Hitting the Halfway Point

Boulder Polar Plunge 2013 1

When I wrote my 25, 000th word for National Novel Writing Month, it reminded me of swimming through the Boulder Reservoir to touch the ice during the Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. They’re both a sink or swim venture.  It got tough when I could barely touch the bottom. My legs and arms grew heavy with the cold and they moved in slow motion. In place of the silly grin I wore while splashing into the frigid water was sheer determination and a painful wince. One of the lifeguards standing on the pier shouted, “Do you need help?” It was hard to breathe, but I yelled back, “I can do it!”

I don’t know how many have dropped out of NaNoWriMo already, but the numbers have got to be high. I think writing 50,000 words in a month takes a certain kind of endurance. Crazy endurance. It’s for crazy people who have the time to commit, or in my case should be committed, but also have a lot of nerve and stamina. I love taking on new challenges and always have.

Not everyone can sit down and write on command. It can be intimidating to stare at a blank page. I’ve never had writer’s block. Maybe it’s all those Thursdays I found myself on a deadline and would crank out a Friday flash fiction or the stream-of-conscious writing exercises from a year ago when I woke up every morning for a month and wrote one word at time in a notebook until I filled a page. In both, I wrote the first thing that popped into my head.

I learned to trust myself. That’s what it takes. Trust. I never freak out. I think that’s the key. I don’t focus on one thing, but let the story take over like a dream. It seems to write itself. When I sit down, I let my mind wander around the scene while I imagine the surroundings and what it must feel like. Then I let my characters hang out in the space. If there’s a decision that makes them more awkward or uncomfortable to create tension and drama that’s the direction I take.

My first book was written by the seat of my pants and went through many revisions. I planned out this book with what James Rollins calls, tent poles. My ideas are written on post-it notes and stuck to a big W so I know where I’ll end up. The fun part for me is the adventure in getting there. I’m on edge while I’m writing as my plot thickens and my character gets into more trouble. She doesn’t know what’s up ahead.

This NaNoWriMo adventure also appeals to my competitive nature. I love updating my word total since it’s a rush to see how fast it accumulates. Having buddies ahead and behind keeps me going too. I’m hanging right in the middle of my small pack. If I continue to write 2000 words per day, I should finish several days early.

I’ll hit thirty grand words today after pushing through the last few days. I thought it would be easier after hitting the halfway point and I would float in with the tide to the finish. Instead I checked my word total like a nervous tick while my arms and legs remained numb.

polar plunge 2013

Now I can touch bottom again and am using my arms to pull me forward. I’m in it to win it. I can do this! Some of my buddies have dropped out and are on the pier with the lifeguard cheering the rest of us on. I’m still in the center of my small pack. I’m swimming away from the icy cold water in the middle of my 50,000 word lake. The water is getting warmer and I can see the shoreline up ahead.

Can you write under a deadline?

50 thoughts on “Hitting the Halfway Point

  1. You rock, Susie! I did NaNoWriMo in 2010 after one of my Facebook friends posted something about it. I had never heard of the crazy writing exercise, but was looking to fill my schedule after grad school and it was the perfect experiment to keep me writing. I completed those 50,000 words on November 30th and have never done the challenge again. One of these days, I’ll give it another whirl, but for now, I’m content to watch others go through it. Keep up the great work and you’ll get there in no time!

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    • Thanks Jess! It’s inspiring to hear you finished! I’m just over 31,000 now. I’m getting closer every day. The stats they put up for me with every word count update really helps.
      I think the timing has to be right.
      I’m reading Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel and it’s really inspiring! If I finish ahead like I’m planning, I’ll be more motivated in the future. We’ll see!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Marcy! You’re one of the lucky ones. Many writers freeze under those conditions. I’ve found a rhythm. I hit it in the morning and keep pushing until I hit 2000 words. If I have time, I hit again in the afternoon! Hit, hit hit those keys! Okay, now I’m losing it! Ha!

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    • Thanks Phil! I appreciate your cheer from the sideline!
      I’m hammering away at it. I felt sorry for my protagonist in the first book, but she’s really putting her foot in it in the second. It’s a blast discovering how deep she can get.She’s already wearing hip-waders. 🙂

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  2. Having worked for newspapers for over 28 years, deadlines became numb to me. I often found myself begging the production director to accept my late copy.
    Now that I’m retired I no longer wear a watch, and no clock or calendar can be found nearby. The only way I know what day it is, is when the big newspaper is found on the driveway. That means it’s Sunday.

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    • Ha! That’s one way to mark time. 🙂
      If you’re still writing, I bet you really get lost in your character’s world these days. I love that feeling when the scene sweeps you away and the time flies.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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    • Thanks so much Michelle! I had no idea when I began whether I could do it or not. At this point, I know I can. *I think I can. I think I can. I think I can*
      The NaNoWriMo door opened for me right when I was ready to start on the second book. I decided to hammer it out. That way I can “seed” my first before publishing!

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  3. To answer your question… “I don’t know”. I’ve never been in the position to have a deadline. And I only write short things anyway… and if the inspiration is not there, then I don’t write. But then, I’m not a big shot professional writer like some people I know. How is that thing I’m not supposed to mention coming along? I’m looking forward to a trip back to Boulder someday (and I’m not getting any younger).

    I forgot that you were one of the crazies brave souls who take the icy plunge on New Years Day. Will be interesting to hear about the one coming up.

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      • It’s no secret that I’ve been writing a book. After writing the second in the series, I want to take a good look at the first and revise it. Now my character’s stakes are super intense and they’ll lead right into the second and continue to be a running part of the plot however long the series lasts! I’m still learning so much about the craft. I plan to query agents in 2015!
        Thanks Ted! it’s always great to “see” you! I’ll let you know if I get any agent nibbles. Thanks for being a great cheerleader!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is why I don’t participate (despite my giant pile of cheating this year)…writing is an art. The piece has to flow at its own pace, even if it’s only a hundred-and-change words at a time. In fact, I never even pay attention to my word count in the process of writing my own stuff, so that’s why this whole “word chase” thing tends to be…daunting isn’t the word. Perhaps “annoying” is.

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    • It doesn’t work for everyone. I didn’t know if it would work for me, but it does. It definitely helped to have a extremely general outline before starting. At first I really relied on those post-it notes. Now the story has taken on its own life. I know the ending and I’m looking forward to the insanity that will be the climax! Thanks for the Facebook cheers Daya!

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    • The Polar Plunge is refreshing and over with before you know what hit you! I figured since the Scandinavians did it to live a longer life, I would try it! I skipped last year, with everything that happened to me health-wise, but it’s not off the table this year, if they do another!
      I’ve realized, I’m a deadline person. if it looms, I get it done!

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  5. I like deadlines. I just met one last week, when I turned in another manuscript to my editor. But i have to say even though I think I’ve managed my time well, I always find myself writing like a crazy woman the last few days, only stopping for tea or toast or a quick pacing of the halls. Such a relief when you get there though. 🙂 Good luck, Susie!

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    • Congratulations! I’m still working on my first. It’s getting closer and through writing the second, I can see exactly what I need to do.
      I think it’s hard to cry Uncle and call it good enough! I’ve done that a couple of times already and then went back to revising. I think it’ll be worth it. 2015 will be the year. I just know it!
      Thanks Coleen!

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    • I remember I took a reeeeeeeally warm shower before we got in the car and drove to the mountains! *shiver*
      Thanks so much Lisa! I’m getting there. I hit 36,000 today and am starting the climax. My poor, poor protagonist is under the impression that she solved one of her big problems. Ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. On of my favorite feelings, Susie, is when I’m in my writer’s zone and what I’m writing “seems to writing itself”. I’m glad that you’re experiencing that feeling. If it were a thing or an object it would be sex or chocolate.

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  7. Congrats, Susie. I admire your efforts. I can’t write under or over a deadline. Mostly, as you know, poetry is my game though once in a while I will venture into the world of prose. Keep up with the good work. 🙂

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  8. I can’t get past that cold water thing you did! I hate cold water, I can’t imagine even contemplating it!

    I definitely write (or do anything) much better to a deadline, so I guess that’s why I managed to do NaNo whereas if I just try and sit and write other times, my mind is blank!

    You’re into the home straight now with NaNo…well nearly, a long home straight, but you can see the finish line! Well…nearly 🙂

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    • Awww! Thanks so much! I didn’t know if it would work for me since I’ve never been under any kind of real deadline other than my own for writing blog posts. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m at 36,000 and know I’ll finish soon. The best part is knowing I can write the skeleton of a book in a few weeks. I can just imagine my own pep talk in the future.. “Come On! Suck it up! You’ve done this before. Just write!” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Way to go, Susie! You’re well on your way.
    I love what you said about trusting yourself when you sit down to write. That’s great advice, and I’m going to remind myself the next time I feel stuck staring at the blank page. Have you read Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird? She suggests that we give ourselves permission to write “shitty first drafts” and I suspect that a lot of that has to do with trust as well.

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    • Thanks so much Jackie!
      It may be easier for me since I wasn’t trained as a writer. I graduated in art! I don’t have any baggage or huge expectations. Instead, I’m like a sponge. I plan to rewrite my first book since I learned so much while writing the second. I find the whole process a blast!

      Believe me, my first draft will always be really shitty. I haven’t reread any of it. The story is super suspenseful though and I’ve been on the edge of my own seat! Ha! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Woah! Polar plunge… Not something I’d do if I was paid… The best sort of writing is when it seems to write itself – the subconscious stream of consciousness, as it were. All the best for NaNo!

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    • Thanks Matt and for the Tweetage!
      It was pretty dang cold as I recall. 🙂 It was the first thing that came to mind as I struggled past the halfway point. Now I’m charging ahead! *shoreline…shoreline…shoreline…*

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  11. Good luck with your writing adventure. I didn’t participate this year, as I’m knee deep in novel revisions. I actually have no problem writing on command, as long as the conditions are right. For instance, if I was trapped in a sinking car and someone told me to write…I’m not sure I could pull it off. 🙂

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  12. Pingback: What Twins, Who Inhabit My Brain, and NaNoWriMo Taught Me | Susie Lindau's Wild Ride

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