After something of a hiatus, I’ve been grappling with my novel again lately. The truth is I never really stopped. I think about that damn thing every day for hours. I lie in bed at night, my head swirling with possible directions to go, changes to make, stuff to cut. It’s with me all the time like a growth.
But over the last couple of weeks I’ve engaged with it in a more…tactical fashion than I had for a while. The truth is it needs a lot of attention and a lot more of my time than I’ve given it. I’ve said before that I don’t necessarily need this book to be particularly great. It’s interesting talking to others about this process. My secret fear has been that folks I talk to about my book might be thinking that I believe my book has the potential to be some big success. That is to say, I wonder whether people who care about me might be worried that I’m setting myself up for disappointment when it’s done.
Well, of course I am! To some extent at least. Trying to write books is absolutely a recipe for at least the risk of disappointment in a way that any that’s very different from any office job I’ve had. But I’m not worried about the sort of disappointment that might come from writing a book no one wants to read or one that I don’t think reflects whatever combination of talent and discipline I can put into it.
Time Is Not on My Side
No, right now the only disappointment I’m worried about is much simpler. I’m worried I can’t drag this thing to the finish line. Of course I want it to be great, but that’s secondary to the importance of just getting it the rest of the way out of my brain. It feels like I’m stuck between it being not quite good enough to finish as it is and not quite bad enough to burn down and start over, though the latter is probably a not entirely unreasonable choice.* The perfectionism in me is leading to the dreaded analysis paralysis state I’ve been in before.
There’s one big change I plan to make, one I’ve resisted for a while. If you’re among the roughly seven regular readers of Lost Caws, you might have picked up on it a little. Here it is: I’m spending a lot of time writing my blog posts, and it feels like too much lately. The amount of time I spend here isn’t a bad thing on its own. I’ve enjoyed blogging more than I expected, and I think I’ve done some cool stuff. I’m not going to stop.
But it’s having a definite impact on my ability to focus on my fiction lately, and I need to do something to accommodate that. The effort in terms of brain power that it takes for me to crank out my posts on Mondays and Thursdays means my brain is utterly shot the rest of those days. Yes, that absolutely leaves three week days plus whatever time I can manage on weekends. I did the math on that, and it checks out.
The problem is the breaks in continuity. When I was in the throes of NaNoWriMo, I was working on the same story 5-7 days a week. Other people’s brains may do better switching between tasks, but it’s often a struggle for me when those tasks vary so significantly in structure. The long-term nature of a novel means that I do better when I can build up a little momentum, can stay locked in on that one task. What’s more, a lot of my blog posts are works in progress long before they get posted. As an example, I’d estimate that my post on representation in fiction and life took me at least 14 hours, and I still don’t think I got it where I really wanted it. The Studying Storytelling ones are often just as long.**
As summer gets into swing, it’s becoming more and more necessary that I allocate my time more effectively. I have a big project that’s going to take up a chunk of time, and I need to make room for it while simultaneously not falling further behind on my fiction goals.
So what’s a rambling writer on the internet to do? I’m not 100% sure, but here are the options I’m considering.
One post per week at current lengths
A single post would probably follow the format of most posts I’ve done here, which are roughly 1,200 to 2,000 words long. These are the ones that are generally all day and even multi-day affairs to get done. I could give it the attention it deserves, but, I hope, set aside enough brain energy to make good progress elsewhere.
Two shorter posts per week
This could take some pressure off (pressure only I create, by the way). I do bang out the occasional short post that really only deals with whatever’s on the top of my head, but I generally beat myself up for being “lazy.” This is mostly about giving myself more permission to not have to write long, detailed posts.
More irregular posts
I know you’ve all come to depend on me to brighten your dreary Mondays and get you through your Thursdays so you can get your TGIF on, but maybe these aren’t the right days for me? I don’t know. Or maybe I should just put up a post when I really have one ready to go? I’m pretty set against going on a truly irregular schedule. I put the two posts per week thing in place because it gave me discipline and a goal. On those counts, it’s worked well, and I don’t want to stray too far.
So What’s Next?
I think the most likely outcome of how I change the way I work on Lost Caws is a combination of everything above. I’d like to keep putting out at least one longer post per week. I’d also like to keep posting roughly twice per week, but I’ll probably make an effort to limit myself to shorter, more stream of consciousness posts for anything above the one big post per week. So the second post might be more irregular and sometimes might not happen at all. Mostly I want to make sure it doesn’t take a whole two days or more to write these posts.
This is all a work in progress. Hell, my whole existence right now feel like a work in progress. Whatever it ends up being, I hope you’ll stick around. I’m still figuring this out, but I appreciate everyone who’s been helping me along that path.
*Saying “burn it down and start over” does not mean throw the whole thing out, not really. It means I think I might have some good ideas, some good characters, maybe even a few cool plot points, but that the whole is less than the sum of its part and doesn’t hold together well enough to keep in its present form. It’s a much more intensive level of rewrite than the nips and tucks I’ve done so far.
**A somewhat shocking amount of this time is spent on research and finding relevant links. Also on finding cheeky pictures and .gifs for the comedy jokes, which are just as important.