Two weeks ago, I spent 7 days writing the third draft of my novel. It’s the first time I’ve ever completed a story from beginning to end. The first and second draft of this story, written in short increments (usually just 15 minutes a day) over the past 2.5 years, were never really “finished.” I’d stop working on the draft a few chapters shy of the actual end because I was still working that part out. But this time I did it. I really finished the book (this version of it anyway).

Karra Barron Novel Writing October 2015 Update

I thought it would be interesting to capture some of my thoughts and feelings during this period. I wrote all day long, typically for 8 hours, with my longest sprint being 15 hours straight on the last day. However, the notes below don’t really capture one of my takeaways form this week of writing: it’s hard and slow-going before it becomes easy, but at some point, the words seem to just flow out of you. I hardly noticed that 15 hours had gone by, I was so engrossed in what I was doing. It was pretty amazing to reflect on this after the fact. Anyway, here are my little journals:

Day 1 – October 5

I am mentally drained as I write this. Not so much drained of my creativity like I can’t get out another word of prose, but more like I’m tired. I didn’t get a restful night sleep and I woke up several times, knowing full well that it would affect my first writing day as a “temporarily unemployed young writer.” Doesn’t that sound very Hemingway of me?

His is the only autobiography I’ve ever read and technically I didn’t read a bio. I read A Moveable Feast, which I got in Paris last year. It taught me one of the most important lessons that I’m going to try and abide by this week: Don’t write until your empty. Leave a little bit so that tomorrow, you have more to say.

So I’m stopping. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I want to start fresh with a better night’s sleep tomorrow.

I did manage to churn out over 1.5 chapters today. I’m doing that thing again where I come up with scenes out of nowhere, unplanned and uncalled for, but I think they’re going to work really well with the rest of the story.

Day 4

My butt hurts from sitting around all the time, but it doesn’t matter because for once I’m doing something that I genuinely love. That I would gladly get sore muscles from. That I would starve myself for. That I would lose sleep over. This book, writing this story, is everything to me right now. Even my body can’t stop me from doing what my mind and heart so desperately need me to do right now.

Day 6

I’m so close to finishing this draft right now. About four to five chapters away. It’s exciting, but also unbelievable. What I’ve discovered though is that this isn’t going to be the final draft before I give it to readers to edit/judge. The story is solid, where I want it to be, but it’s not how I want it to be. I’m reading Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series right now and let me tell you, the woman has a way with words. Her metaphors, her descriptions in dialogue, her prose is on point. Next draft after this will be about refining the story, making it better. But I’ve got the plot pretty down now. So I’m still deliriously happy. Tonight, I’m going to finish this story. For reals.

Day 7 – Oct 10/oct 11

So I think I’m a real, honest to goodness fiction writer now.
Because it’s 6:53am on Sunday morning and I am done writing my story.
I have the first word and the last word and everything in between.
I know more versions are coming, with edits to certain words, paragraphs even, are coming.
But this is the first time, this story feel honest to goodness done.
I’m so tired I can’t even come up with anymore adjectives. But I’m so happy. So incredibly satisfied and amazed and proud and excited.
I have the title too: [editor’s note: sorry, keeping this a secret for now!].
It fits. It’s right.
Everything is right.

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Flower arrangementI’ve been struggling for the past few days to find the right way to write my novel and it didn’t help that I’d watched The Book Thief last night. It was such a masterpiece of storytelling – great plot, fantastic dialogue and exquisite word choices – that I wanted to echo it in my own writing. I can only imagine how much better the book is and it’s now on my reading list. Anyway, as I rewrote a scene this morning, I kept deleting words until finally I let my stream of conscious go and write whatever. It was crap t o say the least.

Afterwards, I went on my last long run before SeaWheeze next week (18k since I’m still following my marathon training plan for fun). Usually when I go for a run, I come up with some really good ideas for my novel. But two hours later, I was physically and mentally exhausted. The right idea just wouldn’t come. Although I did do some good, hard thinking about what kind of person my main character is.

When I sat down again to write, I was hesitant. Should I just keep writing off of the crap from earlier? Should I try again?

I ended up doing the latter and without even realizing it, about 45 minutes later, I had a scene that was actually good. And it was perfectly setting up another scene that I had been struggling to keep or not. It was such an awesome feeling to come out of my writing cloud and realize that sometimes to write a story, you just have to let the words come. You can’t force it.

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Mindy and Danny. Image from: The Vulture

Disclaimer: There are The Mindy Project spoilers in this post. Turn away now if you know what’s good for you and finish the current 2 seasons of the show. You will be glad you did.

Ah, the rom-com sitcom. I can’t remember the last time I watched a really good TV show that had all the trappings of one of my favorite movie genres: romantic comedy. I just finished binge-watching The Mindy Project over the past two days and I have to say that I’m on a little bit of a major high right now from this show.

There is nothing I love more in books, movies or real-life than opposites/enemies finding out that they are actually perfect for each other. I didn’t think Danny and Mindy would work out, but the writers of the show did a fantastic job of planting the seeds for this relationship throughout the first season of the show. You knew it was coming, and you wanted it to happen, but you didn’t know when or how. It’s the same kind of writing that gets me to stay up late at night reading a romance novel, especially the young adult fiction kind.

There’s just something so cute about the way teenagers fall in love. The hormones, the cliques, the self-consciousness…there’s so many things keeping them from seeing what’s been in front of them all along (i.e. the best guy friend who’s memorized her favorite Chinese take-out order). And then, when she gets the guy of her dreams, she just truly believes in her heart that he is the only one she will ever be with.

That’s a fun world to escape into sometimes. But what was so great about The Mindy Project was that Mindy dated a lot of guys who weren’t all frogs. You got to go along with her as she learned how to be herself and to be honest about her feelings, something that is very hard to do when you’re dating someone new. And through it all, she managed to find Danny, the best kind of friend, who comforted her, listened to her, challenged her, and of course, infuriated her.

The show writers knew how to get you to fall in love with this couple and to root for them and it was so satisfying when that first kiss finally happened. Perfect setting, perfect set up.

As an aspiring novelist, these are the kinds of stories I love to tell. They may be cheesy at times or hard to get through, but they make us smile so hard while we’re reading that our cheeks hurt by the end and we barely notice (actually, we can barely stop smiling). I want to write stories about two people who take a long time to fall in love and the circumstances that come up preventing them from getting to that long awaited first kiss. I love the idea of love and I hope that the stories I write do this amazing feeling justice.

Well done, writers of The Mindy Project. You guys make falling in love both funny and awesome.

Image source: The Vulture

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“In 10 minutes, you can write 250 words. If you write just 250 words everyday for a year, you will have 80,000 words – that’s the length of the average Canadian novel.”

Sylvia Taylor on finding the time to write. Sylvia was a panelist at the “Getting Started, Getting Published” session of the 2012 North Shore Writer’s FestivalCheck out my post filled with more takeaways from the session.

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Top Vancouver bloggers share blogging tips

Even though I’ve been blogging on and off for four years now, I’m always interested to learn tips from other bloggers. So I was excited that the North Shore Writer’s Festival had a Secrets of Successful Bloggers panel made up of some of the city’s top bloggers:

Sean Cranbury – Books on the Radio

Rebecca Bollwitt – Miss604

Kelsey Dundon – The Anthology

Jeannette Ordas – Everybody Likes Sandwiches

Jenn Farrell – Canada Fancy (moderator)

Here are some of the great advice and stories they shared:

On Starting a Blog

Sean: I lost my job and wanted to go back to writing and books. About 3 to 4 months in, I realized that it wasn’t just about my voice and what I wanted to say… it was about my readers.

Rebecca: You have to be passionate about what you’re writing about since it’ll be easier to write topics and find weekly themes that way.

Jeannette: I liked food. Starting my blog encouraged me to explore more in the kitchen.

Kelsey: Getting comments from people who aren’t your mom is a big deal. I learned quite early to respond. Eventually it made me realize that I had a brand.

On Promoting your Blog

Sean: I do participation by engaging with other people on their blogs. You have to hustle to make connections. Share other people’s work on your Facebook page. Post relative information everywhere. Don’t give people the sense that you’re promoting or selling something.

Rebecca: My #1 referrer is Google, so I use keywords in posts and titles, but don’t overuse them.

Jeannette: I promote just by being engaged and being part of a community. When you leave a comment, make it an engaging one so you’re starting a conversation.

Kelsey: Put out content that your readers will share on your behalf. When it’s compelling and unique, your readers will hopefully fall in love with it and want to put it out to their communities.

On Engagement Outside your Blog

Kelsey: What drives traffic is being on Facebook and Twitter. It’s about having different touchpoints and finding new members of your audience. Play around with analytics and pay attention to who’s coming from where and why.

On Making Money Blogging

Rebecca: Don’t go in wanting to blog for the sake of making money. Some ways to do it are through Google Ads, paid content (I don’t do this), and Google Adsense.  If you’re fully committing to monetization, you can try image advertising, speaking opportunities, and side business referrals.

Jeannette: My blog works as a calling card that leads readers to my side business.

On Staying Motivated

Kelsey: Motivation is different from inspiration. Set deadlines and encourage interaction to slowly build that readership. For inspiration, keep bookmarks of sites you love. Look through magazines, go to events and art shows etc.

On the First Things to do When You Start a Blog

Kelsey: Choose a name based on what you ultimately want it to be and then brand yourself in that way.

Sean: You don’t start with the blog you’re going to have 6 months from now. Your blog will change as you learn.

In case you missed it, I also attended a really cool session at the festival all about writing and how to get published – it’s all here.

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Books from the North Shore Writer's Festival

On Saturday, April 21, the North Shore Writer’s Association held its annual North Shore Writer’s Festival. Having heard about this event for the first time from The Anthology, who was also due to speak in a blogging panel, I travelled to sunny West Vancouver to check it out.

The first session I went to was “Getting Started, Getting Published.” This panel was full of published authors, poets, and editors who gave some great insight into their writing process and what it takes to get published. The panelists were:

Fran Bourassa

Lynn Crymble

Bernice Lever

Sylvia Taylor

Gerhard Winkler

Karen Bower (moderator)

Some of the best advice given out:

On Writer’s Block

Sylvia: Cultivating writing friendships are very important. I stared at a blank screen everyday for a whole week when I was writing The Fisher Queen. So, I called up a writer friend and told her I was blocked. She told me to send her an e-mail everyday about what I was going to write about tomorrow. I did that for 3 months and my novel came out of that.

On Finding Your Writing Voice

Fran: My writing group does something called Word Whips. We’re given a writing prompt, 10 minutes to free write about it and then, we have to read it out. The premise is that there’s no time for your internal or external editor to go to work. It’s the best way to find your real voice because you don’t word process anything.

On Taking a Break and Losing your Groove

Karen: Always have a slush pile for your work. NEVER HIT DELETE. You never know when you’ll come back to needing that piece.

Sylvia: Ask yourself: What is this book/poem really about? Give yourself 5-10 minutes to write the answer to that question. I call this your Barf Draft, where you just let everything go, so you can come back to your work.

On Not Being an Island

Lynn: Write more. Share more. Join writing groups. Writing is a lonely thing, but when you come out of the cave with a piece of writing, you’ll have an immediate audience to help you with it.

Gerhard: It’s important for a writer to have someone give you honest feedback that isn’t a relative or a spouse.

On Getting Published

Fran: Getting published gives you the acknowledgement you need. It can be as simple as writing something for your local newspaper.

Sylvia: Share your work. Publisher’s like to know you’ve shared your work and put it out in the world for people to experience.

Lynn: I used the Writer’s Market to find publishing houses for my book. Be sure you know what you’re writing about [subject-wise] and send it to the appropriate editor.

Bernice: Go to readings and you’ll find editors and publishers are there.

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