Thursday, September 4, 2014

Walking The Bases

I'll be the first to admit I don't know diddly-squat about writing. I'm blogging the process here as I go through it. Any time it appears that I have all the answers, just keep in that I'm making my way through it all myself. I suspect nobody really has any answers, it's all varying levels of people either going through shit or having just gone through shit.


I'm wrapping up two things at the moment: the 100 Day Write At Least 500 Words Per Day Challenge, which is going swimmingly. I have three more days left, but the last two will be after a week hiatus, since I'm heading out to Colorado to be a (moderately!) drunken lout with family for a week.

I would say it has been a pretty resounding success. According to the mathematics, I tend to average over 700 words per day, because usually I hit the 500 word mark and keep on going.

I'll probably do it again, because it's really pushed me to stop procrastinating and get work done. Writing every damn day, rain or shine, really turns you into a productivity machine. Or a basket case. One or the other.

500 words is probably the magic number, though. It's low enough that even on a bad day when I have zero time and energy, I can still make it. On a good day, I can blow past it easily enough in about ten minutes. When you make a challenge, you definitely need a bar to aim for, but you don't want to have that bar set so high you laugh contemptuously at it on a bad day and give it all up in favor of sloth and gluttony.

The other thing I'm wrapping up is the book.

Writing your first book is an eye-opening process. The things you'd expect to be easy are hard. The things you expect to be hard are easy. Banging out a hundred thousand words? Child's play. Making the word count is not even on the top ten list of hard things about writing something big.

The biggest challenge I've had is simply plotting. Before I start writing my next novel...which I'll get into roughly, oh, one or two days after I wrap this one up...I'm going to have to do what amounts to an eighties-style training montage of reading up on plot strategies and advice.

Plot is hard. I'm good at things like close-level descriptions, internal monologues, dialogue, action, chapter-level story stuff. That's all easy. But the macro stuff? Holy hell, that's difficult to keep track of.

Before I even try to launch into something very involved, I'm going to have to figure out some better way of tracking information. One of the problems I've had over the last year with the Clone stories is that, even after only four of those things, there's a huge pile of weird setting info I have to keep consistent. I can't imagine what it'd be like for a really dense science fiction novel.

Another surprise is writing the climactic chapters of a novel. It is an unnervingly underwhelming thing.

I mean, you've been writing towards this point for a year, you'd expect it to come out with thunder and fury and...well, it's a bit of a slog:  a very mechanical process in parts.

Fun, yes. It's nice to see all the pins begin to tumble down, one by one. The characters surprise you. You make last minute changes to the plot or things go differently than you'd expect and it's pretty cool.

But I've been writing this damn thing for a year now and I just want to move along. I hit a point in the outline where I just look at it and it's a bit that needs to get written and really needs to be there, but I'm much more interested in banging out that final period.

So there are parts I'm pretty much writing blow-by-blow. Hitting the high points, sketching out brief character interactions. Putting down stuff that's more than just a placeholder, mind you, but not my strongest work either.

I'll go back and make it better in a later draft...but for now it's all making sausage.

Writing the climax of a novel is a bit like stumbling into the wrong part of a theme park and seeing Goofy taking his head off. As a reader, you get to the end and it rocks your socks off. As a writer, you're punch drunk and swinging wildly by the time you hit that part of your first draft.

What's the next book? Good question. I'm torn between doing something light with superheroes or something heavy, full of diesel punk and social commentary. Or I'll just veer off in a perpendicular direction and get weird.

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