July 2011


Whoops — there I go again.  I’ve eaten too much sugar, and as I always find, I don’t get the well-documented sugar-rush.  What I do get is a sugar-low, a complete collapse of faculties and drive that leaves me struggling to motivate and build momentum with anything.  Oh well.

Anyway, as it happened after the last post, I needed to take a step to one side and do some more preparatory work.  I’d known it was coming, and knew when I’d need to do it, but I was still caught off-guard.  Two days spent sketching out ideas and characters on paper, enough to allow me to proceed and, critically, give me an idea of what I wanted to do next.

The one thing I seek so often is the “organic” feel I mentioned before.  It’s an intangible in writing, but if I’m not writing for deliberately absurd effect, then that sense of natural rhythm and flow feels fundamental.  When it’s missing, I can’t feel good about what I’ve done; worse, it usually means I did something wrong, as the organic flow just feels right.  Anything else does not, and more than once it’s meant going back to where the organic line was broken and reworking what I’d done from there.  I suppose it’s the process by which the characters drive the story without me; I create them, I set the stage, then they act out…something.  I never quite know what’s coming, which is fun; it’s almost like reading a book in slow-motion.

Unfortunately, after a sugar slump, it’s really slow motion…

I abandoned this blog, around the same time I abandoned NaNoWriMo.  Somewhere between then and now, I figured out that trying to chase down a 1666-word-a-day average doesn’t work for me — it forces me to make story leaps forward with whatever strikes me at the time, when I should perhaps be sitting back and waiting for the right answer to present itself.  Doing that, rather that waiting, has left me needing to throw out tens of thousands of words that I wasted by chasing down a worse idea than one I had later.

My writing since has been more patient; but over the last eight or nine months or so, also more consistent than it’s been for over a decade.  I’ve also grown happier with the ideas I have, and more willing to spend time thinking and waiting for the right answer to come together; the answer that, as a writing exercise once described it, feels “organic”.  I’ve learned to let the story lead me more, also, so that if it happens to pass by an idea or a scene I’d thought of, then that’s fine, it doesn’t happen.  Maybe I’ll use it later, or maybe it’ll never happen.  Either way, it’s fine.

I’ve been working on one single project during that time, one that’s gone through three distinct phases so far.  Originating in an idea I had ten years ago, but which had nothing to do with writing a story at the time, I took the concept from scratch to about 10,000 words; enough to find that I liked the idea, but not the writing.  I dropped it, and restarted.  From there, I took it to 30,000 words before I realised that I really liked the story and setting, but that to fulfil its potential, I needed to start over again and develop the world more completely.

Honestly, I don’t like that part.  I enjoy the writing, and the world-crafting is often tedious to me.  Some of it’s fun enough, but a lot of it is just nuts and bolts, and really isn’t anything I can enjoy.  In most cases, I try to avoid it, but in this case I felt it was necessary to get the best out of the story.  And while I worked, I found other things evolved within the story, growing and changing.  When I was finally done — enough to feel good about it, basically, rather than having completely mapped out an entire world, which I never wanted to do — I picked up the writing again.

The characters had changed; the story had changed.  The plot had grown in my absence, the start had been amended, the main character’s origins and age had shifted hugely.  His companion, already a teenager, had become a child; his first critical contact reduced in age by almost half, and becoming more scheming and subtle.  That said, I still write the way I write; the story continues, and for the most part, I have little idea of exactly who’ll show up, what they’ll do, or why.  But it layers together, and the world around them is complete enough that when characters enter into it, they’re already shaped by it just a little bit.  Who they are, and who they even can be, is somewhat already set.  My writing style is still more impulsive – which may be my laziness at work, perhaps? – but the world beneath has become more solid for me, and I’m no longer having to sketch it all in as I go.

Just as good, my writing is stable, a comfortable, consistent style that fits me.  It no longer dances to the tune of whatever I happen to be reading or listening to.  Which is good, because otherwise I’d have a bunch of Greek gods running around in my setting by now.

It’s been a long time since I’ve stuck with one project for as long as this; somewhat less, since I last enjoyed working on a project as much (the project I was working on for NaNo, the one that was last reduced to 49k words, was also great fun; and I still plan to return to it and correct the problems that stalled it.)  But I have a feeling that the main characters here will follow Donovan, this blog’s namesake, and in all likelihood wander further through my rambling fiction than the private eye did himself.  And, if they’re lucky, meet a less sticky end…