After my last big push to get my second teen novel finished, I ended up having several days of muscle spasms and inflamed shoulder, back and neck muscles. While I don’t have the wrist problems that plague many writers, I do run the risk of muscle spasms when I overdo it at the computer. Although I did manage to write my personal best number of pages per day, and I was able to write and revise for several days after that, after I completed the project and sent it on its way the physical problems took hold. There comes a point when I have to disengage from the computer keyboard all together in order to give those muscles a rest and time to heal.
I’m still having some problems but not as much as before, so I thought I’d try to blog. If you’re wondering how many pages I wrote in one day, the answer is sixty. The last time I pushed like that I managed to do around fifty pages. Do I recommend anyone doing this? Not particularly, but there are interesting things that happen along the way when you do stay with the story over that long a time. The more I wrote, the deeper I delved into the story and its characters, and the more the story flowed.
Taking the Donald Maass intensive writing workshop a couple of weeks ago probably went a long way toward my being able to do this. I used my teen novel as the selected work for the workshop. Every morning from 9:00 am — 12:30 pm we did exercises with the plot and characters that added layers and deepened our understanding of the story. So I held the evolving book in my head and worked with it daily for more than ten days before I began the marathon writing. The story and its evolution during the week became stronger. In essence I front-loaded my subconscious with all the information and held it back until that weekend, so the story burst out much like the rush of water from a broken dam. My job was to catch the words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs as they came.
I have to say the book is much stronger after going through the Maass workshop. I ended up adding new scenes and starting others from scratch. It was a total re-visioning of the story. And that sometimes happens. Sometimes you get a story right the first time around and all that your revisions accomplish is a refinement of the original first draft; but there are other times when you might have to completely start over and throw out fifty, sixty, or eighty percent of the completed work. Every story is different with its own nature and its own demands. One of the hardest things to learn is which is which. I’m still trying to figure that one out.