, think, feel, communicate, organize, prioritize, observe; you have to be ruthless, passionate, subtle, patient, economical, and honest. I’ve used so much more of myself than I ever have in any single paid job I’ve ever had. Ever.
7) Alone ≠ Good. Though writing is a solitary act, usually (for me, always), having people in your life is imperative to being healthy, happy, and productive. I’d still smell like coffee grounds and spilled milk, and my manuscript may or may not stink just as bad, if my amazing husband hadn’t been so supportive and encouraging with my desire to write. (Thanks, Love!) Also, I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to connect with such a rich group of supportive blog friends, and that you’ve pushed me, encouraged me, and held me accountable to do what I set out to do. Thank you, too.
8 ) Enjoy It, Then Keep Working. One thing my workouts and my writing goals have in common is this: I get to a point where I start getting excited about what I’ve accomplished — doing yoga, running a mile, saying no to cheesecake, meeting whatever writing goal it is that I’ve set — and then, somehow, I get comfortable. My workouts slip…and I eat cherry pie…and have whipped cream on my mochas…and then it’s back to square one. Treadmill time.
I’m determined to avoid this with my novel, so here’s the plan: I’m taking two weeks (until January 18, the Monday after my birthday) away from my it, and then it’s time for a read-through. In these two weeks, I will rest and relax but also continue on with being diligent, in areas such as (much-neglected) organizing of closets and storage bins and stuff like that. I plan to catch up on everyone’s blogs, though (I’ve gotten so behind, but I’m really really excited to see what you guys have been up to!), and finally finish reading The Time Traveler’s Wife (How, oh how, did I manage to keep that thing on the table and not get utterly lost in it this month?).
Sorry for the week I’ve been absent, by the way. Thank you to all of you who’ve been patient and stopped by in the meantime. Guess all those blogs I haven’t written in a week were just dying to get out, and spilled themselves into this one, very huge, post.
Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone — be safe and have fun!