Books / writing

On Writing

In which the writer contemplates procrastination, deadlines, and boredom.

I knew when the last semester ended that I needed to have this novel written in the next month. That was Dec. 9, and I would be back in full-time classes by Jan 26th. I also was taking a ten-day trip from the middle of the country to both coasts, and oh, yes, a writing class starting Jan 2. That the writing class is online helps the impact it’s having on my writing, and it also helps that it is non-fiction, so I don’t have to grind my gears too often. What I didn’t account for was the impact the travel had on my writing. Up until two days before I left, I was fine, then I was too busy packing and running errands to write. During the trip, I managed to sit down one morning while everyone was asleep and put out 1K words. After the trip…

Here’s the thing about writing. If you are tired, you can probably force yourself to write. Certainly non-fiction can be done in this state. However, fiction takes a lot of energy. Oh, it’s not the equivalent of say, getting out and running a mile. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were? I’d be in shape again! But there is a certain mental strain to creating, and writing, and you will feel it at the end of the day when you’re writing. Which is why it took me several days after my return from the trip to return to writing, between recovery from jet-lag and beginning the new class.

Which brings me from the procrastination (I knew I should have written in airports, but…) to the deadline. I want to have this book done by the deadline. I’m taking Organic Chemistry, OChem Lab, Genetics, Law and Individual Rights, Comparative Justice Systems, and Public Expression. While I am planning to carve out a solid daily hour for writing – in fact, I must do that – I know from experience that it will be very difficult.

You can write while maintaining a full schedule. But it takes more effort, planning, and strict goal-setting. I’m not going to look at my calendar and say ‘I have 14 days to write 50,000 words.’ Instead, I’m saying I need to write 3,000 words a day. Which I am quite capable of. In fact, today once I finish this blog and turn in my homework for the day, I plan to write 10,000 words. I have done it before, I have twelve hours alone to write in, I can and will do that. I’ve been working up to it, and the first day this last week I hit 7K words, my hands ached. That’s gone away as I kept up the exercise, and I’m ready, just like a runner for the race.

Which brings me to my final, sort-of-unrelated point. The boredom. I have at this point the entire plot of the book in my head. But my pea-picking brain thinks this is all it needs to do, and it wants to wander off and do new things, now. So I’m fighting very hard to keep going on this book, writing the scenes I know are needed, and not taking too many left turns, because that will irritate readers, later. You see, I’m a pantser. Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with the childish prank involving actual pants. It’s an allusion to flying by the seat of your pants. Back in the era before radar, instruments, and above all, computers, a pilot got where he needed to go by using his eyes, and the seat of his pants. You feel the vibrations of the engine where you sit, and that lets you know when you’re in trouble. I’ve been told Agatha Christie compared the style of writing like this to driving down a road in the dark, never knowing where the next turn was coming. Sadly, I can’t find that quote attributed to her, but this one will do nicely…

I mean, what can you say about how you write your books? What I mean is, first you’ve got to think of something, and then when you’ve thought of it you’ve got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That’s all.” ~ Mrs. Oliver”
Agatha Christie, Dead Man’s Folly