Meeting the deadine

for my Golden Heart® entry took a writing marathon over the Thanksgiving weekend, but I did it.  I’ve never joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but as things worked out I did write just over 20,000 words in November, more than 11,000 in the last week.  Of course I didn’t do it from scratch.  Back in August I plotted out the remainder of the book, about forty per cent, because I needed a synopsis for the Golden Pen contest.  When the unfinished manuscript made the finals of that contest, which uses the same format as the Golden Heart, I decided I’d push to finish it before the GH deadline.

Somehow the push took a while to get started.  Early in November I realized I’d have to change my ususal methods to have any chance of finishing–writing by hand in a notebook just wasn’t going to be fast enough.  So I switched to writing on the computer, and that sped up the process considerably, although it did away with my first round of edits.  I still found myself about 10,000 words short on the night before Thanksgiving.

But I still had four days almost entirely free.  Apart from Thanksgiving dinner with my neighbors and a trip to the grocery store on Saturday, I could write all weekend.  And that’s pretty much what I did.  (Well, I also played Sudoku, read other people’s blogs, snacked too much, and listened to the TV or radio in the background.)

Just short of midnight on Sunday I had a respectable complete first draft.  It needs work:  the ending is rushed, most of it hasn’t been proofread, and I’m already thinking of bits and pieces I want to add, but it satisfies the requirements for submission.  Monday evening I sat on the couch with my cat and watched TV, feeling like a kid starting Christmas vacation.  Tuesday evening I reviewed the synopsis and made a few changes–the closer I got to the end, the more the story snuck off the path, but that’s fine with me.  The last page of my outline was pretty vague. 

By this morning I had everything ready to go (for two entries).  Jo Anne had her entry ready, and our friend Lark Howard dropped hers off.  We bundled them all up and sent them to the Romance Writers of America® national office, on the other side of Houston, via the delivery service we use for business.  By this evening I had a confirmation email from the highly efficient RWA staff.  The deadline for receipt of entries is tomorrow.

I learned quite a bit in the course of meeting my self-imposed deadline.  I can write a lot faster than I thought, at least if I have a road map to follow.  I can write a lot faster on the computer than in a notebook–but at the expense, I’m sure, of a lot of small edits and typos.  This draft will probably require more rewriting than a manuscript written at a more leisurely pace, but the total span may still be shorter.  I’ve always been pretty mich a seat-of-the-pants writer, and I don’t know if I can convert to plotting from the beginning, but I may give it a try on the next project.  And I may find that I have to write at least a hundred pages before I have any idea who my characters are or what they are going to do.  We’ll see.  After the holidays.

I have no idea where this came from, but it’s one of my favorite writer quips:  Being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life.  I’m giving up homework until January.  Maybe.  Or maybe I’ll just start making notes for that rewrite, or for that next project I’m thinking about.  Being a writer means having all those stories in your head, trying to find their way onto paper, never quite letting you stop, even when you try.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. apronheadlilly
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 10:01:24

    Ha! I like that “homework” quotation!

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  2. gerrybartlett
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 11:32:55

    Good for you, Kay! Sweating a deadline will light a fire even under the laziest of us as I can attest. On one of the loops I lurk on, we’re having a debate about plotters vs. pantsers. The term “organic” writers came up. I like that better and it’s what you did. I switched to computer writing years ago, then print it out and edit on paper. Works great and you still have the same feeling as you did with your notebooks only it does speed up the entire process. Fingers crossed for the Golden Heart.;)

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    • Kay Hudson
      Dec 02, 2011 @ 13:07:32

      Gerry, I do better on the computer when I know where I’m going, preferably with a written guide (that may go back to my days writing from research notes) and when I haven’t already been working at a computer all day. Another factor is location: I developed the habit of writing in a note book a few years ago when my computer was tucked away in its own room, on a work table facing a wall. Last year when I bought a new computer, it ended up in what was intended as a breakfast nook, open to the living room and the kitchen, facing a window (long story involving Internet access and old phone lines). Now I don’t feel isolated, I can listen to the TV and hop over to the refrigerator (bad idea, but still . . . ), when I write at the computer. So maybe I’ll try combining the two. And now, back to checking numbers on my daytime computer.

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  3. Colleen Thompson
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 14:08:07

    Congrats on getting the draft done, Kay! It may be down and dirty, but there’s still a lot to be said for having a beginning, middle, and end down on paper!

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  4. Cheryl Bolen
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 15:41:10

    Congratulations! Now you’re prepared for when you sell and have to write to deadline.

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    • Kay Hudson
      Dec 02, 2011 @ 23:17:28

      Oh, believe me, I spent years meeting deadlines on Environmental Impact Statements. Of course I didn’t have to make them up from scratch (in fact, making them up was definitely frowned upon!). But I have to admit, I’m rather pleased with myself for getting it done.

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