Benefits of Bravery: Going Public Fear(less)ly

Benefits of Bravery: Going Public Fear(less)ly

In the middle of August, I took a big risk and made a somewhat rash and public pledge on this blog: Finish my novel by September 30 or…

…well, I didn’t say what the “or” might be. Only that you, dear reader, would hold me accountable. And yes, you certainly did.

Just a reminder: I compared my sluggish progress on my novel in progress to how I dropped out of aquafit some years ago (the old “life gets in the way” excuse) but that returning to regular exercise was finally showing some results.

person-947709_640I reasoned the same could happen for my novel, if I only made it a regular habit to write…the novel. (I write almost every day, just not always the novel.) In fact, there have been times I’d slipped so far away from the story that I couldn’t recall important plot elements.

On Friday, September 30, I “finished” The Last Battlewipe. And then spent the next four days making it better.

I’m still not done with the editing but I can happily report that my self-imposed kick in the pants has generated much more than a full draft. I also gained three other important results.

Result Number One:

woman-41201_640Once I made the commitment to get the darn thing done, I had to shift my thinking from write to reach the finish to a much more challenging finish to reach the writing. Accordingly, I became far more focused on the vital pieces of the novel: character arc, story structure, logic/plot glitches and glossovers.

The very act of committing to finishing the work meant I had to think deeply about what I was trying to achieve and ensure that this was foremost as I wrote those final scenes.

Result Number Two:

kisses-1039533_640I’m excited again. Like a teenaged love affair, writing is often all starry eyed and passionate at the start. It’s an adventure following those characters, letting them surprise me, discovering personality quirks and adorable idiosyncrasies.

Until the “adorable” wears off and I realize I’ve let my characters and story run off the rails following a lot of useless material. And I’m bored.

For a lot of writers, it’s at that point that the murky, muddy middle of the book wears you down.

Enter the panic of a public deadline coupled with the realization that I have a lot more novels waiting for me to write. I had to finish this one. And all that panic stuff – it made the writing exciting for me once more. But because of Result Number One, I brought focus to the rekindled love affair. So much better to be a grown up.

Result Number Three:
black-84715_640Last month, I had a fantastic pitch session at North Words Literary Festival. A query letter and the first ten pages resulted in an enthusiastic agent asking to see the rest.

I left that festival on a tremendous high: someone gets me and what I’m trying to do with The Last Battlewipe. So how was it that the first ten pages so intrigued the agent when I was still building the last quarter?

First, to keep working on the ending I had to revisit the beginning. Again. And again. Those ten pages that agent read were shaped and pared and rewritten dozens of times. Every time I set a stone in place at the end of the book, I had to return to the foundation and ensure it could hold that stone.

Second, I believe if I hadn’t got back to the story, I wouldn’t have been clear in my mind about the themes and ideas I am exploring in The Last Battlewipe. And I think my heightened focus and restored passion for my novel is contagious. I was able to carry that focus and passion into the session. It’s no guarantee that my wonderful fifteen minute pitch time will land me that agent but it sure was the 2 a.m. rocket fuel that has kept me focused on perfecting the finish line.

One more thing.

My aquafit regime? Ooops. I’ve let that one slip and my recent BIC woman-1539087_640(bum in chair) has done little to get my physical energy back on track. So I am still “a work in progress” on more than one front. But I guess we all are.

I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, back to the edit chair.

Do You Know…what an agent will see when they look at your query letter? Register for our November retreat when a top Canadian literary agent, Hilary McMahon, is Writescape’s special guest and she’s staying for the weekend to share insights, inspiration and a morning workshop.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

10 thoughts on “Benefits of Bravery: Going Public Fear(less)ly

  1. Of course they asked to see the rest! It’s a great story. I want to read the rest.

    North Words was a great event! WCDR members scores all round! 😉 Tobin and I got asked for the full manuscript for Revelations and I got asked for the full for Archibald.

    I think that Tobin and I are proof that writing doesn’t have to be a solitary act.

    1. Thanks Dale. As to collaborative writing, you and Tobin are an amazing writing team. You have crafted a fine novel together — such an original story. We’ll be seeing Revelations as well as your lovely Archibald on bookstore shelves.

  2. As I was reading your blog, I thought, just what I need to do…set a deadline. Then my heart began to race until I threw that thought away. On sober second thought I’ve decided on a less ambitious goal. By the end of October, I will have written 3 new chapters. Okay, got to go.

  3. Oh Ruth, congratulations on finishing your manuscript, “The Last Battlewipe”! Your blog is the perfect analysis of most of my big novel projects… I seem to run off the rails and get lost, wondering where the heck I was going in the first place, so you made me laugh. You are 100% right when you say commitment is the key. I write every day, but tend to ride different trains (short stories, novels, articles, blogs, etc.), so running off the rails becomes quite common for me. I absolutely love your comparison of finding your new excitement with the novel being “like a teenaged love affair”, all starry-eyed and passionate. So spot-on. Thanks for that. I’m diving back into my “focus” mode now. Wish me luck. 😉

    1. Lori — Appreciate your kind words and so nice that you were there when this book baby was conceived at the Muskoka Novel Marathon 2014. I wish you more than luck. I wish you days and days of focus and lots of hooray! moments.

  4. Thank you, Ruth. Your blog describes perfectly how I was stuck in the murky, muddy middle of my novel. I really thought I was the only one who got bogged down like that. I had a beginning and and end, but the middle was giving me problems. I can now see a glimmer of light as to where my characters are going and am getting excited about it again. Looking forward to reading your book.

    1. Writing is a solitary act and we often tend to think that we are “the only ones” who face challenges in the process. It’s always reassuring to discover we share similar mountains to climb. Hang on to your rediscovered excitement and let it carry you through to a full manuscript, ready to go.

  5. I loved your blog post. You have very aptly described the apathy that so many writers fall victim to when writing a novel and offered a solution to regain focus and restore passion.

    Wishing you every success.

    1. Thanks, Gayle. I suspect it’s like that for writers of all genres and styles — short stories, essays, plays, etc. Call it confusion, boredom or apathy, some of us drop the threads and lose the heart of our work. After that, it’s easy to drift away to new shiny passions. I’m glad I didn’t give up on my novel and I appreciate your good wishes. If I land that agent/publishing deal, you can be sure I’ll write about it here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *