Category Archives: Progress reports

I Won’t Say the Block Has Broken…

free clip art guy reading

…but I put in some very consistent hours working on Sky last week, and, so far I’m doing even better this week. Two things happened to enable this (at least the observable things; the unobservable aspect, of course, being God’s gracein answering my prayers). Those two things were:

Number 1:    I decided that I needed to get into the office earlier, (first thing in the morning, in fact) and as part of that, to go to bed earlier the night before. To get to bed earlier, I have decided to stop watching all the TV I’ve been watching, staying away, in particular from shows that end at 10pm. It’s helped that during this time most of my favorite shows were either not on or reruns. (And last week’s new Elementary, with both the insertion of the gay character and mention of Sherlock’s interest in yet another perversity, “prurient writing,” helped me decide that it was not worth spending any more precious time and mental “space” on.)

Number 2 :  One of my biggest problems with actually working has been in trying to force myself to make decisions about the world or the next step in the narrative, and getting confused and overwhelmed to the point I do nothing.  So this time I decided to simply read through all my collected notes and plans. I have a notebook already in progress (my world-builder’s “Bible”) where I keep lengthy writings on the characters, the world in a fair amount of detail, situations of conflict, plot ideas, etc., so the plan is to simply read through that, making no demands upon myself to decide anything or figure out anything , or even like it all. I only have to read it.

And perhaps jot down any notes or questions that come to mind.

Well that’s been VERY effective.

Why, you might ask, haven’t I done this before? Well, because, you see, I know all that stuff! (Even though some of it dates back to 2001, and much of the rest to 2005) It would be a waste of time! I need to get with the next step in the narrative, not fiddle around reading old notes about the world I’ve constructed for that narrative to unfold in.

Well, maybe…though in truth I’d forgotten A LOT.  And what rereading it all has done, is give me a way to connect with the material that’s not threatening. If thoughts or questions occur — and they have been — I need only write them down, not Make a Decision!  This way I can relax and just proceed, and now I’m finding that it’s not just easy to stay in the office, it’s hard to make myself stop! And it’s getting me inspired again.

Like, when I read through the character “Bio” I have on my hero Talmas, last week. I got very excited and wrote in my writing log, “Wow! I am jazzed! I LOVE this guy!”  Two days later, having pulled out an old journal from when I had first taken up Sky after finishing The Enclave (because I was having problems similar to what I’m enduring now) I wrote, on Sept 8, 2009,

“Wow! The Lord kept nudging me to read my old notes and finally I gave in …. Oh, my. I’m in love with Talmas! He’s the center of this story… I am jazzed. This, I think is where I must focus.”

So, things are happening. Two weeks ago I averaged 4 hours a day. Last week my daily  average was 4.6 hours (and this despite multiple very strong distractions). This week, though, I hope to do even better…

 

 

Never Easy

Leaf portrait small

It’s been awhile since I’ve said anything about my progress or lack thereof on Sky.

That’s because, in part, writing all those posts about rebound took up a lot of words and mental energy.

It’s also because after a couple weeks of unrelenting distractions and interruptions, when I finally got back to it, the magic had once again left and I had no idea what I was doing.

I had brought things to a point at the end of Chapter 7, but couldn’t quite finish it off. Too many questions… too many options. Too many, “whys”. As in, if A does that, what will B do in response? If I don’t want A to be figured out by B now, how can I have events progress as I have them? B would have to be a nincompoop not to figure everything out, and he’s not supposed to be a nincompoop.

[Where in the world did that word come from? Nincompoop??]

Somehow those questions led to a re-evaluation of the surface of the world I am trying to build, which led to a re-evaluation of the government, this after an earlier re evaluation wherein I decided to change my world set up from a single empire situation to multiple nations…

Then an interruption would come in and several days would pass before I could get back to it, during which time I would have forgotten what I had been thinking about… Returning to the work was almost like returning to square one and the whole project would seem so vast and overwhelming I’d spend at least the first day back doing my best to run away from it.

But today I got back to it and in the course of writing one of those nonstops I’m so wont to write, I remembered this:

From my ruminations over today’s work:

“It occurs to me that I haven’t really thought all this out and this kind of thing, the ideas, the modification, the sudden realization of inconsistencies, the  major readjustments, the refinement – or the dumping as unworkable and starting over…  it’s all part of the hard work of building a world for a novel. So… nothing’s wrong here. It’s part of the process and the process is long, hard, confusing, frustrating, exciting, gratifying, rewarding, never easy. Nor simple. Nor fast.”

It’s been like this before. Many times. I’d forgotten that. Forgotten that I just have to keep plugging along, and be patient, It will come, in time.

Faster than a Herd of Turtles

"Off like a herd of turtles..."

“Off like a herd of turtles…”

Well, I’m happy to report that I have continued to work regularly on Sky. I did 2 1/2 hours a day last week, and so far 3 hours a day this week. All time I actually spent focused on the work at hand instead of everything else in my periphery.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done a number of things to help myself be more productive — trying to get to bed earlier; keeping things picked up and put away so I don’t see them when I walk out of the room and thereby get distracted; using Freedom and turning off the phones. And they have helped. But overall, I think I have to chalk this up to the Lord’s doing. I feel different about it all now, and it seems almost effortless to get to work…

But I did have to get to a point of despair when it came to my own efforts and finally just give it all over to Him:  “Here, Lord. I can’t do this. You handle it.”

I finished chapter 6 on Monday and started chapter 7 the next day. Today I continued on Chapter 7 and so far I have 10 pages.  It’s difficult to describe how I work, because it’s pretty chaotic. I have ideas, snatches of conversations collected on various papers, cards and electronic documents. They show up when I’m making notes about what’s to happen next, or when I do nonstops about the work. I also have a sort of outline for the events/incidents that are going to happen.

So what I’ve been doing is just putting those altogether, thinking about the resultant mix, starting to question various elements of that mix, sometimes to answer the questions I posed and from all that to begin to gather and shape the ideas into a coherent narrative.  And it does appear that something interesting is emerging. I’m excited!

I Seem to be Wordless

work desk

I really don’t know why I haven’t been posting much lately. Or maybe I should say, I really don’t know why I can’t seem to think of anything to post. No, that’s not it either. I can think of things to post, but then I don’t feel like writing them down, so nothing happens.

I haven’t been keeping up with email, nor even doing much in my journal.

I have, however, been fairly regular with working on Sky. Six days last week. For at least three hours a day and often more. It’s been good, because I’m actually making some progress. The biggest thing that happened was that I realized that allowing the fact that I felt dead and empty inside with respect to the work to stop me was a mistake. Yes, it was certainly true that every time I thought about the chapter, or even the book in general, I drew a complete blank. I was so indifferent I began to wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree.

So I let myself stop trying for a bit and read my HUGE Tom Clancy novel, which I believe I mentioned. Then I read another novel, a Christmas present from Bethany House. I’m currently finishing up a third, this one a continuation of the Roman-based mystery series I started over a year ago. Oh and in the middle of that I read, um, about half of The Shadow Within, just to remind myself that hey, I really can write.

That was when I remembered all the days I spent being just as blank and helpless and dismayed as I was with Sky. Yes, days. In fact, it was typically about three full days of hanging around, lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, walking laps in my house or back yard, trying to come up with an idea, and being completely, hopelessly, helplessly BLANK.

And then after several days, something would come. It wasn’t something logicked out, or figured out or put together. It would just be there. And I’d write it down.

So recalling that, I’ve gone back to putting in the time. Not running off to do something else when I find myself blank. But just sitting or lying around exploring the blankness.

And it’s been working. I was working my way through what I was afraid was a boring and pointless party scene when suddenly a new character showed up, one related to an existing character who wasn’t even supposed to be in town… and a scene happened. I even like it!

And now, in describing that, I’ve actually come up with something to post.

How about that? (Well, this IS supposed to be a “writing diary” sort of blog…) Now I need to go get dinner started…

How I Got Back on Track

For the first time in a little over three weeks I finally got back to work on Sky again.

I left off July 9,  working through Chapter 3 again, because Chapter 3 leads into Chapter 5, and Chapter 5 leads into Chapter 7, which is where I got stuck.

I have felt so lost for so long, I’d begun to wonder what was wrong with me. Then yesterday I had the vague memory that things had been as chaotic for me in the process of writing previous books as they are for this one. Particularly Return of the Guardian King.  I can’t seem to find the writing journal I kept for that one — it might be in my trunk of memorabilia buried at the back of the closet…but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble — and spend all the time — of getting it out. That’s when I recalled that there was probably something up on my old blog which I began back in February of 2006.

Sure enough, there was. I was starting Chapter 11 of RotGK, and having the same sorts of trouble as I am now. The very first entry starts out:

I’m supposed to be working on chapter 11 of my work in progress — Light out of Shadow. But I seem to be a master at self-distraction. The thing is, I’ve enjoyed reading others’ blogs and I’ve been thinking about starting one of my own for some time now. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise when I couldn’t seem to make myself get to work today on account of numerous interruptions and external distractions… that I should suddenly find myself here, completing one step after another (there were more than the three they advertised at the start of this) in setting up this blog.’

And the second one, There and Back Again,  detailed a process of story generation that is very much like the one I’m in the middle of now. It was exactly what I needed to read, to recall that I just have to get something down, that it’s going to change, and that that’s okay. Sure, make it fit as best I can, make it as plausible and consistent as I can, but don’t demand a lot from a first pass.  It’s just my way of getting some sort of framework sketched in.

I’d forgotten that I was supposed to be sketching, and started getting perfectionistic.

The thing I love about what I wrote in There and Back Again, is that it reminded me how uncomfortable and blind my process is. How I can have no clue what to do one day, way too many options, unable to choose and then the next day, one little thing seems to lead to another and before I know it I have a sequence.

It reminded me of how I can look at what I’ve done, be dissatisfied, come up with some alternative ideas that seem to work and then be unable to write them. When I try they just lie there, dead and dull. Then after a couple of days, and a few seemingly minor tweaks, all comes clear. The chapter which formerly was “a disaster” and “ALL wrong” and “never going to come right”  somehow comes right.

One day it’s AWFUL and HOPELESS; the next I wonder what in the world I was thinking, because it’s clearly just fine.

Reading through that post, being reminded of all that helped me get back into Sky today.

I also received a number of hits from the Lord concerning the matter of priorities.

First Pastor John taught on our number one priority in the Christian life being to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Is that really your #1 priority?” he asked.

Well, yes, of course it is, and I know that doesn’t just mean the daily reception of Bible teaching, it also means application of that teaching and, once one has grown enough, operating in the spiritual gift one has been given.

Not an hour later I started listening to a presentation by Thomas Umstattd over at the Bestseller Society on Time Management and in the first 4 minutes heard:

“If you don’t manage your time, the world will do it for you. Anything around you — coworkers, the world, your boss, your family, the TV…  those will fill up your hours for you.”

“When we say, “I don’t have time for something,” what we’re really saying is “That’s not as important as the other things that I do.”

and

“You can tell what your priorities are by how you spend your time. We have what we believe our priorities to be and then we have what they really are.”

All of that together coming in just a few hours, convicted me. I have not been giving writing the proper spot in my priorities.  “Whatever is most important to you,” said Umstattd, “that needs to be the first thing in how you schedule your time.”

So, I’ve reconfigured things a bit, and today using the pomodoro technique (modified) I put in 3 1/2 hours on Sky — first thing after I finished my morning routine. And that makes me very happy.  😀