On Sunday, thousands of people gathered in the streets of Oklahoma City to run in the annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, marking the twenty-first anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. The marathon has multiple categories including a 5k, half-marathon, and full marathon.
The marathon is televised locally, and on Sunday I sat at my writing desk in my living room eating some scrambled eggs and a cinnamon roll as thousands of people pushed their bodies to the limit. Some might say I am pushing my body to the limit in the wrong direction, but that’s another story.
The point is, as those people were running the marathon, I was running one, too — or at least typing one. Roughly fourteen weeks ago I began working on my novel, and right around the time runners began crossing the finish line of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, I crossed my own finish line and reached my goal of 50,000 words. I’m done!
And by “done” I mean “I’m just starting!” Saying “I’m done” now is a lot like a boxer celebrating the end of the first round.
I have this week and next week to put some shine on it and get any editing done before I turn it in next Thursday, but the first goal of writing the rough draft of a novel is done.
Along the way I made some pretty significant changes. For example, when I started the book I decided that the protagonist’s wife and child had died in a fire. As time went on, it became more and more kludgy to keep mentioning both of their names every time he lamented his past. I really wanted the baby to die because I thought that symbolized the death of his hopes and future, but a couple of days ago I decided that if his wife died and she was pregnant it would accomplish the same thing — plus I could quit mentioning both of their names. So, baby got deleted (sorry, baby) and the protagonist’s wife is now pregnant. That was easy to adopt toward the end of the book, but now I need to go back and change all the references of “they” to “her,” and so on.
There were also at least half a dozen places in the manuscript where I wrote myself notes like “more detail here” or “explain this better.” I have really come to appreciate the “notes” feature of Google Docs. Think of them as little virtual sticky notes that you can leave wherever you want. If you have a friend help you edit online, they can leave notes, too. As I go back through my work I am tightening things up, clarifying things, adding emotion and, occasionally, deleting babies.
So while there was no paper banner for me to run through, my brain and my fingers have been running their own marathon for the past three and a half months. It felt good to cross the finish line, even though I am already running the next race.