I thought I was still caught in the Editorial Mode from finishing up Clockworks Warrior but no, this is a problem from planning the Arena.
Planning Mode is something I hoped would speed up my outline process like story boards for a movie. And while it has done the job, I became stuck in it. I looked at my scraps and if I saw a scene already written down, my brain refused to go into Writing Mode.
I have tons of writing scraps that I refuse to discard so the whole story is in little pieces. Clockworks was too short to fall into that trap but Arena should be nearly three-times longer. I kept saying to myself: “You have a ton of snipets. Don’t ignore them or all that work will go out in smoke.” Now I tell myself: “Those were done for planning, stupid! You can’t make a novel out of them.”
This week I finally rediscovered the state of mind that has enabled me to write a chapter a week when I was doing my fan fiction. I call it Documentary Mode. The trick is not to plan or rehearse but wade into the story and describe what is happening as it is happening. I plan only the roughest draft, and not worry about details as they will come by themselves. Documentary Mode asks me to take a leap of faith, faith that the story will somehow find its way through to a satisfying conclusion without my guidance. I imagine it’s a similar experience to a parent taking their hands off the rear of their child’s bicycle for the first time. It goes against every instinct. Did I mention I’m a control freak?
Leap of faith is something that does not come naturally to me. Small wonder it took me this long to rediscover it. Now let’s see how long it lasts…
(Told you there would be a lot of modes)
We writers are a strange bunch as we are introverted by default. And that’s good, otherwise what could possibly force us to sit down and write for hours without stopping? If we weren’t introverted, there wouldn’t be anything worth written down. Being an introvert is a good thing but there are also some bad sides to it. The flaw that is most important to writers is a lack of personal character.
Personal character can only be developed by interacting with people and introverts are not very known for that. The problem is that our personal character gives character to our writing as well. While we may develop fascinating worlds and awe-inspiring situations, it’s the character of our writing that makes our stories something special. It’s why that same hero/villain thing can keep getting used as the main plot and we don’t get tired of reading about it (most of us, anyway).
We’ve all read something that seemed tasteless and odorless and we all know those stories that gripped us, chewed us up and spitted us out, not just because they had a great plot and setting but because we could almsot hear the author’s charismatic voice next to us, guiding us through the story. Even if the story is about something terrifying, we feel safe because we know we are in good hands of a skilled and experienced author.
Myself, I love to read Heinlein’s books. I never get tired of his voice, the way he makes everything smooth and profesional but then I don’t read his books very often. There was a time when I read Terry Pratchett in large doses. Soon, his voice turned out monotonous, so I stopped reading the Discworld series. I had a similar problem with other writers too. Devouring books of a single author can do that to me. That’s why lately I make a point of trying to discover new writers.
Writers, do your career a favour: go out and meet new people. Your readers will be grateful in the long run.