Friday, August 24, 2012

Marathoning A Novel

I never thought I could write a novel in a month. NaNoWriMo and other 30-day challenges seemed absolutely undoable for me. After all, I have a full-time job where I work overtime every week, and I’m a bridesmaid in two upcoming weddings- one out of the country. I’m querying my first novel, preschooling my niece, reviewing ARCs for my blog over at The Bookshelf, and a working on a host of other daily and weekly activities. I was certain 30-day writing challenges were for people without full-time jobs.

I’ve turned out to be wrong. I am marathoning my young adult contemporary novel, and it’s working. I’m meeting my goal of 12k a week, and I’ve been at it for three weeks. In fact, I love writing this way so much I think I’ll marathon all of my first drafts.

The reasons are simple.

It’s fast. Seeing something take shape so quickly is encouraging. Seeing results for all your mental energy and effort is a wonderful high, especially in a field with its share of stress and rejection.

It’s freeing. Since I’m writing a first draft, I can focus on the core of the story. I don’t have to worry so much about subplots, perfect description, meter, or sentence variety. I just write it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not great (yet- cross your fingers) and that’s okay.

·         It gets it done. Since it’s a marathon, I don’t feel guilty skipping a few social engagements or not working out so much. I can’t procrastinate during a marathon, either. I have a deadline.
So for our readers who are working on a novel, consider doing a marathon! Here’s my advice if you’re going to do your own.

Don’t feel like you have to use just 30 days. I am taking 40 because I shouldn’t stop querying my first novel, and I have a few unmovable commitments this month. In the future, I’ll probably do 60-day marathons. That way, I’ll still be able to go to important things but I’ll keep myself pressured and still have a deadline.

Read WRITE-A-THON: Write Your Book in 26 Days by Rochelle Melander. It’s an excellent and wonderfully helpful read. The book is a field guide, motivational book, and toolbox for the writing marathon all in one. You can see my review of it here, and last I saw, the ebook version was less than $3. I’m using a number of her tips and tricks (swapping meals with a friend so you don’t cook during the marathon, writing something daily for a week first to prepare yourself, creating a writing space, and much more). I recommend doing most of the things she suggests, so read it and take notes!

Write out a scene list before you start writing for the day. I get a legal pad and a pen (a wonderful break from the computer screen) and jot down any thought I have for the scene- character thoughts, actions, setting details, anything that I want to put into the scene. I also try to outline the whole scene action by action, so I rarely have to sit thinking “how do I get him from point A to point B?” This scene list is also turning out to be something I can do when I just don’t feel like expending the mental effort to write- and then when I am ready, I have two or three more scenes ready to go.

Schedule a little time each day to read, relax, be social, or watch TV. If all you do is write for a month, you’ll probably burn out. I’m reading Divergent by Veronica Roth in my carpool to and from work- a solid hour of reading most days. It’s first person YA, so it’s also great research- mine is also first person YA. Continuing to feed my brain new ideas and take the chance to take a breath helps me to relax and gives me a change of pace.

Don’t revise. If you absolutely have to go back and change something, do it- but if it will take more than a few moments, jot down a note about it and move on. I have a document of revisions I need to make during draft 2 that I update as I go. Questions to answer, scenes to expand, subplots to tweak, etc., all get written down there so I don’t have to be distracted by them, but I also don’t have to spend time on them.

Do you have a great drafting technique you use? Are you marathoning or have you thought about doing a writing marathon?


  1. Great tip. I'm amazed you're able to fit it all in and work full time too! Super woman.

  2. OOOH!! I too am doing Camp NaNo and I have a 50+ hr a week job. It's HARD work but SOOO rewarding! Great job so far. Very happy to see someone else rocking it out with a full time job!

  3. Freya- Thank you! It's difficult, but I find the longer I do it the easier it is. I'm so much more productive even on slow days than I used to be.

    Jade- Congrats! I'm on Camp NaNo as well. :) You must be very motivated to be working that much and writing!

  4. I didn't think I could do it either, but this past Camp NaNo has been going great! I'm almost done with my YA speculative. I keep a word count on my blog. I hope all goes well with your project and I wish you the best of luck. Great tips here as well, thanks!

  5. I write this way ever since my first NaNo two years ago. I like it because you don't get tired of your story---that comes later during the editing phase. It's hard not to edit as I go but if I find myself spending too much time editing I stop. I use storyboards after the book is done.