Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Don't Write Every Day

I read a blog post the other day by Rachel Aaron about writing every day and the importance of enjoying what you write. I really loved the post and not just because I can totally get behind the notion of writing what you love. (That's a whole separate blog post that I'm sure I'll get to eventually.) I also loved it because slipped into the middle there, Ms. Aaron flat out admitted that she doesn't actually write every day.


I've done a lot of research over the years regarding the craft of writing and the business of publishing. (There is no better way to put off actual writing than reading a bunch of agents' Twitter feeds and calling it business research!) As a result, I am just full of random fluffy little bits of writing advice. We've discussed the one I hated most until I really figured it out. Another one that you hear all the time is this: if you want to be a serious writer, you must write every day.

You just have to. You must sit your butt down in the chair and put your fingers to the keyboard (or your pen to the paper if you're of that particular school) and make words flow every single day. Even if it's just ten measly words that you had to scrape out of the bottom of an otherwise empty brain pan, you must write something. Pretty much everyone will tell you this.

Writers write every day. It is known, Khaleesi.

I have issues with this particular bit of advice. For starters, I know a couple of writers. Not a ton of them, mind you, but a few. Not one of them actually writes every day. Writers are real people and there are other things that must be done. They have children to attend to, they have day jobs, they need to go to the grocery store, and clean their houses, and mow their lawns. There are family reunions to be suffered through and they are occasionally tapped as bridesmaids and forced to spend the entire day being photographed while wearing monstrous confections of chocolate brown satin and lime green tulle. They need time to take showers, and buy swimsuits and blue jeans, and go out on dates, and drink boxed wine and watch bad 80s television with the girls. In short, they have lives and no one, no matter how much passion they have for their work, works every day. At least, they probably shouldn't.

Also, the notion that you must write every day makes it sound like so much homework. It's not homework. It shouldn't be homework. I'm not fifteen and being forced to learn my Spanish verb conjugations so that I can get into a good college and become a well-educated adult. This notion that to be a real writer you must write every day makes me feel like I shouldn't have days where I just don't have time, and, if I do have those days, I'm clearly just a bored housewife with a hobby and not a "real" writer.

So no matter how much advice I eventually spew onto this blog, I'll probably never tell you to write every day. Because damn would I be the biggest hypocrite in the world at that point. I don't write every day. I try to write most days. Some weeks I even succeed at it. Some weeks I don't. I confess there have occasionally been weeks that have passed in their entirety without my sitting down at the keyboard even once.

Maybe if I don't write every day, I'll never get to the point where I can pound out 5000 words before breakfast and put out a dozen novels a year, but that doesn't mean I'm not taking this seriously. So, should you write as often as you can and be serious about it? Absolutely. Should you tell yourself you need to write every single day in order to be successful? I don't think so.

What about you? How do you feel about this notion that writers must write every day?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stopping Doesn't Have to Mean Quitting

The Muse mentioned something in her blog post last week that I thought I could expand on a bit. I've given myself a year to work on Familiar. After that, I stop writing it. My year started last October, so it's already half gone.

That doesn't mean if I can't make Familiar work I'm going to pack it all in and give up my writerly dreams. It also doesn't mean I have any delusions about selling a book six months from now. Familiar won't be finished then no matter what. It's only the first draft I'm worried about right now.

There is some advice out there that says you should finish the manuscript no matter how long it takes, because finishing is the important part. It's good advice. Finishing is important. You have to prove you know how to finish an entire novel before you can move on to the next step toward getting published. But even though this blog and such are new, that's not where I am as a writer. I've finished first drafts before. Several of them. I don't think I know how to finish a novel. I know I know how to do it.

I'm not worried that I can't finish the story. I know I could do it if I was willing to put the time into it. My concern now is something entirely different. Now I'm more worried about getting sucked down a rabbit hole with this story, making it the one thing I stubbornly work on for decades, only to find out in the end that it wasn't a terribly good idea to begin with. I don't get a lot of time to write. I have to make most of the time I do get and I can't afford to waste it on an idea that isn't really going anywhere.

Besides, if it took me years and years to finish the story, by the time it was done I would hate it. Every single word. Once upon a time I was madly enthralled by this idea. And while we're well past the giddy breathlessness phase, I'm still in love with it. I don't want to hate it. I've made that mistake with projects before and it's just cruel.

Poor Aundroma. Even all these years later, I still can't even hear its cute little made up name without grinding my teeth.

So in less than six months, I'll set this one aside. Either it'll be a completed draft, resting and awaiting revisions, or it'll be the newest resident of my creative graveyard, slumbering peacefully in the back of my mind unless I bring it out for a random round of what-might-have-been.

But either way I won't be giving up. It's not a point of no return; it's a deadline. I'll be writing something shiny and new. I've got a couple of ideas tumbling around in the background, waiting for to see whose lucky number gets called.

I suspect it'll be the romance, but there's still time for me to change my mind and save myself.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

Writings of The Muse
Musing for a pantser trying to be a plotter is very difficult work. Renee is working on rewriting a project she gave up on several years ago. She got together with the Inner Editor and me and we all decided to give her one year to make the story work. After that, if it hasn't come together, it's off to the graveyard and on to something new.

I wasn't personally involved in this project the first time around. That honor goes to my predecessor, the Muse who ran off with Renee's oldest daughter. But I don't mind picking up where she left off. The familiars are charming, really. Most of the time, I love working with them.

But Renee is normally a pantser; she claims outlines have killed every project she's ever plotted out before. But since this isn't really a first draft, she decided we really just had to suck it up, pretend to be professionals about it, and plot the darn thing out. No sense in spending a significant chunk of time banging out a brand new draft with the same old problems, after all.

At first things were going just swimmingly. We dreamed up character worksheets and made a big timeline. There is a very nice scene list with a whole set of descriptive index cards in Scrivener. We even wrote a rough little synopsis to help shake out the kinks.

Yes, we wrote a synopsis when we didn't have to. Renee actually likes writing synopses.

Don't ask me why; I don't understand it either.

And the first 30k just flowed right out onto the page with very little trouble. There were still some hurdles to deal with, corners that didn't meet up exactly right the first time. But the Inner Editor and I worked it all out and managed to get Renee through the first act with only a few minor mental meltdowns.

But now the cats are rebelling. The outline and scene list have the story moving off in a certain direction and the whole litter of familiars is just sitting there, glaring at us and refusing to put even one paw on the path we've laid out. I suppose none of us should be surprised. Cats are contrary animals at best and Renee has four of them in her novel.

We've tried changing the venue for them. They responded to a shift of their territory about as well as you'd expect cats to do. I've pulled out all my best cajoling and reasoning and even bribing techniques. The Inner Editor has explained the plot dynamics and character arcs to them several times, complete with a few graphs and pie charts. I think she was also working on a spreadsheet at one point, but I convinced her to stay away from that.

There has been a good bit of glaring on all sides.

And still Renee sits down in front of the keyboard each time and never manages to eke out more than a few hundred words here or there. Most of which end up getting scrapped even before the end of the day. The dialogue is stilted, the action sluggish, and the romantic tension is blah and not actually very tense at all. It has been weeks and still the cats are just flat out refusing to cooperate.

We're giving in. We're going back to the outline and plotting out a new path. If the cats are this resistant, perhaps they see something we don't. Pantsing involves a lot of trusting the characters to know where they're going. It just didn't occur to any of us before now that perhaps plotting does too.