Purveyor of Tall Tales.

State of the writer: New Year, New Approach…ish

I’m not doing New Year’s resolutions this year.

The difficulty I have with them is that constructing useful ones is quite challenging because of the time scale is relatively large, habit forming is a slow process frought with distractions and breaking them can lead to levels of guilt bordering on the religious. (What..? Just me..?) There’s a strong part of me that feels any attempt to form habits concurrently is doomed to failure. I’m going to have to put this coffee down to eat chocolate and keep typing, aren’t I?

In any case…

If I were to describe most of the resolutions I would like to make, they all revolve around writing and fixing the issues I mentioned in my end of year post:

– submitting
– avoiding redrafting endlessly
– becoming distracted
– getting rid of that terrible stop/start project judder that characterised the majority of last year

I believe there’s a root problem underlying all of these issues which is that I’ve not really adjusted the process I use to write to fit my lifestyle. I’ve noted before that my instinct for writing is very much born out of my preferred reading style, that is I like to binge, writing in long sprints until my brain fizzles to a stop. This works well for short stories under 4k in length when I have plenty of time but kind of sucks for novels. The approach has some major obstacles:

– It requires me to keep an almost impossible amount of story information in my head, which means other activities fall by the wayside.
– The number of drafts required to approach readability is higher as draft 1 is essentially a basic outline, draft 2 is structural, draft 3 is structural based on feedback and so on.
– I have a natural inclination to get bored and distracted the longer the process runs.

In short I need to work smarter.

With this in mind, I’m experimenting with a much more detailed approach to story plotting to see if this allows me to produce a more readable draft, faster. My hypothesis is that this approach will:

– better suit the demands of a challenging day job (which I like) by requiring me to carry less of the story in my head while still being prepared;
– allow me to generate ideas further ahead without having to compose entire drafts satisfying my need for variety while preventing large gaps between projects;
– mirror professional pitching where you can’t really not produce an outline and allow me to make smarter choices about what I do next.

My hope is it will also be a bit quicker.

I didn’t just conjure this out of the ether. There is some evidence from my experience on Forever that this approach is more effective. For example, it was only when I got really detailed in planning out the end of the draft I managed to finish the book.

That said, I can’t really afford to experiment at novel length on something this fundamental, the time cost of getting it wrong is simply too high and so I’m experimenting on a short story with the added bonus that it buys me enough time to work up an outline for the next novel*. I made good progress on the short story plan which definitely made a difference today when I came to start. I was able to begin writing with very little preamble but the confidence that I had a story that worked and that’s when I enjoy writing the most: when you can turn the internal editor off and just go. Seems to be the internal editor can’t talk with an outline in his gob. Who knew..?

This working smart seems to offer rewards. I may introduce it to other things…

It’s not a resolution though. Oh no. 🙂

*I think this is probably where I see any short fiction I work on fitting in the future as it’s a more economic way of experimenting. Like I said, I haven’t been working smart.





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