Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A Writing 101 Production - Part 9 Dreaming of a Whip for the W.I.P?

These Mythic Interviews are fab, but you've missed my Writing 101 Productions,haven't you?  HAVEN'T YOU? Well, even if you haven't let's move straight on to that essential thing...
The Work In Progress.
Let's call it the WIP--less typing.  You're a writer--you have one. Maybe you even have several on the boil at once.  I definitely do. So, as Meryl Streep would say:
What's My Motivation To Keep On Writing It/Them?
Well, obviously there's the small matter of earning some sort of living. But that's a whole other post, so let's ask instead:
What Gets Me Out of Bed To Write The WIP?
Here's the thing. Sometimes I don't.  Get out of bed, that is.  Because writing isn't all tap tap tap on the keyboard.  For me, bursts of physical working on the WIPs alternate with long periods of pyjama-clad silent thinking about stuff--dreaming if you like.  This is the hardest bit of writing to justify to people who don't do it.  I mean, dreaming, for goodness' sake?  You're not seriously expecting us to believe that's work? Get a life, woman! But 'Yes!' I cry, 'It is work.' Do the maths.  Even if I write only 2000 words a day (quite manageable, really), 5 days a week, that's a 60,000 word novel in 6 weeks.  So why does it take me at least a year, then?  What do I do with the other 46 weeks? I could write 8 novels a year on this calculation, and still have time left over for holidays?  Why don't I?

Well, for a start they'd be crap books. I can't speak for how other writers work, but every book has its own rhythm, and for me 'dreaming time' is a big part of that.  Most people don't work in the car while driving.  I do.  I find that the dreaming, problem-solving part of my mind is freed by the act of rolling along the road.  One part of me is noting the other cars, and calculating distance and changing gears and steering and all that mechanical stuff.  The other side (and it sits quite precisely on the left, at the front of my brain) works out plot.  Sometimes, when I come to the end of a long journey I have to scribble and scribble before I get out, just to get the ideas down before they run away. And yes, before you go and ask, I am a VERY safe driver in spite of all this multitasking.  I might be able to do it faster, but it wouldn't be as good--I want to make every book of mine the best it can be.  That takes a year--and for some books more.

So, what's all this with several WIPs? Well, here's the thing.  My brain is coming up with ideas all the time (see above).  Think of it like a painter with canvases.  Some are blank; some are small, some are large; some have a few lines; some are blocked out with most of the landscape; some just need the finishing touches of colour.  I move from one to the other, adding a bit here and a bit there, so they all progress--some faster than others.  Sometimes one will go wrong, and I'll paint over it completely. Sometimes I'll be stuck on where a particular figure should go, and I'll put it away in the rack for a while till inspiration strikes again. 

What about that Whip you mentioned? Ah yes, the Whip for the WIP.  Perhaps if someone came behind me with a real whip, the WIPs would go faster (though I'd be more than likely to rip it out of their hand and bite them)...but all I really need is one word:
Deadline  I'm funny about contractual deadlines, see.  I like to keep to them once I'm lucky enough to have a signed contract with a date in it.  That particular WIP will take up all my mind and my energy, from the time I sign on the dotted line, and that's all the whip I need.  But by the time I've got to the part where the D-word is set in stone, most of the real proper work has already been done. And yes, that would be the work of dreaming.

See all my other Very Useful and Eccentric Writing 101 Productions

Part 1 An Overview of Author Platforms
Part 2 Author Platforms (Facebook)
Part 3 Writing Resolutions
Part 4 Spambush or Tweettack?
Part 5 To Plunge or to Plan?
Part 6 Blogging Lessons
Part 7 Writer's Block (Feel the Fear)
Part 8 Stuff that Helps Me Write


Jo Treggiari said...

I definitely spend as much or more time away from the computer working on a WIP as I do in front of the screen. I work out many things on my daily hikes. Sometimes I just need to read lots of books, eat chocolate, and prior to two young children, take lots of naps. There's a difference between procrastinating and loosening up the part of your brain that creates. It might look as if I am doing nothing, but inside the gears are revolving like mad. I also think that a story needs to emerge in its own time, to a certain extent. If it's forced I just end up with lots of rubbishy pages.

Lucy Coats said...

"It might look as if I am doing nothing" and therein lies the rub! If you find a really excellent way of explaining this to family which actually works, please share it! I haven't succeeded so far, despite my best efforts over 19 years of trying. They still don't really believe me, so I just tell them to go away and shut up now!

Pen said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm new here. Love the blog.

This is so how I work - the dreaming aspect anyway. I'm not so good at the multi-project thing.

Dreaming = story-building!

Lucy Coats said...

Pen--welcome to SCC and so glad you like it. Perhaps I should have dreaming=storybuilding equation made into a banner and hung over my bed. Still not sure the Wanton Toast Eating husband would be impressed though!

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

Ah, a wolf, I mean, writer, after my own heart! And yes, yes, I did miss the Writing 101 Productions!
Tell me, do you think you could come and explain this dreaming, pyjama clad business to several of my acquaintance...?

Lucy Coats said...

Nicky--most certainly I could come and explain. The very next time I come over to SA!

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