It’s beautiful out there. I mean, even for Monday, which you all know I hold in poor regard. Last year we had sleet and about 25 degrees; this year we’re in the 70s, sunny, with a nice little breeze.
I am, needless to say, distracted.
And yet. And yet. 2K more this weekend, not bad for a girl with sunlight and home inspections on the brain, and I think I’ve finally got the weird plot hole looming at the very end figured out. This book is probably going to spill over my 100K goal by a few thousand, because I still have final-climax-plus-falling-action to go, but I had a nice shiny epiphany last night, and I think I have it all sorted out. I even, gasp, know where I’ll be cutting when I get a room at the Revisionland Hotel.
So, while I may not be quick about this, I guess I am somewhat organized. That’s got to count for something, right?
15K left. Or so. Maybe. Could be 20, or 10, or 30, for all I know. Endings are easier for me in that I know, more or less, what’s going to happen, and I have, more or less, all the tools I need to take myself there: they’re harder for me because all the work I’ve put in so far is put to the test, and every word counts.
Well. Every word counts anyway; I know that. But this 10-15-20-30-whateverK feels like tiptoeing through a minefield. They’re all my mines, but some of them I don’t remember putting there, and I only want a select few to actually blow up, on my terms, and preferably not when I’m standing near them. Controlled demolition vs. oh-crap-did-you-hear-that? demolition.
(Okay, no more violent metaphors. Sorry. I’m still working on coffee #1.)
Anyway. I read this fabulous interview yesterday –the amazing and witty Hope101’s interview of Laura Kinsale, if you’re interested (and you should be, because it was a really, really great interview)– and one of Ms. Kinsale’s statements struck me:
“What I’ve found is that if I do force myself to write when the pitcher is empty, I go down blind alleys that just get harder and harder to push ahead. Then I have to go back to where it was “working” and start over there. There will always be some “good parts” in the blind alley that I don’t want to let go of, which makes it even harder to start over. Overall not very pleasant or productive. So what seems to work best for me is not to force myself to turn out pages on a schedule, but to keep the book and characters in my mind, to read other books, and listen for that little bell to ring that gives me a sentence or a scene I can start with and keep going.”
(It’s on page two, if you want to go hunting for it)
I do this All. The. Time.
We’re writers. We want to get published. For those of us messing around in particular genres –SF/F, for example, which is definitely where I fall– the ability to produce, and produce regularly, is a not-inconsiderable talent. Even unpublished and contractless, that pressure is still there unless you’ve done little to no research at all about this industry (or, I suppose, unless you’re a much more stable and balanced person than I am). You’ve probably come across at least a few blogs, or posts, or whatever, that paint the picture of a writer in the middle of one novel, editing another, and reviewing galleys on a third.
And if you’re anything like me your first thought upon reading an account of something like that was not Awesooooome! *fistpump*, but Sweet Cartwheeling Jesus, when do they sleep?
No, it’s not always like that (or, I hope, even often like that). But if you’re anything like me, you feel that pressure even though it’s not always like that, and even though you don’t yet have any contractual obligation to write, say, a book a year. I see numbers and scenarios like the above; I know a lot of writers who do, in fact, write that fast or faster; and I worry. Because I just don’t write that fast. Or, not as fast as I feel like I should. I can do a book a year, but it does in fact take the whole year. And I sit here, 20K-or-whatever from THE END, stressing myself out because I’m not going as fast as I think I should be. And you know, stress can be useful and productive, but as far as its influence on an occasionally delicate creative process? –well, not so much. Especially here, approaching THE END, where I’m already neurotic enough to fund the college educations of several psychologists’ children.
So the above-quoted statement is a helpful reminder for me: I’m not racing a clock. And pushing myself when maybe I really need to take a night off, or even (gulp) a week off, probably isn’t going to give me anything I’m actually going to want to keep.
It’s important to me to keep in mind that this is a job, or at least that if I want to get paid for it I’d be wise to treat it like one… but I often forget that it’s equally important to let my brain (and my fingers) have some time off to recharge.
75K. It’s been slow, and I’ve still got 15 – 20K left to go… which, after approximately 45K of Dreaded Middle, doesn’t seem like very much at all.
I finally hit that fabulous home stretch last week, and now every few paragraphs I’m getting blindsided by one of those EUREKA!! moments, complete with yelp, crazy facial expression, and figurative lightbulb appearing, all halo-like and shiny, over my head.
These are, as you can imagine, particularly awkward in public.
This stage is, if I’m being honest, the real reason I love writing books. Beginnings are fun for me: beginnings are shiny new toys I get to unwrap, mess around with, and eventually pull apart until all the lights stop flashing and the wheels won’t move in tandem.
Middles I don’t like so much (the last few months of whinging about them here may have tipped you off to this): by then I’ve reduced my pretty new toy to its components, all the shiny has worn away, and it’s just occurred to me I don’t know how to put it back together.
And then, somewhere around 60-70K, I hit this fabulous stage, where I realize that in all my screwing around trying to get the pieces to fit together, I’ve somehow gone and built myself a SCUD. Off she goes in a trail of smoke and screaming air, to eventually land on someone else’s desk (i.e., betas and then my agent), to drastically rearrange some furniture and probably make them wonder what they ever did to me to deserve this.
I love this part. Every random little moment I had no idea why I was writing is now a piece of the puzzle: they’re coming together into a cohesive picture as I watch. It gives me some much-needed confidence in my own weird brain to see this happen; to know that all that stuff I thought was crap, and not in any way connected to the plot, was in fact not only connected but pivotal. I have no idea how a writer who outlines as obsessively and geekishly as I do can still be surprised by pieces of her own book, let alone repeatedly trampled by a hoarde of stampeding plot bunnies ever four pages or so, but here it is: book 3, and I have ambushed myself yet again. It reminds me to have a little faith in myself. Even when I don’t have any clue what I’m doing, it turns out I know what I’m doing.
Did I mention I love this part? Because I love this part.