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Surviving the writing taper

First, let me get the squealing out of the way.

I FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT!!!

160 days later, I now have 113,983 words’ worth of raw material from which to create my final manuscript. This is the good news.

The bad news? Now the real work begins. In other words, I finished my longest run of my marathon training. But now I’ve got to run the actual marathon.

In marathon training, the last stage is called “taper.” It’s the three-week period after your longest training run, during which you drastically pull back in mileage and intensity of your workouts. This is all done to prepare your body for the grueling experience of the marathon itself: you’re saving up energy; you’re letting your tired, aching muscles rest; you’re getting yourself mentally prepared for the mind-**** that is a marathon (and yes, there really isn’t any other way of referring to it without resorting to profanity in this case ;)).

But when you’ve spent the last 16 weeks or so building up in mileage and pushing yourself to the very limit in your workouts, suddenly pulling back can feel like a shock to the system. You’d think that at this point, your body is begging for some rest. But surprisingly, taper is difficult for many runners. We often feel cranky, restless, and bored.

And we just can’t wait to run the marathon already.

I realized something yesterday (the first day in 160 days that I wasn’t writing or thinking about this novel), as I spent the entire time twitching through my withdrawal and wishing more than anything I could just dive into the editing process. I am now in my writing taper.

It sucks. I’m not going to lie. I can count on two hands (maybe even only one) the number of days in the last 5 1/2 months when I wasn’t writing about this world and its people. I’ve hung out with these characters more than I’ve hung out with many of the people in my life in the time I’ve been working on this. They are lifelong friends to me now. Family. As much a part of me as my hands and my feet. And being forced to spend time away from them (they say distance will make you more objective so you can kill your darlings; right now, it just feels as though distance will make the heart grow fonder) is sheer torture.

But I know it’s necessary. If I want to take my first draft from “suck” mode to “brilliant,” I must go through the taper diligently. My coach likes to say, “Nothing you can do now can help you in your marathon. But doing the wrong thing now will most certainly hurt you.”

And so, I will keep away for the next 4-5 weeks. I’ll read other books, I’ll develop other stories that have been floating around in my brain since I’ve been working on this. I’ll try not to think about Ryla, Alanna, and Owen. Because I know when I finally return to them — when I finally get ready to start my marathon — I’ll be that much stronger, that much more clear-minded, that much more prepared.

And I plan to kick some major tail on that course.

See y’all on the flip side.

Counting down the days till I can reunite with Ryla, Alanna, and Owen…

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About writejenwrite

Silicon Valley marketer by day, novelist-in-training by night--running addict, foodie, bookworm, pop culture enthusiast, and aspiring philanthropist in between.

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