Day 2 Pep Talk

I’ve been talking a lot about marathon writing. The one a lot of bizarro writers try, that I highly recommend, is the 3 day writing marathon. That is where you write a 100 page book in just three days. It can be more or less than 100 pages, but you do have to make it to the end.

Today I received this comment from Bradley Sands:

“I’m doing a three day tomorrow. Last time I tried, I woke up on the second day without any motivation to go on and I didn’t. You should give me a day 2 pep talk.”

So that’s what I want to talk about: the second day slump. If you lose interest in your marathon book on the second day it might have to do with a dislike of what you have written on the first day. You might not have prepared yourself mentally. Perhaps you didn’t even know what the book was going to be about yet. In order to avoid this, I recommend preparing yourself before you start the marathon. Come up with a bunch of ideas. Know exactly what you are going to write about. Most importantly, build up your excitement and confidence on this project. When you lose confidence you will slow down.

However, these things happen no matter how well you prepare yourself. The most important thing to do is convince yourself that you have to finish this no matter what. You have no other option. If normal discipline doesn’t work for you, I recommend putting money on the line. Bet a friend $100 you will finish your book in three days. If you don’t want to lose $100 you will finish it no matter what. Or you can spend $100 on a cheap motel…if you don’t want your money to go to waste you will finish your book in three days no matter what. Don’t worry if the book is crap. Finishing it is most important. It’s better to write a piece of crap in three days than not to have written anything during those three days. If you waste three days, big deal. At least you gained some writing experience.

A big thing to know is that if you finish your three-day book, even if it sucks, you will get a huge satisfying feeling of accomplishment. It might even inspire you to start a new project right away…one that might be much better. If you quit halfway through you will feel pathetic and depressed. You might even get discouraged from writing for a while. So make sure to finish it even if that sense of accomplishment is your only reward.

Here is some more advice that I find useful:

1) Focus on hour-to-hour goals. Try to write at least 500-1,000 words an hour. Watch your clock and watch your word count. Meet that goal even if you have to write some garbage. Try to keep your fingers on the keys typing nonstop for as long as you can (without writing stream of consciousness, because you probably won’t learn anything that way).

2) If you get stuck on something, feel free to skip ahead.

3) Focus more on plotting and characterization and less on the language. One sentence can take an hour if you obsess over it. Leave the poetics for the second draft.

4) When you need to take a break or are done for the day, always stop in the middle of a paragraph where you already know how it ends. This way you will know exactly what you need to write when you get going again. You will instantly get back into the swing of writing. Never stop at the end of a chapter or a section that you’re stuck on.

5) Eat, sleep, breathe, dream your book. Don’t watch TV or have a phone conversation, even if you are on a break. While you’re having lunch, taking a shower, or on a cigarette break, these are the best times to think about your book and brainstorm what will happen next in the story. You want to go to sleep thinking about your book, then dream about the book, then wake up the next day excited to get back into it.

It’s going to be hard, but you can do it. Just write. As long as you sit in front of a computer for three days straight without any distractions and keep typing you will finish it. If it’s not any good throw it away and then try again.

I hope this helps, Bradley… And if it doesn’t help you I hope it helps somebody else.

6 Responses to “Day 2 Pep Talk”

  1. Kevin Shamel Says:

    Number four is one of the smartest things I’ve ever read about writing a book, marathon writing or otherwise. I’m sitting here wondering why I never thought of such a simple thing. Thanks, Carlton.

  2. You say to have no distractions like TV and phone conversations, but what about music?

    I find that I can work better with music, but it usually is instrumental music.

    • carltonmellick Says:

      If you can keep your mind on your story then music is fine. But it’s usually too much of a distraction for me.

  3. Thanks for this, Carlton. But I gave up already. Wrote a good amount. Started to feel horrible. I blame the heat. My room is very hot and dry. Don’t have an air conditioner and a fan doesn’t work well when it comes to the dryness.

    I’m still not convinced marathon writing is the way to go for me. Going to start working on another book tomorrow at a leisurely pace. 500 to 1000 words a day until I’m finished. I started it a while back and went off to work on something else.

    Maybe I’ll try again when it’s colder or if a buy an air conditioner.

    • carltonmellick Says:

      You need to bet somebody money. Things like heat and dryness won’t slow you down when you’ve got money on the line. Especially if you don’t have much (or any) money. I’ve done a marathon in horrible heat before with no fan or air conditioner. And I hate heat more than anybody I know. I just constantly drank a ton of ice water and took a shower every now and then with my clothes still on. I would have stopped, but I didn’t have a choice at the time. The deadline was set in stone, so I had to finish about 13,000 words in two days no exceptions. Even though it was miserable I still produced some of my best work in that marathon. I also managed to marathon the 2nd half of Cybernetrix while I had a horrible flu, and that was not a pleasant experience at all…but I was happy with the results.

      Next time don’t give yourself any excuses. If you try doing the thing where you bet money you’ll see how quickly you’re able to get past any obstacle (including heat, discomfort, sleep deprivation, noise, sickness, etc). Try it some time.

  4. You’ve almost talked me into doing a marathon. Next time I have 3 consecutive days free, I may just do that.

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