Yesterday was one of those ass-kicking writing sessions that probably released a liter of dopamine in me, reinforcing my addiction to my writing practices.
I began by writing summaries of my dark writing episode’s reveals. I then wove them into the two documents I keep to track of the novel. For this novel, the two documents are “Incomplete States Thinking” and “Epiphanies.”
The first is basically a compendium that includes the characters’ names and sexes, and other materials that I add to the novel. It’s the bible I refer back to for reminders about locations and relationships. It summarizes the concept and various arcs, and includes reminders about what I’ve decided at certain plot points. This novel is science-fiction, so a dictionary of terms, species, ships, and planets is also included.
“Epiphanies” is a much briefer summary of realizations that come to me. As an organic writer, I’ll often have no fucking idea where I’m going. I’m following paths through dark woods, at night, with a candle, during a storm, asking, “Okay, why did that happen? What happens next? Where the hell am I?”
I’ll go off to do other things that divert energy and attention from writing. Without warning, ideas answering those queries will sledgehammer me. They’re generally broader and more ‘strategic’ than where I’m at in the novel’s writing process. So, to capture them, I add them into a document. I later address them in the thinking document at a ‘tactical’ level, and then develop them into events, scenes, and chapters. Many times, I’ll write these, and determine where they go in the novel, and then add a bridge to get from where I am to where I’ve gone and where I’m going.
To give more insight into the two documents and their relationships, the thinking document is thirty-four pages, and just under twelve thousand words. Nothing is ever deleted from it; I’ll line through something that changes, and then add an elaborating note.
The other document, “Epiphanies,” is three pages and six hundred words. It has twelve bullets in it, with sub-bullets. I add to it to capture the gist. More detail is added to these ideas in the thinking document.
It probably all seems over-organized and tedious to others. It’s not a process that I planned, but a method that I learned to keep me on track and moving forward. I accept the process, with all its encumbrances, because it does let me finish novels. In theory, instead of creating an outline and writing the novel, I begin writing the novel, and create the outline as I go.
Additionally, when I write those events, scenes, and chapters, I generally create them in their own document. At the beginning of the document, I include a prelude to explain the document’s genesis, and how it’s fit with everything else. Once I complete its first draft, it’s put into the document. The prelude is not put into the novel, and its not deleted, but highlighted and marked so I know, at a glance, that it’s not meant as part of the novel. I write to capture the critical elements initially, so the original document is typically fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred words. Once it’s added into the novel-in-progress, further editing, refinement, and expansion is conducted to improve its coherency, logic, details, pacing, language, and style. I generally have several main characters, with one prime main character. While the novel has an over-arching tone, each character has their own tone, which is conveyed by ‘their’ style.
Yesterday’s session ended with twenty-five hundred new words added to the novel. Most of these were in one chapter, of three scenes. It was a two hour session, and included summarizing the thinking and epiphany documents. I’m pleased when I reach over two thousand words in a session; I’m not a fast writer.
I don’t pursue word counts. I did when I first began the effort to establish a disciplined approach to writing. Since then, I don’t need word counts, but tend to stop after a certain number. Part of this, I think, is conditioning from the early days, but some of it can be attributed to how writing fits into my life. I like writing in the late morning to early afternoon, but then I need to do things outside of writing.
I could have continued writing yesterday. More material was available from the dark writing session. Time wasn’t on my side. I had other obligations. That’s life. I wasn’t worried, though, because I knew I would come back today, pick it up again, and continue. My writing output and processes tend to follow their own cycles of waves and troughs. Understanding that helps me cope with the rise and fall inherent in my process.
Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.