September 3, 2010 9 Comments
The writing trenches that is. Following, is a real time diary of the ups and downs of participating in the 2010 3-Day Novel Contest.
Friday, September 3, 2010
7:21pm – I can’t start until midnight. It occurs to me that some people, in other places on the globe have already started. And some people won’t start for another 7 1/2 hours as opposed to my 4 1/2 hour wait until start time. How weird.
I feel a headache coming on–could the timing be any worse? Must engage in some whole-hearted lounging (perhaps even a disco nap is in order). I see Advil Liqui-gels in my future. I should probably also flesh out my outline a bit.
But right now–pork chops and pre-fab mashed potatoes!
8:23pm - Have decided to watch extended version of Return of the King. With four-ish hours till start time, I can almost fit it in.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
12:22am – Totally could not resist watching the movie right to the end. Elijah Wood is a master of both the happy/sad face and the about to weep face. Seriously, a master. And now to the writing.
1:10am – I’m yawning up a storm and my game plan never included staying up all night during this contest, so I’m going to bed. I had hoped to write until 2:30am tonight though, so I’m a little worried that I’m so willing to go to sleep right now. But I got the opening done and that’s the worst part–getting started. Hopefully I’ll be off to the races tomorrow.
Having said that, I’ve already had my first doubts about my novel idea. I’m wondering if I should have instead tried a novel of 5 – 10 short fiction pieces. Fuck. In ’08, when I did this contest, I got about 25 pages in (which is generally considered to be a quarter of the way in) and totally threw out my idea. I can’t afford to do that, because if you switch gears that far in, you just don’t get done. Sooooo, must ponder this before I pass out tonight.
Muse, show up anytime now!
Maybe I’ll just submit this blog post as my entry.
9:43am – I’m stupid tired this morning. I shouldn’t be this tired. I got eight solid hours of sleep. I’m gonna splash some water on my face and then go get a latte.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to do a number of short fiction pieces on a theme, rather than one long novel, as I’ve never been good at long fiction anyway. But I’m already feeling that “there’s no way I’m going to win this so who cares” feeling. I wasn’t planning on feeling this way until sometime late tomorrow or early Monday. I’m suddenly feeling wildly inadequate as a writer and stupid for thinking I could actually win this damn thing.
Maybe I just want to go back to bed.
10:23am - I was a total weirdo about the way I did this contest in ’08. For some reason I felt like it had to be this frenzied, physically and emotionally punishing thing. I’m sure that will happen without trying for it, but last time I would have tried to barrel through how I was feeling this morning and just written–and written a load of crap. Which is actually what I did that year. I was proud that I survived the contest and wrote more than I’d ever written in three days, but I wrote utter crap. Taking 25 minutes to chill out with a latte got me back into this place where I feel like the point is to write honestly. Then it won’t be so bad if I don’t win because I’ll still be proud of what I’ve written. Sometimes writing to win ends up meaning writing to entertain someone else and the writing is plainly false. At least false for me.
So I’m going to jump back in now, writing from where I’m at as a person–someone on the edge of curdling with pain and anguish about the way life is going.
12:53pm – I know 5 pages doesn’t seem like a lot 2 1/2 hours later (I had lunch in there and it took me 15 minutes to come up with my heroine’s name), but I feel like I’m getting more clear on where this thing is going. I’ve decided not to try to deviate from the original overall plan of one long story, but I’ve added elements that I hadn’t anticipated adding that I’m loving already. I’ve got clear pictures of the main characters and I know where I need to take things out of the original outline.
And if you think I’m being coy about what the novel is about, I am. For some reason I don’t feel like I should be blogging about that. Call me superstitious. I promise to tell you at the end of all this.
Back at it.
2:32pm – 9 pages. It doesn’t seem like enough to have done at the moment but I feel like I’m in a good place right now. I’m figuring out how conflicts are going to come about that move the piece along. I’m actually excited for where this piece is going. A rare feeling when I’m writing more than about 2000 words.
5:40pm – I can’t believe it’s freaking nearly 6:00. I’m definitely behind schedule at 14 1/4 pages. I just woke up from a nap so I’m all cold. It’s actually cold today. I have on slippers after weeks of the running the AC every moment that I’m in the apartment.
I have to produce 40 pages today before I go to sleep to be on schedule, so I have to really buckle down, since I have about 25 more pages to go by 2:00am. Hopefully the fact that I’m more of a night owl will help and I’ll get some sort of energy burst when the sun goes down. It has been a battle to stay energized all day. And I can only drink so much coffee before I make myself ill.
The last few days have been heinous emotionally, which has contributed to some late nights and fatigue that just won’t quit. Had I experienced the last few days *before* sending in my registration money for this contest, I probably wouldn’t have entered. But the entry was sent, the money gone and it seemed stupid not to do the work then. I have this vague hope that writing this piece will actually help me work through some of my angst.
This entire day has been a battle with the emotional and physical fatigue that seems to have set into my bones. The only thing getting me through this is the knowledge that this is beginning of a chunk of vacation for me. I don’t go back to work until the 14th. Thank Jeebus.
I really should have bought a more comfortable chair if I was going to do this contest again.
This ambient music sucks ass right now. That’s gotta stop. JZ anyone?
7:31pm – 21 pages, woohoo! I’m chalking it up to the dance music and the fact that I’m actually fully awake for likely the first time today. I might download some trance tracks for tomorrow. Something mindless with a beat to keep me going when things get rough.
I remember now why they call this a writing marathon. Sitting at the desk this long, staying focused on the task when you just want to not be focused. But I’m into a good groove now. Past the halfway mark for the evening. 6 1/2 hours to get another 19 pages done is totally doable. Totally.
I fucking rock.
9:24pm – Fail on longer-than-it-was-supposed-to-be break. Had dinner, went for walk–good. Stopped in to visit friend–kinda bad. Stayed about 20 minutes rather than 5, and threw off my time. But it’s the only conversation I’ll with another human being today so whatevs.
Stopped into convenience store for sour candies–managed not to have an interaction with the local crazy man who was holding vigil near the door with his shoes off. Win. Came home.
If I can write 5 pages per hour with 5-10 minute breaks every hour until 2:00am, then my goal for the day will be done. And if I can manage to stay more focused tomorrow, I might only have to work for about 10 hours rather than 14.
Oh and sour candies–very good!
Back at it.
10:51pm – Just managing to keep pace. On a ten minute break and then hopefully another five pages in the next 45 minutes. And then hopefully a 15-minute break. Must actually plan my time tomorrow.
Inhaled entire pack of sour candies in about 12 minutes.
Stepping away from the computer now.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
12:02am – Wow, officially into day two.
Five pages behind schedule, though not for lack of trying. Apparently I cannot write five pages per hour when I’m simultaneously creating the meat of the story. When I realize that’s 2000-2500 words per hour it makes sense to me why I’m having trouble. I take days to write that many words of fiction normally. Now non-fiction is another thing entirely–I can spout on for tens of thousands of words in non-fiction without working too damn hard. Perhaps I should have written a non-fiction piece.
If I get even 35 pages done tonight, rather than 40 I’ll be pretty happy with that. Hell even 30 would be nice, but I’m on page 29 so there’s no reason that I can’t birth another 5 1/2 pages in the next two hours. However, my head will hit the pillow at 2:00am come hell or high water.
In what parallel universe are hell and high water hanging around the same place?
In other news, I have not been this stupid horny for an entire day in years. I don’t know if it’s nervous energy morphing into sexual energy or something, but it’s fucking annoying (especially given that I cut off my lovely casual sex partner as of a month ago). If I wasn’t grossly unwashed, I’d be roaming the streets trying to find a man. Okay maybe not, but you get the drift. I did go off the pill last month–I think I see correlation kids.
Have rediscovered an old favorite CD in the past two hours though:
Killer Jungle Beats
Taking 15 minutes to regroup.
And apologies to my RSS friends–I’ve had to edit this bit about five times now. The fatigue is catching up.
1:14am – I’m done for the day. It’s getting hard to type coherently anymore. Besides which, I have no idea what’s supposed to happen for the next 68 pages of this novel. HA! That might be problematic.
I’m retiring to the couch with a pencil and paper to sketch out the rest of this. I have to figure out what happens now that I’ve strayed from the original outline. But for now my brain hurts. A lot. And I’ve done a 32 pages of good work today. I’m proud of me.
10:11am – A bit of a later start than I’d like this morning. But I have had a shower and look vaguely human–even if I am wearing dirty clothes. And that’s helped with feeling a bit awake.
My problem is not so much that I’ve strayed from my outline. I have, but not significantly. My problem is that my outline only ended up consisting of 30 pages of content and this thing needs to aim for 100 pages to be a contender. So yeah, 70 more pages of outline/content is what I have to start coming up with this morning.
I’m off to get a latte and bite to eat and hopefully the creative juices will start flowing quickly or I’m sunk.
I have to keep reminding myself that I’m still doing far, far better than I did in ’08. If there are no other victories in this process, there’s that.
11:11am – Totally blocked. Not to mention a bit depressed. Also suspect that dimwitted barista put real milk in my latte rather than lactose free. Ouch. Back to couch to brainstorm some more.
1:29pm – Things are not going well. I laid down to brainstorm and fell asleep for two hours. I think I might have to give up on the idea of being a contender in this competition now.
And still I am devoid of any idea of what my characters are meant to do with themselves for another 70 pages of action. I imagine they’re all sitting in a white room, silently, waiting for me to give them something to do.
Am so very tired. I know this is a marathon, so I don’t begrudge myself the sleep. I clearly work better in the evening than I do in the day, but I don’t think many marathon runners ever just lie down on the track and stop moving for two hours. And I feel kinda ill.
3:48pm – So I’d be freaking out right now if I wasn’t so far into the “I don’t give a shit” head space. Things started so well–I was feeling so good about yesterday’s progress and today has just come to a stand still. I’ve written 500 words today–that’s it. And I passed out again.
At this point I’m not even going to try to write again until about 6:00pm, when it seems I tend to wake up. That leaves me about 6 good writing hours tonight. If I can manage to actually stay awake for the next two hours (Rafael Nadal and his always too tight shorts are helping out with that right now, by way of the US Open), then hopefully an idea of where in the hell to go next with this story will find its way into my brain.
Feel free to set up prayer shrines to the gods of creativity on my behalf.
6:00pm – A virgin was obviously sacrificed somewhere on my behalf. I’ve figured out how to end this thing and hopefully will manage to write the ending tonight. Tomorrow I plan to go back and flesh out details like setting and certain characters and take out some elements that aren’t really going to fit in such a short piece.
I don’t know if I’ll make it to 100 pages but I’d be pretty thrilled with 80. I think 80 might be doable over tonight and tomorrow.
I’m fully awake now (this is hilarious–it takes me until 5:30 or so to actually freaking wake up) so hopefully I’ll be able to do some good work tonight.
But feel free to sacrifice more virgins. One can never be too sure.
7:32pm – Haven’t written a ton but at least I know where I’m headed. Hoping for 15 or 20 more pages tonight. That’s about 3-4 pages an hour. That would leave me 20-25 pages tomorrow plus going back and fleshing out a lot of stuff. I figure I’ll gain 10 pages in the fleshing. Fingers crossed.
My ideal job would clearly begin at 6:00pm. Perhaps I am a vampire.
Must make some dinner now.
10:41pm – Shot myself in the foot a bit with a long phone conversation with my sister. Oh wells. Hoping to finish the story tonight all the same. Ideally I could just spend tomorrow re-writing, fleshing out and editing. But who the hell knows. This whole thing could blow up in my face at this point. I’m kinda zen about it.
Monday, September 6, 2010
12:18am – And now we’re into day three. I’m calling it quits for the night even though I only have 44 pages. I have no desire to do any more writing tonight, so there’s little point in continuing. And since I’m fairly sure this isn’t about winning anymore, there’s no reason to torture myself.
Though I only produced about 15 pages today, I have actually finished the meat of the story. I don’t know if I can magically make 35 pages of content come flying out of my butt just filling in stuff and re-working scenes. I guess we’ll see. Crazier things have been known to fly out of my behind.
10:59am – Notice how my starts have gotten later each day (grin). I just got off the phone with my dad. In the midst of all this writing, I entirely spaced out about the hurricane on the east coast. I am a bad daughter. The parents are okay though. They didn’t have power for two days and their land line is still out of service, but they’re good. Thank goodness they both have cell phones. Dad had a chance to lob an “I told you so” at my mother (and wasted no time in relating this to me) because the Coleman stove that he bought two years ago, for no good reason, came in handy during the power outage.
I watched part of a documentary last night that I’ve seen before. 102 Minutes That Changed the World. It’s cobbled together footage of the hour and 42 minutes after the first plane hit on 9/11. If you can stomach the footage–it’s pretty awful in parts–it’s an amazing documentary. I couldn’t help but wonder though, in places where violence is the norm, where every day is a day of war, did those 102 minutes change their world? Obviously it changed the world for me and any other person in a first world nation. But I wonder if there are people for whom it just didn’t change jack. Then, when I looked it up this morning, I found that the original title was 102 Minutes That Changed America. Far more apt, I’d say.
So this is it. The final day. I woke up to an old debate being replayed on Q on CBC Radio about the decline of the male and a push for a male studies program in universities (which differs from the existing men’s studies programs). I immediately got annoyed, which probably means I need to open my mind a bit more.
It was pissing rain when I opened my eyes–it’s stopped now–and I just sort of felt blah. There are things going on in the back of my head that have got me down. I feel like throwing in the towel, but I’m just going to try to enjoy the process of writing and what it sometimes does for me in terms of catharsis.
I have these envelopes and in each one is a piece of paper with a note to counteract the negative ways in which I usually think. Today’s: Being alone is not a punishment. I need that one today.
Let’s finish this thing.
2:13pm – Even I find it odd that I’ve only got 47 pages now. But I’m only on page four in terms of where I’m filling in content. So hopefully that means that by the time I get to the end of the story I’ll have filled in many more pages of content, thus expanding this sucker by 33 more pages. I’m also editing as I add, which makes it slightly slower going.
I’m feeling good though. There are still 9 1/2 more hours to go and I’m allowing myself the luxury of ordering pizza tonight so I don’t waste time cooking or dirty any dishes–dishes I will then feel compelled to wash so I can think. Yeah, I have this weird thing, where I can’t write as well in a messy environment. Even though I can’t physically see dishes in the sink from where I’m sitting without turning around, just knowing they’re there is distracting enough.
I’m enjoying the process right now–a lot. Without the pressure of having to finish the meat of story–it’s essentially finished–I’m having fun writing in the ‘side dishes.’ My story spans an 11 year period from 1997 – 2008 and it’s set in Toronto. It’s fun to throw in details of the city and the period of time, like the music and places and then note the changes over time. The 90s were when I became an adult, so it’s cool to go back and think of what that time was like for me.
Anyhoo, gotta finish fleshing out chapter 1!
4:26pm – My inability to bust past the 50-page mark is becoming downright amusing. Lucky I’m actually amused by it. Just trying to keep writing something I’ll be proud of when this is all over. A little sad that I can’t keep watching the Wozniacki/Sharapova match though.
And can I just say the Genuis mix that iTunes came up with based on my new favorite song For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fathers in Ypsilanti has been my saving grace this day. Sometimes the mix doesn’t make a lot of sense but sometimes it really does. Like right now.
Listening to: Gatekeeper
7 1/2 hours to get her done.
7:59pm – And page 51, lol! Talked to my sister for a bit and having some well deserved hot pizza right now. And in 4 hours it’s all over. I doubt I’ll get more than another 5 or 6 pages out of this, but whatever the length, I’m happy with what I’m producing. I like to think it’s a compelling and fun little story. I might even work at it after the contest.
11:57pm - Well kids, it’s as done as it’s going to be. My back is aching, I don’t really ever want to type again, and I officially hate this computer. But it’s done. I survived and without the total meltdown I had in ’08. It’s been a good experience to try this again and I’m mostly proud of what I produced even if it was 46 pages short of the ultimate goal of a 100 pages. I think I’ve finally learned my lesson about actually planning an ending to a story before I actually start.
And for those of you reading this, you’ve been a HUGE help. Your comments (thank you mucho Michelle) and just knowing that you’re out there helped me keep going when I was sorely tempted to cease and desist.
But seriously, if I ever say I’m going to do this again, shoot me in the face immediately.