I don’t usually like to complain here. This isn’t a “personal journal,” but a “writer persona” journal–in other words, this place isn’t the unfiltered me, but the carefully-considered me, which is why I rarely write on controversy here–I’ll only do it if I can do it without rancorous language. But this one touches on writing, so:
My six year old has apparently decided to be the antithesis of the perfect child for a while. She will not sleep through the night; waking four or five times on some nights (this after months of sleeping through the night). She won’t just roll over, either–no, she’s got to get up, come to my room, and wake me (because my wife sleeps right through it; don’t get me started) to get me to take her back to her bed, where she falls asleep almost immediately OR lies awake for an hour or more.
Ok, I’m an insomniac. Did it have to hit her, too?
This process makes her tired and cranky, and it makes ME tired and cranky, so much so that I’ve caught myself snapping at her over very silly things that don’t deserve censure. Then I feel like a bad father and have to struggle not to “make it up to her” by overcompensating. Then I get up at six o’fuck in the morning, get myself ready to work, then get her up and dressed and out the door by 6:40. This is why I won’t be teaching a zero-period class next year; I need more time in the morning.
Here’s the part where it affects writing: I haven’t slept well in weeks. I cannot seem to get anything written that doesn’t immediately make me roll my eyes at myself. I wrote a scene last night: 342 words. All of them horrible junior-high melodrama. I was disgusted when I looked at them this morning. I deleted all that didn’t work, leaving me with a net word count of FIVE WORDS. This is not how one finishes a novel.
I know what’s supposed to happen, I just can’t get it written.
A scene in This Damn Book has been kicking my ass all week. It’s a space battle, and I just couldn’t make it work. It was BORING. But I kept plugging away, and thinking, in non-writing spare moments, about the scene.
Last night it came to me what I needed. I got into the scene, and with a combination of removing some words, rearranging some others, and writing about 450 new words, I’m pretty sure I fixed the scene.
Now, this doesn’t mean an editor, should I ever be so fortunate as to publish the thing, won’t say “Dude. This is broken. Fix it.” Or, hopefully, say “This could be better, here are some suggestions, go to work.” But for now? It’s at least not boring, and it does what the scene needed to do.
Next up, Chapter 8: A long walk, Anasazi ruins, and Big Revelations.
One of the things they tell you at Viable Paradise (get those applications in, folks! Deadline is June 15th!) is that much of what you learn there will take time to settle into your brain and become useable. The figure quoted was from three to six months.
As a veteran teacher who is used to hearing nonsense passed off as Truth in teacher trainings, I was certain that that was exaggeration. But damn if VP didn’t prove correct again. Those people know what they’re talking about. As Elizabeth Bear said, “You have to give brains time to spin.”
Lately, as I write, problems that had seemed unsolvable suddenly present solutions. Nine times out of ten, the solution can be traced back to something I learned about plot, or dialogue, or how to get unstuck, or any number of other things I heard that week, from the VP instructors and staff.
It’s kind of awesome, really. That niggling plot hole I wasn’t sure how to plug? Not only plugged, but eradicated by changing one of the core assumptions about the antagonists. The question of why something couldn’t be done to the protagonist a second time? Solved. The problem wherein some of the secondary plot threads weren’t being set up very well? Solved by a dinner scene (thank you, Steven Brust!). The niggling problem of Character X? Well, he’s dead now, and his death sets up all sorts of things that could come back in Book 2, Universe Willing.
Anyway, if you found this page because you’re wondering if VP is worth it, the answer is that yes, it really is. All that stuff you read on various blogs about how VP staff removed our brains, rearranged them, and put them back? Yep. It’s pretty accurate.
34,389 words. Not bad. Chapter seven is nearly finished; chapter eight is the Big Revelation.
Now I am very tired, and I am going to watch a sitcom to let my brain stop working, then I’m going to bed.
Sometimes even getting a couple of hundred words out is a chore. Other times, the words, they flow like a gorgeous stream. Tonight was one of the latter times; I ended up with 1,160 words.
Now I’m shutting it all down and going to bed. Goodnight, all. See you tomorrow.