Posts Tagged 'writing process'

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…

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Get the Writing in First

Well, the post I mentioned last time is not cooperating. It seemed to make sense when I first wrote in (in my journal) but when I drafted it into an “add new post” window, I suddenly saw all the words and phrases that wanted “explaining” in what I’d written. And to try to explain would take the piece way off from the central theme.

Which is why I still haven’t posted it. There’ve been other things as well. Yesterday I thought I was going to have pretty much all day to write and ponder. Just thinking that is practically a curse, because I tend to let myself do all sorts of other things before I “get to work” and suddenly the day is gone and I never did get to the work. Or, and actually this is most common, other things come in to take up the time I thought I’d have to write.

So I’ve decided that I am going to get the writing done first — at least a stint of it — and then do the other things. Yes, that was implied in the post about fighting the tendency to do the “trivial but urgent” things, instead of the important but unknown things. But I am a slow learner.

A very slow learner, I’m sorry to say.

But I did do the writing today. So Yay for that!  I haven’t decided if I should do it first thing when I wake up, or go through the basic morning routine and then do it. Right now I’ve chosen the latter because it’s closest to the status quo and worked fairly well, once upon a time in my past. The problem is, my self-discipline weakens as the day goes on, so if I do the writing first, there’s a question whether I’ll get the morning routine done. And vice versa. Right now I think the routine is most important because otherwise things are going to pile up, make me feel guilty, get lost, broken or suddenly become “fires that must be put out” at the worst possible time, when it’s easier just to do them in the routine.

The other problem… or reason I’ve not been able to post anything is because I’ve been reading. A novel. A 1358 page novel. This is a result of an article I found when I googled “Major Writer’s Block, which advised me to take a break and read two or three classics. Then … I forget. Because hey, what died in the wool reader wouldn’t want to drop everything and take such advice.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and seemed to call out to me so I started it… last weekend I think (I can’t rightly recall). I’m on page 450.  I am REALLY enjoying it. I don’t think I’ve read a novel since last summer.

What novel? Okay, I’m a Tom Clancy fan. I’ve read all the Jack Ryan books up to Executive Orders, which is the one that was on my shelf and which I’m reading. When I first picked it up, I was blown away.  It picks up where Debt of Honor leaves off, with Ryan having just been sworn in as interim Vice President of the United States. I remembered that part. What I didn’t remember was that half an hour after he was sworn in a jetliner crashed into the Capitol Building during a joint session of Congress killing all the Senators and Representatives present, all 9 justices of the Supreme Court, the president, and all but two members of the president’s cabinet. I read that one in October 2003 so surely the similarities registered then, but I don’t recall it. I think I assumed, unthinking, that he’d taken his idea from the reality, rather than coming up with it prior to.

This time, though,  I checked what year Executive Orders was published: 1996. Clancy was writing about the very thing that more or less happened five years later — and was, in fact, intended to happen but for the American passengers who stopped the hijacked Pennsylvania flight — on Sept 11, 2001. One of the Amazon reviewers claimed to have started reading this book on Sept 10, 2001, the day before the event and found it quite unnerving.

Anyway, after that Jack gets to rebuild the government and I am really enjoying that because he’s not a politician and he’s not interested in assembling a bunch of other politicians and so is choosing people who know how the real world works and have been successful in it. So much more enjoyable that watching or reading today’s news!  Not to say I haven’t been, but EO is kind of a nice fantasy-land antidote.

So that’s what I’ve been doing and why I haven’t managed to properly put together the essay I thought I was going to post…  Plus, as I said I’m officially on p 450 (not to say I haven’t indulged my habit of skipping ahead to follow particular plotlines) so there’s lots, still, to read!

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!)

Where I Get My Ideas

Sketch of the Grand Canyon’s Inner Gorge from Plateau Point

Last night and today I have been doing something I haven’t done in a very loooong time.

I’ve been updating my website. Yes, I have a website in addition to this blog. The link is in the margin to the right.  The last time I updated it was in 2009, when The Enclave came out and all I did then was put a notice on my home page and add a page just fro it. I didn’t even remember to change the “last updated” blurb in the header, so that it still said “July 2007” when I started to work last night.

I had no idea it had been that long. I’ve been thinking for some time that I need to integrate it with the blog, but that’s about all I’ve done: think.  And not much of that, either.  Too many options, too little knowledge and WAY too little time!

But with the re-release of Arena, and this month’s free e-book special of The Light of Eidon, I figured I should probably get back to the website and at least update Arena’s cover and mention the special.

In the process, I’ve found some fun things there; things that I’d forgotten.

Like the Arena Scrapbook I made to illustrate some answers to the question, where do I get my ideas?

Here’s the start…

“People ask where I get my ideas.  As with all authors, mine come from things I’ve experienced in my life, either directly or indirectly through reading, movies or things others have told me. Sometimes places or events surface that I think are completely original, only to discover later that I actually experienced them somewhere before.

It was a real shock to be walking down the upper switchbacks of the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail some twenty years after the first time I’d done it and come to a spot that was “straight out of Arena.” Until then, I thought I’d made it up completely.”

To see the photos of experiences that spawned various elements of Arena, I invite you to visit my Scrapbook Page HERE.

Another Block-Breaking Quote

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have rediscovered one of my most helpful writing books over the weekend, Overcoming Writing Blocks through which I did quite a bit of dancing. Another highlighted section that leaped out at me was the following:

“… it is important to recognize that no creative process ever flows smoothly from beginning to end. There is always much backtracking and jumping ahead along the way. In fact, this pattern is not only normal for the writer, it is also an effective way of unblocking.

Ease in writing comes from flexibility and trust in yourself, which comes from learning to tolerate a certain amount of chaos. It’s entirely natural to feel confused and intimidated when you face any new writing task…

…It is also inevitable that you’ll begin with words that will need revision. And it’s equally certain that you will find yourself resisting going back to change the text once you’ve managed to pull it all together into a complete draft.

Because writing is such an experimental process, it may help you to think of it as a spiral rather than a straight line. As though the writer were climbing a spiral staircase, he ascends by circling round and round, rising just a bit higher with each circuit, but constantly passing over the same ground, touching on the same basic topics, ideas, images and phrases, in search of their truest expression.”

This is kind of what I’m been struggling toward for awhile now… being flexible, trusting my gift and my Lord and  learning to tolerate the chaos and uncertainty!

Today I moved into Chapter Two, to page 6, but as it is cobbled, chaotic and provisional, it will need a bit of work.


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