My decision to unofficially participate in NaNoWriMo, by writing 2k or so words a day on my existing manuscript, proved to be just the impetus I needed to really get to work on an academic article.
I’ve been putting this article off for several weeks. It’s hard going, and there’s not a set deadline. That’s just a bad combination.
I spent the better part of this morning stewing over my novel, roiling out difficult spots and working through possible settings, character arcs, and plot twists. Ideas appeared where they hadn’t before. The story moved with a brusqueness it’s lacked for months.
So, inscrutably, when I finally ensconced myself at the computer, I proceeded to work on the third section of an unrelated academic article.
I hadn’t expected it to happen quite like that.
Oh, I suppose we can brush it off as simple procrastination.
Or we can look at it another way, and say that I finally stopped procrastinating.
My problem–or blessing–is that I have too many projects going at once.
- A novella,
- a short story,
- a different short story,
- an academic article,
- an academic article based on the above academic article,
- a novel length manuscript,
- a blog,
- and a collection of random poems.
And this has no reference of other pressing projects. This is a collection of ideas that doesn’t seem to have much overt connection, except that everything, admittedly, interconnects somehow to fantasy. So perhaps it’s not quite as disparate as it first seems.
I tend to imitate the (sort of) great Dirk Gently in my approach to writing, particularly fantasy. For one thing, I tend to believe in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. In some inscrutable way, I think my sitting down to work on an academic article really did help immerse my mind into writing and sub-creating. Writing of any kind helps engender that wild-eyed wonder and childlike eagerness for Story that I find imperative in writing fantasy.
For another, I tend to employ the Zen Method of Writing. I find an idea that looks like it’s going somewhere and I follow it. Really, the only difference between stories I finish and stories I don’t is whether I keep following, or find a more interesting turn-off.
This, actually, is more precisely called the Stephen King school of writing–put characters in circumstances and see what happens, just for the heck of it. The idea, for me, at any rate, is to be a genuine first-time reader of my own writing, always flipping a page (and writing) to see what happens next.
Lisa Tuttle, however, has cautioned about applying this method to lengthy projects. No matter how organic a writer you are, she said, you do need some semblance of an idea where you’re trying to get. Or chances are, you’ll get bogged down around the 100k word mark without having gotten anywhere or having a clue where you’re going.
(Not that that’s ever happened to me, or anything…)
So, the weekend will probably hold an outline. I want to get a rough sketch of the next batch of chapters, and explore this world a little more fully. It will mean making some tough decisions I’ve been avoiding–like do I have a training scene with the longsword, or a fight with a wildcat?
And it might mean I’ll finally finish that article.