So, the marathon is different this year. It usually takes place in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada…in ONE ROOM. 40 writers gather for 72 hours and write 40 novels. But with the little pandemic and all, that’s not possible. This will be the first time it hasn’t happened since its inception 19 years ago. Tragic, yes. We DO LOVE OUR WEEKEND NOVEL WRITING GETAWAY IN PARADISE. It’s a highlight of the year for us regulars.
This year, anyone can participate. You can REGISTER HERE. If that link doesn’t work properly, you can click the clickable link to register on the home page, which I linked above.
Fundraising this year is not mandatory, but they do hope we each bring a little something to the table. Poke around on the site to learn more about the marathon. Essentially, it’s about writers getting some quality writing time while raising funds for area literacy programs. It’s actually quite incredible–we eat all our meals together, we click away at our laptops in the same room, we drink endless amounts of coffee. It’s a pure unadulterated blast!
This year, it’s from the comfort of your own home. They’ll have some communication going on online. It won’t be the same, but the connection will still be there. The writing will still be there.
It’s open to all who wish to register. Give it a shot. What are you doing the weekend of JULY 17-20? Stop everything, get your bum in chair and write some words!
Well, now I’ve gone and done it! I told myself I was going to take a year off from the Muskoka Novel Marathon. I have a new book coming out (THE CAMINO CLUB) and I thought the 72 hour marathon less than 2 months before launch was just too much me-time to take. I wanted to remain open, just in case.
As it turns out, a pandemic has struck. So everything has changed. The whole world has changed. Including the magic of the Muskoka Novel Marathon. For the first time ever, this event will not take place in one room in one building in one little northern Ontario town. This year’s MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON will not be 40 writers in one room writing 40 novels in 72 hours.
We will be spread far and wide, in our own homes, eating alone or with our loved ones. It’s strange and shocking. I can’t fathom the world without the yearly escape of the MNM. It’s a rare event that, if experienced, all writers cherish. Writing in one room together, stopping for meals to break bread together, to laugh, to compare words, to cry, to vex, to prank. Sigh.
But I did say WE. As it turns out, I guess I do have the schedule that would afford me the ability to participate. I mean, I’ll be home anyway, right? ALSO—full disclosure: The biggest reason I wasn’t going this year was that I felt like I should give my fellow participants a break. I can be a little MUCH sometimes. When I’m doing something that is high intensity–SAY, WRITING A NOVEL IN 72 HOURS–I get a little high intensity myself. I know I can be exhausting at these things, because I exhaust myself. So, I was going to sit this one out to give them an extra year to recuperate.
Usually the marathon registration costs $100. This may sound like a lot of money to fork over for the opportunity to spend 72 hours writing. To those people, I just say, “You’re crazy!” Value your words. That $100 buys 3 meals a day for 3 days, as well as unlimited coffee and snacks. AND a place to stay for 3 days. AND the magical camaraderie of like-minded people. You’re camping in a room with 39 other writers for three days and being fed and caffeinated non-stop. Take my $100, please!
This year, registration is free. And though they ask registrants to participate in fundraising, it is not mandatory. As important as LITERACY is, there are a lot of people out of jobs right now–either permanently or temporary. Fundraising for literacy could prove to be a heavy unfruitful burden for sure. There are a few very important causes right now that should not lose our focus, including bail funds and Black Lives Matter.
So, the usual push for fundraising is gone. And as the marathon is online for the first time, I guess it opens it up for people outside the immediate area as well.
This will be my 12th marathon. I’m registered and counting down the days. Hopefully I can stay on track and get a few words written from home. I hear there’s some online things being planned too, where participants can interact. Maybe some ZOOMS, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing what the organizers come up with.
I DID ask for a DONATION PAGE. So if you’re so inclined I would be thrilled if you were to sponsor this cyber-MNM. I’m certain the marathon will fall WAY SHORT of its annual close to $30,000 fundraising achievement. Any amount will help support the ongoing literacy programs of Muskoka/Simcoe county YMCA.
We are WRITERS HELPING READERS READ. You can be READERS HELPING WRITERS HELP READERS READ if you wish. Do you have it in you?
I will be receiving a donation page soon and will share it once it’s live. In light of the current world situation, I will not be doing very much canvassing for funds. But I will make the link available. STAY TUNED!
I woke up this morning with Writer Instructor dialogue running through my thoughts. I notice this phenomenon ratcheting up as the yearly Muskoka Novel Marathon slowly approaches. This is the time when I truly begin to think about the writing process in general and the upcoming MNM novel in particular. I become this super coach who prepares a team of ONE for a marathon that does not involve any form of running, jogging or walking.
This morning I woke up thinking about all the stuff the writer has to do to learn about their characters, their plots, their settings, their universes. We have to write the stuff down that we don’t use in our story. I’m not talking about the stuff we’ll sneak in as the dreaded INFO DUMP. I’m not really talking about backstory, even, even though I am. I know that doesn’t make sense on the surface, but trust me…it makes sense.
Backstory, in general, is stuff you sprinkle into your story for the reader—stuff they discover about the characters’ pasts. Their motivations, their goals, etc, etc, etc. BUT—there’s another kind of backstory the WRITER should think about. Yes, there are motivational epiphanies we should share with our readers. That’s obvious. But there’s a whole life behind every character we create. Have you ever thought about writing out memories and experiences the characters have that have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STORY YOU’RE WRITING? I mean, HAVE YOU? Because you should.
This is not a new concept, even for me. But it is one I keep going back to. I wrote an article for a writing newsletter once upon a time about diary entries. It’s now on my blog and for some reason it’s one of my most popular posts. People come to it by these bizarre Google searches about writing and diaries and characters and the like. I linked the blog post above…and I might be repeating myself today.
The backstory you give your characters stays inside you and you remember it as you’re navigating your way through your story. You become an expert on what your characters would or wouldn’t do, how they would or wouldn’t react based on this backstory. And again—I’m not talking about the backstory you feed your readers. I’m talking about the backstory ONLY YOU KNOW. So, the more you explore the people you create, the more you know them…the more you intuitively know their path through the story you create. This is why I spend a lot of time this time of year in developing my people for my Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. We 40 writers get together for a long weekend in July and we all attempt to write a novel in 72 hours. I like to know who my characters are before I leap into that kind of an abyss.
Now, you can write their unseen-by-any-readers-ever backstory on paper or on your word processor, OR you can just chew away at it in your own little head. Either way works. The more stories you create about their past, the more it helps you to predict their future. And the future is the arc in which they travel through your novel. By setting up these pre-story lives as much as possible, you are doing a kind of homework that would otherwise be impossible. Even if you ‘practice’ with these characters for a hundred pages and then toss it away…those hundred pages are not wasted words. They are a foundation on which you can build the first sentence of your novel, and the second and the third.
For me, this works. Especially since I hit the ground running on a Friday evening and attempt to walk away on a Monday evening with a fully written first draft novel. I need every edge I can get.
Do yourself a favour and try this. Write situations, scenes, memories with your potential characters. Form a backstory for them that you will NEVER use in your finished work. Get to know them. They’ll pay you back in spades when you’re deep in the heart of your novel and trying to decide what your character will do next. If you know your character, you know how they’ll choose to move forward in your story…