Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Crowns Threnody Diaries: Accidental Unification, Carving the Sculpture, and the Need vs. the Work

Salutations, internauts and seekers of wisdom! I fear you latter may have come to the wrong place, but you can stay if you like.

As I've been working on outlining, building the skeleton of the story, I've found something curious happening: the themes of the story are assembling themselves. Every time I come up with an idea, when I get down to the core of it, I find that it's already neatly paralleled with the over-arching thrust and intention of the tale. This unbidden focus is just one more thing that's keeping me interested in writing this series.

The brief period of frustration in which I was feeling stuck and less interested in the story has passed (or rather, I've pushed through it), and I'm back to feeling good about the whole effort. When ideas don't come easily, or you hit a wall, it's easy to get discouraged, but the solution to that is some good old-fashioned 'ass in chair, hands on keyboard' work.

I feel like the process of writing a novel/series is very similar to that of carving a sculpture. Right now, in the world-building/character definition/outlining stages, I'm picking out a block of stone and cutting away the pieces that won't be used, beginning to define a general shape. The first draft is where it begins to resemble the final product, and the edits and rewrites will be where the details and polishing finally come in.

Terry Pratchett, the brilliant author and satirist responsible for the Discworld series, once said "Too many people want to have written." The process of writing itself is slow and difficult. It's also deeply fulfilling and endlessly enjoyable, but like any kind of work, creative or otherwise, it can become something of a grind. Certainly a better grind than, say, an office job or burger-flipping, haha, but I know a lot of people who want to have written in the way Pratchett means. They have ideas, maybe even great ones. They write sporadically, and probably have a project that's been halfway done for years. What they lack (whether it's drive, ambition, or just the necessary time and discipline) is the core of the process of writing. You have to put in the time. You have to get frustrated and scrap five thousand words every once in a while when it's not working, and you have to have the strength to not be discouraged by that. You have to recognize that everything you screw up is practice, and the more words you pour out, the better you get. You have to be able to step back and try to put yourself outside of your story so you can perceive what it looks like to someone who doesn't know your universe, especially in the realms of sci-fi and fantasy. You may have to sit in front of a white page for three hours, failing to find anything to type as the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings plays in your ears, and you may have to write for three more hours once the ideas start flowing even if sleep is calling you, apologizing for the things it said and saying you can be a family again. You may have to get called away from an important thought and carry heavy things up stairs, only to return to your chair and find that the thought is gone. You may have to learn the hard way that in the morning, you absolutely will not remember that idea you had just on the fringe of slumber if you don't haul your lazy ass out of bed and go write it down or type it up NOW.

Writing is HARD. John Scalzi said that he got into writing because everything was hard and writing was easy, and later found out that writing is hard too, and that's a truth you have to stumble into for yourself no matter how many times you hear it from others, haha. You won't be convinced until you've experienced for yourself the sensation of slipping towards the ragged edges of mindbending, wild-eyed, sleep-deprived, coffee-drenched madness; staring sightlessly into miles and miles of magic-eye whitespace until snowblindness begins to set in. If, at that point, you keep struggling instead of giving up and going to do something else, you will know you have the writer's gene; a particular kind of insanity (most likely a neural defect of some kind) that insists that you do this. You HAVE to do this. You can't NOT do it, or you'll go crazy. If you possess the need to create in the same way you have the need to breathe, you may have what it takes to become one who has written.

I have a tendency to procrastinate. I push things further and further back so I can finish whatever I'm doing. Of course, along the way, I find new things that need finishing before I can WORK. But when I finally run out of excuses and sit down to write, I lock myself into hyperfocus and try not to let anything else get through the barriers. I close my browser (almost ritually), crank up some music, open Scrivener (oh, how I love my Scrivener; there will likely be a post on that topic in the coming weeks), and dive in. It becomes very difficult to distract me, and heaven help you if you do. Seriously, if you want to incite ire in a man, just let him actively focus on something and then interrupt him. I am not responsible for any axe murder that may ensue.

That's basically this week's post. Sorry it's a bit abrupt; I have too much to do and I can't use this blog to procrastinate any more. I'm afraid I have to push back my first draft launch deadline; there's simply too much plotting and world-building left to be done in ten days. I suspect drafting will begin either mid-April or early May, depending on how quickly I work over the next few weeks.

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