Monday, April 02, 2007

Back to the Books

My new desk features both the task at hand
and the distractions from it.

A friend of mine announced a few days ago that she intends to spend April writing instead of web surfing and playing games. I'm all in favor of this; she's on the second draft of her novel, and seems to have some momentum now for the major changes she wants to make in the story.

My function in her effort, aside from a rather ineffectual one as a beta reader, is mostly to nag her to keep at it. As I do this, though, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. Notwithstanding the hundreds of words (frequently a thousand or more) that I write each night for this blog, the 18-page handwritten fragment of the Jor and Fayubi scene in my leather notebook, and my recent fussing about the Keni "prologue" scene, I haven't made a sustained, disciplined effort in my fiction writing since I went back to school in the fall of 2002.

Before that, I was working on Mages every single night. In three years or so I only missed two nights in my writing schedule: once because I'd had my gall bladder out that day, once because I was up all night on suicide watch with a friend whose soon-to-be-ex-husband had just kicked her out of the house. But going back to school meant that I was writing a lot of papers and filling out a lot of spreadsheets, along with the other kind of journal entries, the ones that are all about debits and credits. I had to accept that I couldn't work full time, keep up with my coursework, take care of my rapidly-failing mother (and the funeral, and her effects), and revise Mages all in the same 24-hour days. So the fiction went on hold until I graduated in March 2005. By then I was blogging, and that took me away from the fiction, too. Yes, I've written a lot of short pieces about Mâvarin in the past several years, followed by several serials on my fiction blog. But that stuff has been intermittent, for the most part, usually written "cold" on a Saturday night, with lots of Saturday nights skipped over along the way.

As with most of the failures in my life, it comes down to a lack of discipline on my part. I'm thinking about this particular failure at the moment for several reasons. One, my friend, who has a similar problem with distractions and discipline, is nevertheless getting some good writing and revising done right now. Two, I've been reading John Scalzi's book, You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to the Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing. This writing-centric compilation of entries from his non-AOL blog (the) Whatever isn't actually teaching me much of anything, but it's entertaining. It also gets me thinking about all those writing-related issues, such as the fact that Scalzi makes a living as a full-time writer, whereas I probably never will. Scalzi manages this largely because he does a heck of a lot of writing, both fiction and non-fiction, covering a variety of subjects, styles and markets. I doubt I could quite manage to do what he does, and I'm not sure I'd even want to. But somewhere between the indefatigable wordsmith-for-hire (which he is) and the dilettante wannabe (which I sometimes feel that I am), there's a level of dedication and productivity that I've achieved before, and can achieve again.

And I need to do it. Once I make myself send out more agent queries, once I hear a yea or nay from Tor, once the entire manuscript of Heirs of Mâvarin (as opposed to a query or a three-chapters-plus-outline sample) is out there in the world, I'm going to need to demonstrate that I have more than that one 30-year production of a book in me. I've got to get Mages into shape, and put a major dent in the further sequel, and finish The Lives and Times of Joshua Wander, and basically get some more manuscripts finished and sent out.

So. Like Sara, I intend to spend April getting serious about the fiction writing again. My computer is set up on my new desk in the half-finished revamping of my office, and although we still need to deal with molding and shelving, that's not an issue when it comes to getting the writing done. I've spent a ridiculous amount of time watching and rewatching Doctor Who episodes lately (nearly all of them from 2005 through 2007), but that should subside a bit now. I'm busy at work, always, but I'm not in 60-hour-a-week mode any more. In theory, this is a good time to dedicate myself to reviving my nightly fiction-writing habit.

It is Holy Week, though, so this particular week won't be as productive as the later weeks, because I'll be spending much of Thursday through Sunday in church. Still, Lent is a good time for special devotion and self-denial. Much as I want to work on these novels, it's much easier to take the more self-indulgent path of watching video and blogging and messing around on Wikipedia. I need to deny myself the easy path, and devote myself to the stuff that matters, things only I can accomplish. My proper function in the world, the purpose for which I am best suited, is the synthesis and dispensing of information. And the most important information I can dispense, because it is uniquely mine, is the stories of these fictional characters.

Hang on, Rani and Fayubi, Cathma and Carli (and Cathla and Carmi). I'll be there shortly.

I hope.



julie said...

Progress on the office front! It is looking good. Your entry reminds me that I have some stuff I want to send to you. I'll drop you a line about it.ww

deslily said...

I sure wish Tor would let you know one way or another. (of course I hope it's for the best) But if it's not, then let you off of the "waiting hook".. geez.