Accidental holiday

I have become becalmed, lost in the doldrums, unable to advance or to reverse course; awaiting only a fair wind to ease me back into port.

Life has delivered unto me a change in routine, and now I can no longer get behind my keyboard, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for 08:30: instead I have to wait until the afternoon to return to my computer and I am not, as yet, psychically ready to create at that ungodly hour. I just want to fire up Civilization and listen to audiobooks; I don’t want to tangle with the world-weaving or the word-wrangling. I’m struggling even to go and talk to my friends on Twitter. Apologies to all of you, my friends, for being quiet of late.

I need to adapt. I need to embrace change and find a new way of going forwards. Which I will, I’m sure. But recently – this week at least – feels a little like I’ve been taking an accidental holiday.

There are things happening, however. I’m continuing busy with commercial editing (which makes creative writing-time even harder to find, but no matter). I am returning to self-publishing plans; I have begun the final proofread/last tinker/anxiety run of New Gods in preparation for formatting into an actual book-shaped thing. I have been in touch with the cover-artist, trying to work out exactly how a great piece of art is produced – which is to say that the roughs look wonderful, I’m just not sure what to do next.

And amidst all this I have a new novel some 18k words in existence. I have not forgotten you, dear yarn. I’m just leaving you aside for the moment whilst I work on other things. And I have Our Kind of Bastard to rewrite; that too is on one side whilst I try and recover some sense of writing identity. And anyway, I’m stuck with that. My beta-readers identified weaknesses that I don’t know how to solve.

Anyone knows what kind of oil is used on central heating, and whether that could become flammable if spilled on a troll? Cause a reader said that ‘heating oil’ wouldn’t work that way. I am stuck on that, and on the big McGuffin, that feedback has does not excite the reader.

I am letting it simmer as my brain does not seem up to do the heavy lifting at the moment. Partly, I feel, I need to retrain the muscles. Partly I need a break. Either way, this certainly feels like one of the busiest holidays I’ve ever been on.

Post-hiatus blues

normal-service2

January was a funny ol’ month. Work on my novel-in-progress was on hold for pretty much all of it, due to having an couple of paying edits to do. I guess, in the future, I need a way of managing my time to work on two projects at the same time; of protecting my creative time. But at the moment I am fully monoprojectile. One thing at a time is enough for me, especially since the paying gig was for a structural edit, and thus required me to get deep into someone else’s work.

It’s done now, and my calendar is free, so I’m back to Claws, or Our Kind of Bastard, or whatever the hell I’m calling it today. But there are, I’m sure you’ll be totally unsurprised to hear, difficulties when you park a project for five weeks.

I left a scene half-written, which was good because I could get straight back into the action. But after that… If I ever had a plan I’ve totally forgotten it.

Luckily, I’ve kept pretty good notes. Mostly these take the form of what’s already happened (but also when in the manuscript it happened, which is useful) but I’ve also a list of questions that still need to be answered. So I’m not operating in a total void.

What I don’t have is an outline, which I’m increasingly thinking is a strategy I should adopt; that I should finally shed my pantser clothing and fully integrate into the society of planners.

I say this in the full knowledge that I will probably never be organised enough for that.

But I have decided that I need to pause my headlong charge into the mire of adventure to try and catch my breath, and my bearings. ‘How are you doing this?’ I hear you ask: well, through spreadsheets, of course. Simply creating a grid with all my characters/groups at the top and time/scenes down the side and filling in the gaps in the middle.

plan hiatus

It’s rough and ready and not really something I’d recommend – there must be a better way. But it works for me. Or at least it’s working at the moment. Planning needn’t be over-complicated. A note is often as good as an essay. And a spreadsheet strikes me as more manageable than index cards or whiteboards or whatever.

So I struggle onwards, limping back into the teeth of my manuscript and desperately searching for word upon word. But maybe this time I’ll know where I’m trying to get to. And any further interruptions won’t derail me too much because this time I’m coming prepared.

That’s the idea, at least. As always, I’ll keep you posted.