My favorite part of this exercise, though, was what I learned about my story, my writing, and myself. It had been a long while since I focused so intensely on a WIP. No work or other responsibilities to distract me. I was locked in my apartment with my WIP, and we did some major bonding. So I bring you 9 things I learned about this weekend:
- I work better at night. I wrote 5,889 words past 9:30pm, and 3,853 words past 11:30p. It felt like college, burning the midnight oil. I want to change myself to write early in the morning, though. I can't stay up until 2am writing when I have to be at the office seven hours later.
- I don't know my characters well enough. Half of the reason for any writer's block I faced came because I didn't know how my characters would react or how they truly felt or what they wanted. I didn't know the minor details about them that fill the gaps between major events. I love to plot, and I realized that my characters are being driven by plot, not vice versa. At the same time, this challenge helped me get to know them better. But I still have work to do on this front.
- I stopped worrying about finding the best word. If I was stumped looking for the right word for a sentence, I didn't waste time thesauring or googling or smacking my forehead. I picked a lesser word and moved on. When I edit, then I'll obsess over one word. But right now, it's not worth it.
- I need to work on my procrastination. On Friday night, I didn't begin writing until 10:30pm. On Sunday, I didn't sit down until 9:30pm. I could've finished by noon, but I procrastinated. Maybe I don't love writing at night so much as I am addicted to procrastinating. This has to stop.
- I think I use the same words over and over. The same expressions. How many times can someone burst out laughing, or shoot someone a nasty look? Maybe this is my writerly doubt kicking in. Do you ever feel like you use the same words over and over? Again, this is a problem for the editing stage, not first draft stage. What will combat this is to keep reading, expand my horizons, and learn from other writers.
- I have to push myself. Writers write. When I sat down to write on Saturday morning, I eeked out 700 words in two hours. It was slow going and painful. But I pushed on. I couldn't wait for inspiration to strike me. And soon enough, the words came faster. So if I'm feeling blocked, I won't stop. I will keep going.
- I wrote 9000 words in about twelve hours. That equals 750 words/hour. Not too bad. If I can write for 1.5-2 hours per day, then I can keep making progress on my WIP.
- I obsess too much over word count. I checked my word count repeatedly this weekend. I found myself doing a little cheating - writing wordy sentences, not using contractions. Unlike many writers, I worry that my book will be too short. But I need to stop overwriting to hit certain word goals. If my book comes up short, then that's a story problem. I need to write enough to complete the scene and then move on.
- I can't do it alone. I was so happy that Sarah agreed to this challenge with me. We emailed our progress back and forth, and knowing I had someone else in it with me kept me going. Tweeting my progress and receiving positive responses showed me I have support. I may have spent much of the weekend by myself, but I was not alone.