My life has recently become extremely busy. Sometimes I feel like I'm being pulled in so many different directions that I might tear into little pieces. I'm trying to do it all so I've been getting progressively less and less sleep, and therefore am more and more tired. There are things I have to do to ensure the bills are paid.
There are also things I both want and need to do for and with my family. These things have, for significant reasons, recently become even more important to me and will place increasing demands on my time for at least the next year.
I'm also in the middle of a kitchen renovation that should have taken less than a week but will now take something like six weeks. I have cupboards but no benchtops or running water, or stove. It's a little like camping. I hate camping.
Then there are things I do for me. Those are the things that have suffered.
I've been editing Dragon God, the sequel to Warrior Pledge, but I did nothing on it for a week. I'd look at my computer and my brain wouldn't even imagine my favourite character. I didn't open the file.
I knew I had to do something to fix it. Writing is important to me. I don't feel completely like me unless I'm writing every day.
So what did I do when I didn't have time to do anything I needed to do with the attention it deserved? I took on something else, of course.
I enrolled in an art class. On Wednesday night, I spent two hours painting. I sat quietly mixing and dabbing paint, listening to the conversations going on around me. Every now and then I stood up and checked my work from a distance and wandered around the room to see what everyone else was doing. I didn't say much. (There a nice group of people and I did talk to them, just not all night.) I was completely focused on adding light and shade or texture or depth. Nothing else mattered.
At the end of two hours I cleaned up and walked out. While I still felt tired, I felt like I'd had a refreshing swim, submerged in the water so that the outside world became an indistinct hum. It was like at least part of my brain had been able to rest.
Last night I wrote again so, regardless of what else I need to do in my life, all's right with my world.
Writing emotion is one of the most difficult things for me to write. I joke with my friends that I 'don't do emotion', but it's not such a joke. When I write my first draft I'm focused on getting the plot running well, and making sure the action is fast and engaging. My characters' emotional reactions to things that are happening are glossed over. I'll occasionally remember to increase someone's heart-rate, but that's about it. They have a job to do and I want that job done quickly and efficiently.
It's only after the first draft is written that I read through it and think that it sounds a bit wooden. My critique group is very good at marking places and saying, "so how does he really feel".
So that's what I do on one of my editing runs. I read for emotional impact. If there's a high-energy scene that requires fast reaction time, my characters do that. Then I have to make sure they have time to debrief and work out exactly how they've been impacted emotionally by what's happened.
That's one of the conflicts I have when I write. People don't always have or take the time to debrief after they've gone through some trauma. Often, they just get on with life and some time down the track, when they've achieved some emotional distance, they begin to allow all the emotions they might have had but suppressed, rush over them.
Books aren't real life. Readers expect reactions for every action, and they expect them immediately, or close to. The only time a delayed reaction would be welcomed, would be when the trauma happened to the character before the book began.
That's the stage I'm at with Dragon God, the sequel to Warrior Pledge: layering in all the emotions that come with or after intense scenes. It is improving the story, but these few thousand words are harder work than the 100000 words that have come before them.
With Warrior Pledge, this kind of layering took me a few months to get right, but it worked. I'm hoping it won't take so long with Dragon God.
When my critique group first began setting yearly goals, we were all newbies with stars in our eyes. We all thought multi-book contracts weren’t only what we wanted but were achievable within a year. It’s one of those situations where you look back on it from a position of experience and wisdom and wonder at your naivety. We’ve got better at the goal setting, gradually adding in more acronyms until we’ve achieved a SMART model.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. I’ve found if I make my goals SMART, I have a better chance of achieving that goal.
Even so, we don’t always achieve what we aim for. Life happens, priorities change. Last year was one of those years where no one achieved all their goals. Most of us barely reached half.
Last year’s goals:
As you can see, I didn’t achieve all of them. In my defence, I did write a completely new book which I’m editing now. It’s the sequel to Warrior Pledge.
I also did the following:
I might not achieve all of this year’s goals either, as I have a pretty major personal thing coming up that’s going to be stressful, time-consuming and, if all goes well, absolutely wonderful.
These are my writing goals for 2017:
I've begun editing Dragon God. That's the new title for the book I've been writing--the sequel to Warrior Pledge. I've finished the story and have started looking for everything that needs to be fixed. It's not difficult to find things that need to be fixed.
I've done the first run through where I changed all the sentences that began with "So...". I changed most of the characters' names as well. Having too many character with names beginning with the same letter or with the same vowel sounds can be very confusing. Now I have a whole heap of character names that have two syllables. *sigh* I'll have another look at names later.
It was really difficult to change the main character's name because I've identified with him as Artemis. Unfortunately there's an Ardelle in Warrior Pledge and we meet her again in Dragon God so I couldn't have another name beginning with A. Artemis has gone through Truman and Eiledon, and is currently sitting with Gaelan. He might or might not remain that way.
I made notes throughout the writing of the book to try to make it easier for me to locate sections that needed work. In some ways, that's worked. The sections labelled 'sex scene' now have sex scenes written for them. The sections labelled 'this is weak' have now been strengthened.
There are other sections I've put something like 'check that this has been foreshadowed'. Those are the problem ones, because I then have to spend time finding exactly the right place to foreshadow what's going to happen later. Sometimes it only needs a sentence or two, but those sentences have to be in exactly the right place. While I'm searching for that 'exactly right' place, I find a whole heap of other things that need to be fixed.
You guessed it: distraction city.
I've used all my notes to make a list of things that have to be done, and am working my way through it, distractions notwithstanding.
My next job is to find the two paragraphs (perhaps more) that I wrote while I was asleep. To explain, I fell asleep at the keyboard and kept typing. Those paragraphs consist of one word sentences that might or might not make sense in the context of the story. That's today's job.
As inspiration, I have the picture I've used as inspiration for Gaelan. It's a purple dragon by Deligaris. I bought a copy of the print for my wall. It looks great.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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