Why I like novel marathons

Late Monday night, I got back from the Muskoka Novel Marathon. Very late, by my wimpy standards, and I have to admit my friend Anne Louise and I were a bit punchy to be taking on that kind of a drive, after writing for the better part of three days.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon is a fundraiser for the Muskoka Literacy Council.

Novelists raise pledges, then undertake either a two or a three-day writing spree. The idea is to complete an entire novel in the time that you have. You’re allowed to bring only a one-page outline, and all work must be done at the event. Submissions are read by a panel of judges, with winners in the adult, young adult, and children’s categories being passed on to participating publishers for review (after you get some time to fix up the rough draft, of course).

You don’t have to submit. This year, I didn’t, choosing instead to use the time to work on a novel that I started back in January. It’s nice to have that deadline, though. It can really push you to get through that story arc… the “novels” are all pretty short, and probably bear very little resemblance to the final, polished drafts, but it’s nice to have a beginning, a middle and an end under your belt before you start editing.

Some people go at the whole marathon thing pretty hard core. I haven’t done a writing all-nighter since university, so I tend to work as late as I think is reasonable, then drive home (or in this case, to my parents’ cottage) to catch a few hours sleep before returning. I have a lot of respect for the “night crew”, but it’s not for me.

This was my fourth novel marathon. I’d have to say it was the best so far. I don’t know if it was just the combination of people there, or the way the event was run, but it was a very friendly, encouraging atmosphere. Who says writing can’t be a social sport?

The best part was the Word Wall. Every ten pages, writers posted a piece of paper with the new page count. Somehow, that made it a group undertaking–it was a great visual reminder that we were all in this together. Besides, I liked seeing that I wasn’t the only slow writer. 

I think the novel marathon is a great way to pump out a first draft. The timeline works in your favour, forcing you to write more and edit less. You can’t listen to that nagging voice in your head, the one that wonders about commas and vocabulary and why you ever though you could be a writer in the first place, when you’re caught up in the zen-like flow of the novel marathon at its finest.

In the immortal words of Kevin, fellow marathoner and WCDR member: First Draft Ugly. No Apron Wringing. (I love it. I want to paint it on my office wall.)

Or, as my brother likes to say, git’er done.

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