Clarion West Write-a-thon: Complete!

Back in mid-June, I signed up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon, and set myself a goal: add at least 1,000 words a day to my novel. Now, 41 days later, I’ve added 41,653 words, for an average of 1,016 words a day. Success! There were a few individual days where I fell short of 1,000, but it averaged out to over 1,000 a day– plus, every day, the thousands digit of my word count ticked up by 1, according to my daily tracker. All in all, I’m calling it a win.

I did not, unfortunately, meet my secondary goal, which was to finish and submit a short story for the Writers of the Future contest at the end of June. That story just needed more brainstorming. As I wrote in my last Write-a-thon status update, it may yet become my NaNoWriMo novel… or maybe not. I have a hankering to write an urban fantasy this year. Anyway…

As for my current novel, the total word count now stands at 163,772– almost 600 double-spaced pages in Microsoft Word. What makes me even happier is that I think I can finish the entire first draft before I go to WorldCon in August! I’ve actually written all the way to the end; now I’m going back now and filling in a couple of holes in the story which I skipped over earlier. A couple weeks from now, I hope to post a blog entry saying that the first draft is, indeed, done. At which point I can start on the second draft. But that’s another story (no pun intended).

Writing these 41,000 words over 41 days has actually been harder, I think, than the 60,000 words in 30 days that I wrote when I originally started this novel for NaNoWriMo 2009. Starting fresh in NaNoWriMo, it’s easier to be flexible, and change things up if you get stuck– here, I more or less had a set path that I needed to follow, and if I got stuck, I had no choice but to power through whatever scene was holding me up. I still did get stuck once– namely, in the climax, which needs some judicious editing. I was reluctant to tackle that during Write-a-thon, since editing 3,000 words out of the climax would have meant I’d need to write 4,000 more words that day in order to keep my word count up.

But now that Write-a-thon is over, I can delete and revise to my heart’s content. That said, I do plan to keep up one part of Write-a-thon: namely, I plan to continue writing at least 1,000 new words every day. I can edit all I want, but I still have to write 1,000 new words– whether on the novel, or a new short story, or a mix of both. Luckily, I tend to have 4 or 5 projects going at once, so if I get stuck on one and need to spend time brainstorming, there’s still almost always another story that I can still write 1,000 words for. One thousand words also seems to be a good number because it’s substantial, but not overwhelming. If it’s 1 am and I’m sitting at my computer in a zombie-like trance, I can still usually bang out 1,000 words before bed, even if they’ll need substantial editing later.

That, perhaps, will be my biggest takeaway from Write-a-thon: confidence that I can write consistently over a sustained period, and make good progress, without feeling pressure to hit NaNoWriMo-like levels of word count (2000+ a day).

Also, thanks to everyone who donated! It’s not too late to sponsor me (or any other author)– click here to go to my Clarion West author’s page, or click here to see the full list of participating authors.

It’s been a fun experience, and so have the weekly author readings. Next year I’m planning to apply to the Clarion West Workshop itself, which would entail one of the most awesome and educational six weeks ever. There’s a great line-up of teachers next year– they announced the full list at the final author reading of 2011, and while I wasn’t able to write fast enough to get them all down, two names stuck out in my mind: Connie Willis and George R.R. Martin. Next year’s gonna be an awesome Clarion West.

Congrats to all the other Write-a-thon participants, and of course, the workshop graduates! I’m looking forward to meeting y’all at cons and workshops and author signings to come.

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