111.43% | (The End)

31 Dec

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!

23 Responses to “111.43% | (The End)”

  1. J.C Thursday / 31 December 09 at 2:36 pm #

    I hope 2010 is a wonderful year for you.

    Each step of the process is hugely rewarding, and I love that it’s in different ways, I’m so pleased you’ve discovered that for yourself! It’s always nice to know that no matter the struggle to get to the end of which ever stage you’re at, there is a rewarding feeling waiting for you 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:15 am #

      Sounds like you totally get what I mean – it’s hard to describe, you know? Everything about it is challenging, and everything about it is rewarding if you just keep at it. I hope your 2010 is wonderful, too – I wish you the best with your sweet baby on the way, as well as quality time with Ivy, Lauren, and the hubby. And, as always, best of luck with your writing goals – I know it’s been hard for you lately but really, it sounds like you’re super determined, so I bet it will get better soon. 🙂

  2. Linda Thursday / 31 December 09 at 4:28 pm #

    It’s always a joy to hear someone speak passionately about writing. Congratulations on completing your novel … well, you know. I hope you will find ways to make it even better when you go back for a read.

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:18 am #

      Thanks, Linda! Yeah, I definitely know…’completed’ is not quite the word for what I’ve done to my story, haha. Completed the draft? Sure! The novel, though, um…well, I’ll just have to celebrate again after I’ve made it even better, right? 🙂 I’m looking forward to the read-through and seeing what I can tighten and polish.

  3. Laura Best Thursday / 31 December 09 at 5:35 pm #

    Happy New Years…You did it!!!!!!!!!!

    Congrats on this great accomplishment. What a way to enter into a brand new year..

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:21 am #

      Happy New Year to you, too!! 🙂 Thanks so much for your consistent encouragement, Laura! I’m definitely pleased with entering 2010 like this, and ready to start in on my new goals here soon.

      I hope your 2010 is as rewarding and awesome as your 2009 was!

  4. Megs - Scattered Bits Thursday / 31 December 09 at 8:09 pm #

    Well, I’ve been absent too, so no big deal there. (hiatus until New Year)

    First of all, congrats on the book! It’s such a huge accomplishment, and I know I always have that same kind of aftermath feeling. Well, afterglow.

    Second of all, thank you for all these wonderful writing/life lessons! They are wonderful and I kept nodding as I read and going oh! I need to apply that and ooh! I should so try this.

    Happy reading/organizing and a happy new year!

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:28 am #

      Aftermath, afterglow – they can be kind of interchangeable after something like this, huh? Thanks for the congratulations and kind words!! Also – you’re welcome! 🙂 To be able to think on the page and have it mean something to someone else, possibly even help them somehow – it’s a good feeling. I’m so glad you’ve found something meaningful here! Hope your new year’s gotten off to a great start so far!

  5. uninvoked Friday / 1 January 10 at 2:49 pm #

    Congratulations. What a milestone!

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:29 am #

      Hey there, uninvoked! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the congratulations!

  6. Alexis Grant Saturday / 2 January 10 at 10:06 am #

    Congrats! Finishing feels GOOD. But I find, when writing a book, I’m never really finished. I complete a first draft, but soon start writing the second! Revising, editing… it takes a good while. So I’m trying to focus on celebrating when I meet a goal or finish a section — just like you did here. Keep us posted!

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:42 am #

      Exactly! Each step of the way is so different, and so time/thought consuming – it helps to take it one step at a time and celebrate when I meet my current goal. Like you, I am totally not finished – it has a lot of polishing and tightening in its future. (Of course, the thought of making it better makes me really excited, even if it will take a lot more time/work to do it!)

      Did you finish revisions on your memoir? (And by finish, I really mean accomplish-what-you-hoped-to-get-done-during-December-on-your-edits)

  7. Kathleen Wall Saturday / 2 January 10 at 1:24 pm #

    Hurray for you! I’m really excited for you and your success. May 2010 be as successful! Happy New Year!

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:44 am #

      Aww, thanks, Kathleen! Thanks for being excited with me, and for saying so. 🙂 I hope your 2010 has gotten off to a good start these past few days!!

  8. littlehousesouthernprairie Saturday / 2 January 10 at 9:04 pm #

    How wonderful! Great to hear such happiness. And a great reminder to me to dig up my project, because a pot of happiness gold awaits at the end if I finish a draft. Good for you!! Treat yourself to that latte. 😉

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 9:51 am #

      Yes! You should absolutely dig it up! What kind of project are (were) you working on?

      I totally did treat myself to the latte. And the best part? My friends were working and decided to give me a free drink. (Guess that doesn’t totally count as treating myself…but I was prepared to, anyway!)

  9. DiscoveringMyVoice Sunday / 3 January 10 at 12:55 pm #

    Congratulations! What a great way to start 2010! I’m so proud of you!

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 2:18 pm #

      Kathryn!!! I miss you. Thanks for leaving a comment! Did you have a good Christmas & New Year’s? We should talk soon. 🙂

  10. islesam Sunday / 3 January 10 at 2:08 pm #

    I AM SOOO HAPPY FOR YOU!!! WAY TO GO, KAYLA! And quality is always better than quantity, unless you are in a competition for numbers over story. I could do 2300 every other day much easier than 1500 daily as well. That extra thinking time is really helpful. I just listened to some seminar the other day where they talked about the same thing: waiting to let the ending come to them. They wrote it and felt like it was awful and forced, so let the ending come to them instead over the next few days. VIOLA. So much better. Congratulations on finally make it to the end!

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 3 January 10 at 2:25 pm #

      Thanks so much, Melissa!!!! Whee! 🙂 Yes, totally – I knew it would be forced if I rushed it, and who wants to do that?! Especially at the end – the climax – the place where everything is supposed to come together? Not a good place for rushed, awful writing. What seminar was that, and did you hear it in person or online (or neither)? Sounds interesting.

      Yay for read-through time for the both of us, and thanks for the congratulations. 🙂

  11. islesam Sunday / 3 January 10 at 3:45 pm #

    I honestly don’t remember. I almost want to say it was something I heard on the radio, so I through seminar out there just to. I need to dig around & see where I did actually hear it or read it, because it was fabulous advice…

  12. jenniferneri Saturday / 9 January 10 at 10:35 am #

    I really enjoyed reading this post, Kayla!
    I have not written during the holidays and each point you wrote gives a reason behind my itch.
    Thanks for reminding that getting out to write is a good thing – I haven’t done that in some time and I used to do it weekly.

    Maybe you need a break in between writing days to let things stew and brew? Congratulations!

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 10 January 10 at 9:24 am #

      Thanks so much! I know what you mean about the itch to write – I’ve been taking a break from my novel before reading through it, and goodness! It’s really hard to step away (and stay away). I’m so looking forward to getting back to work on it. Oh, and I totally agree about the break between writing days to ‘stew and brew’ – I think that’s exactly the reason that works well for me. Thanks again for the congratulations! 🙂

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