Just a lot of random stuff today. No idea why.
I thought I might be coming down with something. A few people at work have been ill lately, coughing, sneezing, having upper respiratory infections, etc. So, not feeling 100% yesterday, I got a little nervous, and took a few doses of zinc gluconate to help.
Turns out, though, I was probably overreacting…again. We’ve had a pretty wet spring, and that means stuff like molds, mildew, and weeds got plenty of moisture to bloom. I saw clouds of stuff drifting around on the air currents, captured by the slant of sunlight this morning on my way to work. So, I feel fine, am not coughing or sneezing as much today, and don’t feel anything in the upper respiratory area. So either the zinc helped (a dubious claim at best), or it the symptoms came from allergies.
I suspect the latter, because I recalled feeling similar, and having sinus issues, last week. So eh. Whatever. I’m okay so far, and that’s enough for me to thank the Lord over, so I do.
Sometimes I get angry when my boss asks me to do something hard. My predecessor told him “that can’t be done” a lot, whenever he ran into something he couldn’t do, and I’ve tried not to be that way with him over the last almost five years. So when I tell him something is impossible, I expect him to take me at my word and stop badgering me over it.
/rant, I guess. But the only things I have left to finish is something which I felt is impossible – it involves changing the functional behavior of Microsoft Excel – and something I have no chance of doing before the deadline. So I’m not losing sleep over that.
Also, my job stopped being fun a little while ago. I can’t tell why, but it’s really disheartening. I think it could be fun again, but I have to have a little freedom to do things I want to do to improve how we work. Without that, I’m just going to continue being bored.
While jumping ship has certain appeals, I don’t know whether I’m far enough along my path as a developer to do that. I have a lot of gaps in my knowledge, and right now, filling them isn’t happening. Lots of reasons for that (see next topic), but I may have to bite the bullet. I just don’t know where to start. At least, when I started learning C#, I had a goal, a purpose, and a direction. I lack those prods to move me along.
And there’s still the matter of being limited by the corporation’s overall technology limitations. We need to use Internet Explorer 8, whereas most of the world still using IE is using IE version 11. And until our servers, which is where my web site lives, is updated to a more modern version of the Windows Server software, I can’t do much with our own site anyway.
I have no interest in being a Windows Network Administrator, but that’s what’s required to get the servers updated. That, and money we don’t have to, y’know, buy better stuff.
Also, I’m a little sick of looking at VBA code. But that’s just part of the job.
Okay, /rant for real this time.
Writing is fun again. I really enjoy this book so far. It’s amazing how much more free I feel writing without an outline. I have no idea, none whatsoever, where the story is going. My Constant Reader tells me it’s not on rails*. Not yet anyway. And every time I think I’m stuck, I back up, take a new run at the last 500 or 1000 words I wrote, and bam! Off and running again. It’s like magic.
Now, this is sort of embarrassing, for a couple of reasons. First, when I discovered stories had structure and acts and parts and pieces and bits, I realized why my writing to that point had been what it was. A classic example, which I’ve used more than once in explaining this new way of writing (for me), is the book I wrote in 2004, when I knew nothing whatever about the craft of writing.
I wrote the book until I felt something needed to happen. When I made that something happen, it sent the book in an entirely different direction. That direction was both predictable and without much of a tie to the opening of the book. And when I finished that book, it stank.
The only thing I did right when I wrote that book was to “do something” – turns out, that was the midpoint of the book. Indeed, something must happen there, and changing direction isn’t a bad idea. The execution, however, wasn’t grand. Or even good. Or, y’know…adequate.
So anyway, that book showed me I had instincts for what storytelling had to be. I honed those a bit in writing my online serial-cum-novel, Ghost Hunters, now called Spectral Analysis. I had other writers of greater skill tell me the instinct thing, I didn’t figure it out myself. I still missed on some important points, but when I looked back after learning about proper structure, I figured out what was wrong.
Flash forward to now. I’ve been outlining books for almost six years now. In that time, I’ve only written one, count ’em, one book, back in 2011. I used a fairly loose outline – all I did was find the five major milestones and write to them – and the book was finished in something like four months. Quick. I assumed that meant I’d hit my writing formula, the way I’d write my books forever.
Then, sometime in 2012, I found Dramatica’s mathematical and systematic approach to writing. Oh, did my left brain sing! Heavenly choruses rang while a beam of glory shone down on me, staring in wide-eyed wonder at the Dramatica grid.
I used that to plan a few ideas I had. And developed outlines for them. And even set them up as projects in my beloved Scrivener to complete. In one, maybe two, I actually wrote some narrative. But then…nothing.
Why? Here’s the method! Here’s the story! All I have to do is put the words down on the page. I already know what they have to say, just not the exact phrasing! How can this be?!
My Constant Reader reminded me again recently of why this is, but until I started this book, I didn’t fully embrace the truth of it.
The more detail and effort I put into planning a book, the more my creative voice believes that story is already written. It’s done. Finito, Writing it again? Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. So I’d stare at that horrible blinking cursor, and sigh, wondering why I had no inspiration.
Well, the new method I’ve adopted does a lot to alleviate the problems writing by the seat of one’s pants presents. For the exercise of restating them for myself, you get the “pleasure” of reading them again:
- Allows the story to be fresh, alive, vibrant, and surprising. If I as the writer don’t know where the story’s going, neither does the reader. So far, that’s the way it’s worked, so yay!
- Stops the writer from moving backward in their career by forcing them to produce only one draft – the final draft. This is done via “cycling” during each writing session, and it works really well. Better than I ever imagined it would. The draft I’m producing is the same draft, minus some copy editing, which will be published on the various self-publishing platforms. When I write “The End,” it really is.
- Satisfies the left brained control freak and critical voice by providing a reverse outline. This is key; adding what was just written to the reverse outline at the end of each session allows the writer to have a reference back to what they’re doing. You can find structural issues this way, or missing elements, timeline issues, missing characters, useless scenes, etc. It works just like an outline, but is built in reverse, and yes, it can help a writer stay on target. If, y’know, you have one.
So instead of the usual drafting, redrafting, and redrafting, writing, polishing, re-polishing, lather, rinse, repeat, so a book’s “never really done,” this method points and laughs at those things and goes off happily producing a finished product in a short period of time.
What do you do in this method? Well, as I’ve said before (but I’m going to say again because I like it):
- Write until a break is needed.
- Stop writing and add what you wrote to the reverse outline.
- Back up to the beginning of the new words at the next writing session and read through, correct any mistakes, rough wording, bad writing, etc. Then go forward again, until a break is needed (or, as in my case on weeknights, you run out of time and have to go to bed). Next session, repeat the process.
- Add the new stuff to the reverse outline.
- Repeat the process, over and over again.
It’s pretty amazing, and I can tell you, with the reverse outline and WriteMonkey‘s ability to create “bookmarks” to any place in the document, I’ve been able to quickly (!) move from one place in the manuscript to another. I can find stuff I did earlier in the book almost effortlessly. It’s been a boon toward ensuring I don’t have any mistakes, and for going back to add plants and such.
(You could do this with Word, too. It would work just fine. Problem with Word has been its inability to create a distraction-free environment. As soon as Microsoft adds that, I probably won’t use anything else to write. Sadly. I love Scrivener. I do.)
Okay, so despite writing into the dark (i.e., no outline, no plan), you’re still using a method, and it works great. I mean, jaw-dropping great. I wasn’t prepared for how awesome and fun this is, at all.
Why is it embarrassing, then?
Because for about five years I railed, and I mean hard, about how unprofessional and foolish, how big a time waster, how much a tail-chase, writing without either a plan (less specific) or an outline (more specific) of some level of detail is. How stupid it is to draft and re-draft, when one shot and some clean-up was so possible. And my writer acquaintances, who all write without an outline or plan it seemed, got defensive first, then walked away from me.
(The need to be anointed by the traditional publishing industry was another bone of contention; I still maintain that is a stupid thing to do, for a lot of reasons.)
And now, here I am, discovering the joy of writing into the dark, of “pantsing” for all intents and purposes (or, as the Internet says, “for all intensive purposes” – shudder). And liking it.
I’ve publicly apologized to those acquaintances here before, but I will again. I’m sorry I was so vehemently against your way of creating. I am. I’m still against the constant drafting and re-drafting, the constant polishing, the constant re-working. But with this method, we have the best of all worlds. I can only encourage others to try it, see if it doesn’t speed your process, and stop looking back, which is all writing and re-writing does – hold you back, keep you from going forward, on to the next book. Put your best words down, then clean them to the best of your ability today, and tomorrow, start new words and let your older books be historical markers to where you were in your writer’s journey. Move on.
(Since none of those folks read my blog anymore, that apology and encouragement will never reach them. I wonder if I should offer the olive branch by going to their blogs and saying it?)
So, there you have it. What’s up with me right now. How’s it by you?
* – “On rails” means the story is predictable; like a tram or train, it can only go where the rails allow, so a story “on rails” doesn’t really need to be read/finished because the reader already knows how it ends.