Thursday, May 16, 2013

Breaking Momentum - Schism Edition

Although I've been basking in the glow of finishing my most recent novel, I've also been taking stock of what went right and what went wrong.  Writing Acts One and Two were among the easiest things I've ever done(from a writing perspective).  However, Act Three took a little more effort, and Act Four was downright rough.

Part of it may have come down to my knowing how the book would kick off.  I've been envisioning Acts One and Two in some form for quite some time.  Acts Three and Four, on the other hand, were always a bit more nebulous and required more time spent on the outline than the other parts.  Although I had an idea where the last half of the book would go, I'd never really nailed it down until the actual writing process began.

But I think I winnowed down my difficulty with Act Four, and it was a problem I've identified before but failed to take to heart in this instance until I was almost across the finish line - momentum.  I set a goal of 2,000 words per day, which normally takes me just over an hour if I'm in the zone.  Unfortunately, I almost never start out in the zone and can only get there by grinding through the first few hundred words and establishing a rhythm.

During the first two acts, I'd sit down and write 2,000 words straight.  Sometimes, I'd be so caught up in it that I'd lose track of my word count and end up at 3,000 or 4,000 words without even realizing it.  In Act Four, though, I'd sit down and pound out 400 or 500 words in the few spare moments I had, and I could never establish that all important rhythm.  Sure, sometimes there was a legitimate reason, such as starting to outrun my outline, but usually it was just a matter of not forcing myself to make an hour of uninterrupted time to write.

The final three days writing Schism, I finally just sat my rear end in a chair and slogged through to the end.  Around May 2nd, I was at 32,000 words and knew I had about another 8,000 or 9,000 to go in order to reach a satisfying ending.  The pace I was at, plus the new events in my life, threatened to make it so that I wouldn't finish until the middle of the month...and even that might have been a stretch.  Therefore, as my new daughter was asleep and my wife was catching up on dreams of her own, I sat at my computer, outline in hand, and tore into the last bit.

That was when I rediscovered something I always knew when I found a rhythm - the longer I wrote, the easier it became.  The words flowed so much easier once I was on a continuous path than they did when I stopped and started.  I thought that if I finished my muddling writing at an exciting place, I could pick up again right where I left off and it would be easy.  What I didn't realize was that the place I'd left off at was exciting precisely because I'd started getting into a rhythm and then suddenly stopped.  Compare it to peeing - once the flow is strong, don't stop, or starting up again gets painful.

I'm going to take a break from novels for a couple of months just so I can get my head on straight again, but the ideas are already starting to flow for what I'm going to work on next.  The key for me will be to take the lessons learned here and apply them to my next venture so it remains as fun as it did during the first two months and not as much of a grind as it was the last two.  Of course, maybe I could help myself by not writing an almost 160,000 word first draft as well.  I promise that my next work will be "normal" sized.

Who am I kidding?  If I knew what normal was, I wouldn't be a writer.

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