The Marathon of Novel-Writing

 

by Jennifer Kelland Perry

Nearly five years ago, I posted an entry to my blog about how I had recently begun writing a novel. How excited I was to tell you of my ambition! And how I’d loved and appreciated the likes and the supportive, enthusiastic comments that little post generated!

Little did I know, then, what lay ahead.

Since the inception of that creative project, my first full-length novel, my path has had a few twists, turns and bumps. One of the biggest and most significant was undoubtedly when I decided, after conceiving a plot, creating the characters and developing an outline, to give up on it.

Whaaa?

Well, I didn’t exactly give up on that first effort. No, I chose to set aside that first plot outline for consideration at a later date. I loved it, but not for right now. Instead, I began working on another, entirely different idea for a book. It was an idea that I’d felt more comfortable with and felt more capable writing about. So before long I had the new outline completed, new characters imagined, and I was underway.

But Life happens. I was sidetracked, and devastated, by some major personal events that demanded my attention and reflection. I blogged through it all and managed to do some necessary research for the novel while the going was tough.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

When I finally got back to writing, I imagined how my characters had been waiting for me, patient yet eager to be actually doing something besides standing around, waiting quietly in the wings, looking at their watches or drumming their fingers. At last they were given something to say, and something to do. “Hurray!” they shouted in unison.

That first novel, Calmer Girls, was published in March of 2016. Its sequel, Calmer Secrets, was published one year later.

Fast forward to today’s writing project. Last year for NaNoWriMo, I returned to that first idea, that first exciting plot outline that I had put aside in 2012. It is of the speculative fiction genre and an entirely different and more ambitious story. I would venture to guess I’m three-quarters done writing the first draft and have hopes of completing it by early fall, when I will begin the initial phase of editing.

These past five years have taught me the dedication and self-discipline needed to write novels, especially when the only deadline you have is one you have invented for yourself. Some days I’ve written over a thousand words, some days five hundred, and some days, none at all (I’ve tried to keep those to a minimum). Even when I’m not actually writing, I think about my book a lot. My husband and I have watched TV or movies on several occasions, and I’d suddenly realized I’d missed a huge chunk of the story because I was lost in thoughts of my own story!

As strong and compelling as my conviction is, I still have to fight against my nemesis, procrastination. As I’m sure many of you may empathize, even though I love writing and find it rewarding, it is hard work. And it is natural sometimes to feel you are not in the ideal mood for it. But it is important to push through at those times, and demand that little extra from yourself, even if it is only a couple hundred words or so.  I have come to appreciate that writing for half an hour is better than not writing at all, so one doesn’t lose momentum and focus.

In some ways, I believe we can compare writing a book to training for and running a marathon. Here is an excerpt from Running for Fitness by Owen Barder, to illustrate:

The marathon distance is exquisitely set to take us beyond our comfort zone, into a realm in which we confront the limitations of our bodies and our minds. We complete the marathon distance only by patient preparation and mental discipline. There are no short cuts, no easy ways out. The marathon takes us up to, and beyond, the limit of human endurance, into an unknown zone where we confront our true selves, and discover our inner strengths and limits.

I wish all of you fellow wordsmiths luck with your writing in the months ahead. Daunting at times? Yes. Worth the sacrifice of time, and the blood, sweat and tears? Absolutely.

Do you have any thoughts about your own experiences with writing? Is there any advice you would like to share with the writing community?

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Jennifer Kelland Perry. You can find me on TwitterFacebookWordPress and InstagramMore from Jennifer on this blog: Completing My First Draft: Three Things I’ve Learned .

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52 thoughts on “The Marathon of Novel-Writing”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your trials, tribulations & triumphs! Just one little thing… when you say “I have come to appreciate that writing for half an hour is better than not writing at all” – my problem is that when I finally STOP procrastinating and go back to my WIP, it takes me *at least* half an hour just to read my most recent chapter and get back up to speed, to the starting point of NOW. Gotta get the ol’ brain back into that world, right? And *then* I can start actually writing. So I would need a lot more than half an hour to get going, and then I feel somehow indebted, as though after all that I OWE myself a lot more than a measly 250 words! So before you know it I’ve been sitting there typing away for about two hours and then my hands are cramped up and my legs too and my bum is numb and finally I get up and can barely walk, and THAT’S why I procrastinate so much ’til next time, ’cause I remember all the unpleasantness and want to avoid it, see? But at least I’m 1000 or (hopefully) more words ahead of the game, right? 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are more than welcome!
      You’re absolutely right about losing time just getting up to speed. I’ve found myself in the same predicament when I procrastinate, which is why if you can just write a bit every day, you will not lose so much momentum. Too much procrastination is the biggest enemy of writers, I think..

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I can relate to absolutely every point you make. Life does not throw us an even road to jog along at a steady pace despite our determination to reach those daily goals. I do need to read through at least some of yesterday’s work and could easily find that my writingtime is up before I am really ready to begin actual writing! Scrivener has been a great aid to me over the past year to help with the dreaded procrastination. With my chapters set before me as separate documents, I find I can dive in more readily, and the whole document does not seem so daunting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Jennifer. I am experiencing the same thing as you. I have finished writing several short stories that I want to put into a collection and publish as an eBook and to be honest they took a lot of time to write, then much more time to polish, and much more time to try and make people look at my direction to actually care enough to like what I do in order to succeed. It takes a lot of time that the passion I have for conceiving the story, the characters in it, and the rest of it, specially the writing that I sometimes forget about the outside world where the real people are. They don’t understand really, how hard this is to find a voice and that when you do find it, then sound it out with words is even harder.

    You are ahead of me with your books published and I admire you for that.

    I think there must be some balance for doing this and let others into our life or we stay alone at the end.

    On another note though, I sometimes find myself writing nothing for weeks, then all of a sudden writing 7,000 – 13,000 words in about two days. It is a spike for me and I am unsure why. Perhaps it is just the way I talk about things as well – I don’t say much when there is nothing to say. I hate small talk. Same with writing. If I don’t have something, I just don’t write. If that is a good thing or not? I don’t know.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s a good thing. Because I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. I’ve just finished my first novel for my Masters in Creative Writing. It has taken me since March to get it done. I have not written every day but have sat down for whole days, or five hour stretches, or sometimes hour long train rides and blasted out the words. When I have tried to write every day, I have ended up staring at a blank page.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I understand where you’re coming from. And I hate small talk too! (ha ha)
      Good writing is hard work and can take a lot out of a person, and, of course, we’re all different in how we achieve it.
      I’ve never written anywhere near 13 thousand words in two days. If you figure out how to capture that inspiration more often, please let me know! 🙂

      Like

    3. I understand where you’re coming from. And I hate small talk too! (ha ha)
      Good writing is hard work and can take a lot out of a person, and, of course, we’re all different in how we achieve it.
      I’ve never written anywhere near 13 thousand words in two days. If you figure out how to capture that inspiration more often, please let me know! 🙂

      Like

      1. Well, I build the story in my head. Then it goes from there. I never truly know the ending though. Well, I do, but I have different ideas. It then just comes out as I write and things spring to life and just flows to an ending that is right. I never actually think of a long story, it just happens. I don’t know if it is long or not until I finally read it all at the end and do word count. So… maybe just don’t think too much and let it flow. Take breaks or you might end up like me and lose some good things and opportunities around you. Learn to put everything in perspective. My inspiration and passion for my stories and much of the things that I do is also my downfall because I find it hard to stop when I start it. I like to see a project from start to finish.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey and kudos for your diligence. While I’ve since published two books, my 2014 NaNoWriMo wip is sitting on the hard drive… staring at me… judging me! LOL! I already have a project for next month’s NaNo, but guess it’s time to add that old project to the planner! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wasn’t sure what this would be about when I clicked it. But I’m so glad I did. I am also writing a book and honestly, sometimes I want to give up. I’ve pushed through those difficult times where I don’t feel like writing or feel like the story is going nowhere. What’s worse is, I’m also trying to enter writing competitions and that has piled the work on. After reading this, I feel a little more at ease with my progress and may just put a few more word into my story after this.
    I say all of this to say thanks. I really needed this and it really helped me see past what I haven’t written and be proud of what I have written.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing your experience. You’re right – life happens, but you keep on keepin’ on. Enjoyed your first two books and I can’t wait for your new one!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article, Jennifer. It’s funny because sometimes what seems to be the best motivator is making progress itself. I find when I get a good rhythm and productivity going with my writing, I’m less likely to procrastinate the next day. But even a few days away can make it difficult to pick back up again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Progress is a terrific motivator, Carrie, that’s so true. It’s wonderful when you get into that creative zone where new ideas come to you or you find a better way to get your point across.
      Thanks so much for dropping over with your two cents. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Glad I’m not the only one who drift away with writing thoughts whilst watching TV – I’m sure I miss whole episodes whilst ‘inside my head’!

    Jennifer, this is a terrific post documenting your marathon of novel writing…congratulations on your two books and also on returning to your original idea, albeit five years later. My journey is also very interrupted and it is featured on my blog..I’m just honoured my friends here on WP haven’t given up on me! 😀

    I love your quotes and particularly Bardar’s last sentiment about that: ‘The marathon takes us up to, and beyond, the limit of human endurance, into an unknown zone where we confront our true selves, and discover our inner strengths and limits.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! So nice to see you here, Annika. 🙂 I look forward to reading your work when it is finished.
      I read somewhere recently how writing a novel is a journey that teaches us inner truths about ourselves, truths that may have never been uncovered otherwise. That quote goes perfectly with that belief. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have been trying to write my novel for a while … not going to say how long because the time does not reflect what I’ve accomplished but this was really inspirational! I need to set aside specific timeframes to really build on it!

    Liked by 1 person

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