I don’t know where the time went. Less than a week ago, we had our last workshop. Now, in less than twenty-four hours, I’ll turn in my final packet. The time in between has been intense, a microcosm of the Mark Program and how these last six months have sped by.
I’ve printed out what I’ve accomplished and I'm reading through it, making last minute adjustments. There’s so much to do still, it won’t all get done, not by tomorrow’s deadline. It will have to be.
All of my deadlines, both writing and at my job, seemed to converge during the program. The mid-term review for the Mark coincided with product release deadlines at work, projects I’d been working on for two months or longer.
The same scenario is at hand with the Mark final review. At work, my next batch of projects are due tomorrow. I got the last bits done today. So I snuck out early to get more time for reading and last minute adjustments for the Mark’s final packet. This sort of unfortunate timing is the way the world works most of the time, and it’s good for writers to keep this in mind and be accustomed to it.
I’ve put in very long hours at work this week, including a couple of days well over 12 hours. Then I’ve come home and worked on the book. The thing I’ve found in this program is that it takes that and more to make progress. It takes immersion, staying in it each day, even when I’m dead tired.
I’ve found too, though, that I do some of my best rewriting dead tired, when I’m too exhausted to argue or think too much and seem more receptive to suggestions that I need to slash and burn sections, or rewrite them so they have more tension. Combine that with a deadline, and suddenly things have a way of becoming clear.
I’ve had three amazing readers – my fellow Markers, Shanna and Monica, plus Alan Watt, the Mark instructor – write virtually the same notes while reading my manuscript, share the same frustrations with a characters’ passivity, ask the same tough questions. Reading through their notes this last time around, my eyes bleary from computer screens, my body aching for bed, all the powers of my brain, which tends to be rational, and analytical and overly thinking, shut down, and I’m left with my lizard brain which stops putting up a fight and does what Alan has been imploring me to do this whole time: get out of my head and start feeling it, get to the heart and the truth of things.
Exhausted, I slash and burn, I see the points written in the margin of my manuscript clearly, understanding for the first time. I rewrite to keep the narrative drive going, the tension taut.
At least, I hope that’s what’s happening. If not, I’m screwed.
So I’ve got one last, long night before I turn my manuscript in. In the Mark, I’ve learned ten times the amount I could have on my own, and probably shaved years off my learning curve. So while the manuscript is nowhere near done, nowhere near excellent, it’s light years from where it’s been, and it’s getting there, and that, for now, will have to be.