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#LeapAheadWritingMarathon: Results and Plans for Keeping Up the Momentum

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy March 1, everyone. As usual, here in Nashville, it’s gray and stormy and wet (you know how the saying goes, March comes in like a dark, grouchy, drooling lion). So it’s the perfect day to look back on the Leap-Ahead Writing Marathon and see what was accomplished—and discuss how to keep—or gain—momentum going forward in March.

Marathon Month Results
Although I didn’t keep to my commitment of writing every day, I re-learned (from years and years ago, before I took that much-needed mental break for a few years) that the more often I wrote, the more I found myself thinking about my characters and my story. And I did write often enough that toward the end of the month, setting a word-count goal of 29,000 words for the month, or an average of 1,000 per day, became a very realistic and, ultimately, achievable goal. And you know I’m a big proponent of those!


    This month—and this manuscript—has been a re-learning experience for me. I’ve had to reset myself to where I was pretty much before I started grad school in 2006. I needed to get back to a mental state of I choose to write because I love writing. I want to write because I love this story and these characters. I’m doing this for me, first and foremost, and it doesn’t matter what becomes of this manuscript once I finish it. After years of writing on deadline to fulfill contracts—at the end, just so I could afford to eat—and having such short turn-around times in which to get the books written (while also being in the process of editing a previous manuscript, marketing a newly releasing book, and planning the next book/series), I had trained myself how to write in “final draft” mode. That meant that when I sat down to write a scene, I couldn’t just wing it. I had to know where it was going, how it fit into the structure of the story, and, after completing it, going back and immediately revising it. Because for the last seven or eight of my published books, I was turning in my first draft as my final draft, just to meet deadlines.

    This month, as I got further and further into this manuscript, I had to force myself back into what is good and truly first-draft writing mode. After writing the first 6k words, I had an idea for a rather major change in the on-land setting, as well as the secondary characters, which necessitate a lot of changes in the opening of the story. But instead of going back and rewriting all of it, I started a revisions section in my OneNote notebook, jotted down all of the ideas (and came up with some others), and then started a new chapter picking up with the story as if I’d already made all of those changes.

    I went from the beginning of the month, when I had to pause in the middle of writing to look up details or words or research what type of food they might be eating to writing this last night:

    Katriona smiled. The wonder in his expression was what she’d hoped for. “Roast duck with ______. Vegetable and vegetable. Bread and fresh butter. Fruit and fruit. And, of course, Madeira wine. . .”

    I’m forcing myself to re-learn how to be more of a seat-of-the-pants writer. I’ve done some preliminary research and written out the timeline of historical events my story is happening around so that I know what I’m working with. But I stopped myself from trying to outline this story or even to try to write a synopsis of it. (I still have the Post-it flip chart laid out on the bed in my spare bedroom/office with the cup of colored markers sitting on it and the seven story beat titles written out down the side—but with no other information filled in.)

    I also re-learned just how much easier it is for me to step right into the “slipstream” of the story when I write late at night. I can usually average between 1,200 and 1,500 words in an afternoon or early evening 1k1hr writing sprint. But the last two nights of the marathon, I did at least one 1k1hr late (or when I was exhausted, so it felt really late), and wrote 1,802 and 1,799 words respectively. Now, are they prefect, turn-it-in-to-an-editor words? Absolutely not. I’m under no delusions that this manuscript isn’t going to need a TON of revisions. But they’re written—which means they can be revised later. After all, my #1 writing tip is: Above all else, FINISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT.


    As I said above, I finished the month having added 29,320 words to my manuscript—which brought it up to a total of 35,430. This could mean I’m almost halfway through (if it does turn out to be a 70–75k draft) or it could mean that I’m only about a third of the way through (if it turns out to be a 95–100k draft). But either way, it’s the most I’ve written in four years, so it’s a win no matter how long the full draft turns out to be!

Awesome Accomplishments:

    What can I say more than I’ve already mentioned? 😉 I’m writing again. I’m loving my characters and my story (and I’m now far enough into it that I’m actively trying to find ways to justify a kiss scene, while also pushing it off to keep the tension building!), and I’m thinking about story/character stuff even when I’m not writing.

    I guess my awesome-est accomplishment for the month actually happened last night. It was getting on toward 8:30 p.m. I was exhausted, as I’d only slept 3 or 4 hours the night before, and I was starting to nod off in my chair. It was so tempting to just shut down the computer and go crawl in the bed and come back here today and shrug and justify my not hitting the 29k mark by reminding everyone I said from the beginning this marathon wasn’t about numbers.

    And then, even as I was composing that in my head, eyes closed, half asleep, the other part of what I created this marathon for struck me—hard. No, it wasn’t about numbers. It was about commitment, and I’d be failing myself if I didn’t at least try to do one 1k1hr before crashing for the night. So I did one. And I wrote 1,799 words. Which meant I needed fewer than 340 words to reach the 29k mark. When I saw that number, it made it so much easier to do an intense 20-minute sprint to get those final words in. And I wrote almost 600 words, which is what put me over the top. And made me very proud of myself.

Tidbit to Share:

    I shared this on Facebook earlier in the month, but this is one of my favorite things I’ve written in this manuscript so far:

    “Where is he going?”

    “Oh, so the good captain decides to speak again, finally.” Katriona didn’t turn to look at him, but continued to look through a display of hand-woven and embroidered shawls.

    “I wanted to ensure that you were well looked after today—that is why I wanted Mr. Brocklehurst along with us.”

    “I have other errands I need him to see to while we are here.” She selected a fine ivory linen shawl embroidered with vines and small orange and red flowers and started to negotiate a price with the merchant.

    She’d just handed over the payment when Quin roughly took hold of her arm and turned her around to face him.

    “Do you always take your own safety so lightly?”

    Katriona raised her brows and then looked down at his abdomen—at the small knife she had pressed against his waistcoat. Quin instantly released her arm and took a step back.

    “No, Captain Ryles. I learned long ago that I could never entrust my safety to others.” She returned the blade to the thin sheath strapped to her wrist under her sleeve, then smiled up at him. “Now, I believe I saw a bookseller’s stall a little farther up the way. Shall we see what he has on offer?”

    Before he could answer, Katriona slipped her arm through Mali’s, turned, and headed toward the bookseller, not looking back to make sure Quin was following them.

Momentum Going Forward:

    I got together with a group of writer friends over the weekend, and while most of them weren’t in a position to do much writing or work on their manuscripts in February, it’s looking like March is going to be a good month for us to do a private marathon together. Because I am who I am, I’ll be leading that charge, but it always helps to have at least one or two others along on the journey in order to keep each other motivated.

    I’m also going to continue doing (almost) daily 1k1hr sprints—which I will announce/conduct on Twitter. My goal for March is what it turned out to be toward the end of February—finish the month with an average of 1,000 words per day. But I also know it’s unrealistic not to build some days off in there, especially since I’ll be traveling to visit family over spring break in a couple of weeks. But what’s an hour—or even just half an hour—a day (especially late at night?) in order to keep my commitment to myself and my story momentum going, right? (Especially as a couple of these family members have a vested interest in my finishing this manuscript and getting to the revision process—since they’re already bugging me about wanting to read it.)

How did you do in February? What will you do to start/gain/keep your momentum going?

  1. Carol permalink
    Tuesday, March 1, 2016 8:56 pm

    So happy for you!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol permalink
    Tuesday, March 1, 2016 9:29 pm

    And here’s my #LeapAheadWritingMarathon wrap up.

    Liked by 1 person

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