I’m over at the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Blog today, talking about unmarketable story ideas and why we should write them anyway.
When newer authors ask me for advice, which they sometimes do, apparently laboring under the notion that I know what I’m doing, they often ask if they really truly have to write every day.
It’s funny, because I remember asking that very same question, in the neighborhood of 15 years ago. I was at a writers’ weekend retreat and someone asked our esteemed visiting writer guy about his writing schedule. He said he got up every day at 5am and wrote for two hours. That he had to. to get it done. I ended up being the voice of “really? truly, EVERY day?” He said, with rare exceptions, really, truly.
I didn’t want to hear it.
It’s not welcome news.
Someone said on Twitter just the other day that she was considering getting up at 4:30am to get her writing done, but was dragging her feet. I replied that I did it for two years and it worked. She said, wasn’t I exhausted? I said, yes, at first. Then I got used to it. It was the only time of day I could be sure to write every day and it totally worked.
I’m not convinced that, for true writing productivity – especially creating something new – anything else does work.
I rediscover this periodically. This last week I’ve been getting back into drafting The Middle Princess. After an extended spell of revisions on several different works, I’m composing again. I’d gotten about 26K into this novel when I had to set her aside. I figured she was well on her way, with good momentum. She’d wait for me.
Oh no no no.
Frankly, for the last week? She’s been a sulky bitch.
That’s the hardest part of writing, I think. When every word put down is a day’s labor. When you work for two hours and get 250 words. Being in that place is the polar opposite of everything we love best about writing. It’s the 40 years in the desert. It’s traversing the Fire Swamp, only less interesting. And like those travails, I truly believe there is only one way through it.
It’s tempting to think, oh, something’s wrong – that’s why it’s not working. Or, I’ve written myself into a corner, that’s why I feel stuck. Even if those things are true, you still have to keep writing. Delete and write. Or rework and write. Or skip and write. But the one answer is always the same.
Keen readers will note which thing that is.
And yes. It has to be every day.
Finally, yesterday, after a week of agonizing through my 1K/day workout, the story started to flow again. It’s like the ice breaking up on the river. I’m not riding the rapids in glee yet, but at least I’m not chipping away at frozen stuff.
Sunset catching distant rainfall last night. Gorgeous shade of rose.
So, last week I talked about Danbling and Overthinging in plotting a series arc. Theoretically plotting one, since I’m not much of a plotter. But one of the insightful comments made me realize WHY I’m not much of a plotter. It comes back to how I live my whole life and The Monkey’s Paw.
You remember that short story, right? I think we all had to read it in school. The monkey’s paw grants three wishes, but at terrible cost to the wishers. I don’t want to blow the story if you haven’t read it, but it’s the syndrome where you wish for a million dollars and then your kid gets killed by a city bus and you get a million-dollar settlement. The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t interfere with fate, “they” say. That’s not so much the story I carry away, not being all that into fatalism.
I totally believe we map our own futures.
I don’t think we can control it.
See, I’ve done training in a bunch of those systems where you map out a one-year, five-year, ten-year plan. You visualize exactly what you want, how you want it and precisely when. Most of the success gurus build off of this idea, in one way or another. The “exact” and “precise” aspects are meant to duck the monkey’s paw curse. You don’t let the tricksters mess with you – you specify exactly how you want your million dollars and when.
You know I’m all about “Be Careful What You Wish For.” What you get might not be exactly what you thought it would be. But for me, this doesn’t translate into “demand that the universe give you exactly what you want, when and where you want it.” That seems the height of arrogance to me.
This is why, despite my spreadsheets and other planning, I do not have a five-year plan.
I know what I want, what I wish for, how I’d like for my life to go. But I’m well aware I’m asking for gifts and blessings. If the universe chooses to rain good things on me, then I’m grateful. And I feel like part of that gratitude is leaving it up to Tao or the gods and goddesses or whoever, to give it to me in the best way at the best time.
So, while I have many plans and wishes, none of them are tied to time.
KAK’s comment made me see why I don’t really do this with plots, either. I do think the stories are gifts. I know in general what they’ll be and how they go, but I don’t feel like it’s my thing to control them. In fact, I think I’d be overstepping myself to impose my plan on them. That’s an excellent insight for me.
Now I just have to remember it when I start to overthing.
I’m over at Word Whores today, showing pics of places I’ve been.
See? I take photos of clouds in other places, too.
Ski slopes are funny places in the summertime, all denuded and over bright. But the clouds going by – ah, yes.
So, I’m getting myself back into the writing groove. Trying to plan and be all strategic-like. This is SO not my forte. You all know I envy those folks who plan out what they’re writing. I often delude myself into thinking I could be one of them. How hard can it be to plot a series arc?
Um, pretty damn hard, it turns out.
See, I have this plan (which I mentioned before, so sorry if this is too repetitive – go ahead, roll your eyes at me, I deserve it). Once I get the substantive edits on Obsidian from fabulous editor, Deb (she made noises about modifying the Liam scenes – what do you want to bet they want me to make him a more viable love interest? KAK is already Team Liam and she hasn’t even read the whole thing…), they’re predicted for late October, so I have that time blocked out. Then I’ll dive into the sequel, Aquamarine.
I’ve always thought Obsidian would be the first of a series. Like, um, mumble mumble maybe seven books long mumble.
I KNOW, okay?
Never let it be said that I’m not ambitious. You could add in other words, too, and I couldn’t argue with you.
The problem is, though I have this vague, general idea of how the story will progress and the big ideas of what will happen, they don’t parse out into actual plots. So, naturally, I’ve been bugging my CPs about this. I asked Marcella if she thought all series should be trilogies at most (I could swear I heard her say this once) and she said I’m asking the wrong girl since she’s working on a five-book series. I bugged Laura about it while she was tired and had been drinking margaritas. She said that the danger with series arc plotting is overthinging it. She advised that I simply keep notes on my plot threads, so as not to leave anything danbling.
They both patted me soothingly on the head (They might even have typed ~pat pat pat~ into the IM window.) and told me my process is fine.
But I’m still not sure how I’m going to do this. Any advice?
Otherwise, I’ll just be here, danbling and overthinging.
I’m over at Vamp Chix today, talking about Feeding the Vampire. And I’m giving away a free copy to a commenter!
David took this picture. It might be my new favorite. Even my mom – the blonde behind the camera next to me – will like it because her glasses aren’t showing. She’s been having to wear glasses instead of contact lenses for the last couple of months, so her eyes will return to their natural state before her cataract surgery. Which is today.
Send good thoughts, please!
We had a lovely weekend in the mountains, up at Snowmass in Colorado. Friends have asked what we did and I don’t have much to tell them. We sat on the deck. I got to read a lot. We drank wine and hung out. There were presents – and then tech support for the presents. Mostly I just enjoyed being with my family.
My stepsister, Hope, and her hubs and boys called and sang me Happy Birthday. Then she explained that the fabulous iced-tea maker she sent me from Teavana is in homage to my blog post about there still being more summer. It’s funny that she mentioned that post in particular, because it was one of the ones that no one commented on. Now, I’ve said many times that I will never be one of those bloggers who begs for comments. I read a lot of blogs and I don’t always comment. Usually I just don’t have anything in particular to say. But – every once in a while – it’s because the blog post annoys me in some way. So, of course, when no one comments on one of mine, a little niggly voice starts suggesting that everyone hates me.
Which leads to the eating of worms. Never pretty.
When I learn, then, that someone did read and even better, took that thought away from her, I feel the opposite way. Like making iced tea and guzzling it so that sparkling drops fly everywhere.
Writing is funny that way. Even blogging, which is more interactive than most writing media. It often feels like talking to an empty room. When someone answers, it can be astonishing. My long time friend, Kev, sent me a birthday email, just to catch up his end of the conversation – because he can’t always think of snarky replies to my blog posts. A little while back, this gal, Rachel, said something very nice to me about my writing and we chatted a bit on Twitter. In an attempt to convince me that she’s not a stalker (much), she mentioned that the fact that she’d planted cactus in her Kansas garden and was wearing a Cat Woman costume meant nothing.
Yeah, she cracked me up.
But more – it made me realize that people do listen. Even when we think they don’t. When they’re off being too busy to think up clever comments.
It’s a good thing to know.
Now I’m going to make some iced tea.
I’m over at Word Whores today, talking about all the street corners I’ve known and loved.
You all know by now how much I love interesting changes in perspective.
I was in West Virginia this week for the day job, specifically the capitol, Charleston. It’s really a lovely little city, with the Kanawha River flowing at its feet. I’m told “Kanawha” is pronounced “Kanaaaaahhhh.” I suspect it helps to have a southern accent. At any rate, I love cities on big rivers. I grew up in the Rocky Mountain West where we just don’t *do* big rivers. Cricks and washes, yes; waterways capable of bearing traffic, oh no no no.
See, that’s the cool thing. The capitol building in West Virginia seems like it’s facing the wrong direction. It’s kind of away from downtown and it sits sideways to the big thoroughfare next to it. Kanawaha Blvd runs in front of it, but that’s not the main route to downtown from the interstate by any stretch. But if you walk along the riverfront pathway – which is a lovely walk – you can see it. The building faces the river. Steps and an esplanade run right down to the river and the building rises above it, greeting guests who’ve arrived by boat, not by automobile.
I recognize this because I went through
an obsession a phase where I visited plantation homes. Many of those show their best faces to the river, because that’s how people arrived. Before everything became about the car.
I’ve been toying with post-apocalyptic scenarios. Especially since people keep bugging me that Feeding the Vampire is too short. It would be interesting to write about a string of communities that return to traveling and trading by the river that joins them, walling themselves off to all other avenues of entry. Everything would become about controlling and protecting the river.
Fun to think about.
My actual birthday isn’t until next Monday, but the timing worked out to open it yesterday, which was perfect.
See, Marcella lives on a sail boat and goes from harbor to harbor around Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands right now. She was trapped by bad weather in a harbor without WiFi for several days. And Laura is under deadline and has gone Walden Pond (staying away from the interwebs for August). So we had to find a window when the three of us could IM conference while I opened my present.
The gift is particularly poignant, because yesterday I also received the contract for my novel, Obsidian, from Carina Press.
Yes, that counts as the official announcement!
I am so blessed in so many ways.
And I plan to wear my necklace non-stop.