Archive for the 'The Other Side of the Sky' Category

Never Easy

Leaf portrait small

It’s been awhile since I’ve said anything about my progress or lack thereof on Sky.

That’s because, in part, writing all those posts about rebound took up a lot of words and mental energy.

It’s also because after a couple weeks of unrelenting distractions and interruptions, when I finally got back to it, the magic had once again left and I had no idea what I was doing.

I had brought things to a point at the end of Chapter 7, but couldn’t quite finish it off. Too many questions… too many options. Too many, “whys”. As in, if A does that, what will B do in response? If I don’t want A to be figured out by B now, how can I have events progress as I have them? B would have to be a nincompoop not to figure everything out, and he’s not supposed to be a nincompoop.

[Where in the world did that word come from? Nincompoop??]

Somehow those questions led to a re-evaluation of the surface of the world I am trying to build, which led to a re-evaluation of the government, this after an earlier re evaluation wherein I decided to change my world set up from a single empire situation to multiple nations…

Then an interruption would come in and several days would pass before I could get back to it, during which time I would have forgotten what I had been thinking about… Returning to the work was almost like returning to square one and the whole project would seem so vast and overwhelming I’d spend at least the first day back doing my best to run away from it.

But today I got back to it and in the course of writing one of those nonstops I’m so wont to write, I remembered this:

From my ruminations over today’s work:

“It occurs to me that I haven’t really thought all this out and this kind of thing, the ideas, the modification, the sudden realization of inconsistencies, the  major readjustments, the refinement – or the dumping as unworkable and starting over…  it’s all part of the hard work of building a world for a novel. So… nothing’s wrong here. It’s part of the process and the process is long, hard, confusing, frustrating, exciting, gratifying, rewarding, never easy. Nor simple. Nor fast.”

It’s been like this before. Many times. I’d forgotten that. Forgotten that I just have to keep plugging along, and be patient, It will come, in time.

Second Real Day Back

events stack

Well, finally, after all the catch-up I played last week after our trip, I’ve gotten back to work. It was a productive day!

When I started, though,  as I looked at the three hundred or so  2″ x 3″  cards scattering my desk, I felt quite overwhelmed. Over time I’d used them to note down ideas as they had occurred to me — ideas about character, about incidents or events that might happen, about a character’s intentions or desires or reactions… each to its own card, but the cards all in a jumble. All waiting to be put into some kind of coherent plotline.

Augh! How was I going to do this? It was all swirling around —  random events and occurences that seemed to have no relation to one another. I needed, so I thought, to form some kind of plot line, but I felt lost in a fog of indecision.

So I went to the Lord, which I’m doing a lot more now than I have in the past — about almost everything.

“What should I do?” I asked Him, wanting to run away from it all yet again…

Well, He drew my attention to the fact that I have three placemats on my desk and enough space for another, though I don’t have one.  That’s more or less 4 sections. I could at least divide up the stack into general sections…

So I took up my stack of “event” cards (above)

And began to go through them one by one… placing some of them on the “beginning” placemat, some on the “ending” space and  just parceling out the rest of them as seemed fit, more or less where I thought they would fit in the story. Some events were predicated on others, some had to come after others… Sometimes I had two cards with different options for the same event, mutually exclusive. Sometimes I had two cards with slightly different takes on the event, or different details or trappings for it.  I just laid them all down, some in rows, some on top of other cards, some bridging two rows. Some of them I even put between the placemats when I wasn’t sure.

It was kinda fun, because I didn’t have to decide, just generally divide up the cards. Some of them I even threw away. And it was something of a comfort to find that for several of the events I’d envisioned, I’d made two, three even four cards with the same event on it.

Once I had them all parcelled out, I divided them into four piles, which I gathered together in a rough approximation of the order they’d been placed on the table.

The operative word here is “rough.”  I was not demanding that I be precise and orderly, it was just to be a general dividing of the concepts.

parts 2 - 4 small

Above you can see parts 2 -4 all gathered up and secured with rubber bands.

Where is part 1?  Well, once I’d gotten all four of my stacks divided, I took up Part one and began to lay out those cards in terms of cause and effect, order, etc.:

cards part 1

And having done that I have the beginnings of a line of events to work with. Nothing finished by any means but a start. There are lots of holes, and some of them are just ideas that need fleshing out. Some — those either/or cards — require a decision to be made one way or the other.

But that’s all tomorrow’s work. Oh, and I’m still loving my Freedom program, which I blogged about awhile back. That and turning off the phones, continues to give me what feels like a safehaven in which to relax and focus on the work… Plus something about the suspension of being available for contact motivates me to use the time to advantage rather than simply dink around.

Eating an Elephant

eat an elephant

I’m sure most of you know the old adage, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. ” Well, my next step in my writing rehab program, as outlined in my Overcoming Writing Blocks book, was just that.

Having dealt with the distractions in my environment, I moved on last week to the writing project itself.  First up was to break the task into “bite-sized units.”  For a novel,  that would be chapters or possibly “Parts,” though so far I have not been thinking of this book in  terms of “Parts.” For now I took the average of the number of chapters in each of my six books — 42 — as the number of chapters in Sky.

I’ve already written six of them, which  leaves 36. At a rate of 2 chapters per 3 weeks,  with time out here and there for holidays and trips, I would be done with a first draft around May 1 of next year.

Whether that has any tie to reality or not, I have no idea. But it’s a start.

Next was to come up with a “Purpose Statement.” For fiction writing that would be one’s main story question for the tale. In working through developing this,  many things came to light about the world I’m building and this plus the next step “research reading and taking notes” (which I take to also include work in developing the parameters of one’s make-believe world) sent me off for most of last week gathering all my scattered notes and ideas into folders with the intention of going through the collected material and deciding what I want to keep and what I want to toss.

In the process of all this I realized that I am no longer interested in the linear set-up of a single empire beneath my fictional planet’s surface with the heavenly city floating above as I had originally envisioned. There have to be various nations to carry out what I’m wanting to do,  and in fact in the chapters I’ve already written there are already at least two other national entities mentioned. So I see that this concept was there all along, despite my initial plans.

I’ve been taking all my note cards and entering the notes on them into one of my many world building documents, or if I’ve decided not to use that material, simply throwing it away. It’s been very productive work. Not when it comes to chapters written, but as regards the fundamental shift the story is now taking. Once an optimum number of the world building questions have been answered, I’ll be able to turn my attention to the plot…

The fact that I’m making this fairly major change, in addition to much new material I’ve gathered from miscellaneous reading, news events and my own increasing understanding of some of the spiritual issues I was wanting to deal with, I’m beginning to see there might have been a reason for my stall over the last few months… years? … that goes beyond mere burn out, life distractions, or lack of self-discipline…

The Winds Have Changed

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted regularly. In fact, except for last Friday’s post, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted at all. So much for all that Platform stuff from last summer about posting regularly and often…

I don’t know what happened. My desire to write just dribbled away… Other things claimed my time and attention. When I considered the book, the blog, even email, I was blank and utterly without motivation. First time in my life that I’ve felt like that.

Or so I thought.

Of course I’ve prayed about it. Repeatedly. What is wrong with me, Lord? Has the fire gone out? Am I not getting enough sleep, or just being undisciplined? Should I relax and trust You to move me when it’s time? Or is there something more I can do?

It’s been a very strange two and half months. No, it’s been longer than that, especially when I take my progress on Sky into account… which, until last week, was not much progress at all.

So, for a time now, I’ve been reading stuff — books, blogs, news — and making cards, and cleaning the house and working on long-put-off projects and dealing with Stuff… can’t clearly remember all of it. Church stuff, taxes, ailing relatives, shingles, stuff going wrong, breaking, getting lost… a leak in the water line from the main to the house…  not getting enough sleep, drinking too much caffeine (which means any caffeine at all), beset by the terrible distractibility I’ve written about in previous posts…

But then, at the beginning of May something happened.  I’d just finished and sent off the guest post I wrote for Seriously Write and “for some reason” says my journal entry, “I picked up Overcoming Writing Blocks.”

blocks

It’s on the shelf above my desk. I’ve had it for 30 years. I’ve read it and reread it and read it again. I’ve underlined passage after passage, starred portions in the margins… even blogged about here  and several other places…  In the past few months, while wondering if I was blocked I’d look at it on its shelf and think it would be no help. After all, I’d read it. Repeatedly. I already knew everything that was in it…

But on the first of May, for some reason I picked it up again, and was… SIGH… again “amazed to find,” in the section on Preparing to Write,  not only a description of what I’ve been enduring, but also some new and slightly different insights I’d not considered before.

One of the new and slightly different insights was this:

This is the training and gestation stage of any writing task. You know what you have to do and you must prepare yourself properly for it…you need to develop basic fitness habits that will get you in shape for prose composition.”

That’s true, I thought. If you just go out and try to start a daily running regimen, it’s not going to work. You have to work up to it, you develop some basic habits…

The precise description of what I’ve been going through recently, is exactly what I’ve gone through in the past, repeatedly, and you’d think that I’d remember that but for some reason… this time it all seemed New and Different and Far Harder and More Hopeless than ever before.

I believe the Bible when it says we have sick heads and deceitful hearts… How can I be so thick-headed?

Well, here’s the recap of the description of blocking at the preparing to write stage:

  • restless, anxious procrastination
  • can think of 1000 things you’d rather do
  • when you finally force yourself to sit down — dozens of extraneous but apparently urgent thoughts bubble up
  • when finally do get yourself to concentrate, all you get is dull blankness. There’s no excitement, no inspiration about the project. It leaves a flat, sour taste in your mouth.

YES! YES! YES! That is exactly how I felt! EXACTLY!

I thought this was all new. That I’d never experienced it before. At least “not like this”. Ha!  It was a great comfort to know it was not new, that I had experienced it and though I thought I already knew what was in this book and all the advice it had to give, maybe I should give it another look…

At least the Preparing to Write section, anyway. First up was”Managing your Environment.”  But I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Pondering Pays Off

Well, just time for a quick update. I’ve got another post in progress, but ran out of gas, so I decided not to put it up tonight, but save it for tomorrow. The reason I ran out of gas is because I started it too late in the evening and now it’s time for bed.

The reason I started late is because I’ve been working on Sky today!

After spending several days last week pondering, and reading Jack Bickham’s Scene and Sequel, one of my go-to books, things began to soften. Today I started out praying for some clarity about it all and finally, I think I’ve gained a bit. We’ll see if it carries over to tomorrow. But right now I’m feeling pretty satisfied and hopeful (admittedly it doesn’t take much!)

He is Not a God of Confusion

Sea Voyage: Leaving the Land Behind

I think the thing that most helped me from the discussion on the open ended writing process wasn’t so much doing the process itself, but realizing that what I am doing IS hard, and DOES take a lot of time and I WILL feel chaotic and disoriented, even frustrated with all the choices, but that it is okay. It’s actually the point.

The point of the sea voyage is to leave the old “wrong” ideas behind and find a new vision. New ideas, something based on the old, but not the old.

All that was on Tuesday. On Friday I listened to a Bible class from summer 2011 about how the spiritual gift works. I’ve been slowly working my way through those classes as time allows and it had been awhile since I’d listened to this particular series. I can’t even say why I chose to do it that day, but the content fell right in line with what I had been learning about the writing process. Again I found myself transcribing quotes into my journal.

From my entry last Friday:

(This Lesson from Sunday, July 17, 2011) is speaking directly to me!

“The power that flows through my spiritual gift and the results of its function are up to God.”

In my case “results” can mean what I’m seeing as accomplishment, as acceptable “progress.” So even when I can’t see anything, it’s still Him.

“So what does that leave for us to do? We’re merely to nurture a willingness to do the work (write the story) and be prepared. And to put ourselves in the place where the gift can operate. We let Him pick the right time for its operation.”

Which means for me, when the story “emerges” when things finally begin to come together, whether plotwise or world-buildingwise.

“This is new! This is different! This is not the way you’ve been trained (by the world) from birth to get things done.

 “The results are up to God, not you.”

“Therefore, don’t judge your effectiveness in your spiritual gift by the results. Be faithful to what God has called you to do, whatever it is. Just trust that He knows what He’s doing. Don’t freak out. Don’t get depressed, despairing, thinking that maybe you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. If you’re following the Word of God, hearing the Word of God, and being obedient to it, God’s gonna get you where you need to be.”

This on the surface relates to physical position, like at the corner where there’s a person waiting to hear the Gospel from you. But lately I’ve been reading about writing in terms of a journey – the sea voyage. You set out, leave land behind, get lost, don’t know what you’re doing and then gradually you come to a new land…. God will get you where you need to be.

This all SO applies to my circumstances right now. I’m looking through notes, reading various writings, doing open-ended writings and nonstops… trying to figure out/decide whether to have a more direct parallel to our situation today as a nation ( with other nations in my created world, covert ops, war, military actions… ) or make it a more abstract, even stylistic allegory, without all the grand political arena and dispensational stuff…Except I’ve already started both in the prologue, at least hints… And here I’m conflicted again. I feel like I’m getting nowhere..

But in all this mess I must stop and reflect: God will get me where He wants me to be.

Oh! And another message in today’s lesson:

“God is not a god of confusion. This is a very important principle when it comes to your spiritual gift because there’s a big temptation for them to get out of hand, lead to chaos rather than clarity. And God is all about CLARITY. Making things clear.”

So trust Him to do just that. Trust Him to show you the way you should go and believe that He is, even if it doesn’t look like you think it should look.

A Day in My Life

 

Well, I wanted to put up another post on thoughts generated by my reading of America Lite, but I’m afraid I’ve reached the end of my day without sufficient mental energy to do that. Yes, I started the post yesterday, but there are so many thoughts, it’s hard to narrow them down into something that makes sense.

I’m also in the process of working on a Big Project that has nothing to do with writing, which is partly why I don’t have any energy. And, I’ve been making a point getting in at least two hours of writing work a day on Sky (I’m using a modified version of the pomodoro system I wrote about here) in addition to my weekly Monday house cleaning stint. I’ve been putting the latter off for a couple of weeks now… I run out of time, tell myself I’ll do it tomorrow and hey! Tomorrow never comes.

So today I just decided to do it first. I put on my mp3 player tuned to messages from Pastor John last week (which were EXACTLY what I needed to hear, last week and today) and went through all the chores instead of trying to split them up across 5 days. Worked much better and I was glad to just have it all done.

After that and breakfast, I did 8 pages of revision on chapter 6. Oh and I printed up the following, which I found whilst re-reading my old blog:

Really bad means REALLY BAD

I forgot about writing really lousy drafts! Or rather, I knew about it, and I even have a sign about it on my desk, but I’d forgotten about it. Kind of like I know the Lord has promised to take care of me and bless me , and that He is wise and good and kind and powerful, yet suddenly I am worried and fretful again. I know it, but it’s not registering. I’m not applying it.

Really lousy drafts are just that. Really lousy drafts. Bad, bad writing that makes me wince as I’m setting it down. Sentences and thoughts that provoke all manner of objections — No! It can’t be that way. It should come after this, or before that. Or, This is really cornball… Or melodramatic. Or off the wall.

I just have to plug my mental ears and keep on writing, one bad sentence after another.

I love these reminders from the past. Besides reminding me of principles and activities I’d forgotten about, they also remind me of how much I forget!

I spent the afternoon working on the project before more Bible Class, walking Quigley, making and eating dinner and then… putting in some time on the blog post before Hawaii 5-0 (Danno is really starting to bug me and this episode — he and McGarrett on the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fishing trip — he was especially obnoxious. I wasn’t too fond of that character in the original series, either, though I think for different reasons.)

Well, if I want to have any mental energy at all tomorrow, I’d best stop this and get to bed.

Update: Writing Again

Today I went into the office and worked on Sky. For at least five hours. In fact, I’ve worked on Sky for at least two hours every day this week. I finished a rewrite of Ch 5 and for the last couple of days have been working on rewriting Ch 6. Kind of amazing.

I also think I’m finally getting to a place of clarity relative to what’s been going on in terms of the distractions and such.  Regular readers may recall I have been waffling between “get control of your life, make a schedule, have a little self-discipline” and “relax and trust the Lord to see it done.”  Well, the answer seems to be… It’s both!

I am not clear enough on it to actually articulate it, but perhaps in time I will. I’m still testing out whether I really do understand what’s going on or not.

Anyway, I worked through a lot of questions and details of setting today. I’m hoping tomorrow I can move through more pages. We’ll see.

Walking in Fog

Last week, in the process of looking for something else, I stumbled upon a documentI created in 2007 called “The Muddled Phase, which is a collection of quotes from various nonstops I had made when I was beginning The Enclave.

Once again, they track dead on with what I’m experiencing now with Sky, and it was such a help for me to read them, again, I thought I’d share.

“Gah!  I hate all this muddled thinking I’m doing!  Just completely mushed up and tangled.  Nothing clear, nothing right.  A mess.  Ideas float in and out.  Who knows if they’re any good?  They sort of fit, but then need modification.  I just don’t know what I’m doing.  It all feels like a stupid idea, I should just give it up and go write something simpler.  But . . .

“I do recall feeling this way about Arena.  And about Eidon, for that matter.  So.  Again, I must walk by faith.  And again I am in the fog.  Where I can’t tell if I’m going forward or backward, where I’m going, if I’m actually going anywhere, or just in a circle.

“In fact, it’s hard to even think about any of it.  As I start to grope for it mentally, it seems to recede and fall into a jumble.  I want to wrest it all into order, and yet there’s nothing to hold onto.  Not even a direction to head in.” 

–Snip questions, possibilities, ideas —

“Hmmm. That could be interesting.  Urk and urk.  Swirling again.  Maybe I should just try and write it.  I don’t know.  Maybe I need to lie down or iron or something.  Something constructive.  Something besides just sitting here staring at the wall having half-formed thoughts flit in and out.  It’s maddening.  Maybe I should just paint.  Or clean or . . . but I don’t want to do any of those.  I want some order.  I want a map.  I want it now.  I have to make it myself.  My brain won’t cooperate. 

“Interesting about …” [and then my mind flits to something that is completely irrelevant but bothering me at the time]

“Where was I?  Trying to distract myself?  Is this avoidance behavior?  I don’t know what to do.  Sit and wait, or try to make something emerge?  Reread the material or . . . sit and wait.  Lie on the couch.  Stare at the penguin mobile.   

“Oh this is a waste.  My brain is dust.  Ash.  Urk and urk.  And urk.  So many distractions.  I am becalmed again.  There seems to be an awful lot of that.  I need to rebound I guess and ask for guidance because there doesn’t seem to be any. 

Oh.  That’s right.  My emotions have been turned off, so I can’t look for much help from them.  I listened to two songs today that usually get me going, and they did hardly anything emotionally.   Maybe I shouldn’t be waiting for some great surge of  “It’s right!”  Maybe I should just look at what I’ve got and go with it, whether I feel good about it, or not.  Just do the plan I have,”

 From another Nonstop, later

 “Okay, I was being frustrated, angry.  I have need of patience.  I need to trust Him to provide and to be content in whatever state I find myself.  And if that is in not finding the lost object — AGAIN — then that is what I will be content with.  Looking for the object in my mind.  Or not finding the answer.  That’s what it is.  It’s not an object, it’s an answer.  An understanding. 

“And I haven’t found it.  And I feel as if I should be able to find it now.  Immediately.  But I can’t.  I look inside and only incoherent thoughts fly by.  Not even floating anymore, more like whirling, breaking apart, joining with others and breaking apart.  Maybe that’s what’s going on.  I don’t know.  Maybe I should just give it up and iron.  I am impatient.  I feel that I must get busy on this book.  That I must be professional and work.  That I must use my time wisely, when it seems all I do is write endless, worthless nonstops that get me nowhere.”

And then having read all the above, I opened another file, this one titled “Incubation” which justified everything I described above as being a legitimate part of the creative process. But I’ll save that for tomorrow.

How I Got Back on Track

For the first time in a little over three weeks I finally got back to work on Sky again.

I left off July 9,  working through Chapter 3 again, because Chapter 3 leads into Chapter 5, and Chapter 5 leads into Chapter 7, which is where I got stuck.

I have felt so lost for so long, I’d begun to wonder what was wrong with me. Then yesterday I had the vague memory that things had been as chaotic for me in the process of writing previous books as they are for this one. Particularly Return of the Guardian King.  I can’t seem to find the writing journal I kept for that one — it might be in my trunk of memorabilia buried at the back of the closet…but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble — and spend all the time — of getting it out. That’s when I recalled that there was probably something up on my old blog which I began back in February of 2006.

Sure enough, there was. I was starting Chapter 11 of RotGK, and having the same sorts of trouble as I am now. The very first entry starts out:

I’m supposed to be working on chapter 11 of my work in progress — Light out of Shadow. But I seem to be a master at self-distraction. The thing is, I’ve enjoyed reading others’ blogs and I’ve been thinking about starting one of my own for some time now. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise when I couldn’t seem to make myself get to work today on account of numerous interruptions and external distractions… that I should suddenly find myself here, completing one step after another (there were more than the three they advertised at the start of this) in setting up this blog.’

And the second one, There and Back Again,  detailed a process of story generation that is very much like the one I’m in the middle of now. It was exactly what I needed to read, to recall that I just have to get something down, that it’s going to change, and that that’s okay. Sure, make it fit as best I can, make it as plausible and consistent as I can, but don’t demand a lot from a first pass.  It’s just my way of getting some sort of framework sketched in.

I’d forgotten that I was supposed to be sketching, and started getting perfectionistic.

The thing I love about what I wrote in There and Back Again, is that it reminded me how uncomfortable and blind my process is. How I can have no clue what to do one day, way too many options, unable to choose and then the next day, one little thing seems to lead to another and before I know it I have a sequence.

It reminded me of how I can look at what I’ve done, be dissatisfied, come up with some alternative ideas that seem to work and then be unable to write them. When I try they just lie there, dead and dull. Then after a couple of days, and a few seemingly minor tweaks, all comes clear. The chapter which formerly was “a disaster” and “ALL wrong” and “never going to come right”  somehow comes right.

One day it’s AWFUL and HOPELESS; the next I wonder what in the world I was thinking, because it’s clearly just fine.

Reading through that post, being reminded of all that helped me get back into Sky today.

I also received a number of hits from the Lord concerning the matter of priorities.

First Pastor John taught on our number one priority in the Christian life being to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Is that really your #1 priority?” he asked.

Well, yes, of course it is, and I know that doesn’t just mean the daily reception of Bible teaching, it also means application of that teaching and, once one has grown enough, operating in the spiritual gift one has been given.

Not an hour later I started listening to a presentation by Thomas Umstattd over at the Bestseller Society on Time Management and in the first 4 minutes heard:

“If you don’t manage your time, the world will do it for you. Anything around you — coworkers, the world, your boss, your family, the TV…  those will fill up your hours for you.”

“When we say, “I don’t have time for something,” what we’re really saying is “That’s not as important as the other things that I do.”

and

“You can tell what your priorities are by how you spend your time. We have what we believe our priorities to be and then we have what they really are.”

All of that together coming in just a few hours, convicted me. I have not been giving writing the proper spot in my priorities.  “Whatever is most important to you,” said Umstattd, “that needs to be the first thing in how you schedule your time.”

So, I’ve reconfigured things a bit, and today using the pomodoro technique (modified) I put in 3 1/2 hours on Sky — first thing after I finished my morning routine. And that makes me very happy.  😀


Categories

My Online Church

Visit my Old Blog Here:

Music I’m Writing To

Transformers (Revenge of the Fallen) Soundtrack - Steve Jablonsky


%d bloggers like this: