As some of you may or may not know, I did a “marathon” this last week. I’ve been away at a writing retreat all week. My goal was to write 10K words per day, as well as to walk 10K steps per day. The larger goal was to start and finish a new novel. I accomplished that, writing a 55K word novel in 6 (ish) days.
I did a similar marathon this past May, where I wrote a 52K word novel in 5 days, writing 10K words per day and walking 10K steps per day.
In some ways the books were similar. They were both the third book in a trilogy, so I was already familiar with the characters and the world. They ended up being similar length, though I always knew that the book I finished this week was going to be longer. For both books, I’d written the first novels in the trilogy one-two years before, so I had to re-familiarize myself with everything before I could start writing. I drove down to the writing retreat and brainstormed as much as I could while driving (did a lot of verbal notes).
But that’s about where the similarities end. One was a new adult contemporary fantasy. This one was a dark epic fantasy. The first was set in Seattle, the latter, a world of my own creation.
Comparing the two marathon weeks: I found writing this novel went a lot more slowly. I still did 10K per day, but it took me much more time. For the first one, by the end of the week, I was regularly writing 2000+ words per hour. For this one, I hit that speed sometimes, but most of the time, I was writing between 1000-1500 words per hour.
The first one was a funny, light book, that took place in a setting I knew very well (Seattle). I had more idea of what was going to happen, had more “points of interest” plotted out before I started. That, I believe, was partly why I never thought about the novel when I was away from it. I didn’t wake up in the morning and plot out the next chapter, I didn’t often stop and wonder what happened next. I just wrote.
It wasn’t because I had an outline for that novel–I didn’t. But my brain just knew where it was going and filled in the spaces. It was awesome. Kind of weird, because when I’m writing a novel I usually am thinking about it all the time. That time, though, I just sat down and wrote. (I’ve had more than one reader tell me that the novel is very satisfying, and a good conclusion for the trilogy.)
For this most recent novel, I didn’t plan it out as well. I knew a few of the things that were going to happen, but I really wrote a lot of this novel into the dark. This time, I did find myself thinking about the novel when I wasn’t writing it. I would wake up in the morning and plan out the next chapter (which often resulted in me writing much more quickly, though that wasn’t always the case.) When I went for my walks, trying to get my steps in, I would think about the next scene or chapter.
This novel was also so much darker. It has a high body count. The characters have a much broader, and more difficult, character arc. (But boy, was it satisfying when those arcs got resolved! The joke was that whenever I finished one of those sections, I would need a cigarette. And when I finished the climax as well.)
Another major difference between the two writing weeks: I ended up with a migraine during the second one. That may have been why it felt more difficult to write. I took one day off in the middle of the week because I just couldn’t write. The good news was that I had planned for a possible migraine that week, and had come to the writing retreat a day early so I could take a day off and still finish the novel.
However, the migraine (and subsequent headache) meant that I didn’t meet my goal of 10K steps per day. I’m okay with this. Of course, I wish I could have succeeded with both goals. I also know that while I could have pushed myself to walk, that just would have prolonged the migraine. And then I wouldn’t have been able to meet the writing goal, finishing the novel, which was paramount.
Looking back this morning (and remember, my brain is still slightly fried from writing so much yesterday) I find that I’m incredibly pleased with the novel itself. I like this novel and this trilogy. I’m also looking forward to doing this sort of marathoning again.
And if you’re planning for your own marathon, such as NaNoWriMo, there’s still time to go by the NaNo writing tools bundle!