Friday, November 14, 2008

Time in the Creativity Room

Since taking a job, my writing schedule has changed. I now get up earlier and give myself at least an hour to write before leaving for work each day. I tried writing in the evenings after I got home, but nothing happened. I mean, the first day I got a few hundred words. After that, writing just didn’t happen. I sat completely drained, failing to get anything coherent down. Then I fell asleep.

Morning writing is going much better and then there are the weekends with those big blocks of writing time that I love. Sounds easy. Less time to write, doesn’t mean no time. Simply take a minute here and a minute there. It seems, though, that I forgot one thing—alone time with my book. I mean, it does no good to sit down at my allotted writing time if I don’t know what’s supposed to happen next. I’ve been told by authors of various writing books that I’m supposed to have a detailed synopsis and outline and possibly a shoebox full of neatly filled in 3 by 5 note cards. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to have scene cards, pages of biographical information for each character, and maybe even software and flowcharts to guide me from beginning to end. The problem is, I don’t write that way.

I start with characters and, since I’m writing a series, I already know most of my people from my last book and I know the setting. Next I have an idea of the main event—the murder. I know who gets killed and where and how the body is found. I have glimmerings of subplots and vague pictures of new characters. But I don’t know yet who the killer is or why he or she committed the crime. I would not like to be locked into a scenario when I’m only one third of the way into the book. Plotting as I go, letting the book happen and backtracking when I need to, is what works for me.

But what I never really gave all that much thought to is that I need time to create, to explore in my mind any number of twists and turns. I’ve budgeted writing time for myself, but gave no thought to my alone time with the book. I can’t “write” while I’m on my way to and from work. This would lead to such things as me arriving with no memory of getting there. I could think about the book while I worked if I could get my coworkers to hush up and stop telling funny stories. They don’t know yet that they are going to end up in one of my books.

The conclusion I reached this weekend was that some of my valuable time at the keyboard will have to be swapped for valuable time in the thinking and plotting room. That’s okay. Writing is done internally as well as externally. As long as I give attention to each step of the process, my word count will grow until I have a book.

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