I’m usually pretty good at being patient. If I have to wait for a certain length of time, I’m not all that bothered by it because I’m good at keeping myself occupied in the meantime. [This is especially helpful when I’m working a very busy eight hour shift at the day job. The trick is that I break it up into two-hour increments, and take my lunch or my ten-minute breaks in between.]
Writing a novel, on the other hand, can sometimes be a lesson in just how long I’m able to wait. It’s a different kind of time management, based on the pacing of the story and the time I’m able to spend working on it. In this case, working on MU4 has definitely been a case of patience-testing. I’m purposely not distracting myself with other more compact story ideas, which has happened in the past. I’m determined to see this one through. I do have distraction issues of another sort, however, which I’ve mentioned plenty of times: the Don’t Wanna’s. It’s not that I don’t want to write the story, I just don’t wanna do the work.
Once I get past that, however, I’m good to go. Power up the Word document and get stuck in. And once I’m there, patience is the last thing I worry about: I rely solely on what I need to write at that point in time. Whether it’s a lot of words or just a few, I give the best I can, and that’s when I enjoy it the most. That’s when I realize I could do this all damn day if I wanted. [And have, though rarely.]
It’s after I finish the session when that patience-testing comes in, of course. It’s when I’ve written just a few hundred words and the scene has moved ever so slowly and I’m far from finishing it, that’s when I want to surge ahead and get to the next scene! It’s not that the scene is glacial; it’s just that I’m moving slowly and deliberately.
First of all, I do apologize for the terrible pun in the entry title.
When I was writing the Bridgetown Trilogy back in the early 00s, my process was that I’d start the day by utilizing the slower moments of my work day at Yankee Candle by doing a bit of plotting. Nothing too detailed mind you, as these moments usually lasted no longer than five or so minutes before the next wave of boxes came down the conveyor chutes, but I wasn’t looking for detailed to begin with. This was merely doing a bit of planning ahead of a few scenes. I’d think a bit about what I wanted my characters to be doing while I built those pallets of candle boxes and then write it out when I had a minute. And more often than not these scraps of paper were nothing more than the backs of copied labels that we’d tape to the side of our finished pallets.
Then later that evening during my writing sessions in the Belfry I’d take those notes and start elaborating on them. Sometimes I’d use them to the letter, and sometimes I’d actually go in a slightly different direction, but the whole point of these notes was that I’d be prepared for the session instead of sitting there staring at the screen or distracting myself with whatever music I wanted to listen to that night. When I returned to the Trilogy in 2009 to finish the last quarter of The Balance of Light I realized that the best way to go about it was to do the exact same thing: longhand notes followed by typed elaboration.
I used slightly different versions of this process for most of my follow-up novels, but never to the same degree. Most of the notes for Meet the Lidwells! contained personal information about the characters and a detailed discography of the band. Same for In My Blue World: for the most part that was written on the fly with most of the notes merely being character bios. I think part of the reason for this was that working for a bank, even as a back office drone, didn’t really lend much time or brain power for this sort of thing. I figured out alternate ways to write novels, even if I didn’t feel it was quite the same.
So when I recently decided it was time to return to the Mendaihu Universe, I also decided that the best way to play all of this out was to go back to what worked: a bit of note writing while at the Day Job followed by elaboration at home. And being that I’m back in retail, I’m once again able to steal a few personal minutes during breaks and slow times to write, this time using the backs of the previous day’s team schedule we have set up at each register. I have the time and brain power for this sort of thing again, so why not take advantage of it?
So far I’ve gotten myself maybe two or three scenes down that I can work with. I’ll be starting off the fresh new version very soon, and I plan on continuing this note taking throughout the entire project. I’m even thinking there’s a chance I’ll do a bit more Tuckerization, once again using coworkers’ last names somewhere while I keep them updated on the latest fictional drama.
All told, it’s not only great to be back in Bridgetown, but it’s also great to return to a process that worked really well for me.