I’ve just passed the halfway point in my work-in-process. From here on out I expect to gather steam. For me, the beginning of a book is always the hardest part. My last project, SHE CAN TELL, came out nearly perfect in one draft. I call it my gift book. That will never happen again.
So far, writing MIDNIGHT SACRIFICE had a painful start, which I blogged about here. I tried a book-in-a-week with no success and ended up floundering around for about 8 weeks with few pages to show for my effort. The fix ended up being the simplest thing of all: just writing. I gave myself a daily word count. It didn’t matter what I wrote, I had to meet my goal for the day before I went to bed. The first week or so was painful. There were a few very long days and late nights. But, the more I wrote, the easier it got.The story developed flow and rhythm.
I’m happy to report the book is cruising along quite nicely at the moment. <knocking on wood> In the last few week, I’ve upped my daily goal from 1,000 words to 2,000, with my sights set on finishing the draft before the family vacation. Discipline is a foundation of martial arts, so I thank my studies there for the sheer determination that got me over the hump. When you’re knocked to the ground in the sparring ring, doing nothing isn’t an option. If you want to earn your black belt, you have to get up and defend yourself. Writing takes the same amount of commitment. Deadlines don’t allow the professional writer the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike.
So, my cure for difficulty with writing is writing, even if it what I’m throwing down on the page feels like monkey poo. Does anyone else have a go-to method to get their book off the ground?
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there were two main reasons that I started taking karate. Obviously fitness, but also because there is an end goal that you’re working toward, earning the coveted black belt. As the saying goes, with a little hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything. I recently had the opportunity to see this adage in action while observing part of the testing that I, with a little luck, hope to be participating in myself one day.
Picture a room full of gi(uniform) clad people, standing before a row of instructors. Now imaging going through a collection of forms/katas over and over again, your every move scrutinized. All the while the instructors are throwing out questions about the various techniques. What’s the name of that move? What’s the theory behind the collection of moves that makes up this section of the kata, etc, etc. It’s not enough to know the blocks and strikes to perform, but also why you’re performing them and how to vary them. It was intense to watch. I can only imagine what it was like to be out there.
The next section of testing was sparring and, for me, the most intimidating part. First because up until now I’ve basically been beating the heck out of an invisible attacker. So the thought of really getting hit is intimidating. This was no Daniel Larusso, first to three points wins thing. This was a sparring and endurance test all rolled into one. One person stayed on the mat for four minutes while facing fresh opponent after fresh opponent. I was exhausted and sore just watching, but I did understand the point. In part it was about conditioning, but more so it was about not giving up.
For a lowly orange belt like myself I have quite a ways to go before I’ll have to face this particular challenge, but I didn’t start this journey just to quit. I suppose the same thing could be said about being a writer. I don’t think any of us started writing and trying to get published just to walk away when things don’t go the way you expect. In a lot of ways it’s similar to testing. You start all eager and somewhat clueless. Then you get scrutinized, judged, and knocked down a few times. Through it all you keep you eye on that end goal. In then end, I like to think, we all achieve some degree of success be it simply completing a manuscript, hitting it big on the New York Times list or a myriad of possibilities in between.
In conclusion to my story about black belt testing, I’d like to offer a huge round of congratulations to Melinda Leigh for earning her second-degree black belt.