Friday, July 1, 2011

So this is what it feels like...

A few years ago, in a flurry of exploratory creative writing, when I had three fledgling novels going in little fits and starts, I marveled at fellow unpubbed writers (like Jen Hendren and Claire Gregory, both of whom now post at the All the World's Our Page blog, and Ellen Oh, who is now rocking a three-book contract with HarperCollins Teen for a YA fantasy set in ancient Korea) whose prodigious word counts seemed almost unreal to me.

Thousands of words a day. On multiple days. In a row. How did they DO that?

I was lucky if I managed 500 words a day, tops. 500 tortured, minutely crafted words. Hence, all three of those WIPs now languish on my thumb drives at 15K or less, after 4 years or more. To be fair to myself, there have been huge chunks of time (mid-August to mid-May, every year for the past couple of years) when I get no creative writing done. But there's still a lot of time unaccounted for.

I know it doesn't help that the intellectual effort of my job functionally shuts down my creative writing for the academic year. But still, 15K in 4 years. Pathetic. (Just referring to myself and my unreasonable self-expectations, here. Anyone else with 15K in 4 years--You go! Rock on!)

So this summer, in a ____ mood, I have decided to try something different. I chose a totally different story idea and direction and genre. I'm giving myself room to only rule for this WIP is that I must finish it.

And lately, I've been granted the precious gift of time. One of the lovely percs of my job is free tuition for both credit and non-credit courses--for me and my immediate family. So Kiddo goes to "camp classes" most mornings, and I have dedicated this week's camp time to writing this shiny new WIP! And it's moving at, for me, a remarkable pace. I've written just over 9K since in 3 days. 9K in 3 days. Compared to 9K in 3 years. I'm trying not to pressure myself into keeping this pace...I'm my own worst enemy, obviously. But I'd also love to have the first draft complete before the fall semester begins...and by complete, I mean around 70K, prior to revision and editing, with a final target of 85K.

But, really, considering my track record, it will be a feat if I manage 50K with a full story arc. (The other 35K can be for minor arcs and detailing that I would deal with in revision.)

I certainly don't want to kill the magic of this little new plaything by overanalyzing, but I think it's going moderately well for a few reasons, all of which are rather inter-related:

1) Playfulness - Unlike my previous literary efforts, it's genre writing, which has some basic conventions/requirements, so when I pause in doubt, I can think about what conventions I might not have captured yet or might want to play with.

2) Freedom from judgment - Unlike my previous literary efforts, I feel I don't have to try so hard this time to be clever and deep and intellectual. This time I just want to FINISH a story and maybe, possibly have some fun doing it. So far, so good.

3) Outlining - Oh, and whaddaya know, this time, after a day of writing, it seemed fitting and sort of natural that I draft a basic outline. In this case, it really does work. I still don't think I could outline litfic well...I'd want those pieces to be more, um, revelatory (wow, that sounds pretentious). But this genre piece seemed to generate an outline all on its own..."Don't forget that this should happen. Don't forget that it needs to include...They should have a hiccup in their path here... Why would he...? What happens whey they...? How can he forgive...? How will she react to...?"

In short--
1) Just write.
2) Don't give up. Maybe just try looking out a different window.
3) Try new things.

That wasn't too "navel-gazing," was it? Carry on.

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