Marathons Are Not Just for Runners

I just completed a 48-hour writing and self-editing marathon in which I read my new manuscript from beginning to end with as few breaks as possible.

This requires some serious discipline. No television, no reading, no Internet. No ice cream, no meal preparation. Just snacks, water, and coffee. And, occasional stretching exercises and power naps.

My “read-straight-through” marathon is not about meeting a deadline. It’s actually part of my creative process. It has happened several times during the creation of each of my books – this time around, with the sequel to Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, which is what I am working on now.

I say the marathon “happens” because I don’t plan it. I just know I need to do it.

Essentially it means that I have reached a point when I’m not entirely sure what I’ve written. Inconsistencies creep into a manuscript over time. The more interruptions – a doctor’s appointment, a phone call, a thunder storm – the more inconsistencies.

Only by reading the manuscript all the way through, in what is basically one sitting, do I see the flaws.

Oddly enough, it’s a fascinating part of the process. My mind is fully engaged, and I’m using my God-given talents to the best of my ability.

I know that other writers have different approaches. I don’t know why this works for me; it just does. There are many mysteries to the creative process, and that is what makes it so beautiful.

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A graduate of the University of Tampa, Amy began her writing career as a newspaper reporter in Florida. Her first book was the 1993 N.Y. Times bestselling oral history, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years. After writing six more nonfiction books, Amy tried her hand at fiction. Her first novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2012. The sequel, Lost and Found on the River of Dreams, is scheduled for publication in Sept. 2015.

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Comments

  1. says

    I am so EXCITED for the sequel! Loved your Dreamsville book! And I loved reading about your “marathon” process, Amy. Knowing another novelist struggles with the whole stop/start thing calmed me a bit, since I am feeling that way so often lately. My best work is done without distraction. These last weeks, I’ve found myself juggling the marketing of releasing a book, editing another book and pushing forward to meet a looming deadline on yet another. I read about authors who plot their novels in the chaos, then go away for six weeks to actually write the story. That might work well for you and me, I think. Especially if going “away” meant near an ocean. You in? *grins*

  2. says

    I like Kellie’s idea of writing by the ocean for 6 weeks!

    But seriously, I find that when I get to a certain stage, the “marathon read” does a ton of good. Not only does it refresh my memory, but it gives me a feel for the whole story in real time. It takes much longer to write a story than to read one, so sometimes my sense of the plot curve is way off until I read it through all at once.

  3. Rachel Hauck says

    Oh Amy, wow!! I did one of those once on the eve of deadline and while my editor LOVED the book it had some of the most amazing typos and weird sentences ever. LOL.

    I should probably do a read through like that earlier in the process but I find printing it out doesn’t help me. I end up going to the computer to make all the changes.

    But isn’t it great how we all have our processes?!

    Loved hearing about one of yours!!

    Rachel

  4. Julie Cantrell says

    Amy, I do this too. I also read it OUT LOUD which really helps to catch errors and make the dialog more authentic. I can’t wait to read your book,. and Kellie — let’s GO!

  5. says

    Thanks, Amy. What a great idea! When I read my blog before posting I always read it aloud, but this idea about reading straight through the book is one I’m going to try.

  6. Nicole Seitz says

    Amy,
    I do the same thing! You’ve got to put on your “reader” hat every once in a while to make sure you enjoy it yourself and it’s cohesive.
    Thanks for sharing your tip!
    Nicole

  7. says

    This is a great post, Amy, and a great tip! I did something similar to this before my deadline last Friday, and it worked well, though I wasn’t able to read straight through with a toddler, I came pretty close. Can’t wait to read the sequel! :)

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