The threshold of a new age

My Tribes Asunder novel is approaching completion. It took me much longer than I initially anticipated but at least I had good reasons. The original 8 chapters turned into 15. What used to be Chapter 1 has now become Chapter 3. In Book 2. Why that happened? Because I’m as much a visitor in this world as the reader will be.

I don’t consider myself as a very prolific writer. I could write much faster and turn out a greater word count per day, I’m aware of that. I could make the usual excuses: my writing style makes it hard for me to write fast, I come up with new things as I write, have to explore the ideas as they come. Those are all true and they are all excuses.

I’ve taken up NaNoWriMo a few times and failed every single time. I think NaNo is a great way of kicking yourself in the behind but it doesn’t seem to work on me. The NaNo catchphrase “Don’t worry about writing the perfect sentence, just write!” is all well and good but its main idea is to stop people languishing on the empty first page. I never had the problem of the ‘First Page Block’. My problem is organizational.

I’ve been exploring and testing the various degrees of pre-planning the story for as long as I can remember. My early stories went without any planning. The first novel that I’ve written, I finished in exactly 365 days. There’d been plenty of planning involved but the main points of the plot were quite unexplored until I got to them. This has been my way ever since.

I do my best work on the fine edge between pre-planning and exploration. Sometimes, I fall over the edge on either side. Too much exploration will kill my timing (as it happened with Tribes Asunder). Too much pre-planning will kill my fascination with the world that had grown around me.

So how do I speed up the writing process and keep the quality of writing? One published novel per year would be ideal. I need to optimize my organizational side as well as the pure increase of word count. Being the control freak that I am, I’ve gotten quite good in pre-planning. I plan my stories in scenes now, not chapters. I plan the main plotline separately from the character arcs now though I need to correlate them regularly as they are naturally linked.

As for my putting the words down, I will define smaller deadlines. The weekly quota would be best, I think. The monthly quota is too long-term to ensure my loyalty and the daily quota can be too vulnerable to bad days. I abhor the word-count targets because they make me put down words I know are rubbish but I put them down just to have the necessary count.

I also need to record ideas as they manifest during the writing sessions but not let them interrupt the session currently at hand. As great as they are (these spontaneous ideas are one of the best parts of writing), they tempt me to stop in my path and waste time smelling the roses. At regular intervals, I need to go through the ideas that pop up and check where they could improve the plot.

Recently I figured I was quite the rookie in the editting department. I didn’t need to edit my first novel or the other stories much. The plotline was simple, the character arcs straighforward. Back then, it was all about putting the letters down. And writing was done in my native language. I write entirely in English now. This gave me a greater and more flexible vocabulary and it has made finding the right words much more a rational process than before. It also made editting a necessary part of the creative process. After six years of switching my writing completely to English, it still baffles me how much the process is different just because I use another language.

I will need to use quotas in editting as well. As the scene is the basic unit of writing, I think it will be a good unit of editting too.

Then there’s the characters cards. Do I need them? I used to think these were beyond me. I know these characters. I know what makes them tick. I know what part they are to play. But do I remember every single detail of their nature in such a way that I would know how they would react to a certain situation? Do I instantly recall the minutiae of the relationship one character has to all the others? I think not. Character cards are coming but not in the way they are done traditionally. I will need to redefine them so they suit my personal style of planning.

The number of interactions among characters grows much quicker then the number of characters. I will need to take care not to overdo the minor characters and just focus on their relationships to the major ones, which is their main role in the story. Personal stories are reserved for major characters.

I have several other ideas on how to improve the planning and outlook part of writing, to maximize work efficiency and decrease useless time. I will most likely need to adopt new software as Word is too generic and lacks flexibility. I’ve already read up on certain software, specifically designed for writers.

I’ve gone through a lot of growth in the past few years, personal and craft-wise. This is no longer the first step I’m standing on. While the staircase to success might be a long and steep one, at least I’m no longer at the very bottom.

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