Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Day 9: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 9, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Day9-TPE

Writing in Small Spaces.

By writing in small spaces, I don’t mean like in a closet or inside a dryer (although I’ve known more than a few writers who sneak off to the bathroom to write, since it’s the one place in the house that they know they won’t be disturbed). I mean in small spaces of time.

I like to write in big chunks. Ideally, a week. I’m kind of kidding, but also not really. My ideal way to work on something is to have a long stretch of time where nothing else is required of my brain. I can do nothing but think about the story. The most productive I’ve ever been was when I lived on a tiny, rural island in Scotland. I only knew a few people. I didn’t have a job. Internet was sporadic. I walked and ate and read and wrote A TON.

But the truth is that space rarely happens. Thankfully, I do have a life where I can often grab two or more hours of solid writing at a time. Not always though. This weekend, I’m a guest at a lovely convention called OrcaCon. I’m doing panels on sex, gender, GMing, spending time with people I adore, and doing some other fun and interesting stuff.

I’m also trying to write this novel. Which means small spaces of time. I’m at a coffee shop now, and have just finished writing for the 15 minutes it took me to fuel up on caffeine and sugar (and to recharge my introvert battery). I managed to get some solid words down, to rework a small section that’s been bugging me, and to jot down the ideas that I had on the drive to the convention this morning. It’s taken me another 3 or 4 minutes to shoot a photo and write this blog post (which probably means there are typos, so I’ll apologize in advance).

Now I’m going back to the convention, feeling like I’ve accomplished something. I’ll probably try to get another 15 minutes in later in the day as well. One of the things I’ve learned is that successful writers are often the ones who find time for what they love. I once had someone tell me, “Everything you want to achieve requires some kind of pain. Choose your pain wisely.”

So here is my pain I choose: that sometimes I don’t have my ideal of long spans of time to write, but I find a way to make the time. Even if it’s just 15 minutes. Small spaces make big things.

~iadace~

Shanna

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Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

Day 8: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 8, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel
Photo on 1-8-16 at 11.38 PM

How my novel sees me.

Late-night writing to this video tonight. This is the theme song for one of the saddest part of the novel. It helps get me in the emotional space that I need to break your heart. You’re welcome.

 

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Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

Day 7: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 7, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Photo on 1-7-16 at 9.52 AM

Today’s work is going back to the beginning, both literally and figuratively.

The idea for The Poison Eater came about when I was working on a short story for one of our fiction collections. The story idea was really exciting to me, but the story itself wasn’t quite coming together. I realized that part of the reason was because the story was bigger than I could tell in a short piece. It needed breathing room to explore the characters and the situation.

So, when I needed to come up with an idea for a Numenera novel, I dug up the draft of that story and used it as my inspiration. So much has changed since then, but the essence of it and the main character have stayed the same.

My novel-writing process is a jumbly process that I honestly don’t recommend to anyone else. It takes forever, it’s confusing, and it’s a lot of extra work in the end. But it works for me — and if there’s one writing “rule” that I believe in, it’s: Find what works for you.

To start, I write an “outline” — I put that in quotes because I’ve seen other author’s outlines, and they’re beautiful binders full of detailed plot points, chapters, scenes, and character backgrounds. Mine is a sentence. Or maybe two. And then I start writing. Each section that I write continues to add to that outline sentence. It’s very much like exploring the Ninth World in a game. Oh, look, here’s a new character! I should put them in. Look at this crazy place I just made up. I should put that in. Here’s a cool artifact. I should put that in!

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Because each time I encounter something as I’m writing, I have to ask questions: What is the significance of this? Does it mirror the characters’ emotional states, the thematic elements of the book, or this particular plot point? What is its role in the story? Where do I need to “back fill?” (A good example of backfill: I was writing a chapter in the middle of the book and I wrote about one particular character wearing an object. The object just showed up as I was writing (this happens a lot, I think, if you’re open to discovery). And I realized that it was the perfect object for the character, but it needed to show up earlier in the book, so that it had even more emotional significance when it showed up in the middle. So I made a note in an earlier chapter to mention the object there for the first time).

Which brings me back to rewriting the opening chapter. Now that I know so much more about the characters and the story and the objects that matter, rewriting the first chapter is all about adding those elements and giving readers the foundation to understand the story. The opening chapter is a promise of what’s to come–and until I know what’s to come as the writer, I can’t promise it to readers. I’m sure the first chapter will change again, as I continue to write and learn about the novel. In fact, this is pretty early in the process for me to go back and revisit the first chapter, but we’re sending it out to KS backers as a reward soon, so I want it to be as close as possible to its final form before it goes out.

Remember: Poison never lies.

Shanna

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Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

Day 6: The Poison Eater

posted on: January 6, 2016
in: The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel
 Day6

Today was one of the first days in a while that I’ve had trouble working on the novel. I know why — I walked to the coffee shop, thinking about the novel the whole way, really excited to get to work on it. Then I sat down and …

…nearby, someone was watching a very loud video on his phone. He was soon joined by a friend, who started watching a different but also very loud video on his phone at the same time.

…the guy behind me made a phone call that started with, “I’m turning in my resignation. Fuck this shit.” And went downhill from there.

…I forgot my headphones.

…someone close by was wearing way too much perfume and my headache was instant and ferocious.

…I’m feeling a bit stuck on where to go next in the book. Go back and rework the first chapter to send to Kickstarter backers? Write a new scene? Do more planning?

None of those things by themselves is enough to knock me off my writing track, but all of them combined? It’s more than my brain can handle. It’s kind of like this: I have a dog who is 90 percent the most awesome dog in the universe (sorry, other dog owners who read this, but it’s true). But 10 percent of her is a reactive dog. If other dogs bark at her, she sometimes loses her shit. We’re working on it — she can walk by one dog now, two dogs, maybe three dogs and be mostly calm and well-behaved. But if, on a single walk, she walks by a fourth dog? Then no amount of training, treats, or tricks is going to keep her from freaking the fuck out. It’s kind of like decision fatigue, only it’s more like focus-fatigue.

That’s how it is for me as a writer. One distraction? I got this. Two. Yep. Three? Maybe. But four or five in the same writing session? Nope. I’m done. And no amount of training, treats, or tricks is going to keep me writing right then.

This morning, I did try for a bit, focusing inward and putting some words down on the page, but they weren’t good words. (Note: There are two kinds of “not good” words. The first is “rough draft not good” words, which are useful words, and ones that I can come back and fix later in the revision process. The second–what I encountered today–are words that won’t be useful in the revision. They’re just me putting words down for the sake of putting words down. It was only my own determination — I WILL DO THIS — that kept me typing and the words were angry, not in tune with the book, useless in the end.)

So, I switched gears and started writing this blog post instead. It provides a useful vessel for my cranky-pants mentality, it is easier to write right now because I know what I want to say, and it makes me feel like I didn’t give up on writing completely.

What’s the lesson here? Sometimes it’s okay to say, “Nope, not today.” (Or, nope, not right now.).

Now. I want to be careful here. It’s really easy to read this and think that it’s okay to just drop your writing at any sign of difficulty. But that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m saying know your limits and your triggers. The fault here, in many ways, is mine. I left the house without my headphones, which is the only action that I could have controlled in this scenario. That alone would have decreased two of the triggers and left me with more possibility of productive writing this morning.

I’ve found that taking a few minutes to prepare before I sit down to start writing is vital to my ability to be productive. What are your writing focus-fatiguers? Mine are social media, the Internet and email (I set up Freedom and Self-Control before I sit down to write); my caffeine addiction (I have coffee or tea ready in a cup that I like); noise (I try to remember my headphones so that I can block distracting noises AND provide myself with the right noise–my novel soundtrack, or whatever I’m in the mood for); and emotions (I’m bored. This is hard. I want to play Fallout. I should get up and have a snack – I have lots of ways for dealing with that, and it’s probably enough for its own blog post, so I’ll tackle that at a later date).

Will I come back to the novel today? I don’t know. I will probably try. There is still the stream of excitement from this morning’s walk bubbling inside me, and since I capped that excitement (instead of wasting it by writing useless, grumpy force-writing), I am hoping that I can come back to it later and that it will still be fresh and full of life. I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I’ve written this blog post, which might help someone else. I’ve dispensed with my grumpiness at those who have a large social footprint. And I’m looking forward to the walk home, where I can continue to mull over what’s next for the novel.

~iadace~

Shanna

 

Edited to add: I did return to the novel late in the day. It wasn’t as productive as a morning writing session would have been (morning is the time that brain goes zing and the words flow like coffee; nighttime is more like each word is a heavy rock and picking it up and putting it down in the right spot takes a lot of work), but I went in and reworked some of the opening chapter, and even solved a plot dilemma that I’d been having. (If you are a Kickstarter backer of the novel, you’ll get to see this opening chapter pretty soon!).

~~

Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff.

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