As you may or may not know, Murandy and I decided to participate in the #85K Writing Challenge with our newest novel in progress, Uncharted. The challenge, which began January 1st, 2016 is to write 85,0000 words in 90 days. Now that we’ve completed month one of the challenge and are going into month two, I thought I would give you all an update of our progress and a few thoughts on our experience with the challenge so far.
First, a little bit about our project. Uncharted is a romantic comedy/adventure set in the same world as our last novel, Unintended, though it is not a sequel. The story follows Meredith, an Acolyte of the Temple of Saegard, who decides the eve before her swearing in as a full priestess, that the life she’s prepared for isn’t for her. She flees the temple only to later discover that she has been blamed for the theft of a very valuable artifact used to foretell the future which went missing on the same night she disappeared. Meredith seeks refuge on The Clover, a ship belonging to Captain Reginald Lawrence and the enigmatic private businessman Grey Rhodes. Despite the three of them getting off on the wrong foot when Meredith is caught hiding as a stowaway, Grey and Reginald later vow to help Meredith hide from the various groups looking for her while they work to clear her name and discover the true culprit behind the theft of the legendary Celestial Bowl.
With the exception of some planning and early set-up, Murandy and I started Uncharted on January 1st and we’re proud to be able to say that in the first 30 days of the challenge we wrote 47,000 words!
Now, I’m not sure how this compares to our usual writing speed. It certainly feels like we’re writing very quickly, but in the past we’ve always kept count of our progress using page numbers or how many chapters we’ve completed. I remember that while writing Mirror’s Hope, for example, we had a goal of 100 pages per month in word, but that doesn’t really give us an accurate word count. What I do know is that the first draft of Mirror’s Hope took us about three months to complete and was somewhere around 115,000 words, which is approx 38,000 a month.
So here’s what we’ve learned so far:
- It’s super beneficial to write as often as possible
We knew this already, but it’s nice to get confirmation. It’s not always possible to write every day and there’s no use trying to keep ourselves to impossible standards, but writing as often as possible helps to keep the words flowing and was a big help in writing so much in one month!
- It’s motivating to ‘keep score’
Murandy bought a calendar with ships on it to reflect the naval themes in Uncharted. I love it. Every time we stop writing for the night, I use a red marker to note how many words we wrote that day and what our current total is. On top of that we get to announce our word counts to the #85K facebook group for added celebration of our small successes.
- We will have to go back and flesh some scenes out
When writing quickly, it’s easier to focus on dialogue and action to keep the story moving forward, so looking back, we’ve already noticed that we will have to go back and work on the wordbuilding details and the descriptions of the setting and characters. But that’s ok, that’s what the second draft is for!
- Plans change
Murandy and I are not planners. We do however, come up with a basic outline and jot down ideas for scenes as they come. We also keep note of facts that are important to tie in again further in the story. Writing this quickly has really shown us how easily our best laid plans can go awry. The story has taken on a mind of its own thanks to willful characters, but we’ll make course corrections as needed and get the story to where it needs to be by the end!
- Life gets in the way, but that’s ok!
Early in the month, Murandy had an unexpected trip to take which caused us to miss about five days of writing. We compensated for this by writing as much beforehand as possible and then by resuming as soon as we were able. At the time, five days missed seems like a disaster, but in the grand scheme, it didn’t really hurt us at all.
Have you participated in a writing challenge before? What did you learn from the experience?