Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Checking In

Well, the book is finally zooming along, although I use that term loosely. I am producing six pages a day, but they are good, solid pages that I am polishing as I go. An entirely new experience for me, but it seems to be working. I am also keeping a list of the things I know I’ll need to go in and fix at the end, or details I’ll need to add, threads I think I’ve dropped for too many pages, that sort of thing. By the time I finish this draft, it will be the equivalent of a third draft when compared to my usual process. I am constantly surprised by how truly flexible my process can be, bless its heart.

Another tool I’m relying heavily on is scene designing, making a list of the main beats of action that will need to happen in the scene, then researching or collecting all the information I’ll need to be able to write it, then writing it. Part of the need for this stems from having so many of the scenes take place against the ancient monuments of Luxor/Thebes, which is not a setting I carry in my head. It has to be researched and I have to feel myself in it before I can write it. Also, I usually discover something about the scene that ties in to the plot or the solution of plot issue. It’s akin to outlining a scene, I guess, but less about the plot and more of a set design, so that I have all the tools nearby, kind of thing.

I’ve been treating myself rather like a brood mare these past few weeks, my only responsibility/goal is to give birth to this story. I’ve cut most social commitments to nil, write in the morning, then exercise or do physical chores in the middle of the day. I’m always surprised at how much my subconscious likes for my body to be busy so it can cook up things unobserved. Then I design the scene for the next day and do research in the afternoon. It is pretty much an ideal schedule.

One thing I’ve noticed is that by cutting my online time so sharply, I have tons more time in real life. So while this is a rather intense writing schedule, it doesn’t feel like it so much because I’ve cut out a lot of my online commitments. I am surprised at how much that simple step quiets the chatter in my head. All those conversations I’m not paying attention to, all that information I don’t have to process or make a decision about, all that news about the business side of the industry; gone. And wow, is that ever good for creativity!

Or mine, at least. Your mileage may vary. You might need all that stuff to feed your process. But for me, I’m realizing I might need to become the cyber version of bi-coastal; spending some months of the year with an online presence, then other parts of the year with none.

Something to think about anyway.


Val Hobbs said...

What you say about "scene designing" is fascinating. Also that you can watch and explain your process. It's much more of a mishmash for me. I jump into a scene and sort of watch it happen, or translate what's happening into words. Much less deliberate and organized, so then of course I run up against the problem of "what the heck is this about anyway?" So lovely to read how you are caught up in your days, doing just what you like and when you like to. I've had so many of those, and of course wasted some as well. Carry on, friend!

beckylevine said...

I'm so glad it's coming for you now. I've been doing a tiny bit of scene designing on my first draft, just trying to reorient on character goals & obstacles before I get writing. Otherwise, I find myself staring at that blank screen for way too long!

Robin L said...

Well Val, I don't know that it is so much watching and explaining my process as it is trying to figure out why I'm stumbling around. Very different beasts. :-)

But the scene designing thing does help me avoid a few rounds of What's this scene about, anyway?

I am enjoying the rhythm of this--if only the deadlines weren't quite so tight. But those are good problems to have, I know.

Becky, I reeeaaallly loathe staring at that blank screen! And that reorienting can be hugely helpful--sort of like a touchstone.