Thursday, August 28, 2014

Productivity v. Creativity

Man Strolling in a Wooded Landscape by A. A. Mills
(That’s rich, me writing about productivity when I haven’t posted in two weeks, amiright?! Outlining the novel and the last blast of summer before school kind of swallowed me whole there for a bit – but I’m back!)

I’ve been thinking about the push and pull between the time it takes to bring a piece of writing to completion and the drive to produce more material. This pressure is both internal and external. Internally, I have lots of ideas for stories that are lined up waiting to get onto the page. Externally, between all the publishing options and social media, the impression is that the world is the writer’s oyster if he or she can just chuck enough words out there. How many novels can you write in a year? One? Three? More?

I'm writing my first novel; certainly I don’t want it to be my last. Now that I’m happy with the outline,* I’m writing through it scene-by-scene. I do want to write this draft as quickly as I can, so that I can maintain story momentum. I have to do a certain amount of work every day to stay in that story’s “head space.” I am hoping to have a fairly clean draft of this novel by the end of the year, but, honestly, I don’t know how long it will take.

In the past I’ve written short stories that took months to get right. It can be frustrating when it takes so many missteps and revisions to get to the final product, but I’ve come to see that everyone is going to have their own personal balance between productivity and the kind of work they want to produce. This will even change from project to project. One short story might be reeled off in an evening, polished and done the next day. Another one, where I'm striving for an ephemeral precision with each sentence reaching for a gem-like perfection, will take months.

Every day I try to create a balance between productivity and my ability to create the very best work that I am capable of today.

So, don’t just think about how many words you want to write or how many pages you want to fill, think about what you want to accomplish as a writer. How does your work feed you? What do you want to give your readers in exchange for their time?

To keep myself focused on the work, I’ve come up with a little mantra, which of course is in the form of a list (I love lists):
  1. Do the best work you can – always write at the limits of your current abilities.
  2. Work a little every day.
  3. Be patient with yourself if projects take longer than expected (see number 2).
  4. Finish things and let them go. **

* What I’ve been doing these past two weeks.

** More about putting your work out there next week.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Read My Diorama Story at DSF & Writing Process Blog Tour

The outline on the window
Today you get two blog posts for the price of one!

First, the end of summer is in sight, and soon the kids will be returning to school. It’s in that spirit that I hope you enjoy my diorama story. I really enjoyed writing it. Be sure and stick around Daily Science Fiction to check out some of the other great stories on this site. This fine venue has been reliably publishing fantastic writing for years. I am so proud to be published by them!

Second, Patrice Sarath tagged me for a Writing Process blog tour, which is tricky as my process is almost certainly still evolving. The best I can do is give you a snapshot of what my process is today.

What am I working on?
My first novel! Well, technically no. I’ve made a couple attempts before this one including a couple NaNoWriMo novels. But, I won’t be inflicting those on anyone else’s eyeballs. Those early attempts taught me a lot about the craft. It’s good to have a couple novels to line the bottom desk drawer where they can live out their days in dark and quiet solitude.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I dunno. I love reading both literary and genre fiction, so I guess my work sits at the crossroads of those two. I’ve always liked being hard to categorize, except when I’m asked to describe myself.

Why do I write what I do?
I love exploring our world in all its gorgeous complexity. For me, both reading and writing is a way to slip the surly bonds of reality, to travel places that can only exist in our dreams and imaginations.

I’m devoted to science fiction and fantasy, but animal stories were my first love: Call of the Wild, Watership Down, Black Beauty, The Incredible Journey, Charlotte’s Web. You get the idea. I find that animals often show up in my stories. I am intensely interested in how we go about defining ourselves from the natural world around us.

How does my writing process work?
Since I’m working out how to go about writing a novel, I’ll speak to that. Frankly, right now, it’s a journey of discovery with all its pleasures and frustrations. I put up a word counter on the side bar, but haven’t added any new words yet, because I had to stop drafting and go back create a better outline. I’m pretty sure I’m not a pantser (someone who writes a draft by the seat of their pants). Outlining helps me develop the story as a whole, and I need that in order to have the confidence to wade in. I don’t think I can just cast off into open water. I guess I’ll find out more about myself as a writer as I work through this project.

Now, I’ve got a card for each major scene. I’m journaling to work through the many questions that have presented themselves as I worked on the outline. Next, I’ll start going card by card, scene by scene with some time in the evening devoted to working out “meta” thoughts and story problems in my journal. This way, with a rough road map and solving problems as I go, I hope to make steady progress.

So, that’s my process. Today…

D.L. Young and Aaron DaMommio tag you’re it!

Here's a cheetah and a dog playing tag.