George R R Martin talks about two archetypes for writers: Gardeners and Architects. The architect will plan and plot their story, knowing what happens to who from beginning to end before ever writing a single word. The gardener however will go in blind, knowing only the barest of details and discover the story as the write.
In truth, most writers sit somewhere between these two polar opposites. But the approaches are so vastly different that people usually identify with one extreme or the other.
I’ve always thought myself a gardener, although one that does a lot of thinking. I will have a good idea of the milestones of the story and the overall arcs of both character and story, but anything inbetween is up for grabs.
Disassociated thoughts rattling around my brain today:
New day job means my writing schedule is all over the place. There’s a few things I’ve been working on, but nothing that feels productive. I’ve tried to at least keep the blog ticking along and I’ve also started writing a test scene for Refugee in first person but mostly I’ve been thinking about one of the secondary characters in Gods of the Wild Frontier.
I took a netbook with me to SFX Weekender, and despite all the fun and merriment I still managed to get a thousand words a day done whilst there. I was really proud of that, felt dedicated to my craft, a “real” writer. Then I took an 8 hour journey home, had a day of sorting out major real-life issues the following day, got good news the day after that, and suddenly… I’ve not written anything on the novel for nearly a week. I know why it happened and feel there’s good reason but still… Gah!
Persistence is so important in this industry and something every writer fails at from time to time. I used to think that because sometimes I never got round to writing every day or procrastinated, that I wasn’t a real writer. But falling off the writing wagon happens, procrastination happens. It’s picking yourself up, dusting yourself down and getting back on that proverbial horse that matters (although why you’d be on the horse if you had a wagon is beyond me!).
Anyways, I need to go write!
Gods continues to be an interesting process. If you’re not aware, this is the first book I’ve attempted to write where I’m discovering the story as I go. It’s a western fantasy with helicopters and spirit animals. There’s part of me that felt as if the ideas needed to ‘cook’ for another couple of years, but I have to say that the results so far have been interesting.
The book is going pretty well and most importantly, the voyage of discovery is entertaining me even when it takes me in directions I’d never previously thought of.
Today, I lack focus. I have 101 ideas.
Today the world holds infinite possibilities; unfortunately infinite time does not come with it.
Today I want to create an anthology, start a fantasy fiction magazine, write an adventure game, put together a writer’s portfolio, write a comics script and do a few non-fiction articles. I have to keep telling myself that ideas are fine but I need to have priorities. So in the back of my mind I’m labelling these with a time commitment, with a view to picking off the low hanging fruit.
I’ve also been thinking of digging up a few old short stories, sprucing them up a bit and sending them out once again. It’s not the inevitable rejections that bother me, just the trying to find suitable markets for stories that don’t seem to sit nicely in genre boundaries and aren’t arty enough to fit those publications that like cross-genre. I just want to tell good stories.
But in the midst of all this indecision and big ideas I’m continuing work on Gods which continues to be an unusual experience. It’s carrying on in the background, almost half forgotten, and it’s still very much a story I’m not sure where it’s going. The word count is surprisingly high but I don’t think it waffles too much. This will still probably need a tighter edit than other things I’ve written but I’m enjoying the freedom of discovering where the story is taking me.
Sometimes real life gets in the way.
It’s safe to say that NaNo hasn’t been going well. And yet, I guess it has. I had bold plans, grand ambitions, and then like the monster at the end of the movie that *isn’t* quite dead, work problems raised their ugly head again and sent me into a downward spiral.
There’s a lot I could write about how I’ve been feeling the last couple of weeks, but I don’t think now is the time for public discussion. But needless to say I’ve found myself withdrawn.
I don’t want you thinking that it’s bad news though. These are just rough waters before the calm, they have to be weathered. And throughout it, I have continued to write – maybe only a couple of hundred words here and there, but writing nonetheless.
And with me so preoccupied with being some place other than here, the day to day artistic insecurities have gone into the background. I often say that my writing is best when it is almost transparent to me.
Of course, entering this project having no real idea where it is going is a new experience for me, one that does not suit the daily goals of NaNo but also a project without expectations. This allows me to play. The draft is already messier than my previous novels, and a complete rewrite will be required for just about everything. The story grows and expands before my eyes and I’m still not sure what I will have at the end.
I’m excited to find out.
When I decided that I would take my writing seriously – really try and make a go of it – I decided that I would always take risks, that I would never play it safe. For the most part, I’m glad I did that. I probably didn’t realise it at the time, lost in the mists of self-doubt, but I had a strong sense of who I was and where I wanted to sit in the market.
Keeping true to that means I sometimes get wracked with self-doubt. I’m quick to self-efface and sometimes people take it seriously. As a result, I question myself constantly.
Some days you have good days in NaNo, some days you have bad. Yesterday was a bad day for me. I woke up feeling mentally exhausted from day one, more so than I expected. Day 2 is also a day of doubts: did I pick the right project? Do I like these characters? Is this ever going to be any good?
I’m a person who likes to spend time on the first chapter, rewriting and rewriting until I’ve got the tone just so, but with NaNo there’s no time to do that. So I found myself feeling uncomfortable with my prose and fighting an almost primal urge to go back, rewrite and reshape. Also, when it comes to visual description, I drastically under-write. This was acutely obvious to me as I tried to get yesterday’s words done. I need to ignore this and fix it in the second draft, instead worrying about new words. Some days words come easy, some days they are like treacle. Yesterday was a treacle kinda day.
The result was that I barely made the daily target. How rubbish. I see some of my friends have almost caught me up – which is a fantastic spur to push on, not because I want to “beat” them, but because I know other people are going through this as well.
With hindsight, I really should have swapped projects as Thieving King’s NaNo word count sits at 0 (though I do have some chapters written which don’t count).
You live, you learn, you pick yourself up and you carry on. Busy day today so it too could be a challenge to get words done.
So the first day of NaNo went pretty well, with a 4000 word start. That’s less than I would have liked but I started on Gods which I’m less familiar with and so was finding my way a little. I even found time to spend the evening raiding with my Warcraft guild. That’s one thing NaNo has taught me… you need to sometimes take breaks, and I’m glad I did as I was pretty frazzled by the time I got to game.