Saturday, December 27, 2014

At Least I've Figured Out the Problems

I'm not gonna try to put a pretty face on it: the second half of 2014 has been a big fat noveling fail, and I am thoroughly disgusted with myself.

January has typically been a month of great forward momentum for me. I'd like to capitalize on that, but  before I try to move forward I need to understand what's been holding me back. I think I've narrowed it down to four basic problems:

1) Lack of time. Since June, I've been working more weekly hours than I have since The Son was born. I am blown away that so many people manage to finish books while having full-time jobs. My sense of dedication to my art and willingness to sacrifice downtime have clearly not been up to snuff.

SOLUTION: There is no solution that will magically add hours to my day. However, I can commit to an hour a day. That will be my goal for January-- no page or word count goals. If I wind up just staring at the screen for an hour, so be it, but that's all I'm allowed to do for that hour.

2) My embarrassing magical-thinking problem I talked about in my last post. The less said about that the better.

SOLUTION: Take the pressure off to go back to work on EN the instant TOB is done. Also, stop being a weirdo. You do not have magical powers.

3) Shiny new story idea. They always strike when you're fed up with your current project, and I got a doozy back in the fall. I've been fighting it for a while, but then all these separate story ideas I had floating around in my head, but have tried to ignore because they don't fit with the Science Fiction world of EN and TOB, suddenly clicked together to make a whole new story world, with a four-part series just waiting to be written. Alternate Historical crossed with Fantasy crossed with Polyamorous Romance. For about six weeks, it was all I could think about.

SOLUTION: This was a risky move, but I decided to just go with it for a while. I started doing character work for my quartet of protagonists, and took books on 19th century manners and Abenaki Indian culture out of the library. I also started outlining the first book, the first quarter of which was unfolding effortlessly in my mind, like watching a movie. It was SO FUN. It's been a long time since I had fun working on TOB, since I worked on it because that's what I'd most like to do with my free time and not because oh god, I've been working on this book forever and every month I don't finish it makes me that much more of a loser.

Like I said: risky, 'cause I've already bailed on a book for a Shiny New Idea once. But I had a hunch that wouldn't happen here. The future project, which we shall call T for now, is a complicated high-concept premise that will take a lot of intricate plotting and some serious research to pull off. I knew that eventually it would get hard, and the rose would lose some of its bloom. And that's just what happened. So I set it aside, and now have a nice start to return to some day.

4) Issues in TOB itself. I so hate to say this, but it's no coincidence that I ran out of steam editing Act III. That Act has always been the trickiest to figure out, and it still has issues. Not scrap-the-whole-Act issues, but may-need-a-serious-shuffle issues.

SOLUTION: While I was Christmas shopping, I bought myself a copy of Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass. I have Maass's two previous books and have found them to be among the most insightful and valuable writing guides I have ever read (and I have read many). This one seems to have been written exactly for me at the moment I find myself in with this book. It's all about transcending genre, connecting emotionally with your work, and taking a less predictable path to the end. I've realized I have some plot points that are formulaic, and I need to be willing to shake that up, even if it means more rewrite work for me. The books has reminded me that I don't want to just write a passable soft Sci-Fi novel; I want to write something awesome. TOB can be awesome, and the Maass book has me fired up to make it so.

So that's the state of the writing, on the brink of 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment