Monday, November 18, 2013

How Writing a Novel is Sort of Like Running a 5k

This past week, I did two things: one, I finished editing my newest book and FINALLY managed to let go of the perfectionist death grip I had on it and send it to my agent; and two, I decided that I would start training for a 5k. If you knew me in real life, you’d know why this second part was funny (read: because I haven’t done any actual hardcore physical exercise in about…oh, five years). Aside from the occasional tennis match or hiking trip, my activity level has been pretty dismal as of late. This wasn’t always the case, though; I played soccer pretty much year round through high school. I also played basketball through middle school--but I was terrible at it, so I like to pretend that part never happened. Except it did, and so as a teen (which wasn’t that long ago, thank you very much), I was totally in shape.

But see, the thing about being in shape is…you have to keep working to stay in shape.

I know.

Mind. Blown.

But that’s not the point of this post, really. And as much as I love tangents and needlessly long blog posts, I’ll spare you and jump straight into the part that hopefully you guys can relate to, especially as some of you are trudging dutifully along through your NaNo projects. Obviously not everyone is going to have the same experience, and it may differ from book to book, but in basically all five first drafts I’ve written, this is how it goes:

The First Mile, aka the First Few Chapters of a New Book

I am so. Totally. Pumped. to run.

Headphones are in, blasting “Roar” by Katy Perry (don’t judge me), and as soon as I hit the “go” button on my running app, I rocket from the start line and sprint basically the whole first mile. 

No really, this is how I run
Similarly, the first few chapters of a new book? Awesome. So full of energy! Possibility! Fingers are flying across the keyboard and I don't even need Katy Perry because I'm about to rock this book so hard. I wrote the first three chapters in a week! At this rate, I'll be at 80k by the end of the month!

Haha. Right. Except then comes...

The Second Mile, aka the Why the Crap Did I Start This What Was I Thinking This Book/5k is Going to Kill Me And Just Ugggggggh part 

Now Katy is just getting on my nerves. 

Still running, but it's become a bit more like a trudge. My feet hurt. As do my calves. Is it normal for my breathing to sound like that? I don't think it's normal for my breathing to sound like that. What if I just laid down right here on the ground? Would someone come pick me up, I wonder? Maybe if I was really dramatic about it and caught their attention...

Also still writing at this point, but wondering too if it would really be so bad to just scrap the author dream and flip burgers for the rest of my life instead. I mean, I do love burgers. And french fries. And since I'm doing all this running, I can eat as much of that stuff as I want, right? Isn't that how that works? (side note: I really want a burger now).

I think middles are hardest for me because the novelty/excitement of beginning has worn off, but I'm still so far from the end that I can't really get excited about that, either. Every time I make it through the dreaded middle part of the book, I come out on the other side with no idea of how I managed it. It's usually a blur of just getting up every day and sitting down at the computer and making it happen. I'm counting every tenth of a mile (or every 5k words) as a victory at this point, and trying to celebrate those until I reach...

The Last Mile, aka the Holy Crap I'm Going to Finish This Book part

Okay Katy Perry, you can come back now. Because I can see the finish line! The pain in my feet and calves is gone now. That might be because the heat and exhaustion is causing delusions, but it's okay! I'm going to finish!

And whether I'm running or writing, I love this part. People around me probably don't (particularly when it comes to my writing) because this is the part where I become absolutely, completely, obsessed. There's really no other word for it; I'm in "finish-the-book slash race" mode, and nothing is going to stop me. Not rain or snow or sleet or eating or drinking or showering. (okay, maybe occasionally showering.)

And then, what feels like very suddenly, even though I've been building up to it for miles and tens of thousands of words, I'm done. And I'm all

But face-planting aside, it's a great feeling. So great that, despite the fact that my entire body hates me for it, I'm going to do it all over again tomorrow.

So what about you guys? Do you start out sprinting or trudging?  Do you love middles as much as I hate them? Any advice for enduring a 5k? (or writing a book, perhaps?). Share your thoughts in the comments!

And for those of you in the middle of the NaNo race (or just the writing a book in general race), I wish you endurance and happy thoughts of the finish line! You can do eeet.

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

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1 secret replies:

  1. Great post, Stefanie! I feel like I'm racing when I'm in the brainstorming phase, then as soon as it comes time to start putting things on paper, I freeze up. I tend to write out of sequence so middles aren't really more difficult. I'm still trying to get this whole writing a novel process down, but it does seem to be getting a little easier. Scrivener has been a godsend. ~ Gisele :)