Well, work starts up for me again in a bit less than a month. The plus of teaching is the three months off in the summer, but it is also the downside, since by the time the third month rolls around, I’d be happy to stay on vacation forever.
Anyway, regrets aside, I’ve been making writing plans. See, when I’m working for real, I have to schedule my writing somewhat strictly to make sure it gets done in the midst of a million stacks of grading. I’m sure others of you who work a day job to pay for the writing habit know what I mean!
|The kitten feels my dilemma: eager, but held back!|
What I’d love to do is ignore those insistent editing projects and start my new novel, but I can’t. My sense of duty towards my old novels holds me back. Both The Art of Dying and House of Mirrors still need considerable love and tenderness before they’ll really be done (or at least done for now). The other factor is that in the next novel I want to tackle themes like the history of the Coeur d’Alene tribe of Native Americans, alcoholism, divorce, father-son relationships, bereavement and police work. With such an impressive roster…I probably need to do some research before I start. Don’t worry, though: even if I am a method writer, I promise I won’t fall into alcoholism myself – I can only hold about two drinks, after all!
So this is what I’m thinking. The Art of Dying lacks about 35 pages until I’m done paring it down to a cleaner story, and then I also need to do a preliminary edit of the last four chapters of House of Mirrors. If I could finish those two things by the end of summer, I would count myself lucky and successful.
Then those same two works both need to be reread from beginning to end, the former mainly for typos, and the latter for plot inconsistencies, stylistic problems, extraneous material, etc., etc. If you’re a writer, you know the drill for editing, I’m sure!
|Writing must be taken as seriously as climbing 900 steps!|
Now, you may wonder why I’m disclosing my writing plans. Partly, it’s to get them sorted out for myself by writing them down. The more important part, though, is because recently I wrote about how to deal with writing plans which ‘gang agley’ (thank you, Robert Burns). It is true that you have to be flexible if you want to be a writer who has a life, so that all the different elements don’t become scrambled and exasperating. At the same time though, I do think planning is needed – but a specific kind of planning.
I’m not really addressing writers of short fiction or poetry here. While I do both myself and thoroughly enjoy them, I don’t have to worry excessively about planning them, because they are naturally adapted to be fitted into a spare moment here or there. With long writing projects like my novels, though, some view of the future development of the work has to be made.
|Strategy guides the novel like a good machine|
Make a long term plan (make it extra generous too, because from experience I can tell you that if you give yourself 9 months to speed-write a novel, it will probably stretch out to 15). Don’t beat yourself up if the long term plan doesn’t quite work out, but also let it guide you to keep writing and working and producing the art which you love. That’s the method which works for me - and hopefully for others - when it comes to fitting the production of novels into everyday life.