Thursday, January 10, 2013

Night Writing and Unexpected Victories

So this is a weird post. See, a few days ago I tweeted this:

And that attracted the attention of Nick Kyme, author and all around good guy (also the first editor I ever worked with, in conjunction with Alex Davis). Nick used the tweet as the jumping off point for a rather nice blog post about his writing habits.

Nick is a morning writer by preference. I'm usually most productive at night, after my wife has gone to bed and I've walked the dog. The house is quiet, I don't have any chores left to do, and I can pop something on for background noise and go to it. (A movie I've seen repeatedly with a lot of narration can be excellent for this: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Goodfellas work well for me. Music also works well depending on my mood, but podcasts are a bad idea.)

I can write in the morning, if I'm up early and I've had enough sleep and I'm not at work. These factors rarely line up well for me, but when they do I can get a good amount of words down before lunch and still be up for a second session later in the day.

Afternoon writing rarely works for me. Life likes to keep me busy in the afternoon, and if I'm running errands or visiting friends or cleaning house, I'm obviously not writing. Worse, knowing that I'm going to do these things a half hour or even an hour in advance acts like writer's block for me; instead of getting words on paper (or into Scrivener) I'll piddle around with other things until it's time to go.

Conversely, I love to write right before a meeting, or in a waiting room. Give me an uncomfortable chair, a notepad, a pen, and a few strangers and I can knock out a few hundred words with ease.

So broadly my schedule is do most of my writing at night, and get a few words in where I can the rest of the day. If I hit my target (usually 1,000 words, if NaNoWriMo isn't on) early, I'll let myself have the evening off, unless I've got a scene I'm looking forward to in the queue.

But that's all beside the point of my tweet, which is that fatigue ate the last few hundred words in my quota one night. Believe it or not, this doesn't happen all that often. Either I'll make my word count (good), or I'll come to a grinding halt trying to hit my word count well before I actually fall asleep on my keyboard. This is usually accompanied by repeatedly browsing useless websites, checking my manuscript, and then going back to the useless websites again. I guess you could consider it creative fatigue (or just having too many distractions, if hitting the router with a hammer stops it - but it doesn't always).

When I find myself at a dead stop, sometimes I'll switch to a different scene to jar loose a few thoughts. If I can't do that for some reason, I'll just jot down a few extra words to get myself to a good stopping point.

Today was one of the latter cases. I'd just finished writing the climactic final battle of the book, and wanted to be able to say I was done with the first draft, today, no messing around. But I had an epilogue chapter planned that would wrap up loose ends with most of the extended cast and see the main character set out for more adventures...

...and I'm getting fatigued again just writing that. I wasn't going to get the whole chapter down. So to let myself say I was satisfied with the day's work, I wrote just enough to establish that the main character was alive and safe, if a bit banged up. I had him say good night, I had his potential love interest say good night...

...and then for no reason I wrote the biggest Wham Line of the whole book for the last sentence. Totally unplanned on my part. And the damn thing works, much better than a lengthy closing chapter could have.

Fatigue: it's not always a bad thing.

And that's all a roundabout way of saying that I managed to finish the first draft of my NaNoNovel in just under two and a half months. 80,000 words as it stands, with a fair bit of expansion likely as I flesh out descriptions, move scenes around, and try to turn the slog of a plot into something a bit more interesting. I don't even want to try and predict how long that's going to take, but I find I'm looking forward to it more than usual (read: not at all) this time.

Fetch the red pen of doom, and let us away!

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