Adventures in Marathoning
I’ve been at a writing marathon this last week. This is the third one I’ve gone to. I thought I’d post about some of the things I’ve noticed that may of interest to some of you.
For the first two marathons, I had chosen to write books that were the third in a trilogy. I was already familiar with the characters and the world.
For all three marathons, I did the planning for the book while driving to the marathon, about a five hour drive. (And yes, I feel like putting the word “planning” into quotation marks. You’ll see what I mean down below.)
For the first book, as I was driving down, I came up with a series of what I called “points of interest”. They were scenes that I knew existed in the novel. Plot points of a sort. I had no idea what order I would visit those points of interest. I also had no idea where exactly any of those points were located. Was that one on the top of a mountain? Would the next be in the heart of a city? Or perhaps buried in a lake?
So while I knew the characters and the world, I had no idea where I was going. Except in the very vaguest of notions.
That marathon was awesome. I didn’t worry about the story. I didn’t worry about where I was going. I just sat down and wrote.
That was when I discovered that I could, indeed, write about 2000 words an hour when I got into flow.
Generally when I’m writing, I’ll find myself thinking about the story when I first wake up in the morning. During the first marathon, I found that my brain actively did *not* want to think about the story.
One of things about writing in general, that I truly believe, is that it’s a muscle. I could never had started out doing this sort of marathon. It’s something I had to build up to.
After I finished the first marathon, I found that I could write a short story in a single day. I’d never been able to do it before. It always took me a couple of days to finish off a short story.
Suddenly, I was able to write a short story (4-5000 word story) in a single day.
When people ask me “why marathon” that’s something I point out to them. That I’ve worked that muscle hard for a week, so I can do more.
For the second marathon, again, I was writing the third book in a trilogy. So I knew the characters and the world. I wasn’t able to plot out as much on the drive down, however. My brain wouldn’t focus.
That week was hard in a few ways. One, I had a migraine during the middle of it. I’d planned for it, however. So I went down a day early so I could start writing early. I also ended up with a bad headache day, when I had very little brain. I still wrote 10,000 words that day. I late discovered that they weren’t the best words. There were some sentences that when I went back through the novel, I discovered weren’t even in English. I repeated sentences and phrases. It wasn’t my best work.
For the second marathon, I found I was having to figure out what I was writing next before I wrote it.
When I get stuck, I often open up another Word doc and start it with, “Okay, what happens next?” Then I start brain storming. I frequently leave the second doc in the middle of a sentence because I know what I’m doing in the main document and just jump over and start writing again.
For the second marathon I found it more difficult to find flow, that 2000 words per hour space. I did find it sometimes. But it meant for much longer days. (If you’re writing 2000 words per hours, it may only take you 5 or so hours to get to 10K words.)
For the third marathon, I chose a brand new story with brand new characters in a brand new world that I’d never written about. In addition, while I had written mystery short stories, I’d never written a mystery novel.
So new everything for this marathon, including genre.
I did a lot of character development on my drive down. I took extensive notes in the car about the various people and places.
I did practically no plotting.
Again, I let my creative brain dictate what I’m working on. I’m a very organic writer. My creative brain didn’t want to think about the plot. Just the characters.
So when I arrived for the third marathon, I knew very little about the story. I had the first couple of chapters, but that was it.
I started in on those first two chapters when I first arrived, getting a few thousand words in. But I had no idea what the next scene was, where the story was going.
In the morning, I had a burst of inspiration and I knew what I was going to write. But it was slow going. No flow.
That happened the first couple of days. Slowly finding my way into the novel.
By the third day, I realized that the pattern for this book was to write myself into a complete corner by the end of the day, not have a clue where I was going or what was going to happen next. In the morning, after sleeping on it, suddenly everything would click together.
I am not really an outliner. What I found myself doing for this book was, every morning, jotting down the one sentence plot points that I’d come up with. Then I’d start writing. It was glorious. I found flow, 2000 words an hour. Really sweet.
I’m hoping that the reader will have a similar experience when reading this mystery, that they won’t know what’s going to happen next, or how the hero is going to get out of *that* one. Because I had no fucking clue when I wrote it.
Marathons do leave me physically tired. A big part of that is because while I’m working on doing 10,000 words per day, I’m also doing 10,000 steps per day.
It’s a lot of focus. I find that for at least one day after the marathon that I need a break.
However, I don’t generally need more than a single day. I want to get back to the writing quickly.
Oh! And before I go, I wanted to note that I also prepare a lot of food for myself. I don’t have time (or spare brain power) to cook. I assemble food, good food that’s good for me, and heat it up in the microwave. For example: I make bone broth to bring down. I buy fresh veggies there. For breakfast (or lunch, or sometimes dinner) I’ll make “soup,” basically, bone broth with fresh veggies, heated up in the microwave.
And salads. Lots of salads. Because I’m like that.
Let me know if you have any questions about the marathoning or the process or the food or anything else.