Thursday, March 31, 2016

7Ks and Beyond



Are you presently grappling with a writing project? Do you feel you’ve hit a patch of resistance and wonder whether the work’s ever going to gain momentum? I’m in the process of readying my third YA manuscript, Activate, for professional edits. You might think by this stage of the YA series, the creative process would have great traction, but I must confess there’ve been many points of wrestling along that manuscript development path.
When contemplating some early revision challenges, I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with a friend who’d been doing a lot of long distance running. (Think half-marathons.) They mentioned how the 7Km mark still hurt, each and every time they hit it. (Personally, I think the 1Km mark is more where things start to bite ... but anyway ...) No matter how many times they ran longer distances, there was still a point where they had to break through fatigue and bodily resistance, before they’d find their rhythm and settle into their run.

I believe we’re called to share words that move hearts, change lives, and bring hope into a world where things don’t always seem hopeful. Resistance is a given. But my friend’s comment got me thinking. Maybe some of that grappling we experience when developing a manuscript beyond the initial raw draft, is a little like finding our writing rhythm.

A decade ago I began studying creative writing at a post-graduate level. This involved writing to set criteria, including submitting a proposal at the outset of a project, along with providing a sample of a VERY raw early draft. I swiftly learned that once I’d settled onto an idea, there just wasn’t time to mess about changing my mind if it seemed things weren’t working. Another valuable lesson was that I couldn’t edit nothing.

Often when we hit resistance in life, we’re tempted to jump out of the process; to change the topic; to run in the opposite direction. Our writing habits can reflect this general response. (Anyone else out there with half a dozen or more ‘first chapters’ hidden in a folder somewhere?)

As you might remember, I’m a great believe in timing, and resistance may also be an indicator that the timing isn’t quite right for a certain project. Yet, there is an element of discipline we must apply to our writing. I’m beginning to suspect that in every writing project, not matter how many writing years are under our belt, we’ll encounter a ‘7Km mark’ (or few!), where it can be tempting to give up and start something different. But just as sticking at a task eventually sees progress, I believe we grow as writers when we persist in the face of manuscript development challenges, especially when working to set criteria or topics.

Granted, there are times we need to put work aside for a season. To move forward, it’s also important to connect with other more experienced writers, seek feedback and invest in our craft. But if you feel you have a story to share and it’s just not coming together, maybe you’ve met your 7Km mark. Don’t give up. Your rhythm might be found just another kilometre away.

Queensland author Adele Jones writes young adult and historical novels, poetry and short inspirational, fiction and non-fiction works. Her first YA novel Integrate was awarded the 2013 CALEB Prize for unpublished manuscript. Her writing explores issues of social justice, humanity, faith, natural beauty and meaning in life’s journey. For more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com or contact@adelejonesauthor.com

21 comments:

  1. Great post Adele. I think your analogy of our writing life being like a long distance runner's life is very apt. Perseverance is needed in every sphere of life—and definitely in our writing life too. Well done on getting to this final stage in your 3rd YA novel. You are inspirational. I loved your first two books so am looking forward to the next!

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    1. Thanks, Anusha. Perseverance is definitely a pre-requisite for writing, and as you say, life in general. I know you apply this to your own writing, consistently putting pen to paper (or is it finger to keyboard???) in your blogging and more. I really appreciate your encouragement regarding the Integrate trilogy. It can seem a long way from first draft to book-in-hand, so it's important to count each milestone as it's reached. Many kilometres to go yet, but I hope you enjoy the third novel as much as the first two.

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  2. Thanks, Adele--a very timely post for me right now! I can't claim to be a long-distance runner by any means, but I walk quite a bit and have noticed how I get into a kind of rhythm after a while. Now to apply that to my writing and keep pressing on.

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    1. I'm always amazed at how my long distance running friends make long runs look easy. How much their own account must vary from my onlooker's perspective. Sometimes when I read exquisitely polished writing, it can be hard to imagine the author wrestling over each line and struggling to find their stride, but they probably did. It's definitely worth pressing on to find our stride - trust you settle into a great rhythm with your current work, Jo.

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  3. Thank you, Adelle. I needed to hear this. To the 7km mark and beyond!

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    1. Sorry for misspelling your name ;)

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    2. Go, Sue! :D Trust you burst through that 7Km barrier and complete this leg of your race in style. No worries about the spelling.

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  4. Great post Adele. I can relate to that. (Though if I was running a half-marathon, I think my breakthrough point would be more like 200 m). I have many half-finished projects that have never seen the light of day. With my current manuscript, I think it was at about the 14 000 word mark. There were about 5 months when I didn't write anything. 'Who am I kidding? I can't write a novel.' But seeing the way you persevered with your projects really inspired me. Now I'm up to 104 000 words and determined to finish. It's easy to look at what still lies ahead and groan. But little by little, with God's help and great critique partners, it will be finished. Thanks for a timely post :)

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    1. I hear you, Nola. How often does that whisper tickle our ears? 'What were you thinking trying to write that?' Long breaks don't help our writing rhythm either (or any other type, for that matter), but can be a reality of life at times. Great to see how much progress you've made! I look forward to reading the completed story.

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  5. Hi Adele,
    Yeah, what a great analogy. Working on a reasonable sized writing project is indeed like a marathon. I second your encouragement to persevere and push through. With writing especially, the long, hard yards can get lonely, especially when we're unsure of ourselves. But how satisfying it is when we finish.

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    1. Thanks, Paula. Such a valid point you've made in relation to the isolation that can come with writing, too. It's so important to have a great writer support network, but in a practical sense it's often just you and the page (screen :) ). Definitely a great satisfaction to see a project to completion.

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  6. Great post, dear Adele. So appropriate to our writing. Just hanging in there finally gets the job done. But some rest stops along the way seem to work well for me. Coming back to what I thought was a 'finished' manuscript, means I often make several important changes. BTW Inspirational Romance is no longer my sign- in. It's now ritastellapress.com (maybe Google doesn't like I'm now with Weebly.) :)

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    1. Indeed, Rita, times of rest are also important to make the distance. (I've just had some forced ones in the last few months, in a number of areas.) I agree, it's always valuable to put a manuscript in a drawer for a little while, after 'completion'. Time can provide much perspective. Trust your own writing tracking along nicely.

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  7. When you want to say something really positive because this is an excellent post but you're on the last, lonely hill before the finish line and your brain doesn't want to work any more ... or write your synopsis, or query letters ... gunna make it, gunna make it, gunna make it, gunna make ...

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    1. Yes, Mazzy, you ARE going to make it! :) There is that point in a long race, when your lungs are exploding, your legs are jelly, and all you can do is keep running ... staggering ... tripping ... because you know the end is soooo close, but you've got nothing left. In the writing context, it's usually then you're certain everything you write is ridiculous, you feel you can't possible make it any better, but you're committed. You MUST go on! Gonna make it, Mazzy, gonna make it ...

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  8. Hi Adele. Thanks for a great post. For myself, I've found the third book in a trilogy harder to write than the first because it has to do so much more, bring all those threads together and make them work. Like Anusha - I'm looking forward to reading Activate :)

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    1. I agree, Jeanette. The third book has definitely been the most complex one to bring together - and in a similar word count to the first two. All those loose ends and secrets that must be brought to light. I really hope all the hard work brings together a product readers thoroughly enjoy. I know you fully appreciate the behind-the-scenes contortions involved in achieving that goal. :)

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  9. Thanks Adele. Timely post for me, on my first round of edits after bashing out a story that had me questioning the wisdom of it all! Your analogy is great, as I often think of those times when writing has 'flow' - sometimes it has it, other times it needs a whole lotta polish!

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    1. Congratulations, Carolyn. What a great achievement. After wallowing in the first round editing quagmire, we can forget we've just completed something quite remarkable. Even if it's taken a Jacob-sized wrestle to achieve (or so it feels!). I come to the belief that 'flow factor' is largely related to habit and writing frequency. And that's what really struck me when doing my masters degree. Even when I felt my creative juices were completely dried up, that muscle memory of habitual writing would kick in and I'd at least get something down, even if I had to delete half of it later. As mentioned above, if we have to edit rubbish, we're miles ahead of having nothing to edit. :)

      Thanks for commenting. All the best with your writing project!

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  10. Great post Adele about timing and pushing on.

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    1. Thanks, Dale. Some of those pushing seasons feel longer than others, but when we persist and the timing becomes right, it can be a pretty amazing journey.

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