Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gruelling marathon, short distant sprint, or capture-the-flag in the dark?

Show of hands:

Which sounds the most fun?

Anyway you look at it, writing is a long-haul, from the first moment of story-conception, through the long hours of typing, the cringing, self-torture of proof-reading your first-draft, that first stage of editing, the handing it to CP's to slash apart your pretty bows and neat plot-points.

...then more editing, and if you're lucky, you round the track and hit the gravel trail of querying which is another trek in itself... and let's not even talk about all the stages necessary to get from agent to shelf.

But you also get those nice, short sprints, right? Where your lungs are burning, but you can see the goal line of a finished scene before you, or hitting a daily/weekly word-count high.

Sure, it's a lot of hard business and serious work and sacrifices, like sleep, and family, and uhm, actual human interactions...

I think we should all have more fun, though.

I don't know if you guys are like me, but I think I have a pretty good idea about what my writing weaknesses and strengths are.

I'm not saying I'm 100% right... but I think I know. I have some awareness about what I struggle with and what flows with not a lot of effort. And the parts that come naturally, well, you start to get a kind of confidence from that. The weaknesses, you kinda laugh and push them a little off to the side so they won't be staring at you quite so directly.

Well, I do.

And the main reason I do push them out-of-sight-out-of-mind is 'cause they're not fun.

But there's probably something interesting about them, if I looked hard enough, from a different angle, or maybe trying to turn off all the lights and attempting to build a helicopter out of Lego in the pitch dark... oh wait... straying off topic...

Okay, the Lego helicopter came up 'cause my little nephew always says, 'Build me this!' And I go, 'I don't wanna!'

Real mature, I know, but he's only 4.5, so what can you do?

Building helicopters are boring. I'll do it to please him, but I build 'em fast and really don't care when he smashes it to bits three seconds later. I rush and have little-to-no emotional investment in whether it lives or dies. Like writing a scene simply to transition to a better scene that I actually want to write. It's never going to be good if I'm just trying to get it over with.

So, what do you do to make writing more fun for yourself?

I put in a lot of small details that make me laugh. Like the reason behind Simon's name and then challenging myself to never use the phrase, 'Simon said'. In one of my stories, there's a stuffed cow named Melvastyke (pronounced mel-vah-steek). The same stuffed cow that still sits on my bed (husband permitting, well, tolerating) that I've had since I was thirteen. I throw in prime numbers and perfect numbers, I make vague references to weird math-things, like phi, the number by which you calculate a spiral. In Project #5, I plan to sneak in a sort-of-mention of Schrodinger's Cat.

Sometimes I simply designate one sense per character. That character's descriptions/experiences will only ever use that one sense. I do this with colours, too, or images/associations.

There are an obscene number of sly references to my cat...*

And I'm trying to think up the oddest combinations of food for Triss to eat.

Having these things keeps the story fun for me, no matter how many times I go through and re-write, cut, change, etc.

My writing group (unknowingly) are also part of my game. When they make suggestions or ask questions, I remember those things. I read through the text and go, "oh, I purposefully used the word 'rend' here, 'cause of J's last story" and, "here's the part where L smacked me over the head 'cause I was being an idiot. Then she told me how to fix the problem and totally saved me."

I can read a line and recall who patiently re-wrote it on the page so I finally understood what an umbrella pronoun is, or which muddied-description became clear after all the baggage was stripped away.

And it becomes a game of capture-the-flag because every word, every phrase, every sentence has a history, a memory and often a reason to laugh.

Sometimes all you need for a little staying power is making a game. Who says you can't hide a few flags in your work? If that'll motivate you to keep going, to keep it fresh and fun and excited as you work through the text over and over and over again, then do it!

*No, I'm not a crazy cat-lady, despite the evidence...


  1. Haha I feel the same way! I know who came up with every sentence rewrite or what inside joke inspired a certain phrase.

    One time, my mom suggested that I change something in my story, and in a later draft she commented on what SHE made up and said "Jessica, that is really cool!"
    I was the only one who remembered SHE was the one who actually came up with it, LOL :)

    1. Ha! That's funny :D But pretty awesome at the same time, right? 'Cause you took her suggestion, re-filtered it through your own writing-lens and made it your own :)

  2. Sometimes it is a greased pig contest with the darned thing slithering by me all the time.

    Music helps me chill and work through the, um, icky parts. Get up, walk around, fold clothes...OH, Heck, not that! Too much like housework :)

    1. Okay, that's a decidedly un-sexy image, but I totally get what you mean... my beagle is like greased lightening, and trying to catch her when she comes inside wet from rain... it might as well be a pig catching contest trying to dry her off...

      Kinda like chasing around and trying to catch the right words. I think that's one of the main times I get frustrated with being dyslexic... when I can see it in my head, but my brain and fingers can't connect. Like there's a blockage in the synaptic pipeline.

  3. Great ideas. You're very creative with your writing. I may have to try making a game of it myself and throwing in some random things, too.

  4. Capture the flag in the dark! Favorite childhood pastime. To make writing more fun for me, I try to surprise myself by throwing things in that I normally wouldn't say, or do what I normally wouldn't. Keeps me on my toes. :)

    1. Gotta love CtF int eh dark... especially playing with no flashlights ;)

      Hmmm... I think I'm nothing like the characters I write, so pretty much anything they're saying and doing is unlike me. Sounds fun!

  5. Yeah I tell inside jokes sometimes from another story or throw in stuff the character can think about like at a play - no sense going to the washroom, the line will be too long. Funny, men don't have that problem. The biggest help I got recently was from my last writing class when she told us to have characters act in a totally oposite manner from their usual behaviour. That worked really well! When I'm really stuck I just put the work aside. and usually at an inconvient time the words start to flow and I have to go with it or lose the thoughts

    Writing is the hardest thing I've ever done. And the most fun

    1. Heh, the more challenging, the better you feel when you succeed :) Or maybe I'm just a masochist at heart ;)

  6. Yes! The adage: if you think something is boring, then your reader will, too. I endeavor to never write boring parts. Change the POV, change the storytelling from linear to non-linear, change the point entirely. If it's boring or tedious, that means I've taken a wrong turn somewhere. Write what you love, love what you write.

    1. Yeah, I totally agree with what you said :) If you need to transition, then just write a simple 1 para transition... no need to waste words on the boring stuff.

      I think it should also be interesting when you're re-reading. I find if I start skimming a scene while I'm editing... that there's usually something wrong, so I go back with my machete and start hacking off words.

  7. Heh, random things are fun. Though it is sometimes harder to do them once someone points out you do them unconsciously (such as every character with my one brother's name dying). A lot of the ones I do tend to be references to backstory things that the reader will never know, sort of like easter eggs for me.

    Also, oddly, I am working on the scene involving rendthings in B&F right now ...

  8. Ha, yup, poor Jesse :D

    YEAH! B&F!! I love those rend-things ;)


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)