Monday, January 9, 2012

The 5th Time's the Charm? (and other steps in the right direction)

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or are my Facebook friends (you poor lot), this will be old news. In fact, you're probably sick of hearing about it by now, but bear with me just a little longer.

Last Friday, January the 6th, I finished my fifth novel.
As my last post hinted at, this novel has by no means taken the usual route. In writing, as in all things, I am a slow and steady pace-r. However, I'm living in uncertain times, and uncertain times often call for drastic measures.

I finished my last novel in April last year and didn't really work on anything else. We'd just bought our new house, were moving, settling in, I had long-term company over the summer, and then I was starting nursing school. I wanted to start a new project, yes, but I thought it was probably a bad idea.

Then one day, while I was unloading the dishwasher, this character voice started a soliloquy in my head and just would not shut her hole until I went to the computer and wrote out the first scene of what ended up being my first chapter.

Note to the above: I've always sort-of rolled my eyes inwardly when I've read other people's accounts of what I just said. My characters don't talk to me. That's ridiculous. Neither do they control me. I control them. So trust me, when this narrative voice popped up, it was weird.

Truthfully, she shut up after I got that first chapter out, but her voice was so strong and so insistent that I wrote the entire novel springboarding from this single character's voice.

The voice started talking to me around the beginning of August; I started class on August 17th (I think--around there). I wrote during those last two weeks, around 17k or so. And then, during the beginning of the semester, I would write a little here and there until I got a few more chapters out. Then nursing school hit me with its full force, and I stopped.

Fast-forward to NaNoWriMo. This was the first time I picked the story back up, after at least 2 months of nothing. I wrote diligently for the first 2 1/2 weeks of the challenge, but as you may remember me whining about, I had 3 tests and the end of the semester in the latter half of November, so I quit writing in order to study (and it paid off--4.0, baby!). By the time December break rolled around, I was exhausted. I'd had great plans to finish the novel during my break, but it was looking bleak.

Then, after the Christmas festivities were over and everyone (hubby) was back at work, I thought--heck, I only have 2 more weeks of break. Maybe I should do some writing.

So I did. I started at 51k and wrote every single day. I wrote like a mad woman. I would run, work my at-home day job, then write for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening/night, and start again the next day.

Last Friday, I finished writing at 86,115 words. It was freaking cathartic. I even cried during a scene of the climax.

Now, even though I've been writing diligently for (counts on fingers and toes) almost 17 years now, I started seeing my biggest changes when I finally started finishing novels. And with each novel that I've finished, I feel like I've learned stuff and grown even more. This time was no different.

So here are some things I learned from writing ALL THAT REMAINS:

1. If I don't write, I don't feel like myself. Those 2 months of the semester in which I was so bogged down with school and studying, I was deeply depressed. I hated nursing school. I resented everything about it. Then NaNo came along, and it was like a slap upside the head.

2. I can write, even when I'm so busy I can barely go to sleep at night due to the anxiety (I worry a lot. Too much.) The writing makes me feel like I'm in control of something in a storm of uncertainty.

3. Every time I finish a novel, my capacity for daily writing grows. I used to only be able to write 500 words or so a day (which is great, don't get me wrong.) But during this weird exercise, I was averaging more like 3-5,000 words a day. (And that's how I wrote 35,000 words in 8 days.)

4. There comes a point when your writing muscle truly responds like a muscle. Even when you're tired and battling a headache and just plain feeling crappy, you force those words out, and when you read them the next day--they're not as bad as you thought they'd be. Some of them are even halfway decent. Hard work, diligence, and constant refining of your voice and your craft does pay off. It's like running 2 miles every day. It's not long, and it's not much, but it's enough. It strengthens your muscles and improves your cardiovascular system, cuts down on stress, fuels your body with endorphins and gives you the juice to succeed for the rest of your day. Writing is like that.

I'm sure there are plenty of other "lessons" I could squeeze out of this crazy experience, but this post is long enough. Soon I'll be venturing into revisions, which is entirely new territory for me. I start back to nursing school today. I'm starting the semester off with a test--if you don't pass it with a 90 or higher, you're out of the program. No pressure, right? But it's a muscle, and a muscle that I've worked. I lay in bed last night mentally calculating IV drip rates and insulin dosages. I've got this.

You've got this.

Believe me, I'm no one special. I just like to punish myself every once in a while, and I can be like my cat with her catnip-stuffed Christmas tree toy: once I've got my teeth in it, I'll shake it until it's dead. And I'll growl at anything that tries to take me away from it until I'm done.

That may have been the worst analogy ever.



Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations on finishing - and writing so much! I didn't think I could until I participated in NaNo 2010 and I managed 52,000 words in thirty days.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Go, you!

Love that you managed this with school and everything else going on. I have no more excuses!

Jade @ Chasing Empty Pavements said...

You always make me laugh! I love hearing about your triumphs and achievements! It's great to see you finished another novel and Nursing School is going well!! Have a good week!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the finish! I wish I had the time to write that much. I've managed 9K in two weeks, with about 20K to go.

Lola Sharp said...

I like the new title. :)


Meredith said...

Love what you've learned about writing from this book! I can't imagine writing 35,000 words in 8 days--sounds like this story is incredibly important to you. Congrats!

Old Kitty said...

Penis?!?!? NO! Vagina! Yay!

Take care

Anne Gallagher said...

I've probably read about 9 bazillion blogs and have never read one that ended in penis. So, thanks for that.

I've never had the opportunity to bang out 35k in 8 days but I did do 14k one Saturday and another 7k the Sunday, but that was it. It was too much for this old body to deal with.

But go you. Good luck with the test. Although I don't think you'll need it.

Sophia Chang said...

Argh Summer help me - I need this to happen for me! The first half of our stories are the same. I was on fire for NaNo - then I went on a trip and had an insane work schedule.

Now that I'm back it's slow as hell - it's like I lost the mojo.

How do I get it back and be a madwoman and finish it in two weeks???

Sophia Chang said...

oh yeah and


Sarah Ahiers said...

first off, i don't know why i missed this blog post earlier this week. i hate my google reader.
Second, Holy shit! Your MS is called all that remains? One of my MSs is titled that as well! Great minds!
Third i LMAO at the penis bit. Seriously.

Hannah said...

I agree. PENIS.

Congrats on finishing!!

I think this is the longest comment stream I've ever seen with the word, PENIS, so many times. I like it.

To sum up: BALLS.

mshatch said...

Congrats on completion! And yes, practice can definitely make us all better writers AND make writing easier - maybe more like brushing teeth than pulling them :)

Talli Roland said...

I'm so impressed that you were able to do this with everything else that is on in your life. Go, girl!