I’ve just discovered a magical thing that makes my writing go good.
Here’s how my writing days used to go: Read email. Read blogs. Be racked with guilt and read the first paragraph of what I’d written the day before. Reel back in horror. Decide that I need to research exploding magnets. Research exploding magnets. Read two paragraphs of what I’d written the day before. Take out the recycling. Realise that I need to go and buy more toilet paper. Read a wee bit more of yesterday’s horror. Bite my fingernails. Realise that the latest issue of Runaways or Nana or Scott Pilgrim or whatever else has caught my fancy is out. Go buy it. Possibly read it.
Eventually be so racked with guilt that I finish the read through and start writing. The writing goes slowly and horribly: I put words together that have either been together way too often or have never been together for extremely good reasons. If it’s a good morning I will eventually hit my stride and keep writing till I get to the end of the new scene or chapter or sequence of events.
Because I am very very very thick I only recently figured out what my problem is. No, not laziness. Well, not just laziness. It’s the writing till I get to the end of a scene or chapter or sequence of events that’s the problem. It means that every morning I am facing a (sort of) blank page and must figure out how what happens next happens before I can start stringing wrong words together.
Recently my writing day was interrupted as I hit my stride. (Damn the lure of restaurants with their yummy food.) I stopped writing in the middle of a scene. Next morning when I started again I was instantly back in my novel and writing full steam ahead because I knew exactly how to finish the scene. Now, obviously it wasn’t the first time I’ve done that, but it was the first time I decided not to stop writing until I was in the middle of another scene.
That’s right, I deliberately stopped in the middle of stuff.
And then the next morning—you guessed it—writing continued to be easier and less procrastinatory than usual because of not having to begin the day by having to figure stuff out and generate momentum.
This is a minature version of what Samuel R. Delany does when he finishes a novel and immediately starts the next one. I always thought he was a bit mad on account of when I finish a novel all I want to do is drink champagne (or fine Aussie sparkling) and dance in the streets. But doing it at a scene-by-scene level is a fab way to write.
I think part of why I have always doggedly stopped my writing day at the conclusion of chapter or scene or event sequence is because I was afraid that I would have forgotten where I was going next morning. It’s a justified fear as I have a crap memory. I am forever having genius ideas in the middle of the night, which if I don’t write down or wake up Scott and tell him about them, I completely forget. I guess I was afraid I’d forget where the scene was supposed to go.
Also writing to the end of a scene or chapter is somewhere definite to aim for. It’s a natural place to stop. But having to face the (sort of) blank page every morning, having to figure out a cool opening chapter sentence, and how to lay out the scene is an overly gruelling way to start each writing day. For me, anyways.
I’ve been doing the stop-in-the-middle-of-a-scene thing for a week now and it sure is working fabulously. I’m still stringing wrong words together but I’m doing it with a lot less angst. Sometimes writing can be fun!