Writing: Always Up for a Challenge

page with wordsSome people are slow and steady writers while others like binges. I fall somewhere in between, often using a binge to start a project and then completing it at a more deliberate pace.

Why is this important today?

Well, as of tomorrow, I will begin one of the three writing challenges I tend to participate in each year. The most well known is NaNoWriMo, or the National Novel Writing Month in November, but Forward Motion, a writing site that has been my online writing home since I first went looking, runs a number of challenges of its own. The two I try not to miss are May Story a Day and March Madness.

March Madness means a lot of different things to people, many sports related, but for Forward Motion members, it is a mad scramble for words. Traditionally, the challenge runs the last week of the month but this year it ran in three separate sections of which I’m catching the final one.

To participate, I’ve been in a different kind of scramble to create a workable outline. I’ve done March Madness with incomplete outlines before, and most of those while not disasters, didn’t offer me as much wordage as I’d hoped. When I finish an outline, the book has already started working its way into my consciousness. Just looking at my outlines makes this obvious as the first scene blurbs are high-level summaries, but by the time I’m writing the last, you see snippets of dialogue and key phrases. As far as March Madness is concerned, this means a lot more progress than if I have to figure out the intent of each scene on the fly.

I ended up having two outlines vying for the March Madness slot, a sequel to Shafter and a sequel to Beneath the Mask. Trainee was faster out of the gate, but Trina’s story has some critical pieces I haven’t yet figured out. In contrast, Barbara and Aubrey spilled out their tangled tale of arrogance and consequence into my willing ears.

I finished their outline yesterday with 52 scenes and a predicted length (based on an average of 1,500 words per scene of 78,000 words. This doesn’t mean that’s the final count for either measure, as I’ll be adding scenes I failed to see in the outline phase or splitting single scenes into more than one, and the average length depends on how many short scenes compared to how many long scenes it turns out to have.

I still need names for half a dozen characters who “come on screen” fairly early in the story, and may end up writing with the Austen-age convention of Lord W– if I can’t get some of those names into play early today. I also have on my plate to set up my writing environment, not physical, but a Scrivener project. I’ve been writing in Scrivener for a couple years now, and find it a good, lightweight, writing tool. And finally, I’m in the process of rereading every Aubrey scene in Beneath the Mask to make sure his character stays true. I have no such limits on Barbara, as she has not yet been introduced.

I’ve blogged about March Madness on and off over the years. Each one offers its own challenges. This year, the main issues will be necessary research and the names. Still, I’m looking forward to spending time seeped in the story, and hope to get enough momentum going to finish a first draft by the end of June at the latest. We’ll see how that comes about.

How about you? Are you a binger? Do you take advantage of challenges to gain momentum? This could be in anything from quilting, to studying something new, to running, or whatever else. The draw of the dare is a strong one, and used carefully, can work to our benefit as much as causing trouble.

This entry was posted in Challenges, March Madness, Writing Process and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Writing: Always Up for a Challenge

  1. SM says:

    I am a binger I love the rush of a challenge. Once did nano where I wrote 90 k in 30 days. Lol yep I said it 90 k

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      I haven’t done that in quite a few years because I’ve usually got some big programming project due, but yeah, it’s a rush :).

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