December 31, 2010 was our self-imposed deadline. We typed “THE END” tonight at 9:19 PM, simultaneously, even though we are almost 1000 miles apart. “Merciful Blessings” is a 60,000 word Southern women’s fiction book that I and my good friend (and now-writing partner) JJ Dumont talked about writing for years. And now, we’ve completed our first draft, two days ahead of schedule.
We started the character building and plotting during the second week of July when JJ was sufficiently recovered from her 7am-6pm job as an elementary school teacher (August through June) in NJ, and I was coherent enough to put a full sentence together after shoulder surgery, here in Florida. August flew by as we crammed in chapters and minor edits, killed off characters, erased others, and battled family events like visits to and from relatives, a funeral or two, and for me, the launch of a new business. September saw JJ back to the day job, October I toured the writing conference circuit, then came Thanksgiving and Christmas looming on the horizon.
After we got over our whooping and hollering about completing the first draft, we talked about what worked for us in this collaborative process. We agreed that the word count we accomplished during November, when we participated in NANOWRIMO (nanowrimo.com) put us over the top on making our deadline. Had we not forced ourselves into that framework of write, write, write, I doubt that we’d have gotten this completed.
We writers all have the best of intentions, don’t we? We’ll write when _____. Just fill in the blank. Thanks to magical and talented writers like Christine Bush and April Kihlstrom, I learned years ago to make every free moment count and not to rely on those lovely, long, uninterrupted hours that allow me to compose perfect prose. And JJ had the same teachers. We are prone to write scenes and notes on tiny, purse-sized note pads, our Alphasmart units, or a computer if handy.
JJ’s mom has had very serious and difficult heath challenges and JJ can spend up to 10 hours some weeks sitting in waiting rooms, but she puts that time to good use. If she’s not writing, she’s working on the characters for the next book in the series, or making a note about something we’ve messed up in the draft (and there’s no shortage of that stuff, believe me!)
So, I know, completing the first draft isn’t the end at all, but merely the completion of stage one. We’re cool with that. But there is an exhilaration and sense of accomplishment that’s hard to beat when one can write “THE END” on a project.
Anyone care to share a story about a project you’ve completed or how you got there? Regardless of where you are in your writing, just keep going. You can’t fix what ain’t written and you can’t sell it, either!!
Happy New Year and keep writing!