Writer-brain is—Squirrel!

Most years I finish the required novel the first week of the new year, turn it in, and become an exhausted, brain-dead slug. This year, that didn’t happen. I finished the novel and was happy with it. I worked on the SF Thriller until the revision notes came in and then I revised the novel, walking away from what is now the longest book of the series feeling chipper and only the usual degree of day-end tired. I was going to go back to the SF Thriller, but got sidetracked by a couple of personal projects, so I worked on them until they reached good stopping points and put them aside to work on a project with a very close deadline.

Then it turned out that the deadline was a year off—2015, not 2014. I breathed a sigh of relief and got distracted by one of the personal projects even though I wanted to work on the deadline project too. So I’ve been trying to push myself into that one but it’s been remarkably rough going.

Unlike a lot of my friends, I’m not a good short story writer. I also find the process of creating a rough draft within a deadline exhausting—which is why I usually write only one novel-length manuscript every year. But I’m in the position of needing to write more than one novel-length manuscript this year—and every year from now on—as well as short stories because they keep a writer’s name in front of their genre community and they’re damned good practice.

So I’m continuing to try on both those fronts—multiple novels and multiple short stories.

But this would be much easier if I didn’t suddenly have characters crawling out of my head like Venus, full-formed. The little suckers are all over the place recently, like chatty cockroaches.

I am not one of those writers who lets the characters run the show. I’m not a writer who experiences the writing process as dictation from the characters or as a film that unreels without my urging and interference. What I am is a dictator/god: I make up the story, I make up the characters, I make up the world and I throw the characters and their stories in there and shake them until they do as I say. If they don’t, I become a mechanic and I look under the hood until I find the problem, fix it—even if it means killing a darling and ripping out miles of story road—and set the machine back in motion. This usually works just fine for me since the world, the story, and the characters exist at my whim. They don’t get uppity and get in the way, lean over my shoulder and say the doohickey is plainly not linking up with the whatchamacallit, or stage sit-ins wherein they simply won’t do what I tell them, or go happily off on tangents from which there is no return (though they do occasionally run off at the mouth and have to be reined in and edited later.)

While ideas and characters will suggest themselves whenever they want and may be a little pushy at times, in general I don’t have much trouble with them being attention hogs. But this year… damn, they’re being downright bumptious, popping up while I’m driving, or showering, or working on some other project—some of them are even from other projects in development as well as those that are entirely new—and they’re all trying to crowd on my writing stage at the same time and hog the limelight. And some of them aren’t personalities I really need in the current WiP. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle them all, since some of them are pretty important to other projects and I don’t want to slam the door on them. But at the same time I don’t want to either lose them, or be so distracted that I don’t get my other projects done.

It’s a strange state of the Kat to find myself with too much going on rather than too little. Kvetching aside, it’s a lovely problem to have, but it is a problem. I still need to get the SF Thriller done so it can go out and get sold. And I need to get a rough draft of this short story done so I can decide if it’s going to work. I also need to pay some attention to one of the characters who stuck his head up today with a whole new-and-improved backstory and some personal business that changes the whole potential book/series as well as the POV.

There really isn’t a waiting room for these things. Someone once told me that if an idea was truly good, you’d remember it and be able to come back to it later. I say, tell that to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Knowing that I have difficulty keeping my energy going, I’m loath to let any of these interesting things slip away now, since they may, in fact, not come back later when I have time and my energy may be lower. But there is a fine line between work and distraction by the appearance of future work. Much as I hate to lose them, I’m just going to have to put some of these guys on hold and hope they’re still there when I can get back to them.

Discipline is one of the things I lack as a writer—that’s one of the reasons I’m not a great short-story writer. Today I’m just going to have to exercise some, whether I like it or not. And if the characters or ideas die, maybe they were a bit sickly after all.

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About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
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2 Responses to Writer-brain is—Squirrel!

  1. Colleen H. says:

    I have zero experience as a writer, but would it be at all helpful — assuming that you don’t all ready do so — to keep a digital recorder always at hand to at least get as much info as the pestering characters provide stored for later use? Most digital recorders allow you to create different folders that you can assign to each of the specific projects and multiple recordings can be saved to these folders. Then you can dump those audio files onto your computer by subject for attention at a better time when you can address that project (be that later that day, once a week or whenever).

    I find audio files will pull me back to that particular moment in time better than just writing it down and trying to connect to just the text later. I do this for my personal notes about convention panels. I think it might be a less distracting way to get the characters to behave, put the information aside where it can easily be retrieved, and still be productive on what needs to be addressed in the moment. Anyway, it’s a thought. 🙂

  2. I have a very strange relationship with the sound of my own voice….

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