Monday Motivation: Is early January too soon to panic?
This is the first piece I’ve written in this brand-new, fresh-out-of-the-box 2019. I’m in trouble. But it’s not the first time I’ve been here. I seem to remember that I face the same problem every January: what am I to write about?
It is, of course, a problem that all writers face from time to time. Your story has reached a fork. Your hero has to make a decision.
Or, worse: you’ve explored the implications of the choice your hero has already made… Your story has forthrightly taken a turn, and you’ve thought through what comes next and you’ve written that bit…
That’s precisely where I am now, on January 10. (And the thought of committing myself to writing fifty or so Monday Motivations over the course of the next twelve months fills me with mild panic.)
But that’s where all writers often find themselves. The thought of filling ten pages… or a hundred pages… or three hundred pages, fills us all with mild? desperate? teeth-rattling? panic.
So what advice would I give you – and that I can take myself?
Well, the first advice I’d give you/me, is that writing is never easy. I was reading just a day or two ago that David Chase, who invented The Sopranos, would insist that his team of writers think of ten ideas for each episode and discard them all before settling on an eleventh. The theory behind this apparent madness is that all the immediate ideas we have for…
… A scene…
… A plot twist…
… A beginning…
… An ending…
… The business of a scene…
… are crap/derivative/clichéd/obvious. And that we have to scratch our heads for the idea that is sparkling/fresh/surprising/illuminating.
And an observation that emerges from that last piece of advice is this: there are an infinite number of ideas out there waiting to be claimed. It’s true that many of them are crap/derivative etc, but a small fraction are sparkling/fresh etc. (And remember that a small fraction of an infinite number is also infinite. Ask any mathematician.)
Which places, I fear, an enormous burden on each of us: if there is an infinite number of good ideas for scenes/plot twists, etc then if we willfully choose a crap one, then it’s all on us, people. If we’d only devoted a little more thought to the matter, we could have come up with something better. Mmm. Sobering thought.
Second piece of advice: small steps are (infinitely) better than no steps. Sorry. This is so obvious that I feel embarrassed even noting it. But it arises because as one of my resolutions for 2019, I have determined to finish a children’s book that I’ve been working on intermittently for some time. I’ve called it, provisionally, Halflife. It’s a difficult story to tell, because although I know the destination, in very rough terms, I’m not at all certain about the story that should drive the reader through the middle of the book.
So, setting aside all my doubts, I have decided that I should spend an hour a day on Halflife. I haven’t given myself a word-count target, because much of the work involved concerns story development. But I reckon that once I’ve solved some of the story problems, I should be able to write about 500 words a day. And so if, on average, I plot story every second day, and write on the in-between days, I should average 250 words a day.
Mmm. Not very ambitious was my first thought. But then I did the maths, and, hey, 250 words a day translates into 5000 words a month, or thereabouts… or 60 000 words over the course of the year. Mmm. That sounds okay. And because I know that you’re running fastest over the final straight, I don’t doubt that 60 000 will becomes 75 000.
I’ll keep you abreast of progress over the months, and share some of the problems and solutions I encounter and devise as I go.
So there you have it. A new year, and two simple observations, which I reckon will help keep me focused. And might be of marginal utility to you, too.
Read Jo-Anne’s latest blog: ‘Writing Secrets: Putting the intentions into practice‘
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