Runcibility

SJG – an old / new author's blog.

“Come on, Marie.” I dragged her from the chair.

Twelve stone, my arse. Always dieting, she was; always complaining and drinking her gin, now slumped in the garden with a wet mouth and puffy eyes.

I resumed my grip beneath her arms, supporting her weight. “That’s marriage,” I supposed.

Later, I breathed in the silence.

The seat was hard without any padding. I had to laugh, that sounded a lot like divorce. I didn’t really mind.

“To you, Marie,” I toasted the night air.

I’d had to bury the cushion when I’d buried her. I’d used it to suffocate Marie.

Garden Night

Bleed

I’ve just completed CamNaNoWriMo for July, where I was challenged to write 50,000 words of a potential novel.

Novelists typically plan their work before they start to type. They map out plots, build new worlds and develop compelling characters. This preparation can take some time and effort, but it’s that old adage in practice: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. No-one likes the staring horror of a blank page.

I did none of these things.

I joined on a whim, just hours before Camp began. This is typical behaviour for me. I’m a pantster: someone who writes by the seat of her pants. I’m not alone in this approach, but it comes with its own challenges. A notable challenge is that it doesn’t always work.

For those who don’t know, CamNaNoWriMo is a virtual writer’s retreat; an online haven for anyone who thinks they might have a novel in them, however fleeting the thought. It uses daily motivational messages, both from Camp and from fellow authors, along with a visibly ticking deadline to whip us slacking writers into shape.

I was interested to see how this could work for me as someone who needed to redevelop a writing routine. I’ve been writing for decades, but I needed to re-engage after an enforced break from it. Aha! I thought, this could be the very thing I need.

50, 463 words later, I finished a day ahead of time. Having achieved my aim, what have I learned? The answer is I would have found it much easier if I had stuck to three simple things:

Destroy the blank page at all costs.

That expanse of white is your enemy and can stop you before you’ve even begun. To avoid this psychological trap, write something. Write absolutely anything. Jot down a few lines of dialogue, outline the first chapter or list what you had for breakfast if that helps you get started. It really doesn’t matter. You are a magician. You have the power to reshape your work later, deleting your breakfast along the way.

The more time you spend writing, the less time you spend worrying about what you should write. This creates a healthy psychological precedent.

Create a plan, but be prepared to betray it.

Begin your project with some sort of idea where you want it to go. If you can develop your characters and lay out a plot before you start, that’s great, but don’t fret if you can’t go into detail. These elements will only come alive as you write them and are bound to change profoundly as they interact. Characters can rebel and plots can ring hollow so have the confidence to go with what feels right rather than what you planned.

Just have a general idea of what comes next and that will be enough – and you can always change that too.

Don’t be precious about your work.

The point of a first draft is to make a start; a terrible, imperfect, confused and illiterate start. Give yourself permission to be bad. No-one needs to read it but you. Don’t judge it. it’s doing its job by existing. This is part of a process that all writers follow, including your literary heroes.

Just write now and worry about quality later. It will be there, I promise, often well-hidden, but always ready to be transformed into something good.

 

 

I am battling an addiction.

Like any potent drug, it’s become an indelible part of me. Test my bones and you will find traces there.

I was exposed to this compulsion in early childhood and I still remember how it harnessed the passion of my teenage years. In the decades since, I’ve often broken the habit. I’ve refocused on all the things that I’m told are more constructive: a career, meaningful friendships and the pursuit of other hobbies.

I always fall off the wagon. I want to answer that primal call.

My addiction is writing. Is it yours?

CaligariDesk

I have passed 10,000 words. This feels like a significant marker, although I know it’s just as arbitrary as any number. Perhaps it’s the presence of the extra zero that adds a certain weight to my efforts.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I can see it in terms of 20%. What’s the significance of 20%? If I pick up a book I value and I flip to the place where the tale is 20% told, I can derive some satisfaction from the thought that maybe, just maybe, I too have got to the hub of the story – the place where momentum has swept up a reader and will carry her to through the end, come what may.

 

Time is a resource. Time which could be spent on writing is always precious and even if it doesn’t generate a finished product.

A quick google will turn up countless writing resources and tips. Try it. Give it a click.

Scroll your way past the sponsored content and advertisements, past the inducements to get you published or improve your craft; down, down to the endlessly-regurgitated collection of quotes from the same five famous authors and the books about writing which you are told you must buy. There are a million hits for writing tips. It’s a minefield out there. It’s full of content and it’s full of distractions.

We all know that everyone wants our money, but everyone is also competing for our time.

There is no such thing as a quick fix for the writer. We all know this, but in dry moments we still hope. Whether a novice or a seasoned scribbler, whether published or commercially-clueless, whether in the grip of writer’s block or as a series of self-imposed distraction techniques, we all fight the same battle. We want a quick fix. We want a kick. We want a magical solution. We want to avoid the blank page or the self-doubt or the sentence that just will not take shape.

1_The-Great-Distraction-750x4001

A thousand sites promise to fight it with us, but beware. Our time could be better spent writing.

I have come to think of writing as a process and not a way of generating an end product. The more I write, the more likely it is that I will do one of two things: I will actually find that magical spot and generate something I can use or, even more miraculously, something I like. Or I will simply train myself to write instead of not writing. Not writing is easy. Writing is hard. This is playing a long game without any expectation of instant productivity. Eventually, this will pay off when I find that magical spot again.

I fully acknowledge the potential irony here: I’m writing about writing and not actually writing. I’m also offering a writing tip which is to be wary of distractions exactly like mine.

However, I am writing, if not writing what I need to write. This is my long game.

Now it’s really time to write.