When I first had the idea to blog about my writing, the idea seemed crazy even to me. Why would I want to spend more time writing when I already didn’t have enough time as it is? (Or is that was?) Why expend the effort when I was just going to have to do more writing for my actual project?
One of the most difficult aspects of serious writing (and I call it serious because I’m serious about it) is that it requires a lot of time actually writing to maintain your chops. This might seems obvious but, for me, the really time consuming part is working out all the details of the story so that I have a basis to begin writing. I spend so much time cogitating and planning that I don’t do as much actual writing as I would like or is good for me. Sure, I constantly scribble (figuratively) notes but this isn’t real writing. It isn’t subject-adverb-verb-directed-object writing where the flow and meter are important. Basically, it is a shopping list.
Then I realized that a good way to get some regular mental exercise would be to blog about the process of completing my project. From it I get (and I promise you that I went back and changed this number several times) 5 benefits:
- Talking (like in my head) about the process forces me to confront roadblocks and at least come up with a plausible solution that I can write down.
- Regular writing helps to remove the kinks that sometimes come when I can’t find the right phrasing.
- By committing publicly to my project, I’ll be forced to actually make progress because I can’t bull shit my way out of it if I say that I’m working on some issue.
- When the project is finally done, I’ll have a great source of material that I can review to try and be better on the next project.
- When I’m researching stuff on the internet and find really strange stuff, I have an outlet. For example, I was looking at a site for writers and bloggers and I found one typoe and a grammatical error after looking at 4 pages!
- Who knows, someone with great ideas and no idea how to get them down on paper might read it and be inspired to actually do something.
Today, I’m working on the story timeline. For a short story, this wouldn’t be necessary but my story spans 2 years. I need to keep track of what is going on in the world, nationally, locally, and with my characters. I’ve broken it down into months with roughly correlate to chapters. I’ve tried to create a snapshot of the month so that I can be sure that everyone in the story is on the same page; figuratively. This process started 2 months ago and is about 70% complete. That estimate is probably high given that I’m still adding things to what I thought was done. I’m shooting for a completed 12 months before I start any real writing.
I’ve also been working on my character portraits. I have 3 main characters and a handful of minor ones. When I first started, this was kind of an after thought or a nice-to-have. However, I can see now that I’ll never get started until I have each of the major characters fully fleshed out. Worse yet, these are just notes that I’m going to have to review and rework to make them coherent, even to me.
Lastly, I’ve been working on themes. When I first started, I had all these ideas that I wanted to cram into the story. Then I started looking at them and realized two important things: 1) my themes were incredibly vague and 2) nobody is going to be able to follow storylines for more than one or two themes. So I’ve spent the last few days culling and refining them and looking for information about how to do that. I found some good advice (and I promise to start keeping track for future reference) about NOT summing it into a single word (love, war, death) and avoid making it a question like “what is the meaning of life?”. What I think works is something like life as a vampire sucks or life is not for the timid. Those aren’t great themes but you get the idea.