Saturday, January 16, 2010

Uncharted Waters

Earlier this week, I stated in my Livejournal that I thought I had a need for more direction in my writing. I realized that while I had put writing on my schedule, I sat down to write without knowing what I was working on. I had a list of things that I needed to do, but if I was going to force myself to do any of them I thought I needed more direction.

Then I started reading CHAPTER AFTER CHAPTER by Heather Sellers and the very first exercise is to simply sit down and write something. So I did, even though none of the stories rattling in my head were anything more than vague ideas and even though I was very aware of having a lot of editing to trudge through.

Two hours later, I had three thousand words of a new story. I've added to it the last two days and am loving the freedom of writing without an outline again.

When I first started writing, I never used outlines. Then I realized the results were rambling and long and unpublishable without a lot of rewriting. I started outlining. It worked, so I kept at it. And I got more and more detailed. My first outlines were a few pages long. My most recent one took up a whole notebook with scene by scene breakdowns. And my most recent rough draft, IMAGINE, based on that detailed outline, was a uninspired lump of drivel. Sure every scene had a reason to be there, sure every line was feeding the plot. But the story itself was DOA.

Now this could be coincidence. Not every idea works out well, so maybe the problem wasn't that I killed my joy of writing by sticking too close to a blueprint. But in the past, even when a book didn't work I at least had fun writing it. I do believe that shows through in the words, but even if it doesn't I'd obviously rather enjoy myself than not.

I'm enjoying the new story. And I do have an idea of where it's going, I just haven't written any of it down and haven't put much thought into how to achieve it. This week has felt a lot like when I first did NaNo and re-learned to move past editing while I worked in order to just write. (It was something I knew in school, then trained myself out of trying to become a 'serious writer'.)

The best part about my new project is that since I started it I'm able to look at the more developed WIP's again. Monday was productive, but that died the next day. Tuesday I did nothing and Wednesday morning I couldn't stand the thought of fixing my physics problems in SHADOW and I had no idea what to do about the revising of WERESTORY after I hit the part in the work that needed real revising rather than mere edits. I got past everything I remembered needed to address in SHADOW yesterday and will be continuing to pass through it this weekend. And I now have faith that I can move past my block in WERESTORY. Although I'm not quite up to opening the file and mucking with it yet, I'm in a much better headspace to deal with it.

A friend over on Livejournal suggested the solution to my problems might be taking a planned week off writing. (In contrast to the unplanned six weeks eaten up by holidays and illness.) Obviously, I didn't follow that suggestion, though I may have had I read it before starting the new story. I think I followed the spirit of it though. No, I didn't stop writing, but I gave myself permission not to work. And that may be the true failing of IMAGINE, that it was work. For me, the work part of writing needs to come with the revisions. The stuff before that needs to be freer, more alive, and certainly more enjoyable. Before the work stage is the play stage. Don't confuse playing with something untaxing though, it can be hard to play. It takes energy and focus and dedication. But it's still more fun than work.

Oh! And people have asked, what is the new story about? Dragons. No, not the dragons from before. This story takes place in the old story's universe, but takes place earlier and follows different MCs. And, yes, I did see tweets about agents saying they were suddenly getting a lot of dragon books. I decided to ignore that. And that feels good too...

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