January 19th, 2007

bear by san

your heart felt good. it was dripping pitch and made of wood.

Progress notes for 19 January 2007


New Words:  1,444
Total Words:  30,467
Words for the Year: 31,974
Pages: 148
Deadline: Sometime in June or July, I'm guessing
Reason for stopping: quota, end of scene, end of chapter?

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
30,467 / 110,000

Stimulants:  chai, an IPA (last night, not this morning.)
Exercise: walked 1.4 miles, which puts me in the Green Hill Country and out of sight of Hobbiton, but not yet at suppertime! Something we will remedy today. Also, archery.
Songs mutilated: I'm learning Bouree. Fear me.
Mammalian assistance: forecast: snow showers, and intermittent cats
Mail: nomail

Today's words Word don't know:  wingbeats, cranelike, squinched, inducer, terraforming, dreadlocked, windmilling, pinscratching, wildman,
Darling du Jour: n/a
Mean Things: they've found the man in the iron mask. Or, rather, bat cave.
Tyop du Jour: n/a
Jury-rigging: the unevil albino and the mad hermit turn out to be the same guy.

There's always one more quirk in the character: Both girls are willing to walk through ankle-deep bat shit rather than turn back. Gavin isn't.
Other writing-related work: contracts I should have done two weeks ago.
Books in progress: Phyllis Ann Karr, The Arthurian Companion; Gustav Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels including the fallen angels; J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring 
The Internet is full of Things: the Bat Guano Museum Of Art.
The glamour!: It snowed this morning, a little.

bear by san

Because there is nothing more interesting than me.

Scalzi is talking about The Rules over here, specifically the advice to "write four hours a day." And why he thinks it's not so useful. And I foresee this sparking an entire blogosphere full of writers talking about their process and their schedule, so let me be the first lemming off the cliff.*

(And truepenny is smart about similar topics over here. And Toby Buckell talks about the writing speed thing here. And Caitlin Kiernan talks about it here.

It takes, in other words, as long as it takes.)

See, the thing about writing is, you have to figure out what works. And then you have to do it. And doing it is the hard part.

For me, I need a limiting behavior. And I also need adequate time to feel like I don't have to write quickly to stay on track for a deadline, because the fact of the matter is that I don't write quickly. I write consistently. It's different. If I only have a couple of hours a day to write, and a deadline, I panic.

When I was working full time and trying to write to deadlines, it made me physically ill. Not a good scene. Part-time was doable, though I was also tending to spend all my non-work time writing, which wasn't good for me either, although I was rather productive. Working overtime and writing, for me, don't happen. See, my obsession is finishing things. I write to get to the end of the story and find out what happens.

Now that I am writing full-time, I have games I play with myself. For example, I get up in the morning, make tea or coffee, and write at least three pages. This is a pretty small chunk of wordage, frankly--but it's enough to advance the story somewhat, and it's enough to make me feel like I have worked. If I pry myself out of bed between 6:30 and 7:00 am, then I can be done with those pages by eleven at the latest. (Remember when I said I wasn't a fast writer?) Sometimes, on a good day (today was a good day) I'm done by 9:30. Call it, usually, a three-hour writing session, maybe four. The cat gets up around nine and wants breakfast.

After that, I get to eat something, get cleaned up, do whatever else I need to do (this pro writer thing isn't just writing. There are page proofs, interviews, research, contracts, business nonsense, copy-edits. There is slush to read. There is Stuff. Stuff takes up a couple of hours a day. Every day. Some days it can take ALL DAY.)

Usually, though, before I do the Stuff, I go to the gym or try to get a walk in, weather permitting. Exercise is important. It keeps you sane, and healthy. And I do good thinking when I am walking.

I also try to practice guitar. 

And read, research, etc. I don't actually count this as work time, though often it is related. Or I do bloggy things. Or housework. Or run errands. Or see friends.

Most nights, after dinner, I'm back at the laptop. That's generally when my online writing group congregates for evening writing session. Another three pages is the goal for me, at this point. If I'm on a roll, I go over. It might be on the same project, or a different one.

So call that another three hours. Maybe four. And then after that bed around midnight most nights, and a sleep broken by intermittent cat fits, and then up and do it again.

Figure I work about a ten hour day, then. Now that I am restricting myself to a saner writing schedule, instead of the marathons I used to pull, when I'd get up at 3:30 am, go to work, come home around ten, and write until I fell over at 11 pm. I wrote a lot of books that way, and severely strained my health. I don't recommend it.

That early writing session gives me permission to have much of the day to do stuff that isn't writing, which I never had before, and that's wonderful--because continued creative output requires continuous creative input.

So yeah, I do work hard.**

But yanno what?

I get to do it in my pajamas.***

*this comment libelous to lemmings

**So does Scalzi. So do plenty of writers who somehow manage to hold down a day job and/or raise a family, and get their words in every day--whether it's five thousand or five hundred or fifty words a day. I am not nearly as tough as some of my colleagues. (I know people who say they can't write when they're not employed: me, I have a hell of a time putting out consistent and quality work when I am trying to focus on the day job. I'm a little more than a little manic, and a little OCD. I fixate. And nothing else in the world is important to me when I am locked onto something.

In with both feet, or not at all. Which is why, once I start really writing a book, all I want to do is finish it, and I have to find ways to reassure myself that I am making progress, so I won't berate myself for not being finished yet and work myself sick. A hare with good stamina is a terrifying thing, but you know, you can kill a horse if you run it long enough.)

***None of this indicates that the way I do it is the way anybody else should do it.

The world is full of prescriptivist people who will tell you that their way is better, is somehow intrinsically superior, and who will attempt to convert you to their system. This is due to insecurity on their part, as near as I can tell (you ever notice that the people most interested in telling you how wonderful marriage is are the ones who will be divorced within a couple of years?). I am not one of them.

The important thing, as near as I can tell, is discipline. Getting the words on the page somehow. And it doesn't matter if you do it two pages a day every day except leap day, or if you hang around the house staring at the ceiling and smoking cigarettes for three months and then sit down and write the draft in two weeks, strung out on whiskey and espresso. It doesn't matter.

What matters is that the draft gets done.
rengeek player king

thirteen things to do when you run out of plot:**

1. Send in a man with a gun. A classic, yes, but a classic because it works. What we mean by this is, shake something up, cause a change in direction, make the characters (and your brain!) react. Getting characters laid works too, but be sparing.

2. Kill somebody. The more vital you think they are to your story, the better. Look at it this way: at least it will be a surprise.

2a. Kill somebody fictional, I mean. Although murdering one's spouse might sometimes relieve frustration, and there is plenty of time to write in jail, it's still hard on the kids.
3. Go for a walk.

4. If that doesn't work, either wash dishes or take a shower. It's now known that inspiration is dissolved in common hot tap water.

5. Research.

6. Crib from a classic source. It was good enough for Shakespeare.

7. Explain the problem to a friend. This is especially effective if you can trap them in a moving car on a cross-country trip. Half the time, in the process of explaining it, you'll figure something out. Another third of the time, they will give you an answer in self-defense after the first three hours. If you attempt this technique in restaurants, be ready for extremely attentive service as the waiter tries to overhear where you hid the body.*

8. Find something to make worse, and make it worse. Do this over and over and over again. The technical term for this technique is "escalation."

9. Get out the manuscript that you have written and go through it. Outline it. For each scene, write down who is in the scene, what happens, and what changes occur over its course. What is resolved? What is worsened? What is established? What's the pivot of the scene? When you come to the end of the outline, you will have a handy list of everything the book is doing, so you can keep doing it.

10. Play repetitive mindless computer games for hours. Realize you've wasted the entire writing session and go make dinner. Watch TV with (unmurdered) spouse. Wake up at 2 am from vivid dream with a head full of plot.

11. Go through the manuscript (or your reverse outline) again, and this time figure out all the things that need to get done before the book can end. Write them down on notecards. Tell yourself that you will write a scene in which one (1) notecard's worth of problem will be dealt with. The write it.

12. Give the characters something else to do and let them explain the plot to you while they eat dinner or play poker or whatever. You can always cut this later. Go ahead and write it now.

13. Write differently. Switch to pen and paper, or write on tiny scraps of notepaper (not intimidating) or switch to the computer if you were writing longhand, or type it in a email to somebody who will only make fun of you a little.

*In the current climate of fear, we recommend not using this technique on aircraft or trains.

** because jonquil asked.