I often think about what might come next in my WIP, plot arcs, character growth, scenes, and dialogue. Sometimes I use what’s produced but I frequently go with something that erupts in my head when I sit down to write.
Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
The dream felt like a made-for-TV rom-com. I was a clean-shaven young NCO in a pressed service-dress uniform and tidy haircut. Due to weather circumstances and other logistic problems, I was required to help a four-star general for an evening. The general was a notoriously finicky and critical man, but I accepted my assignment with an aw-shucks gulp.
He was at a conference. The evening didn’t go as planned but I managed to keep a step ahead, and it went well from the general’s point of view, if not to anyone else’s thinking. (Sorry, but details are lacking.) The general then wanted to leave – now. But his aide, chief-of-staff, and other personnel weren’t there. Nonetheless, he wanted to go now. So I led him out of the building.
It was late a cold and starless late night outside. It’d been snowing for several previous days but sunshine had prevailed that day. Much snow had melted, flooding streets with icy slush. It was messy and travel was limited. But no problem, I took to the general to my parents’ house. Previously in the evening, I’d come by and set up a place for the general in their sprawling split-level. After showing the general to his place, I went upstairs and told my parents about their house guests. They accepted it with a matter-of-fact shrugs and smiles.
After that, I checked in on the general. He was fine, didn’t need anything and stressed, he didn’t want anyone to disturb him. He had work to do and then was retiring for the night.
Good to go. I returned to the convention center and encountered the rest of his group, as hoped, because they needed to be told what’d happened. They demanded to know where the general was. I explained it all to them and answered their questions. Their hostility soothed, they admitted that I’d done well. One insisted that he wanted to visit the general. I told him the general said he didn’t want disturbed. I left them discussing what they were going to do and went home.
As I arrived home (my parents’ house), a car of young women pulled up. The neighbor’s daughter left the car. The car left with the young women leaning out of their windows hooting and waving at me. The daughter, a short brunette in her late teens whose father was in the military, came over and flirted with me, beginning, “I hear you kidnapped a general.”
I told her the story. We flirted and then I was temporarily called to the house because the general wanted something to drink. When I returned, the young woman’s older sister, a tall blonde, was there. She asked me, “What would you do with slush like this when you were a kid? Wouldn’t you build a dam?”
“Absolutely,” I said.
The older sister said, nodding, “You settled a debate. Good-night.”
She left us. The young women and I went for a walk along the slushy street, building slush dams, but also breaking one open.
The dream ended.
Somehow, from all of this, I ended up thinking that the dream was about the outcome was the only thing that mattered.
Part of a large organization, we were gathered at a complex. Whether chosen or a volunteer, I was competing with three other males for a prestigious role. I don’t know anything about the role now, but in the dream, I was excited and flattered to be part of this as I went about preparing.
The competition ahead would be taxing. Preparation involved physical and intelligence training. I knew I’d need to be calm, poised, aware in multiple ways, and proactive. My energy never flagged, and my confidence increased as I trained. I met other people, who cheered me on. As the dream progressed, I realized that people were seeking me out. I began sensing that I was the favorite to win, which bolstered my confidence and energy.
Then, partway through, I noticed an odd shadow. The shadow looked like a bear with a giant erection. While laughing at this because I was doubtful about what I thought I saw, I turned on some lights and discovered it was a confluence of objects that created a silhouette, not a shadow, that looked like a bear with an erection. Amused, I decided I needed to tell the other contestants and the organizers so others would know and not be frightened or worried. After I did this and explained why, I ran into a person who’d seen it and was frightened. Assuring her it was nothing to fear, I took her back and turned on the lights.
“See?” I said. “It’s nothing to fear.”
The dream ended.
Plans must be made every day. They’re compartmented by activity. They’re all based on what’s been done, and the overall goals, objectives, mission, and visions.
This is a product of my military years. Make lists, prioritize, structure and plan, hup – two – threp – four. About the only thing in my life exempt from planning is this blog. The blog is just a lark, a creative outlet, a place to vent and rant, and a channel for improving my knowledge, sparking my thinking, and making connections. Everything else is serious.
Writing is especially serious, even as it’s fun. A plan is required or an organic writer like me. The most critical part to remember about having a plan is that it’s a tool to help organize and progress. Trying to make the perfect plan is counter-productive, unless you’re murdering someone or robbing someplace. In just about everything else, it’s sufficient to have a sketchy plan.
When I’m writing the story, the story writes the plan. My novels typically begin with a concept or a setting. Ideas volunteer and find roots.
But writing is like vehicular traffic for me; everything causes a reaction. Implications, issues, conflicts, and outcomes arise. Plans are needed. Some of that planning is researching aspects to provide more depth and realism. Other planning is simply developing concepts and character background. Characters often leap into action on a page. I accept that, but to carry the story forward and keep it honest, I need to know that character. So, off I go, into a character snapshot. Some of that ends up in the novel as exposition. It depends upon the material and story. Even if I include it at that point, it can be removed later. It depends upon the arc, relevance, and pacing.
Writing and walking work well together. My mind can pick up where I left off writing the story on the last session and resume that thread preparatory to beginning a new day of writing like crazy. Reading and writing works well for me, too. Reading fuels my creativity, invigorates my desires, and reinforces my will, all good things while on a novel-writing journey.
All of this is less so with editing and revising.
In editing and revising, I already have the raw material that writing provided. The characters are established; so is the plot. The research has been completed, for the most part, and the results are embedded in the story.
I can say that research is completed for the most part. Sometimes while writing, I’ll put in some shorthand about something require greater detail, clarification, or verification that I’m not completely wrong about what I think and have based my novel decision upon. I use the shorthand because I’m in the writing rhythm and don’t want to divert myself from that path. I mark these places with <TK> and some explanation about what I wanted for there, and why. These might need research at that point. Sometimes, though, I find the research has been completed and used elsewhere. Sometimes I find that what I thought was needed there is no longer required. I go with the flow as I see it.
An editing and revising plan then evolves more into finishing the novel as a coherent and entertaining story that others can read and enjoy. I sit down to edit and revise with a goal of completing thirty pages each day. It’s just like running miles for me, or walking; having a specific objective keeps me focused on the overall course. That objective, though, isn’t the goal, and I don’t confuse the two. Editing and revising the book remains the goal for this phase of the vision. The vision is a completed, published novel.
Thirty pages is a somewhat arbitrary distinction. I often exceed that. Once in a while, I’ll fall short.
Reaching thirty pages a day is neither easy, nor difficult. It depends upon the work presented. Some of it’s already been significantly revised, edited and polished, because part of my process as an organic writer is to edit and revise as I write the novel. These sort of passages are a pleasure to edit and revise because they’re so easy. The biggest problems I encounter are writing butt and becoming complacent. Writing butt is, of course, when you’ve been sitting for so long, your ass has gone numb. Since I often have my head up my ass, this can have serious health ramifications for breathing and thinking. Complacency is when I stop thinking critically about what I’m reading.
Beyond this basic plan and structure for editing, sometimes, in the course of reading what’s been written, I’ll draw up short. Something does not align with what was previously read, or what I recall writing later in the novel. At that point, I have options.
My options depend on how big I view this mis-alignment, i.e., how disturbing or surprising I find it, and it’s influence on the rest of the plot and novel. Sometimes, it appears to me to be so large that it becomes a plan to resolve this difference. Other times, it’s smaller and I simply make a note to review and resolve. A few times, the flawed connection has arrived because I just read that part. Then, I’ll flip back to it quickly, confirm my facts, and continue. A few times, it’ll be something like a planet, ship, or secondary character’s name. When that happens, I’ll verify, and then completed a global search and replace.
With all plans, as learned in the military, it’s about mission accomplishment. What is my vision, and how does completing my mission support it? In writing a novel, it’s pretty damn simple and clear.
Now, excuse me. I have a plan to go edit and revise, at least one more time.
What about you? Do you have a plan du jour?
Many dreams last night, very chaotic.
I arrived somewhere, a respected, highly regarded. This I knew in the dream, inside me, from experiencing and enjoying success, and from others’ demeanor toward me. People fawned over me as I arrived. I tried to be natural, approachable, accommodating, friendly.
The somewhere was a medium sized retail business. The managers and owner sought my advice on improving sales. I suggest marketing partnerships. They were selling hardware and things to keep homes safe so I suggested a partnership with people to keep other things safe, and offered them advertising ideas like, ‘safe and strong,’ and ‘secure through strength’. Continued on a tour, observing.
Now somewhere else, in a car, driving fast. Terrible, gray visibility, limited in the front and back. The observer’s paradox, I think in the dream. Weaving through traffic in this terrible gray visibility, passing other cars. Discover there are enormous accidents everywhere on this huge concrete Interstate. Vehicles are stopped. There are no dead nor injured, no fires or wreckage, but I know there are accidents. Yet, I hurtle on, guiding my car around the obstacles until getting free, into sunshine.
Back at the medium sales place. There is a huge sale going on. So big, it spilled over into the out doors. They’re doing as I suggested but I sense they did it on their own. Yet, they initiated the idea but didn’t seem to plan. People are holding onto purchases and queuing to buy everywhere. “Why didn’t they add more sales staff?” I wonder. “Why didn’t they plan ahead better?” Then I think, they did, but they were sloppy about it.