Finding a Groove

Progress on my short story turned novel has been slow for the past week or so. Not for lack of enthusiasm, but more because the world seems to be conspiring to make it more difficult. Other things in life have been cropping up and eating up writing time. I hope that will settle down again soon. As I gain more experience with the novel writing process, I’ve evolved more than I’d expected, and in many more ways than expected.

Top of that list is that I’ve stopped worrying about word count. For a while there, I was concerned that the story, which quickly blew past the short story mark, was going to wind up in the no man’s land of a novella. But although I might not be putting many words onto the screen at the moment, I’ve come up with several places where I could easily and seamlessly delve into deeper aspects of the story, to the point where if I take on too much of that I might wind up with a work that’s too long, rather than too short. I have flexibility now.

Next up is assuaging my concerns that it will be hard to find the story after this one. In part, I’ve been sketching out a timeline for Slip, a critical secondary character in this story; she needs to have a coherent back story in order to make her a realistic character in this work. At this point I know more about her late adolescence and early adulthood than I do about the protagonist. She’s actually a more complex character than he is. I can see several possible stories emerging from her, although the tone of her stories is darker, much different from this work. The challenge of changing styles to do that justice looms distant on the horizon. There’s also at least one clear sequel to this story, and possibly more. The well is not dry.

I’m also well into a critical scene where I had to sit down and sketch out the physical environment my characters were working in. This is nowhere near as complex as mapping out a fantasy world, but in order to be able to describe it clearly, I had to spend several days laying things out. I’m dead certain that the first draft where the characters visit this space will be subject to considerable improvement (which is to say the current text is poor but I’m moving along with the story and will revisit it later), but at least I know it’s not wrong. Two objects will not be occupying the same space at the same time.

When I’m creating software and face a difficult problem, I tend to spend a fair bit of time getting a clear definition of the problem, then I just go do other things for a while. When I was younger, I used to go play pinball for a few hours (I suck at pinball). Soon enough, a good solution would come to mind and I’d return to the screen and put it into code. It’s a strange process where I can never actually explain how I came up with a solution.

My writing process seems to be following a similar modality. While a lot of writers seem to push through problems, considering creating a rough draft and maintaining momentum as more important, I’m writing in bursts, getting to the point where I foresee a problem, pausing for a while, waiting for the solution to appear, then writing it down. I’m going to stick with this approach for a while, as long as I can stay a few chapters ahead of my critique group, it’s working well. I’m also confident that as I write more, these fits and bursts will seem like baby steps, that a few more stories from now, the words will flow more consistently so a good day is more like 3,000 words than 1,000.

Time will tell but so far the journey is fun, compelling. I should have started doing this years ago.