Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Writing versus "bookwork"

This novel is kicking my butt. Mostly, that's OK. But it has been urgent for a long time, pretty much since the start of the whole process. I had to hurry up and come up with a pitch. Then I had to hurry up and come up with two more pitches before I finally found the plot that was right for the novel that the book department wanted. And now I'm on a really tight deadline to actually get the book written, as I mentioned yesterday. 

The problem is that, as I started writing, I realized that I needed more work on the outline. My wife reviewed it, and had a lot of questions that needed answering. I started writing, and realized that 40 chapters weren't going to fill this book if they averaged only 2,400 words instead of the 3,000 words I had budgeted. And one of the characters (the one who also appeared in In the Claws of the Tiger) started taking on a larger role in the writing than I'd given him in the outline. So I've been feeling like I really needed to take some time to work on the outline again, but that conflicted with the need to generate 6,000 words a week.

I've been listening to Michael A. Stackpole's podcast, called The Secrets. In his most recent episode, in which he's outlining some exercises to help develop characters, he talks about what he calls "bookwork"—the stuff you do to get ready to write, as opposed to actually writing. I think this needs to be contrasted with the stuff you do to make you think you're writing when you're actually not, like reading books about writing, or reading books that aren't about writing, that sort of thing. That's a problem area for me, and I suspect for many people who want to be writers but somehow never get around to actually sitting down and writing. Anyway, bookwork is the stuff I need to spend some time on.

Well, I can't put it off any longer. I realized this when I sat down to write this morning and found that I'd started a chapter (one that wasn't in my outline) and had no idea how to finish it. After staring at it for a while, I started putting together a timeline, matching up the events of the book so far with actual dates in the calendar. Doing that, I realized that it was actually way too early in the book for this chapter to appear—it was a sideline story that actually would have taken place several days later than where the main action of the story is. I renamed it Chapter 15 instead of Chapter 9 and saved it on a back burner. 

This post sort of exemplifies the problem I'm facing: Even on a day like today, when I've ostensibly taken time off from work for writing, I had to stop in mid-post because it was time to go pick up my son from school. I really need some time completely free from time constraints and distractions. That seems to be hard to come by.

It's my hope that I might be able to pull off some "bookwork" time during hours that I might otherwise spend doing sudoku puzzles—times when I can't work uninterrupted or find the focus I need to actually put words on the page. It's possible that in a lower state of concentration I might be able to hammer on the outline or work on character development. Of course, it might also be the case that I can't, that I need more peace and quiet to do bookwork than to do actual writing. I guess I won't know until I give it a try.

Here goes nothing...

No comments: