I Was Only Pretending to Procrastinate

I just finished my first real read-through of the first draft of book three of The Songbird River Chronicles, The Fount of Magic.

I finished writing that draft… um… a while ago.

And while I did, in fact, beat myself up over the fact that I was spending all of this in-between time NOT editing it and preparing it for publication, I find now that the distance has actually been extremely helpful.

First off, I had a chance to forget some of the story. Oh, I remembered the big overarching skeleton of the piece, and lots of chunks of the flesh, but some of the details had escaped me. I actually went back and reread books 1 and 2 as well to get back into the story.

Second though, and more importantly, I’ve had time to grow as a writer between finishing the draft and now. I’ve been reading a whole lot for pleasure lately, as well, something I haven’t had time to do since I was in high school, really. I’ve been critical of the books I’m reading, picking out things that I think work really well and things I can see don’t work at all, and I’m analyzing them as best I can. It’s been really fun going through my own work now and using those skills to see how I can make the second draft actually work.

That isn’t to say that the draft is broken, currently. It works, the story is there, and it’s pretty decent. Pretty damn good in lots of places, to be honest. It’s just the bits in between those “pretty damn good” chunks that need some reworking.

And that’s where this whole distance thing is coming into play. Because, when I first finished the draft and immediately turned around and read through the thing again to attempt some clean up, I floundered. I knew it needed something, but I just could not tell what it was. I knew particular chapters flagged, but for the life of me, I had no idea how to make them crackle the way the other chapters did.

So I got frustrated, and I put the draft aside.

And now, many, many months later, when I opened it up and read through chapter one (which needs some not insubstantial work, though is by no means the worst offender) the answer immediately snapped into place in my head. The same thing happened when I got to my other trouble chapters.

Two chapters will need heavy rewriting, and I mean total scrapping, tossing out the window, light those suckers on fire because just GAG me already they sucked. Most of the rest need some light reworking to adjust the information flow, or to adjust for the major changes in those rewrite chapters.

But there are some that I’m just not touching, because as far as I can tell, they are in exactly the form they need to be. Those are the chapters that I was reading along, and suddenly realized I’d forgotten I was editing them. They’d sucked me in, and I’d just been going on a ride with them.

Like I was reading a real book! An entertaining one! With plot and characterization and pacing that worked properly!

And when that happened, I stepped aside, patted myself on the back (because, as writers, we don’t acknowledge our own good work often enough. I say, if your own work carries you away like that, let it! That’s the whole point of writing, after all!), and made myself reread the section more critically.

So, long story short, I no longer feel so guilty about the procrastination. Well, I do, but I feel it worked out for the better this way.

I’ve got the house to myself this Saturday. I’m planning to make some decent headway into this thing, now that I’ve got my edits outlined. Maybe I can even wrap it up before we leave for our Germany vacation in a week?

So long as I don’t start procrastinating again…

Talking About Writing to Non-Writers

I’ve mentioned on here that I do a lot of writing at work, using a notebook. This often prompts people to ask me what I’m doing. Usually, that is exactly the question.

“What are you doing?” I’m taking a short break from writing to ring up your groceries.

“What are you writing?” A plot outline of a novel or short story.

But I also get some other versions:

“Are you writing a story?” Yes.

“Are you writing a book?” Usually, though sometimes I’m working on a short story.

“Are you writing a journal?”

This one makes me shudder, because, to me, a journal is exactly the same as a diary. You know, that thing tweenage girls lock themselves in their bedrooms to write, pouring out their angst and the unfairness of the world. Dear Diary, today, the boy in geometry with whom I have never spoken but am totally in love picked up the pencil I dropped and was all like, “hey, you dropped this.” He totally likes me!

So my first reaction when someone asks me if I’m sitting in public, at work, writing a journal is “Um, no, I’m a grown woman. A mature, professional writer. I’m writing about magic and dragons and awesome shit.”

I say it a little more politely than that, of course. Usually I go with a “No. I’m working on a novel/short story.”

My regular customers, who know what I’m doing, will ask me “How’s the book going?”

And I’ll be like, “Which book have I been talking to you about? ‘Cuz I’m working on like three right now, and while my publishing schedule is only just about ready to churn out book two, I’m writing book three and plotting book 8.”

Again, I am more polite than this. My customers, who are non-writers, do not need to hear my whole complex, twisty writing schedule. “It’s going great!”

I do feel, weirdly, like I need to uphold this image of writers for the non-writers. The image of working on only one book from start to finish and not starting a new one until the first one is published. I know some writers probably do work that way, but I feel like it’s such a waste of time. I mean, I can write narrative manuscript at work if I want, but then I have to spend time when I get home typing all that up, time I’d rather be using to generate new words. I need to dedicate some time to plotting out new stories before I write them, so it’s ideal for me to use time at work for that ahead-of-time plot work. It’s just a setup that leads to my plotting being so far ahead of my narrative manuscripting, which I feel could be confusing for the uninitiated, shall we say.

I really started thinking about this today when I made my facebook status update of daily word count. I realized that I’ve been constantly referring to the project as “the novel” which really just confuses me. Well, not ME, I know which book I’m working on, but it FEELS like it should be confusing to everyone else. I’d like to be clearer with these updates, so I’ve decided to start including the title of the project. And, I’ll possibly try to do something like that with the customers? Although, the majority of them don’t really care, they’re just being polite and conversational.

I don’t know, but more clarity makes me feel better, so that’s reason enough to do it, I suppose.