“Life is long. If you're still drawing breath, you still have time to be the kind of writer you want to be.”
John Vorhaus

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

and sometimes food, and maybe a movie or play
Wed 2018-04-25 23:06:22 (in context)
  • 1,722 wds. long

I'm still working on the same story. The same 750-word flash fiction piece that I was just going to give a brief spit-and-polish revision before submitting to, oh, I dunno, Flash Fiction Online. Well. It's not flash anymore and I'm still working on it.

I mean, to be fair, first I had to get to the point where I was actually putting in time on it every workday. Despite my lofty Camp NaNoWriMo goal, or perhaps because of it--because of the pressure such a goal created--I didn't manage to get any short story revision time in most days, let alone two hours every workday. I talked about that a little bit last blog post, which was... gosh, almost a week ago. Blogging's been a victim of the same mess of pressure and unreasonable expectations. I mean, here's the truth: I'm not going to go from "zero hours most days" to "two hours every day" without some sort of transition period, like "some non-zero number of minutes most days."

That's about where we're at this week. Yesterday, an hour and a half. Today, an hour. Monday, a little less than an hour. Some non-zero number of minutes.

Turns out the story needed its ending completely revised. To support that ending, the scenes needed a little fleshing out, both to improve pacing and to allow the themes involved to seed themselves more naturally through the plot. Next thing I know, the scenes are getting quite a bit longer, long enough to be worth separating into discrete text sections. And now the thing's more than 1700 words long, and instead of Flash Fiction Online I'm thinking Shimmer. I think it's gonna be really Shimmery.

But here's the other problem with two hours: Unless I have two-hours worth of stuff that I know how to fix, I can't. I can't go two hours. It's not a matter of stamina; it's a matter of creative process. An hour, an hour and a half in, I hit a wall.

Oh, you doubt me? You think I don't know what a wall looks like? This is what a wall looks like: Me, changing a sentence into two sentences, then, five minutes later, changing it back to one sentence with two independent clauses joined by a semicolon. Occasionally I will take a prepositional phrase and move it to the other end of the sentence. Then I will move it back.

Now, sometimes that sort of useless copyeditorial wittering means the story's done and you should just send it out already. That is not what is going on. How do I know? I know because the scene's still broken. Like, there are two different versions of this or that paragraph because I'm in the middle of moving text around for better flow. Only now I don't know how to fix the segues. It's messy. And my brain is just sliding off the problem like a jammer on 94-durometer wheels sliding out of Turn 2 at Mayday Mayhem. (Have you seen that track? Polished cement. Slick as never-you-mind. I plan to bring my 84s that were grooved aftermarket and I'm still nervous.)

That wall, I have learned, means that it's time to take a break. Stop writing for a bit and go do something else. Best if the something else is partially mindless, like taking a walk or cooking a meal or even re-reading a too-familiar book. It's got to take my conscious mind off the writing problem but leave room for things to simmer on the back-burner. Or maybe I should just go on with the rest of my day and plan to come back to the revision tomorrow.

That's what happened yesterday. I got to an hour and a half and knew I couldn't make two hours. I put it away. I went to derby. (Derby was very much not mindless. SO MANY THINGS TO LEARN, omg.) I played Spiral Knights a bit. I went to sleep. Then, this afternoon, I took a short walk just before getting back to the revision--and damn if some interesting things didn't just jump right into my head.

Well, I wrote them down, of course!

I hit a similar wall when I'm specifically trying to think about a writing problem. I discovered this when I was in Cincinnati for our bout back in February. Day of the bout, I decided to walk somewhere for lunch and cogitate on that week's Friday Fictionette, which, like many this year, was running late into the weekend. It was running late because I didn't know how to make it work. So I figured, I'd take the fifteen minute walk to figure it out in my head, then I'd take lunchtime to implement whatever I figured out.

Halfway through my walk--you guessed it--I hit a wall. That kind of wall looks like this: My brain, running over about half a scene, arriving at some insight or other, and then repeating from start. Over and over again.

But! When I sat down to write, I implemented that one insight... then discovered another insight on my way there. And another. Turns out I had to take the thought to the page before I could proceed to the next thought. There in fact wouldn't be a next thought until I switched from thinking to writing. So I wrote down the next thought, and the next. Then I ran out of thoughts and didn't find the next one until I was walking back to the hotel.

That's my creative process. Write, hit a wall, put it away. Think about it, hit a wall, proceed to the page. And repeat.

This may also be why I'm complete rubbish at pulling all-nighters, and why even on completely unscheduled days I can't whip out a complete new draft from scratch. I need time for this write-wander-think-write cycle to iterate. Time, and sleep. (But not too much at all. Is really all I want.)

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