03 June 2012

I Won! (Even Though I Lost)

As you know, last week, I participated in the May Mid-Grade Madness challenge, to write a 20,000-word Middle Grade novel within 72 hours. I completed the manuscript with 38 minutes to spare before my official 72 hours were up. A full first draft of a novel, start to finish, with an actual plot and developed characters and everything. The only problem? I still didn't know whether or not I actually "won" the challenge. I write my first drafts in pencil, so I wouldn't know until I finished typing up my pages if I actually wrote 20,000 words or more. I'd taken time out on Wednesday evening/Thursday morning to type up my pages from the first two days, so I knew I had only about 7,300 words left to write on Thursday... And I'd written more pages on Thursday than I had written on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I was cautiously optimistic. Actually, I was pretty sure I had gone over the required word count, but just in case I hadn't, I started tallying up all of the OTHER things I accomplished during my 72 hours of writing time.

Yes, as always, I had some added challenges thrown into my 72 hours. My original plan, to avoid all other distractions so that I could concentrate solely on the challenge, fell to pieces when my medical clearance interview (scheduled for 9:30 am on Tuesday - 13 hours into my challenge) stretched out to gobble up approximately 5 hours of my time, rather than the 45 minutes I had allotted. Then, my 2nd grade daughter came home to tell me that her end-of-the-year picnic/fun day for school was scheduled from noon to three on Thursday (when I should be finishing up my manuscript)... and then, my 4th grade daughter informed me that her end-of-the-year picnic/fun day was on Wednesday, from noon to three. And I promised my sweet, super-supportive husband that I would not let this challenge cultivate unhealthy habits, so he was really good about telling me to turn off the lights at 10:30 each night (and for once, I was actually really good at listening to him!)

Then, of course, there was the time I had to take to allow the contractor to come take measurements for the new door/windows we'll be installing in the house before the move... and there was the exciting field trip my 7th grade daughter wanted to tell me about when she came home from school... and the video of her latest music competition that she brought home and we had to watch together with the family right away... and there was a crisis when everyone realized that Mommy really meant it when she said she wasn't planning to cook dinner, and no one had planned a menu for Tuesday night (or Wednesday night or Thursday night), so they had to come find me for suggestions...

As I started typing up my final pages, I told myself repeatedly that, just in case I didn't make it, I had plenty of valid reasons why not!

Since I typed the pages from the final day AFTER the 72 hours were finished, I decided it would be cheating to type up my story in my normal way. Usually, I write the draft in pencil, and then, as I type up the pages, I add in a word here, a sentence there... the ideas that hit me after I had already filled the page and didn't have any more room in the margins to squeeze in an extra thought. That way, by the time I type up my first draft, it's not quite at the second draft stage, but more than a first draft - we'll call it draft #1 1/2. But adding to the word count after the 72 hours would be cheating, right? I wasn't sure, so I played it safe. I changed the color of my text (so I'd know where I still had to go back and add the thoughts I'd missed on the page) and typed only the words that were actually written on the page (with the exception of a few spots where I'd written in my own special form of "shorthand" for phrases and thoughts that are common enough to me that I can write a few letters to symbolize the actual words that are supposed to be in the manuscript). And when I was all finished typing....

I was about 500 words short of my 20,000-word goal!! Tears! Devastation! Heartbreak! All of that work, for nothing!!

But wait! It wasn't for nothing!!!

I proved to myself that I could write a full first draft in a three-day period - WITHOUT sacrificing my number one priority: time with my family. And no, technically I didn't win the challenge. I didn't make it to 20,000 words. But I got awfully close, and if I had taken the time to work ONLY on my story during that 72 hours, I would have done it. If I hadn't taken the time to eat dinner with my family, to go to the end-of-the-year picnics (though I admit, I didn't stay for the entire time either day), to watch the video with my daughter... If I hadn't taken the time to take care of the essential items that popped up on the before-we-move checklist... I would have had time to type up those last pages before the 72 hours expired, and I could have added in the extra words as I typed.

But if I had managed to take those extra hours, I would have missed calling my husband's Nana for her birthday. I would have missed the smile on my daughter's face when she saw me walk onto the playground for her picnic. I would have lost, even though I won.

I made the right choice.


  1. You have a new, finished first draft to work on! I'd call that a win, too! Good job!

  2. if you were in our ward's primary, i would for sure have you share how your "chose the right" on this one!! ;)

  3. Thanks, guys. The more I think about it, the more I'm grateful for how this challenge worked out. I proved to myself that I can be a "real writer" with deadlines and all - and not sacrifice my priorities to do it! :)