Today – tonight, actually – is opening day for the Muskoka Novel Marathon. For the next three or four days (I'm only doing three) writers will be hunkered down in one room (Club 55 in the Algonquin Theatre building in Huntsville, Ontario), staring at their laptops, trying to squeeze out a novel from their fevered, blistered, battered brains. I mean, who DOES that?
Believe it or not, plenty of people have gone on to have these marathon novels published. Some of the best and brightest writers in this part of the world come to the marathon to accomplish just that. Judges will look at the finished manuscripts and the winner will go to a real life agent for critique and possible consideration.
I'm not going to be submitting my manuscript, however. In order to be judged, manuscripts have to be written during the marathon, with no other help other than a single page of notes. Me, I'm going to be using the marathon time to FINISH the book I already have in progress.
This whole novel has been a seat-of-the-pants adventure all along. I have a vague notion of what's going to happen but that's it. Generally I sit down at the computer and stuff pops down onto the page and usually I go, huh, that's cool, or that sucks, and keep typing. The problem is that it seems like I'm never going to finish. I'm more than 70,000 words into it with no clear end in sight. I was starting to feel like this was a triathlon with no finish line and the whole project was becoming a millstone around my tired neck.
So just recently I said, enough! And I sat down with my manuscript and a piece of paper and a pen, and I wrote down everything I wanted to happen. In point form. What appeared on the page was eight different events – eight chapters. That wasn't as daunting as I thought it was. I did some math and figured that if I wrote approximately 2,500 words per chapter, I would need to come up with approximately 18,500 more words to finish the novel.
I figured I could write 2,500 words on Friday night. Then I'd have 8,000 words to write on Saturday and 8,000 on Sunday. That breaks down to 4,000 words before lunch and 4,000 after. Or, approximately 1,000 words an hour.
It sounds kinda crazy, I know, but it's DOABLE. I know I'm perfectly capable of writing 1,000 words in an hour ... when I'm fresh ... the problem, of course, is keeping that up, hour after hour, for two days.
The good news is I'm going to be surrounded by other writers writing their faces off, too. Their fingers will be blistered. Their brains are going to be fried. Their backs will ache and their heads will be nodding as exhaustion sets in.
My, my, doesn't this sound like fun?
We will cheer each other on, of course. We shall kibbitz. We shall LAUGH. We shall drink enough java juice to make Columbian coffee cartels dance with caffeinated joy.
I'm excited about this. My work in progress has been idle for too long. I want to FINISH. I want to start editing. I want desperately to send it out into the world. It's a fictional story that is based on my personal experiences and it's full of love, pain, sadness and great joy.
So wish my luck. Wish me strength. Wish my eyelids to remain open. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all your generous donations. Above all else, the marathon is a fundraiser for adult literacy programs. It's writers helping readers. How great is that?