I love it when people comment on posts because it leads me down new avenues of thought and discussion that I hadn’t considered before. When I shared my post entitled “When Canon & Commentary Collide” about the retroactive changes made to preexisting work by J.K. Rowling and George Lucas, my friend David Greenshell had this to say:
I think it’s important to consider that it’s not JUST about the visual effects. As writers, we know that you can’t write the same story at 20 that you can at 30. As you change, your sensibilities change… so 1997 George Lucas actually isn’t fully able to reproduce what 1977 George Lucas would have wanted. By modifying the movies, he inevitably makes them a product of 1997 — not just technologically, but creatively.
And David is absolutely right. The stories that you can and do tell change depending on your age. You shift focus as you gain experience. The stories you are drawn to or are interested in telling change. The characters you relate to and want to write about evolve. And whenever there is a large gap between installments of work, especially if they are in a series, you can usually tell the difference.
While griping about never getting anything done and how all my creative efforts are for naught, my brother Daniel says, “Well, you’re on your fourth book, so you are getting stuff done.”
I nearly spit out my tea, but manage to sputter, “Wait, what? Fourth book?!”
He looks at me like I’m dense. “Yeah, there was that book you wrote for the Dark Crystal contest, which totally counts. There’s Courting the Moon, and then there’s Ravens and Roses. Even if that isn’t quite fully finished yet it’s, like, 98% done, and now you’re working on a fourth. Give yourself some credit.”
I’m stunned by this revelation. “Wow, what a great way to reframe that. Thank you!”
They say that timing is everything. While it may vary in prominence and importance for a story, it’s always a good idea for a writer to know how long it takes for things to happen. Having the ages of characters and timeline of events written down and referenced periodically during the rewriting process will help you maintain both continuity and pacing.
Note that I said, “during the rewriting process.” Timelines and continuity checks are part of the many cycles of editing. Unless you are one of those ultra-detailed planners who lays all of the groundwork before picking up a pen, a timeline isn’t something you should be using until after at least the first draft is complete.
For example, when I write, I usually have a month or so of planning where I pull together a basic plot line, character descriptions, and overall tone of the work. In the character descriptions, I put at least an estimate of how old they are supposed to be. This can fluctuate later, but usually only within a few years of the initial age-setting. As I write my first draft, I have a rough idea of how much time passes between events. It’s a day or two from their initial meeting to their first fight, a week until their marriage, a few hours until that important breakfast, and they spend two or three months in this locale. These aren’t set in stone, nor do they have to be 100% accurate at this stage. In Draft 1, it doesn’t matter so much if I say it only took a week to travel 200 miles on foot or something like that. All I need are estimates, if that, to give a basic temporal framework. Continue reading “Temporal Frameworks”→
As a writer currently slogging through her second round of editing, the light at the end of the tunnel looks farther away than ever before. I guess everyone starts to flag at the end of the race, but I can’t help but wonder: am I taking too long? How to other authors do it?
Go to Fantastic Fiction, search for a popular modern author, and take a look at their publication dates. Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Debbie Macomber, Fern Michaels, John Sandford, David Baldacci, James Patterson + Another Random Author… all of them release at least one book a year. Some release two or more! And I end up sitting there, jaw on the floor, asking, “HOW?!”
Okay, now that that is off my chest, we can get into the meat of this post. Although I’ll admit that my entries have been a little lean lately. Nearing the end of a project seems to slow my momentum rather than increase it. But I did want to create a companion entry to “Page Counts, Words, Rosemary, and Time.” “Page Counts” dealt with my own schedule and how I use daily word counts or time spent to move forward. While writing that entry, I wondered if any other fantasy authors, or authors in general, did something similar. Did any of them measure their progress by counting pages? Or did they set aside specific blocks of time to work? Or did they just write all day long? I know each author has their own way of doing things, but I also like finding trends.
This year, I made the commitment to complete The Mariner Sequence – Book 1: Ravens and Roses by the end of 2013. I have committed myself to, not only finishing writing it, but also editing it. You’d think I’d be happy about this. And, in a way, I am. I’ve made significant progress. I just broke 180 pages yesterday. This is the point that writer’s work towards, the place where many fall down. The hardest part of any work is finishing it.
I can’t believe I started this blog back at the end of June 2011. I thought I’d only started this year! Time sure does fly, doesn’t it? Maybe it only seems like I started this year because I had to step back and write every other week rather than every week. I’m glad that I made that decision, although it seems like I’m still writing my entries the day they are “due.” (No doubt a holdover from my school days when I procrastinated absolutely everything. Even my senior paper I wrote the night before it was due. But I got a “B” so I call that a win.)
I’ve covered a lot of territory this year. In some ways, I wonder if I have anything else to say about writing. Sometimes I look back and wonder, “Well…what else can I talk about?” Sometimes I feel like I don’t really have the authority to talk about some subjects because I’m not good at them, have little experience with them, or simply because “I’m not published.” But I’ve realized that being published doesn’t mean you have all the answers or know what you’re talking about. I might not be published yet, not even by a vanity press, but at least I’m writing. I really took to heart Chuck Wendig’s admonishment of “aspiring” writers: “If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not.” (Whether you write well is a whole different story.)
The first week of National Novel Writing Month was glorious. I was consistently ahead of my daily word count, I had a routine that not only allowed me to write, but encouraged me to write. It got me off to a good start so that when I flagged in the middle of the month, I could still grind through and reach a total 50,065 words. I’m not entirely satisfied because a significant portion of my NaNo entry was fan fiction and various rants about life, but it achieved its purpose: it established habit.
I have never felt quite as focused on writing as I have in that first week. Writing became all-encompassing. My world. My life. And while everything else crumbles around me or changes at lightning speed, I have created some rather intense writing mantras. They may not be for everyone. But these mantras are what give my life structure, my existence meaning, that keep me moving forward when all I want to do is break:
This is my life now.There is nothing beyond this computer in this room. The rest of my life is nonsense; writing is the only thing that matters. THERE IS NO LIFE!THERE IS ONLY WRITING! This is the point.This is it.This is the reason I exist. Write every day. Everything else is my life is fluff.It’s extra.This, writing, every day, is what matters.Not my day job, not socializing, not even my family.