Robert Gryphon blogs on learning the novelist's craft to pay for better quality cat food. All writing-related conversation welcome.
After 13+ years I sold my house and will be moving by the first week of April, probably to somewhere in the northwest. This process, along with the specific elements I’ve been working on adding in, has thrown off my productivity on the book lately, and may continue to do so for a while yet. But I think once I get established in a new place things will pick up quickly.
I hope to find a few different spots (coffee shops, etc.) within walking distance from wherever I end up, which I can rotate through instead of going to the same place every day as I do now. Habits are important to productivity, but there’s a fine line between a productive habit and a rut.
Lately I’ve been stuck on trying to work exposition dumps into parts 4-5 (total 6 parts) of the book. There’s a lot of revelations about the story world and behind-the-scenes plot machinations that need to be put in just the right places, and it’s tedious and difficult to get it done well. It’ll take as long as it takes, but it should be worth it in the end.
Once I’ve got that done and have incorporated all the alpha readers’ feedback that’s been coming in, as well as a bunch of my own notes that I have yet to work in, I’ll be able to move on to the more major rewrite effort required for the second half of part 5 and part 6: basically the whole lead-in and unfolding of the climactic sequence; plus the denouement afterward, which is rather long since the whole book is. At that point it should be at a draft 3+ level across the board, and I can do a widespread beta.
The beta is what I’m really working toward. It will be quite an exciting event for me, and hopefully an enjoyable one for the participants. Unlike with the alpha, there will be no limit to the number or type of people who can be involved, so whoever wants in will be welcome. However, with the increasing difficulty of the bits that remain to do, plus the move, it could easily be 3-6 months before that time.
So it’s onward to scout for my first new home in 14 years. See you on the other side. Figuratively speaking.
Now is the time of year where we give thanks that our least favorite time of year is over. That may or may not be the editorial “we,” contingent upon your own proclivities. For our part—i.e., my part—I haven’t been a fan of the holidays since age 15 or so, when I started making my own money to fund a tendency to materialistic excess. Then at 16 I got a credit card, and things really went wild. But I digress; that’s ancient history, and this is now, so let’s focus on the latter for a moment.
The slowdown in original content for this blog is a direct result of the slowdown on productivity on the book. There are a few reasons for this, beginning with the fact that it’s been difficult to maintain a fast pace for so many months at a stretch, and further aggravated by the angst I’ve been building up about certain side effects of hyperfocus, chief among them the long slow process of engineering a major move (not sure where to) and the correspondent absence of a sufficiently active social life. But overall, I think the reduced pace is rather more closely tied to the type of work I’ve been doing on the project lately. It boils down to the fact that I haven’t really been doing much writing at all.
Over the course of a year and a half, I’ve built up a massive bank of notes about characters, situations, the story world, holes in the plot, loose ends that need tying up, cuts that need to be smoothed over, and various other varieties of patches that need to be applied. It’s not always possible to work these ideas in during the actual writing part, or even in the course of a concerted rewrite of a given segment. As such, the notes have built up to the point where it takes a lot of work to work each one in. It’s worth doing, because the story grows richer and hangs together better with each tweak. But it’s slow going, tedious, often boring, and generally not suited to my inherent impatience and tendency to work best in bursts of exuberance.
If there’s a lesson here, it’s probably to not let your project evolve in a direction such that the bulk of it is wordsmithed and tuned while remaining unfinished in terms of the narrative, plot drivers, character traits, or other major underlying ingredients. There’s a bit of a catch-22 at work, though, since the actual writing part becomes much less fun and much more work, at least for me, if I put too much structure in place first. Feels like tiptoeing through a minefield instead of gamboling over a grassy dell.
On the plus side, I’m making progress, step by step. And I do like what the tweaks are adding up to. Of course, more of them keep cropping up, often appearing on the notepad by the bedside in mornings.
I’ve been following rule #1 – write every day – maybe a little too literally. Probably need a break. In fact, I definitely do. But one other thing that I did do was invite a few readers who have indicated interest from early on, to read the alpha version of the book. Now I just have to sit back and wait for the punches to start coming.
I’m looking forward to doing a wider-spread early feedback round when the book is in a beta-quality state, which should be at least three more months. I plan to blitz recruitment on this site later, but if you already know that you might be interested in participation in the beta round, please feel free to let me know through the various contact options on the Tumblr blog.