Around the Block

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 02:25 pm
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
I haven't been able to write a word for... I don't know how long. Too long. Even the easy thing (Green Ring) won't move forward. (I suspect Green Ring may be at about the 1/3 point, because it's that kind of stuck. But nothing else wants to move, either.) It seems to be a focus issue; I can sit and stare at the screen, but the work just slithers out from under my attention like a wet bar of soap.

The only thing that I've gotten words on at all lately (usually when I'm trying to sleep and am pinned under a cat and can't reach a pen anyway) is something that's about fifth down the to-write list, and I've got more than enough on the front burners already. But it was the only words I've gotten lately, so yesterday I went ahead and started The Kitten Case.

It's fighting me, too, in patchy and absurd ways. (Really? Afternoon or morning? You're going to hang up for half an hour over that?) I had to skip past the opening scene to when developments start happening, and will have to go back and fill in character-establishing later -- perhaps much later. But words did happen, and I even like some of them.

I'm not as happy as I would normally be about producing really quite a decent chunk of words, because I'm afraid this too is going to go thus far and stop dead on me. I'm trying to cash in on some of the NaNo-productivity from a few years ago; I'm working on the "work" laptop, and trying to treat it as work: get up, sit down at desk, produce. Wash rinse repeat. And cobbling together something like the NaNo progress chart that I liked so much. We'll see if it works.

'Cause something has to.


Friday, January 2nd, 2015 04:51 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Managed a little over 400 words last night, which is pretty good for my first day back. \o/

Writing got dropped along with everything else non-essential during the kitten crisis, and that along with my natural procrastinatory tendencies made it hard to pick back up again. An earlier attempt yesterday, on the same story I'd done so well on the morning before the kitten disappeared, netted all of one word (and that one that I'm probably going to change). But because I really wanted to start the new year off a little better than that, I gave it another go before bed, this time on The Green Ring. The hundred-word rule stood me in good stead; the first seventy or so were like pulling teeth, but then the pump finally primed and I managed a decent chunk with relatively little difficulty.

I still feel like I've got the writing brain only about half booted up, but that mostly just needs plugging away at it. (And the bit where I discovered I'd written two mutually-contradictory ways for young Teb to join up with the mail carriage was done some time ago, so I can't blame that on this. ;-)  )
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I'm still having trouble getting into the main character's head. Attempts at self-immersion are leaving me cold, and my brain seems to have an infinite resource of distractions to dangle before me. And I still don't wanna; all the personal stuff aside, all that emotional intensity just sounds exhausting.

The housemate suggests it's due to stress, and she may be right. In addition to all the usual (and some of it more so than usual), there's a couple of sizable house projects that need to be done this summer (or at least before winter, and fall is such an uncertain thing), and we're fast running out of summer.

The other problem is that this novel seems to be insisting on being written piecemeal. I've always jotted bits down in advance of where I'm working, though I try to keep it to a minimum; for this one, that's almost all I'm doing, and when I do manage to write a longer passage in order, I'm often not entirely happy with it.

This is a frustrating way to write: I'll push out a couple hundred words, then shut down the writing laptop and go do something else -- only to have the perfect phrase for that concept, or the right way to connect those three bits and in what order, pop into my head insistently. (I'm going through a lot of post-it notes.) And while I have jigsawed together scenes before, and they've worked well and readers couldn't see the seams, I don't fancy writing an entire novel that way.

And then there's the worldbuilding. I'm normally not much for in-advance worldbuilding -- what I need to know will come to me when I need it, and there's no sense fussing about with it before that -- but in this case, I've got worldbuilding coming out my ears. And every time I try to focus on the necessary character stuff, I get more of it -- Mars has got political backstory that says all kinds of things about the culture on Earth at that point, and political, social, and aesthetic characteristics keep turning up in nearly every paragraph. I honestly can't tell if I'm offering the reader interesting tidbits about a complex new world or info-dumping it to death.

I am tempted, deeply tempted, to jump ahead to one of the key scenes that I've got clear in my head, which feels like it's at least in chapter 4 and possibly chapter 8 or later -- which could mean anything, as I've never been good at predicting how long it'll take to get to something in a book. (And it could be that what this story really needs is to have the later thing shoved forward, and figure out more stuff to put in after; it wouldn't be the first time.) And just start writing from there, forwards and backwards as need be. This is not a thing I do; I'll jot bits of a future scene as they come to me, yes, but I've learned the hard way not to commit to them, lest the scene no longer fits when I write up to it. Not to mention the carrot effect. Better by far to write as close to chronologically as I can. And yet, that scene is the one I'm feeling; I can hear the character voices, feel the setting, all that stuff that says this scene is Right. It even has its own specific theme song. (Though the soundtrack is the one thing about the whole novel that's going easily, so what does that prove?)

And quite frankly, if I sit down to write that scene and even that runs aground, I'm going to be seriously tempted to bin the whole novel. Which, before anyone suggests it, is not the right answer here.

retro-posted 8-25-14

Getting Into It

Friday, August 8th, 2014 09:26 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Back when I was writing Highway of Mirrors, my characters pretty much took over my brain. I was living, breathing, and sleeping in their head-spaces, to the point that I started taking my coffee the way they take theirs. (This wasn't so bad with the character who drinks hers the way I always took mine anyway, but it was a bit jarring when I suddenly switched to the fellow who takes his with milk, no sugar -- yuck! Except it wasn't yuck; it tasted just right. To this day, I can't answer coherently when a waitress asks me if I want cream and/or sugar with my coffee, because I don't know until I taste it who's mind-set I'm drinking it from.) This was occasionally entertaining to watch, I'm told, and more than a little disconcerting from the inside, but it meant that when I sat down to write, I could drop into the character's point of view completely and effortlessly with no preparation whatsoever.

And I realized recently that that's what's not happening with Falling From Ground. I've been spending a lot of time with the world-building; Mars is shaping up to be a fun place, for definitions of "fun" that include a certain amount of evil writer cackling. But I haven't been getting into the main character's head-space at all, to the point that I'd even lost sight of one of his major characteristics that, while it becomes a major focus later, needs to be at least hovering around the edges right from the start.

There are reasons for this. Not least is that his head-space isn't a very pleasant place to be. I like to think that I've achieved some contentment with my life in the last couple of years, and I'm going to have to shatter that to really get inside this guy's head. Bluntly, I don't want to go there. But as one of my favorite exchanges about writing puts it:
"It would hurt like hell."

"What would that matter, if it made a good book?"

There are other reasons. I'm effin' tired, and emotional engagement takes energy. There's the usual new-novel inertia; the same force that pushes for completion with 60,000 words behind it makes getting started a challenging proposition. And there's probably the fact that I've been taking a caffeine break for the past two weeks (it was either detox, or start buying Red Bull in larger cans). That last, at least, will be over in a few more days, and it may be that this effort will have to wait until I've had that first, sweet, much-desired mocha.

But as for the rest of it... the only way out is through. I'll just have to suck it up and do it, and warn everyone around me not to take any weird mood changes personally for the next few days. And do my best to compartmentalize it all, of course, so that I can step back out as needed, which will be an interesting exercise given that writing a novel is pretty much a road-map for obsession. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if I Don't Wanna; there's a book that needs to be written.

April Word Count / Goals

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 11:47 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Haley novel: 2569
Total new words in April: 2569

Yeah, totally blew my quota. There are excuses; Science Festival at the local university ate several evenings and an entire weekend, and of course there were taxes. But mostly it was because Chapter 14 kept kicking my ass. And 15 is being even more obstreperous.

I am an intuitive writer, and story comes to me as words, not as pictures or movie images or, ghod forbid, an intellectual decision to write something that works like [this]. Ideally, it comes as the first words, following naturally from the scene before. Sometimes it's a chunk from the middle of a scene, a sentence fragment or even a paragraph, but it generally comes attached to enough stuff in my head that I know what the surrounding words will be like. And this works great, about 95% of the time.

The end of this book is being the other 5%. I know what kind of scenes I need, to wrap up the various sub-plots, but for most of it I have NO WORDS. And the words I do have aren't coming with the necessary context attached to them, and what context they do have is... going to take some juggling to make it fit on a purely practical level in-story. So I'm having to sort out on a purely intellectual level what [this] scene will be, and what order it will come in, and what sort of emotional weight it will have, and how much screen time it merits... and that is not how I normally work! So it is coming slowly, and hard.

Having consciously bashed out the approximate shape of the end of the book, I did finally start getting some words yesterday, lines and even one or two paragraphs spread scattershot through the last half-dozen scenes. It's a very jigsaw-puzzle way of working, and it hazards things not fitting once I finally write up to them, but it seems to be what I've got to work with this time. So work I shall.

The query goal was to go through the AAR database, and that... didn't happen. It's still a good idea, and I still intend to do it, but it may have to wait for a little while.

May's goal: finish the book.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Have approximately finished the penultimate chapter, not counting de-bracketing and the like. Cannot get the I-think-final chapter going.

Am now outlining the end of Memory to try to figure out how she did that -- i.e., managed to have two-and-a-half chapters after the bad guy is dealt with and tie up all those sub-plots with proper due diligence without it dragging or seeming tacked on in the slightest -- in hopes that I can employ similar tactics.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
What is it with this novel, that every time I say it's finally going decently, it stalls again? I am well and truly stalled now. Though I did manage a tricky bit of revision, small in terms of wordcount but significant in terms of plot. Yes, people have cell phones. If you want them to not have cell phones -- and there is a sound in-story reason for this, as well as the author-convenience reason -- you have to do something to take their cell phones away.

Now I just need to finish the bloody thing. About another chapter and a half should do it, which I could do in a week if the words would just come. Why won't the words come?!?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I hesitate to say anything for fear of jinxing it, but this time the lull in posting is due to the writing going better. Not swiftly and well (is "swell" a contraction of that?), but better.

I correctly determined that the "stuck" was the kind of stuck that needs to percolate for a bit, rather than the kind that needs to be pushed through. And the percolating yielded an insight into a character's motivation. It's not much of a change: the same events will still happen, and at most, a couple of lines will get said by a different person, but suddenly now it's writable.

Brains, I swear.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Haven't been posting much here lately, which generally means the writing's been going either really well, or really poorly. Yeah, I wish.

So Wendig had a post yesterday on The Varied Emotional Stages of Writing A Book, and as usual with such lists, half of it doesn't apply to me at all. But of the things which do apply, several are stuck on with industrial-grade adhesive, so much so that I'm going to quote the most applicable (and the shortest, which is only appropriate) in its entirety:

12. I Wrote Four Words Today (“The Trickled Pee”)

Every word is like extracting a rotten tooth with a pair of rusty needle-nose pliers. It is a day of great effort that yields nearly no result. A rich, full fruit tree with one fucking apple dangling.

That was yesterday. I had the whole afternoon and evening, and a super mocha... and I got something like 108 words. All day, for about 108 words.

This is the bottom of the trend so far this month, but the high points weren't all that impressive, either. (Though pleasingly, if I can choke out a mere 250 words two days out of three, that's still on track for quota. Such as it is.) I am stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck, increasingly stuck, and I don't know why. I have things for the characters to do (they're in the midst of a high-speed escape at this very moment), I've wedged in the orphaned bit in the best place for it to be, I know roughly where things are headed next... and it just won't go.

I am now going to go out and shovel expletive-deleted snow, in hopes that doing something physical will give my back-brain the leeway it needs to sort this out.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I've been putting off working on the subplot-to-be-added to Kitchen Sink for various reasons: first it was de-bracketing; then I decided I had to re-read the existing text to get back into it, and couldn't concentrate uninterrupted due to various RL things; then I realized I had to do my taxes. Now the month's nearly half gone, and I haven't even started. Which makes me feel bad, which makes me not feel like working on the subplot, which makes me feel bad, which makes me not want to work... yeah. And now the subplot is looming like this mountainous, unclimbable, impossible obstacle -- because obviously if it wasn't, I'd have done it already. Realized tonight that I am freaking the fuck out about the subplot not being done and how can I possibly manage it.

Stop that shit.

Have now reserved time with the housemate to sit down this weekend for a brainstorming session, to figure out just what does happen in the subplot, or at least enough to be going on with. I suspect that the subplot is one of those things that won't be nearly so bad once I get started; it only seems impossible because I haven't started yet.

July Word Count

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 11:05 am
Well, that sucked.

1296 new words on the novel last month. And almost all of that in the first week; my burst of word-count-shamed enthusiasm didn't last past ten days. In exculpation, I did do some writing the rest of the month, on an old-mission story I'd had half-done for ages. (The last half. Because that's where all the fun stuff is.) Unfortunately, I wasn't tracking word count on that, but I'm pretty sure it came in around 2000 new words. I'm counting it in partly to boost the pathetic total, but mostly because it did feel like "real" writing, not just messing about. (Had to do all that tedious set-up for the fun parts, after all.) Which brings us to:

Total new words in July: 3296

Which is technically better than last month, but still sad beyond belief.

The old-mission story would be more satisfying if it was done, but of course, there's a Problem. There's always a Problem lately, which is why the otherwise quite reasonable-sounding idea of whipping off a quick short story to get an easy win under my belt and build my enthusiasm back up keeps failing. In this case, it's that the ending for the adventure-story aspect is unsatisfying for the character-exploration stuff, and the ending for the character-exploration aspect is technically unfeasible. And so here I sit.

I'm considering tracking words by week (minimum target 1000) as well as by month (target 5000), to get around the pattern of a burst of output at the beginning of the month followed by nada for the rest of it. This would be more appealing if this week weren't already half over, with me at a whopping total of zero and holding steady.

May Word Count

Monday, June 6th, 2011 04:18 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Total new words in May: 722

Sigh. It's a little better than April, which is about all that can be said for it. Again, as a per-day rate, it's really not bad; it's just that it represents only two days. I have got to break out of this; unfortunately, June isn't looking any better so far. The public embarrassment effect does not appear to be working, possibly because I can't tell if anybody's reading this.

April Word Count

Monday, May 2nd, 2011 12:03 pm
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Total new words in April: 685

(All on the new novel; the novella is more-or-less on hold until I figure out what fscking country it's set in.)

That actually represents a per-day rate that is passable by my standards, if far from brilliant. If I'd written at that rate for more than three days last month, I'd have something to show for it. However, real life, um, well. Let's just say I'm getting really tired of having to dig myself out of pits.

March Word Count

Monday, April 11th, 2011 09:56 am
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Some delay in posting, for obvious reasons.

Total new words in March: 32

No, I didn't leave out a couple of digits there. That's all I got done on the new novel; the novella didn't move at all. There were a couple small bursts on some fanfic and first-novel apocrypha I've had laying around for a while, but even that was sporadic and ultimately unproductive.

I have got to find some way to shake this. This is the worst block (discounting massive RL interference) I can recall having. Don't like it, not at all.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)

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lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Something I did not expect: Starting a second novel is a lot harder than finishing the first one. It's not the problem I've heard other authors talk about, of having set yourself a standard to live up to and to prove the first one wasn't just a fluke. I seem to be safe on that one; I know I can do it again, because I've done it before.

No, what's throwing me is the frankly intimidating amount of work on the to-be-done side of the scale. Past a certain point on the first novel (around chapter 9 or so), the sheer weight of words-already-written provided a momentum for writing the rest that was almost irresistible; I couldn't really see not finishing it, having already gotten that far. It's a bit like pushing a rock; once you get over the crest of the hill, it's less a question of struggling to push and more a matter of running as fast as you can to keep the work you've already done from squashing you flat. But now this new rock is sitting at the base of a very big hill, it's got inertia on its side, and it sure looks like a long, long way up there....

Using word count as my metric for productivity doesn't make this any easier. The prospect of writing 15,000 words doesn't sound so bad when you've already got 50,000 words done. The prospect of writing 60,000+ when you've got a base of only about 500, however, is more than a little disconcerting.




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