Tag Archives: 3-Day Novel

Writers Write

That really is what this is all about.

Writers write and I haven’t been writing as much as I could. I could blame the migraines – and they are a factor – but really what is wrong is me. I’m afraid that I’ll work really hard and get nowhere. If I only work at 20% of my potential it’s okay that I failed. I wasn’t working very hard anyway.

How’s that for honesty?

Last year, the 3-Day Novel contest was the highlight of my life. It was like training and finishing a marathon. I did what I set out to do and some of it wasn’t half bad. The day after the contest I got up early and went to help out at my Mother’s gymnastics academy. I was stupid, tired, and well stupid. I’m also sure I wasn’t pleasant to be around.

What I wanted to do was continue writing to build on the momentum.

It was a high unlike anything I’d ever experienced and I wanted to feel it again. I remembered that Harlan Ellison quipped something about not needing drugs – he was naturally high all the time. That weekend I understood (at least I think I did – if I got it wrong Mr. Ellison please forgive me). That kind of creation, whole and uninterrupted by anything from the outside world… heady stuff.

This year was different.

By the time I started the 3-Day Novel I was 8 days into a migraine. Day 1 was the killer, everything after that was mind numbing, vocabulary dulling, depression making pain. The type of migraine most often depicted by fiction is a short, day or less, intense burst of pain and nausea. I got that… then after that wore off I got days of midrange pain that the drugs could kick but only for a finite period. When they wore off I was back where I started.

It didn’t help that the last time this happened I had one of these things for 31 days. I didn’t have much hope that it would magically go away.  

But, I can be stubborn. So at 12:01 am on Saturday I started my 3-Day Novel. I wrote for a few hours, went to bed, woke up with a migraine, wrote for awhile, took drugs, went back to bed, got up and wrote for while, then just gave out… only 6k words of the 10k I needed to make my goal.

That night I tried a different drug, hoping it would last longer and I could work more. No such luck, I lost all of Sunday.

Monday, I tried again, only 4.5k and then dinner with friends, because by then I knew two things. 

  1. I didn’t have a 3-Day Novel
  2. I did have a good start for my first full length novel

Out of something bad comes something good.

Tuesday I got up and worked some more – another 3k and some great scenes, hints of discoveries yet to come, and the introduction of a character that makes my heart sing with joy.

Today, Wednesday, I’m up again, writing and working and planning another long day.

What I couldn’t do last year – build on the momentum of the 3-Day Novel Contest – I could do this year. I’m writing more, more consistently. Which is what I needed to do to make this work – stop using migraines, family and friends as tools of procrastination. I write a lot… now it is time to move to the next level and be prolific!

After all… writers write.

~ Tess

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Rituals Part II

On the last day of the year, I did a lot of thinking.

On the first day of this year, I did a lot of planning.

It is funny to me how the scope of my New Year’s life plan has changed. Three years ago I divided my goals into Non-negotiables, Need and Wants.

The Non-Negs included finishing a degree that I’d left hanging for nearly five years. I had a whopping single class with lab left. It was a kick. Science had changed so much that my professor was using techniques regularly that were cutting edge the last time I was in school.

Other Non-Negs included getting the house organized, keeping it really clean and getting healthy. In the end I hired a personal trainer to teach me how to exercise since I didn’t have either the desire or the ability to go back to ballet and I knew there had to be more to it than just showing up at the gym. I also ended up having someone come in to clean my house. That happened just last year when my doctor prescribed it for me in order to take some of the load off of my allergies and migraines.

My Needs were simple – I wanted to NOT work 8 to 5 and I wanted to write.

I got my wish.

My Wants included learning more about Scotch, learning Latin, and getting my PMP (Project Management Professional accreditation). I only succeeded in learning more about Scotch. But I found that the PMP and Latin were, like many things before that, just ways for me to put barriers between myself and what I wanted to be.

Anyone else do that?

Last year’s goals I wrote about in Rituals Part I so I won’t repeat them, enough to say that they were very holistic and very general. This year’s are very tactical. I like my life and I intend to find a way to keep it. It is a combination business plan and life plan.  

  • To continue the blogs – move them to their own websites – leverage them for other writing gigs.
  • To get healthier and learn how to do it on less money.
  • Use Yoga, Mediation, and biofeedback on my migraines – I’ve tried everything else.
  • Reduce my spending (I need to give myself as much time as possible) so no more scotch or wine (except as a reward for submitting stories) and I’ll need to cook more.
  • Write!!!

The last one is the big one. So big in fact that I’ve decided I need to break it down on a monthly basis. So – for this month Musings will post a minimum of 4 times a week. My writing goals for January are to finish a novella by its end of month deadline, write two short stories, and read my 3-Day Novel and see what I think about it four months later.

That’s it. That is the ritual I go through every year. I look at what I want, what drives me, what my Non-Negs, Needs and Wants are and I move forward. 

  • Non-Negs – I never want to go back to corporate life.
  • Needs – Make a living writing.
  • Wants – To enjoy myself!

So what are yours? Macro or micro?

~ Tess Anderson

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The Magic…

I’m still trying to find the magic.

That is probably a problem in and of itself. When I was a stage actor, every once in awhile, I’d have an amazing night. The next night it would be hard not to focus on recreating that wonderful night instead of focusing on the job at hand.

You can’t go back.

I’m wondering if that is my problem right now. It seems that every time I write a short story I am starting from the beginning. Not the beginning of the story – but like I’ve never written anything before. Never completed anything before. Each work unfolds in its own way – in its own time – and none of them take the same path.

A part of me wants to feel what I felt over Labor Day again.

The 3-Day Novel Writing Contest was the most amazing writing experience I’ve ever had. It eclipsed how I felt when I sold my first short story. Afterwards I was exhausted, drained of words, and exuberantly happy. I was also distracted by other commitments in my life so after I recovered I couldn’t give up days to writing.

Now I can – but I love my blogs. I love the feeling of posting every day – of producing content and publishing it. I also love the idea that there is no filter. It is just me – my thoughts – my words – and my audience.

So I’m trying to figure out how to balance all of this. I have an idea – one that scares me a little because it feels crazy. But often the crazy ideas are the best. The only thing is that I never seem to put it into practice. Something always conflicts.

The sane part of me thinks I should just learn how to shift from article writing in the morning, to fiction writing in the afternoon. The insane part of me wants a day – like the days that I took to write “Any Man’s Death” – days where I turned off the phone, the email, and did nothing but write.

Dream on, right?

I can dream. But I think I’m caught in the dream and forgetting the reality of the situation. The reality is that I’ve committed to my blogs – and providing content five days a week – I’ve also committed to writing stories. And once again I’ve put myself in the position of having to learn how to write all over again.

So I’m going to keep working on the practical angle – even while I dream of leaving the world behind and drowning in story. I need to give up the dream, stop focusing on the past, and figure out how to live in my present.

Wow, writing is a lot like life, isn’t it?

~ Tess Anderson

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From 3-Days to 30…

Today is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month! I’m very excited because the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest was so much fun and I’m dying to see what happens when it is expanded to 30 days. I know it won’t feel the same. The 3-Day experience over Labor Day weekend was amazing. It was my first time and it was a blast. The most important things I learned were… 1) Turn off the phone, 2) Turn off email, 3) Write. In the end I produced a 26,000 word novel “Any Man’s Death” and submitted it.  So, 50,000 words in the month of November shouldn’t be a problem.

I love deadlines. I love creativity under pressure!

There was a wonderful Think Out Loud that propelled me into the contest. The topic was (surprise surprise) Creativity Under Pressure  and it reminded me what a rush it when you have a strict timeline and have to produce. Also I think that most of us reason that creativity is something outside our selves, something that comes to us like the mythical Muses, and not something that we work at.

Yet I disagree. I don’t think creativity is like a lightning strike – I think it is a process like anything else. Once that can be learned, honed, and strengthened. Truly creative people don’t have one idea – they have gazillions. They try and fail, try and fail, ad nauseum. They aren’t successful because of a lightning strike and luck – but because they worked for it and had timing on their side.

In “Outliers: The Story of Success”, Malcolm Gladwell looks at the “stories” we tell of successful men and women and how that differs from the reality of how they get where they are. The point of most interest for this discussion is how hard you work at your craft.

Get your 10,000 hours in!

If you want to be great at something you have to spend 10,000 hours doing it, if you want to good aim for 8,000, if you want to be okay 4,000. Doesn’t matter if we are talking about a computer programmer, writer, musician, lawyer… you need those hours. Practice, do, practice do… repeat. The harder you work the better you get… but the magic number appears to be 10,000 hours.

Good writers don’t just write – they write obsessively. Good musicians don’t just practice – they practice obsessively.

Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to be pretty good. I’m pretty good at a lot of things – I was a pretty good actor, a pretty good dancer, a pretty good opera singer, scientist, teacher, project manager….and while I was being pretty good I got to experience a lot of life, different people, different professions. It was great! I didn’t have the drive to spend 10,000 hours at one thing. I wanted to be everything.

But that’s changed now – I’m working on my 10,000 hours.

The more I write, the better I write. The more stories I tell, the better I get at telling them. The more ideas I use, the more ideas I come up with.

There are some concepts that you read and they stick with you… for me it was the idea of “Failing Faster”. In Robert Sutton’s book “Weird Ideas that Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation” the weird idea that spoke to me the most was failing. In his chapter about “reward(ing) success and failure, punish(ing) inaction” he talks about rewarding intelligent failures and to “remember that innovation is largely a function of productivity”. Later in the book he talks about killing failed ideas quickly but not reducing the rate of failure. Failure is okay and as long as you keep trying it can be the road to success.  

I think of it as throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.

So how does this all relate to the 3-Day Novel Contest and National Novel Writing Month? It’s simple really – I think, for me, creativity and productivity are related to assured outcomes. It is incredibly difficult for me to write a story knowing that the odds are against publication. But if the object is the process and the outcome assured (I get certificates for each of the events/contests) then suddenly I’m reveling in the journey not the destination. Ideas flow and are weeded out, pruned back, and harvested. There is pressure, there is a deadline, and there is something I can say I accomplished.

Strangely enough – it is enough.

So I feel that I am working on my 10,000 hours – because I want to be a great writer – and I am failing faster – trying different things, genres, methods, formants and styles. And I’m using contests, events, and this blog to get me there.

Thanks for joining me on the journey!

~ Tess

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