Creating vs Editing: a writer’s challenge

When I’m in the creative flow, the words come easily, without hindrance. However, when I shift over to editing mode, to polish the words, the well seems to dry up. The hypercritical internal editor does not seem to be compatible with the internal novelist. I know, I know. It’s a little weird to call them out as separate characters, however, they’re so very different. They feel like different characters in a story.

It seems like the only way to balance the two ways of perceiving is to give them their own stage. For the most part, I am tending to schedule my time month by month – a month of outlining and writing, followed by a month of editing and polishing. When I’ve tried switching between the two on the same day, neither the writing nor the editing is any good.

This is in addition to the more normal challenges of switching between being in work mode for my full-time job and carving out that two hours a day to attend to the various aspects of being a writer.

I wonder if others have the same issue? Do you have trouble switching between editing and writing?

Writing regular blog posts

Sometimes it feels like I need either a keeper or an assistant to remind me to update my blogs, especially my writer’s blog. The last few months have been super busy. August through September was a lovely summer here in Seattle. Nary a hint of rain for the whole time period I think I remember someone saying it was the most days without rain in living memory. Truly an amazing thing. Raven and I spent most of the summer creating and then enjoying a new courtyard. The lure of the sun became overwhelming.

I read a bunch of books about the business of writing, attended some webinars – quite a lot of those really – and got wrapped up in learning some new skills. Wrote a few short stories and pitched them to various collections. Still trying to find the best home for them, though there was some great feedback along the way. In October, I extended the summer by visiting Hawaii with my sister. Did some outlining, and a little writing each day there, but not a whole lot.

Come late October, I started thinking about the next novel to write in my series. November was coming up with NaNoWriMo. The whole month of November I wrote 2000 words a day. That felt amazing. December, I kept up the word count through most of the holidays.

Changes in my role at work ate most of December and January. So here we are with not many blog posts to show for the last couple of months. I’m trying a new strategy of setting myself a particular time each week to make an update for at least one of my blogs. We’ll see what happens.

How do you write regular posts? Do you schedule them? Make a set of topics and stage them throughout the year? Write them around a set of events?

NaNoWriMo – In the belly of the beast

No doubt about it. NaNoWriMo is a beast. I was caught up in the belly of it through the whole month of November, writing 2000 words a day for 30 days. The goal? To come out of it with a novel at the end.

(I did it. 51,000 words in 30 days. Not really a novel yet, but progress made)

It was exhilarating, surprising, challenging and a lot of work. But yes, it was wonderful this time around. I’ve done this for three years now and am finding it to be a great kick start for writing more regularly.

Creating fantasy fiction worlds – there are worlds inside

From the moment I decided to concentrate on fiction, my fantasy world started coming together. With every piece of writing in the world, the places became characters in the stories. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the places started taking on a life of their own; they were not quite the Seattle I live in, nor the San Juan islands I’ve sailed through on weekends. The Australian outback is subtly different to actual places I’ve been, or more properly, the places are an amalgam of more than one single place, tinted by memory and overlaid with a magical patina that is their very own. The Suzzalo annex in downtown Seattle is a place that might be, an organic outgrowth of the very real Suzzalo Library at the University of Washington with which I am so familiar. I wonder if all magical worlds start off that way? Do they come to live in the intersections between the real and the imaginary, taking on the nature of something that is rooted in the world?

There are places I’ve visited in books by favorite authors that are as real to me as cities I’ve traveled to physically. The London of Sherlock Holmes is not quite the London of my visit in 2006, nor yet the London of Phileas Fogg, Mary Poppins, nor yet even the London of 007. They rug shoulders like restless cats, overlapping like a puzzle, yet each version of London remains its own unique world. Our urban fantasy worlds begin with the world we can touch. As it should be. And then they depart for places unknown and as yet undiscovered.

In building a whole ‘world’, it helps to have the bones of the familiar to act as a bridge. The magical systems need to be grounded in the familiar everyday things, with rules that are internally consistent. Traveling from one place to another may be via walking, public transport, a vehicle or by stepping through a doorway between places in this world or between separate pocket universes, each world behaving with its own rules. The covenant with readers is to make the worlds internally consistent, predictable in some sense, and imbued with the magic that advances the sense of place and the journey of the characters who move through the spaces in that particular world.

In the Storybook tales with living libraries and pocket universes, the City of Seattle is in the World of Form, with rules or conventions that prevent casual magic coming to the attention of people or the authorities. Our magical beings are flying ‘under the radar’ and if luck should accrue to these ‘Others’ more often that most people experience, then that magic might be overlooked. Yet we do see our characters zipping about through portals, avoiding planes and customs officials. The magic to deflect attention is well developed, as is the magic of illusion and manipulation. The ‘Others’ are shape shifters, though not in an obvious fashion. No horror movie transformations in the world where humans live – as an author, I chose to constrict that ability in this world, at least where people are looking. The rules will, of course, be broken. There will be challenges to order. Chaos will enter in. Our characters may be revealed to a select few, or discovered by sinister government agencies as dictated by the story. That’s one of the things that makes urban fantasy so interesting, that we do not know what may happen next. The fantastical blends with the normal in delightful ways.

This weekend I’m building some new environments for my world, a few new villains, some allies whose worlds are not yet known to my protagonist. Should be loads of fun. My first step is to scrapbook images that look and feel like the places. Pencil sketches, word sketches, montages from imagination.

Writer’s challenges – Embracing uncertainty

In the last couple of days, I wrote 3500 words in the short story. Turned out I needed to start over, make a run at the overall story arc, and then incorporate things that I’d written before. We spent part of the afternoon at the Jewelbox Cafe today, some three hours, drinking a vanilla latte and some blood orange soda while working away at the story. Raven is working on the finishing stages of his next novel, so that was companionable.

Took a break after that for some ‘retail therapy’, and to do our daily walk. We’re both trying to hit two miles a day at present. Raven’s building up stamina and working the long muscles in his thighs to help out his heart function. I’m working on getting down my blood sugar readings.  I strive to treat it (the type 1 diabetes) as ‘annoying but trivial’ which it obviously isn’t – trivial that is.

Hence the emphasis on exercise. It’s one of the few levers I have access to that lowers the blood sugar by a significant amount – up to 100 points for 20 minutes on the Glider – in addition to injections. That, and sleep. Around 7-8 hours on a regular basis makes a world of difference. But enough of that.

The short story is progressing quite nicely, acquiring some interesting beats, and the character dialog is coming along well.

More soon, when I have the first draft completed. It’s an uncertain world sometimes, and not always in ways one would expect.

When inspiration fails

What to do when inspiration fails? I have a deadline for a short story looming, with a character who doesn’t know how to get from here to there. To increase the beats, I need a challenge to throw at my protagonist that isn’t a trope. I suppose I could use a trope (evil family member, random attack by killer cyborg, getting in the way of an assassination/hacker attempt, love/hate interest) but that seems kind of lame in context of the story. What to do? I could go with the tried and true Vorkosigan method – full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes – but it’s an urban fantasy where there are no evil government agencies standing by to act as a backdrop. I have two days to go – ideas from the gallery gratefully accepted.

  • My main character is sixteen, a mage, and a web designer
  • She’s being asked to skin a web site and add some magic to it | someone else is doing the security
  • Some something gets thrown at her as a challenge (not the web site)

Maybe it’s the security person? Maybe there’s a cyber attack? Maybe I torment her with new magic waking up inside her? Security person ends up being a cute guy? Better yet – a cute girl.

Thoughts?

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