Hello Again

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

I’ve fallen behind on my writing diary lately, ironically because I’ve been having trouble writing. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I decided to write this book by “writing into the dark”, aka “pantsing.” In other words, I didn’t write an outline for this book before I started writing. Not even a tiny one.

I took a class on this technique with Dean Wesley Smith this past year. One of the things he has you do is try both ways with short works. You set a timer and see how long it takes you to get a set number of words with planning ahead and without. Or, more accurately, doing the planning as you write the scene. For me, it took the same amount of time both ways. Now, since the actual writing is a lot more fun than thinking hard about what should happen, I decided to write this book the second way rather than the first.

Bad idea.

You see, a novel is a very different thing than a short scene. As a rule, you can keep all the details of a scene in your head. That’s not possible with a novel-length work. At least, not for me. So I did a lot of backtracking to find out if a character was in a scene and so had some knowledge or conveyed some information to the sleuth then so I could write a scene fifty or a hundred pages later that used that fact. And if the character hadn’t done that, I had to rewrite part of that old scene so I could write the new one.

And then I had a second Bad Idea.

I decided to give myself a deadline to finish and publish this book by setting up a pre-order on Amazon. Now, that sounds good in theory, because that looming deadline is a big motivator to put your butt in the chair and start typing. On the other hand, as the deadline approached and I started realizing I was probably not going to make it (which has a severe penalty from the ’Zon), I experienced brain freeze. I couldn’t figure out what should happen next, much less how it fit in with what I’d already written.

I started coming up with all kinds of excuses not to work on the novel. There were the baseball playoffs on TV. There was an exciting, free plotting summit! (More irony there.) It ran for five days, and although I didn’t attend all the sessions, there were actually several very good ones. But I wasn’t writing then, now, was I? There were more diversions, but I won’t bore you with them.

So, late yesterday, knowing the pressure was getting to me, I pushed out the deadline for the pre-order. Per Amazon, you’re allowed to do this ONCE in your life, and only for a maximum of 30 days, but I decided this was my once.

And, of course, the minute I gave myself more time, I relaxed and could set about working toward the finish of this novel. Insurmountable problems became not so insurmountable. And once I publish this sucker, I’m going to reward myself with taking another paid writing class. And not even thinking about starting another novel until 2023. By creating an outline. And character sheets. And maps and floor plans. And all kinds of planning stuff.

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