is it morning already?

So, here I am. I’ve missed my last two posting dates, one because I was at a con and the second because life was in the process of going pear-shaped, a situation that continued for most of July.

But things have settled down, and I hope ohdoIhope they stay settled. I’ll be heading out to Denver next week for Worldcon. I don’t have any programming, but I will be seeing my editor and networking. It still counts as business even if you aren’t on the program.

Until then, I will continue to wrestle with the beginning of this book. I can’t shake the feeling that it drags, which really isn’t what you want to have happen when you’re writing a thriller. I’m going to switch a couple of scenes around, and possibly cut another, and cross my fingers that it helps. Because we’re almost in August, and I had so wanted to have a first draft done by Worldcon. Now the goal is Labor Day.

I have about one-third of the wordage, but it’s spread out, bits of the storyline strung out from beginning to end. I’d liken it to a pencil sketch on a canvas, the working out of the composition prior to the painter applying the shading and color. I have always been a linear writer, and have never written a book like this before. It bothers me. I feel as though I should return to linearity, make sure the foundation of the story is solid before I hie off to the middle to sketch out that confrontation that I know will need to take place. I just need to set it up beforehand. [Insert] [comment] has become my BFF.

Part of the reason I’m continuing to go with the nonlinear approach is because I only have a couple of hours a weekday to write. For the last couple of months, I’ve been getting up at 4, 430 and working until about 630.  I am a morning person by nature, and the distractions are fewer in the predawn hours. I turn on the classical channel, brew coffee, and go at it, one eye on the clock, writing what wants to be written. An argument. A scary bit. Something funny that happens near the end. I do this instead of wrestling with a difficult passage, a tricky scene, places where I would be lucky to add 30-40 words over the course of two hours. I know that there’s some danger inherent in filling in the easy bits and letting all the hard ones pile up. I may need to kick whole stretches of easy to the curb if I’m not able to make some hard bit work. But I’m a rewriter, and before I can rewrite, I need to write. And right now I’ll take the words any way I can get them.

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  1. 1. Karen Wester Newton

    It always seemed to me that writing habits were like water—they take their shape from the vessel they’re poured into. Some people write best at 4:00 am, a time at which I am border on catatonic. Even after a day at work, I get a second wind around 8:00 or 9:00 pm and write productively from then to whenever I get sleepy (which is much earlier these days than it used to be). Some people outline meticulously, and some just start at the beginning and write to the end. I think the best way is the one that works. If you can write the bits and then string them together into a story after the fact, then more power to you.

  2. 2. Adam Heine

    I like hearing other people’s methods of writing, even if I don’t understand them ;-) I outline, and I write linearly. I can’t not, because the outline tells me where I’m headed, but all the details get filled in as I go, and it’s the details that make the major scenes what they are.

    Example: I wrote (non-linearly) a particular scene where the protag meets his Old Wise Man. He sat at a computer in the basement of a Middle Eastern town, helping the good guys secretly via what was left of the internet (it’s a post-apocalypse story).

    When I finally got to that scene for real, a million details made the original version impossible. In particular, the OWM lived *with* the good guys in a cave in Southern California, and the internet (actually, all infrastructure) had been destroyed.

    A lot of the dialogue stuck though. So I see how it helped, but I’m not a rewriter. No more than I have to be, I guess. Maybe one day I’ll learn.

  3. 3. Kristine Smith

    Karen–I hope the String Theory works. I haven’t used it for any previous books, but I did use it for a novella I wrote a couple of years ago. It worked then. The book is only, oh, 4x longer…

    Adam–non-linear scenes go south for me in the same way. I write them ahead of time, they make perfect sense, but by the time the rest of the story catches up, they no longer fit.

    Hope things are different this time.

  4. 4. Jessica De Milo

    While there are always issues for me about things fitting together at the end, I don’t think that makes writing the ‘easy scenes’ first a bad idea. I picked up a book on *how to be a straight A student* when last I was at B&N, and a test-taking stratagy it laid out (which I assumed everyone knew) was to do the problems you felt confident about first. I feel like the same stratagy works for my writing. If there is a scene I want to write, it would be foolish to make it sit on the back shelf of my brain and let it collect dust when I can just put it down on paper. I often find that in writing what wants to be written (as you so beautifully put it) I work out the difficult parts, and much faster than I would have if I’d have forced myself to slog through them when there were other things ready for the writing.

  5. 5. Kristine

    Sometimes writing what wants to be written is fun, too, and you really need to have fun. Makes up for all the times when you don’t.

  6. 6. Laura Reeve

    Good luck, Kristine. The non-linear approach works for some people, but not for me. The problem is that I have to arrive upon the scene with the same preparation as the POV character (e.g. with their history, mood, information) and I can’t seem to do that without writing linearly.

    Surprisingly, I’m in a similar spot although I don’t have as much wordage going for me. I’m trying to start book #3 (contracted, for a series), but my beginning is really flat. I’m rearranging and rewriting the first couple chapters to send with a synopsis, so I can convince my editor that I know where I’m going ;-)

  7. 7. Kristine Smith

    I am worried that much of my out-of-sequence writing will need to be jettisoned when the rest of the book catches up. That’s how it’s worked in the past, no matter how sure I was that the oos stuff would fit.

    Good luck with your rearranging. I think what I’ve done so far works better. Fingers crossed.

Author Information

Kristine Smith

I'm a scientist by day, spec fic writer by nights and weekends. Author of the Jani Kilian SF series. Owned by two overgrown puppies. Visit site.

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