It’s kinda funny, but after averaging well over a thousand words a day in November, having just over seven hundred words doesn’t seem like it would be such a big deal. But it feels like it– and I think it is. Because while the first draft (though maybe that’s a… generous term for the manuscript I currently have) is a decent start, this second draft is already shaping up decently, and I’m really excited. I don’t know that I’ll finish it by the end of the month like I’d hoped (I’ll still try, Dad! I promise!) but it’s definitely got forward momentum, and right now that’s enough.
A friend of mine recently asked me why I like writing. Or rather, why I continue to write when I spend at least as much time actually putting pen to paper as I do moaning about the fact that I ought to be writing. And the answer to that is simple: despite evidence to the contrary, I enjoy writing, and there are stories in my head that demand to be let out.
This does raise a further question, though. If I enjoy wordcraft as much as I say I do, why do I complain about it so much? Part of it, of course, is that it takes discipline to write, and discipline is hard. But there’s more to it than that. The bigger part is that certain parts of the creative process are more enjoyable than others.
For me, writing is the most fun when I’m coming up with ideas for new stories or once I finally get caught up in the flow of the action on my way to the climax of the story. Those are the things that niggle in the back of my brain and demand I find a way to make the words on the page match the epic scenes I have playing out in my head. The problem is that neither of those take up the bulk of writing.
That spot would be taken up by the work of getting from point A to point B to point C in a believable and interesting fashion. Which, despite what it sounds like I just said, is often enjoyable in its own right– it’s just also hard, for me, at least, if not for writers in general. It requires good pacing, a (more or less) complete knowledge of the ins and outs of the story so as to avoid plot holes, and there’s also a whole lot of false starts as you figure out what’s really important and what doesn’t actually figure in to the story.
Or, put another way, it’s where the work of writing happens. And it’s hard work. Rewarding, certainly, as anyone who has ever finished a story will tell you, but hard all the same. And that, my friends, is why I grumble about it and why I’ll never give it up either.
When it comes to writing, I like to think of myself as a panster*. I much prefer coming up with a vague idea and running with it, mostly because by the time I come up with something that excites me, I really just want to go play with it, not hammer out all the details. (In other news, I also have trouble rationing out a stash of candy for any length of time. The two might be related, but I’m not admitting nothin’.)
The problem is, not planning things out in advance generally leaves me with gaping plot holes and/or sticky corners in which to get myself stuck. It would be fantastic, I think to myself, if all of my characters charged down the hill towards the big bad monsters in epic fashion. And so I have my characters do just that, only to realize in the instants before they engage the enemy that such an attack is tactically unsound, and either their leader isn’t the strategic genius I thought they were or they have some sneaky plot up their sleeve… which I’m going to have to figure out before I write much further.
And so, I stall.
So when I tell you that I managed to tame my giddier impulses and actually come up with something of a decent outline for the first several chapters of That Novel I’m Still Working On, I hope you understand why I’m so convinced that it’s a triumph. We’ll see how it fares when I try to force that outline into actual prose.
* (noun) one who writes by the seat of their pants
I like books. If you’re here, I suspect you have at least a passing fancy for them as well, which means we’ve already got something in common. I imagine it also means you are familiar with the phrase “so many books, so little time”, and you may have even, in passing, considered having it engraved on your headstone. Or perhaps not.
What I mean to say is that we understand in our bones that we will never be able to read everything there is to read, because there’s just not enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month, etc. There’s not even enough time to read everything that you would enjoy reading, as evidenced by massive stacks of books and an outsized to-read list on Goodreads (or in your head or wherever you keep it).
And then, to add to the trouble, there’s the books you want read again. For me, those are the ones that get neglected the most, because when I start looking for my next book to read, I automatically go to the stacks of books I haven’t yet read.
I can’t speak to it’s efficacy, but I’ve tried to get around the problem by just reading more books at once. I used to try to stick to one or two at a time, one fiction and one non-fiction, just to keep things simple. I don’t remember exactly when I started breaking that rule, but once I started it’s been getting worse and worse, and right now there’s a stack of books almost a foot high on my bedside table.
The thing is, some books need to be reread. You’ll catch things you didn’t see the first time through, that you couldn’t have seen the first time through. Aspects of certain characters will suddenly make more sense. Foreshadowing will be that much more foreboding. Themes and symbolism will become that much clearer, and their arguments will be that much more potent.
Or, to put it another way, you’ll enjoy it even more the second time around.
All this is probably coming to mind right now thanks to the fact that I just finished my second read-through of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising (which if you haven’t read, I would highly recommend and suggest you follow it up with the rest of the series), and I noticed so many things that I didn’t see at all when I read it the first time. Heck, it even woke up my sleepy inner English major, and when I finished I had at least three ideas for short essays.
But I digress. Regardless of your feelings, if any, for the aforementioned book, the fact remains that there is great benefit in rereading. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I forget a little too often.
Happy New Year! To those of you who have been following me for a while, thanks so much– you mean the world to me! To anyone just stumbling across my little corner of the internet, welcome, and if you happen to like what you see feel free to stay a while.
Between the holidays and the end of my Armenia trip, December was another fairly quiet month around here when it comes to writing. Friday blog posts went up every week, but nothing much beyond that. But! I’m back in the States, and while I haven’t manage to settle into anything like a routine just yet, I’m looking forward to more time for writing and the chance to do some more work on my bigger projects, as well as getting back into the swing of two short stories a month.
Speaking of those bigger projects, there’s two I’m particularly excited about! The first is that I’ll be working to finish the second draft of a fantasy novel tentatively titled The Seven this year. Check out the teaser here, and keep an eye out for more information as the year progresses!
The second is that I’ve got more Tanner and Miranda stories in the works, with an eye towards writing a complete collection. The two stories I’ve completed so far (Under Whiskey Hill and The Ethan Lindsay Job) were so much fun to write, and I know there’s a bunch more adventures in store for the siblings. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading about them as much as I’m enjoying writing them.
That’s all I’ve got for now! I hope the start of your year has been a good one, and I look forward to seeing what happens in the months ahead. As always, drop me a line in the comments if you’ve got any questions, or just to say hi! I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,
The traveler sat on a stool near the fire, one hand wrapped around a mug of strong drink, the other tapping idly at his knee. His too-green eyes glinted in the half dark. Almost half of the village’s inhabitants sat around him, some in chairs, others—children, mostly—made do with the floor. All told, it seemed he had the attention of more than twenty people. He cleared his throat and began.
“The sun is down and the moon is dark and new.” His voice was low, and there was a rumble to it like a cat’s purr. “This is the time to tell tales of monsters.”
A shiver ran through his audience, and anticipation held the room in perfect silence. The traveler basked in it.
“But what sort of story should I tell? You’ve already heard about wyrms and dragons, giant, scaly beasts that snatch and devour. And you probably know about the kelpies and other creatures like them, the ones that seem so lovely until they destroy the hapless person who is lured too close. Perhaps I could tell you about giant wolves or bears that have stalked roadways and forests and slain a hundred men despite the best efforts of brave and mighty hunters.”
The youngest members of his audience, a brother and sister, shivered. Even the adults sat in rapt attention and let themselves feel frightened.
“Or… I could weave a story about a thing even more terrible than these. A thing that might have once been man, a thing that brings death and terror in its wake, a thing that fears no simple bow or blade.”
He paused. His eyes flitted across the room, over all the faces watching him. He took a breath and slowly filled his lungs. And when the tension reached its apex, he finally spoke again.
“I could tell you of the Rehk.”
Murmurs worked their way through the room. The gathered audience looked away and lowered their eyes. The storyteller’s spell wavered and broke, and nothing remained but a lopsided quiet.
An old man coughed and cleared his throat. “Tell us a different story, traveler. We don’t tell the Rehk’s tales here.”
Happy November, everyone!
I have to admit, my feelings about this month are slightly mixed, as it’s National Novel Writing Month and I won’t be participating this year. Not that I didn’t think about it, of course. It’s just that if I tried, certain family members would (justifiably) confiscate my laptop. Maybe next year!
As for other writing, things are still moving along! October saw the completion of The Farewell, the short story I’ve been working on for the past while, and I’ve got a couple more in the works that I’ll post up here as soon as they’re finished. Blog posts about my experiences in Armenia should continue going up on Fridays as well.
And that’s about all! Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me so far, and to all of you who have wandered by as well! I hope you like what you’ve seen, and please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments on the stories or the blogs. I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,