Learning the Craft Takes Time
People look at writing as a solitary pastime, and in many ways it is. However, the best parts of the writing community are anything but solitary, especially so nowadays with the internet connecting us with ease.
When I was coming up and just starting to seriously look into publishing back in the mid to late 90s, being able to find an author’s address or email address was huge. Even back when the only internet access I had was the once a month trip to my high school’s computer lab, I managed to find Anne McCaffrey’s address on her website and write to her. Aside from our school librarian, she was the first person to ever encourage the writing dream. I found the boards on her website, and some other writer’s boards besides, in the following year or two, and through them, I found mentors.
When Your Coping Skills Need Work
One of the more frustrating parts of "flying under the radar" long enough to reach adulthood before your difficulties become apparent enough for others to see them is the arsenal of maladaptive or faulty coping skills built throughout your youth. Quite often, you can sense they are not particularly helpful, or outright damaging in some cases, but after spending your life depending upon them, they are almost instinctive.
For those of us for whom everyday life can become overwhelming quickly on a bad day, we can fall into these poor coping skills before we even notice stress mounting. And let me tell you, that is an extremely frustrating place to be.
Stories, mythology and fairy tales in particular, have been a consistent special interest of mine as long as I can remember. At first, I listened or watched, as many children do before learning to read. When I had the ability, I would watch a movie or show again and again until I could quote every line by every character.
My understanding of the world, emotions, and how people interacted and thought was informed through this. I understood family members and friends by relating them to characters, using the way those characters reacted to predict how the people around me would respond. I used those characters and interactions I'd watched ad nauseam to cobble together the scripts and the mask I used to navigate the world.
Once I mastered reading, chapter books and novels became constant companions. In them I found a way to escape the sensory nightmare that was the school bus outside of staring out the window and disassociating throughout the trip. I found hundreds of new characters to fuel my imagination and build understanding, and novels went further into their mindset and thought patterns than movies and shows ever could, bettering my understanding of emotion and social interaction.
Unfortunately, this newfound joy and source of information came at a price.
While trying my hand at teaching high school back in the fall, I spent so long away from my current rough draft, I forgot half of what I'd written. So I've been going back to read through it. In doing so, several issues with the rough have been jumping out at me, but they all stem from one factor common in rough drafts, lacking conflict.
Readers have their favorites, and they don't enjoy seeing them put through the wringer, but at the same time, what are the chances they would be so fond of those characters if they never struggled? No matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, without conflict, there is no story.
Projects of a Different Sort
Remember how I said Icarus was going on the back burner for a while? Well, I still can't tell all the details about the massive project mostly responsible for the delay. Sorry. However, I've been asked to turn the back to basics grammar and composition course and the creative writing course into full workbooks for a local school.
Considering I've yet to finish writing the back to basics course and need to add lots of exercises, more in depth information, and additional articles to the creative writing workbook, you can imagine how much work this is. That's on its own without this other, larger, project I can't speak about at the moment. So I just plain don't have time to work on drafting Icarus right now, and I won't until these workbooks are finished and off to the printers.
Pausing Between Steps
Have you heard the advice about taking a break between steps in the writing process? As with many things when it comes to matters of art making, there are multiple schools of thought on the practice. Some say it's a waste of time. Others say it's essential. Some prefer short breaks or "pauses," and others believe anything less than months at a time is the same as just plowing through.
Personally, I hold to the pause method. One, just because that's the way I've always worked on an instinctual level, but also because I've learned I need those pauses to produce better work.
Writing their rough drafts exemplify love/hate relationships for authors. When the words come easily, and the scenes blossom full of life and color, it's exhilarating. It's a rush like no other. Other times though, each scene is hazy if you can see it at all, and the words dance just out of your memory's reach. That's when composing becomes difficult and procrastination in all its forms becomes tempting.
I've hit the point where Icarus becomes hazy. Oh, I have it fully outlined. I know what is supposed to happen, but it's all new territory. For most of what I've written in the rough so far, it existed in the old version The Writer's Hood printed back when it was still a thing, or at the very least, I'd worked through scenes in my head over the decade since the e-zine's closing. Having lived for more years and seen more of the world if only through documentaries and news broadcasts changed much of what I'd planned. The entire last half of the novel is brand new, which is just part of why I hemmed and hawed so much following reaching the halfway mark.
One of the most common things I've seen writers be asked is what their writing schedule looks like. Do you write at set times? Do you have a daily word count goal? Do you write every day or when inspiration strikes?
Each writer has a different answer. We're all different people, so what works for one might not work for another.
Still, I've recently made a slight alteration to my writing schedule that's made a huge difference in my productivity, so I thought I would share.
I thought I'd mix it up a bit this week by answering a writer's tag I found online. It just has ten simple questions, so this should be short and sweet.
1. What do you write?
A quick scroll down the categories over to the right of the page ought to prove I write speculative fiction. Spec fic covers a wide range of genres and their subgenres as well as mashups of those. I tend to stick more with science fiction, but I do dabble in fantasy now and again. And like with the Yekara series and the Myth and Science universe stories, there are times when I use both science fiction and fantasy elements in the same piece.
Fun fact about me: I work best with an established routine. This is just as true for my girls, maybe more so. When we have a good routine and stick with it, we have some really good weeks. When that routine gets thrown off, things go pear shaped fast!
Our usual routine looks like the image here on the right. We have our set days to meet up with our homeschool group or run errands. Every now and again we'll go on a field trip, but most days go more or less to plan.
It's great! I get some of the work I need to do done, that can handle interruptions, while the girls work on their lessons. This means I'm available if and when they need help or clarification. Then I write while they have their free time. We even do a few lessons together, because you should always keep learning, right?
Editing Is Never a Waste of Time
You might have heard "don't waste your time editing" before, but make sure you don't take that bit of advice out of context. It is almost always talking about when you're in the thick of writing a rough draft. What is meant is, "Don't use editing as an excuse to never finish." Although it can be used as a method of procrastination, editing is never a waste of time.
If you go back to the tired old metaphor of writing a book as having a child, you can look at it like this. Writing the rough draft is like carrying and birthing the story. Doing the rewrites is like raising it. You're taking the "child" and molding them into the "adult" they will become. Editing is sending that "child" to school. It gives them their best chance at being successful out in the real world. Formatting, the cover art, and back cover blurb are basic grooming and hygiene skills you teach the "child."
A. B. England is a novelist, all around geek, avid crafter, and the home-schooling mother of two.
She is an autistic creator with a love of mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
Yekara Series Book 2
The Icarus Project
Rough Draft Progress
77384 / 75000
Myth & Science Collection
Icarus Series Book 2
Sketched w/ Some Drafting
Yekara Series Book 3
Myth & Science Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Icarus Trilogy Book 3
Supers Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Yekara Series Book 4