Wednesday, October 25, 2006

SMALL PLEASURES

My work is... well, it's work, you know? I don't hate it, but it's hardly like acquiring superpowers when it comes to generating any excitement into my day.

But my family constantly excite and surprise me. Like today, when Lyn rang just before lunch to say she and the kids were ten minutes away, and where should we meet?

Sometimes that's all you need :)

ANOTHER PERCENT BITES THE DUST

A bit of a short writing burst tonight: I'm tired, and 290 words got me past my daily target and the plot to a nice juncture for me to jump back on tomorrow evening. Still, progress is progress, and it's nights like tonight that are the reason I deliberately chose a low target. So:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou word meter

6,086 / 90,000
(6.0%)

Right now the tone is all over the place, and because I'm writing this one from a very loose framework, I've no idea whether the pacing is going to work or not. But I'm enjoying this way of working: I'm only ever one step ahead of my hero, and although I have a notion of where I want things to go, I don't know how they'll end up or what will happen along the way. My internal plot-creator is only about 3 events ahead of the page, which is keeping the process exciting, and helping to get me back to the keyboard every night. I want to find out what's going to happen, dammit!

Besides, I can always fix it in the 2nd draft :)

TOWARDS A THEORY OF PRODUCTIVITY

What with my newfound productivity, and discussions at the LJs of Jay Lake, Martin Livings, and Deborah Biancotti in recent days, I've been thinking about rhythm, and inspiration, and how a writer comes to grips with the needs of their craft. And me being me, I've got a theory.

Jay is prolific, and writes regularly. Daily. Deb is sporadic, and completes very few stories per year. Recently, she's been having somewhat of an existential crisis: does she write enough? Should she be more regular? Is waiting for inspiration the naive work practice of an amateur? And so on. Martin is having a similar response, brought on by some stupid comments at an anonymous LJ, and his own natural self-doubts. Note: nowhere is this about the quality of their writing. Deb and MJL are fantastic writers. But, they doubt, and in the face of Jay's beliefs about the writing process, it's got me thinking. So, for what it's worth:

I'm not saying this works for anybody but me, but I'm probably at the opposite end of the spectrum to Deb, and closer to the Jay Lake/Sean Williams end in that I benefit from putting words down every day, no matter how few. I need rhythm and momentum to work at my best, and that comes from advancing every day, rather than writing in bursts.

My problem has always been finding time to get the words in: when I'm not writing, that's when the depression sets in and that's when it gets harder to write, so I get more depressed.... (insert sound of a burning Spitfire)

Where Deb and Martin struggle is in coming to terms with the fact that they're not built that way: for them, the "muse" (and oh, I could pontificate on the bullshitness of a muse) strikes irregularly, and they are more comfortable waiting for the inspiration than trotting words out every day.

Martin and Deb are burst writers, not momentum writers. The thing is: it doesn't matter which type you are. Write every day, or when the mood takes you. As long as what results is writing with which you are happy. The most important part of the game is perseverence. If it takes you a week to finish a story, that's no different than taking a year, as long as you put all the right words in the right order. One practice makes you prolific, that's all. Deb and Martin hit the Year's Best lists as often as I do, despite the fact that I publish sometimes up to 3 times more than them added together. The quantity is moot. It's the quality that is remembered.

Or as I said to Martin in conversation recently: it doesn't matter if I have 70 unfinished short stories, and you have 2. We still have the same amount of product-- nada.

Momentum or burst. They're both equally valid ways of writing. It's when you work out which type you are that you become comfortable with your working practices, and can become happy with how you produce.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Sound of a burning Spitfire" - Is that fzzt-crackle-crackle, or WHHHHEEEEEOOOOOOOOWWWWW?

Lee Battersby said...

WWWWWWWWWWwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwcrrssshhhhh.......

Adrian Bedford said...

The more I read biographies of famous writers of the past and present, the more I found that every single writer writes in a different way, to a different schedule, etc. There's no one true way to get the job done, as long as the job gets done. This observation has really helped me out many times when feeling decidedly fraudulent. Sounds like you guys have been coming to much the same conclusion.

Lee Battersby said...

In different ways, I think: Jay's now posted about my post about his post, so if there's a fundament, we're disappearing up it together :)

But yes, as long as you finish the work, that's the defining factor.

specficwriter said...

I couldn't agree more, guys. I'm one of those writers who bash out a draft for a short story, then go on to something else and evetually I will come back to that piece - I write very erratically too.

I cannot help but work this way because as a writer, I am constantly invaded by ideas that are simply too good to loose. I find that if I get the essential elements down on paper in draft form, I can then always come back to it refreshed.It's like a cycle.

I'm writing my first novel at the moment (7,800 words of 85,000 and counting)and because it's the longest thing I've ever attempted, the novel both exhilirates me and scares me at the same time. I choose to work on it at irregular intervals because I'm scared that if I work on it for too long at a time, I'll abandoned it because of my short attention span, so that's why I'm taking this kind of approach. It's slow going, but I'll get there.

By the way, how many of you agree that a real confidence booster is printing out each page you complete of a novel, where you can watch your manuscript stack grow?

Lee Battersby said...

I don't print out each page, but as the word counters show, I keep a pretty tight count on how many words I've done. It's the same principle: giving yourself a concrete recognition of your progress. I think we all need to feel a sense of progression as we work.

Of course, my way of writing a novel results in the largest fucking line-edit in the world at the end of each draft, in that I type the whole thing in, print out all 300 pages in one go, line edit them by hand, then input all the changes again. Then I rinse and repeat. Exhausting, but the only way I can keep track.