First of all, I want to take credit and give credit for improvement in my writing discipline. Using RescueTime and Beeminder, I’ve increased my on-writing-task time per week from less than ten hours to more than twenty. More than any other change, this one is what enabled me to go ahead and actually publish, and to get as far as I did in my new draft during NaNoWriMo. (This means I don’t use iOS Scrivener as my primary writing device. Because RescueTime doesn’t have an iOS solution, and I need a solution that doesn’t require me to track time even by tapping on an app, I’ve moved to the MacBook Air for almost all writing.)
I’d like to increase those hours to twenty-five hours per week, but further significant productivity improvements are going to have to come from changing what I do in those hours, rather than extending the hours. I know from past experience as an employee that if I push myself much past half-time in terms of butt-in-chair, my productivity will drop off dramatically.
That’s why last week, I committed to reading three how-to books on outlining by March (March being prep month for April Camp NaNoWriMo.) Since I seldom do things moderately, I re-read three of my major texts on writing productivity (Fiction Unboxed—Platt and Truant, 2K to 10K—Rachel Aaron, Take Off Your Pants—Libby Hawker) in one marathon session Saturday. It may seem like a lot, but it wasn’t—these how-tos are lightweight in terms of words, but heavy in terms of changing my evil writing ways.
Re-reading Fiction Unboxed, I was actually encouraged. Platt and Truant’s mad re-structuring of their 30-day novel in mid-stream actually sounds like the “stopping and building mind-map” portion of my November efforts. Of course, they are re-structuring on the fly at a whole different productivity level—their word-counts for a single day are up to four times what I’ve ever achieved on my best writing day. On the other hand, I don’t have a writing partner, so much of their method is impractical for me. Still, if I can but get over this block about outlining, I may have a chance…
2K to 10K
Now Aaron’s book, 2K to 10K—there’s some serious productivity meat in there. My problem is that with my usual Boston-Terrier-like initial enthusiasm I tried to implement every single suggestion, from daily writing aids to outlining to productivity tracking to story improvement. At once. Of course I couldn’t keep it up. (It’s like trying to run six Beeminder graphs at once. I did that; it was fun for a while, but I couldn’t sustain it.)
My new resolve: Just implement the “knowledge” daily writing aid suggestion—keep doing it until it becomes automatic and I’d no more write a scene without it than… go without my morning coffee. Yet another thing to put in my Habitica lists…
Take off Your Pants
I tried Hawker’s outlining method on my 2015 NaNoWriMo project. Re-reading Take Off Your Pants brought back the nightmare—the joy-destroying cold-shower feeling of “This story sucks; I don’t want to write this scene or any other scene I planned in this whole stinking mess.” I abandoned that novel; that’s when I picked up characters who’d arrived in my 2014 NaNoWriMo and started writing pieces of what I eventually published as The Bully Trap.
I’m not saying that Hawker’s suggestions aren’t valuable. I’m just saying that I can’t start writing by doing character construction and planning a character arc (or several.) At least, not yet. I have to write my characters in a situation and see what they do. That situation may turn out to be a part of the eventual story, or not; but I learn about my characters from seeing how they react as I write. So Hawker’s character-arc-driven outline, which starts from building a character, is not yet for me.
Next weekend’s light reading will include re-visiting Cathy Yardley’s writing books. Stay tuned.