Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Boot Camp Post Mortem

After a little over a month of high intensity writing, rewriting, critiquing, and more rewriting, our summer critique boot camp has ended. It was…challenging.

Yes, I have been known to understate things at times.

We all took our turns hearing stuff about our work that we quite frankly didn’t want to hear. We all took our turns looking dejected and shell shocked. More than once I witnessed fellow Stiff Martha Reed beating her head on the table.

(Don’t feel bad, Martha. I just waited until I got home to beat my head, but it definitely happened)

Personally, I think it was one of the best experiences of my writing career. A game changer. One of those pivotal moments. When we look back, I suspect we will judge our writing progress as “before boot camp” and “after boot camp.”

One of the many, many things I took away from the experience was the knowledge that I CAN write under pressure. I CAN tell family and friends “no” so I can concentrate on an assignment and a deadline.
Of course, I’ve done this before, but not on such a grand scale. Twenty-five to fifty pages PER WEEK? Daunting. But doable.

However, now that it’s over I have to figure out if I can continue that pace. So far the answer would seem to be NO. The problem in my household is that all the stuff I was saying “no” to during boot camp is still there. I just pushed it aside for a while. For five weeks, the only non-writing things I did were cooking and laundry. Doctors’ appointments, Avon business, emails, record keeping, and other assorted tasks that I’m responsible for all got put off. Put off. Not eliminated.

You know how you come home from vacation and have three times more work to do to catch up? That’s me, but without the benefit of the vacation.

So I’m facing my responsibilities this week and next, while trying to save chunks of writing time each day. And I hope that once I catch up, I can get back into that 25 to 50 pages a week routine.  


Joyce said...

I'm glad boot camp was so beneficial! And that beat your head on the table thing? Yeah, I've done that.

Annette said...

We all have, Joyce.

And I failed to mention one of the most important parts: we're all still friends!

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Annette.

I think you're right about boot camp being a game changer. I definitely have a new strategy for my process that I can't wait to try out but first I need some index cards.

I also want to distill my notes both on the process and also for this manuscript. I see that as two different things with two different goals.

When I look back on the experience I'm still in awe of where you stand with your work. I can't wait to be able to say "I knew her when".

Martha Reed said...

PS. I should also mention Nancy Martin's generosity in giving up a month of Sundays, providing detailed criticism and terrific insightful handouts. The level of commitment all the way around the table was exceptional. It was a great experience.

Annette said...

Yes, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Nancy.

And, Martha, I look forward to sitting with you at a big book signing one of these days.

Nancy said...

Work expands to fill the time alloted.

The Primary Narrative Question--get it on the page and keep it there.

Decide on a controlling idea before you leave page 50.

Use a bare minimum of characters.

Are you employing a mystery plot or a suspense plot structure?

It's all about subtext.

Throw away your first 3 chapters and move on.

Get an X-factor.

No stalling.

No dates.


(Cue insane laughter here.)

Annette said...

Yep, that's it. A whole month of boot camp summarized in one blog comment.

Thanks, Nancy!

Joyce said...

Gee, Nancy. You make it sound so easy. :-)

Julie Long said...

Annette, it sounds like an incredibly positive experience. As for all the stuff you ignored for 5 weeks clamoring for attention: I typically cave after only 2 weeks of focused writing, so hooray for you!

Jenna said...

Good for you! You know, I read that and thought, "25-50 pages a week?! That's a lot!" But when I started counting, I realized that 25 pages a week comes to a 90K book in about three months, which is my usual pace. Sometimes I write a 90K book in two months, so I actually keep to that pace most of the time. Of course, I'm not an Avon lady. And my house is deplorably dirty. But I do write 25-50 pages a week!

Annette said...

Jenna, my house is deplorably dirty, too. I figure I may get around to really cleaning it sometime in October.

I think what really amazed me about that page count was how productive I could be when I kept my head in the story day after day after day. I'd wake up in the morning knowing what I needed to write and I did it. There was very little time spent sitting and staring at the monitor.

Joyce said...

Keeping my head in the story is the only thing that keeps my pages piling up. If I take time off, productivity definitely suffers.