Lessons Learned: Letting the Brain Ease

I’m sure many of you are impatiently waiting for me to post something.  I did mean to yesterday, but after wrestling all evening with the book, I was worn out.  I’m worn out tonight too, for some of the same reasons, but not as badly, so here I am, typing away at something other than the book.

Don’t get me wrong, things are going well on draft 2 of Dark Mirror.  Monday was fantastic, despite being ill most of the day, got 5,424 words in.  But I might have overdone it a little with that much on a weekday.  Yesterday, I had a lot of trouble concentrating and it really was a struggle to get anything done.  The numbers don’t really reflect that, with me adding 3,317 words to the draft, but believe me, it was somewhat painful and I was exhausted and drained when I finally called it a night.  Tonight, the same, tired and feeling like I wanted to take a break from the moment I sat down with the netbook.  After an hour and a half and only getting about 400 words down, I decided to do something I’ve done for a long time, I listened to my body and brain.  I usually do that when it’s sending a clear, strong signal, which it has been doing since yesterday.

You see, the problem is that I had finished the whole God of War series (the three main games at least) and I had previously been using that as a way to give my brain a break between writing spurts through most of NaNo and all of the current writing binge (until a few days ago).  But when I finished it, I didn’t grab any of my other games to take it’s place.  Between that lack of non-writing and non-thinking-about-writing time and the higher bar I set for myself as pace this time, I was focusing entirely on writing, feeling I had to Always Be Writing if I was at home with my netbook.  Too much for my brain, which was on the verge of shorting out I think.  So I popped one of the GoW series back in and let myself go back to alternately bashing the keyboard and bashing pixels.  And it worked.  At this point, I’ve written 2,729 words, and I’ll probably go back and get myself to 3k, if I can keep my brain going that long.  Even if I don’t, that’s not bad for spending almost the first third of my evening struggling and getting nowhere.  So I’m going to let that be a lesson to me.  Take breaks, stop writing for a bit, let the brain think about something else or not think at all, or I’m going to run into problems.

All this writing brings me to a current total of 28,548 words, which actually puts me about 4.5 days ahead of schedule, and I haven’t even gotten to my vacation yet.  I’m glad I’ve learned this lesson before the vacation though, or I might have either driven myself nuts or derailed myself entirely, either being a bad thing.

I’ve also had a few nice little insights in the last few days, one of which made it onto the wall with the other two that were already there.  Again, it’s one that seems basic, until you add the little asterisk, that is.  Every character in the story needs a motive*, whether you talk about it or not and as the writer you need to be aware of what it is and how it shapes their reactions.  What, you ask, does that asterisk mean?  Simple, that “just because it’s convenient for the writer that things happen this way” doesn’t count as a motive.  It’s easy to sit there and let that be enough.  “Yes, the supporting character tells them to go seek so-and-so because that’s where I need them to go.”  Doesn’t it sound crappy as a motive when you put it that bluntly?  I think so.  It’s making me examine why my characters are doing things as I do this rewrite, and it’s shaping some of the things that happen a little differently than I planned.  But again, it’s in the service of a better story, so I’m fine with that.  The others are story-specific, so I won’t be getting into them, but they were things I needed to figure out.

At this point, I am starting to worry about the final length of the draft.  I’m almost to 30k words and while having my two main protagonists together much earlier this time is good, there’s more story to tell in many ways, and if I’m not careful, this might end up being too long for traditional publication, which would be my preferred path.  I’m still planning on letting it be as long as it needs to in this draft, since it’s essentially take 2 of the first draft, despite the numbering, don’t worry.  But when you’re on entry 9 of 37 in your outline at almost 30k, you start to wonder how long this is going to be.  That said, some entries are longer than others, some more detailed than others.  My outlines seem to become more detailed with every entry I add, so maybe it won’t be so bad.  I’m about to introduce the remaining two major support characters, so things are getting ready to jump off in a big way I think, which is a good place to be so close to a 10-day period with no work.  As it is, I suspect that Friday will be a half-day at work.  It was last year, and I see no reason they won’t do it again this year.  I will be posting in my usual semi-regular pattern during that period, in case you were wondering.

Okay, enough for now on the blog.  I need some sleep at some point, or I really will be totally dysfunctional.  As it is, you have no idea how many starts it took me to remember how to spell dysfunctional.  :p


About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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2 Responses to Lessons Learned: Letting the Brain Ease

  1. ottabelle says:

    Every character in the story needs a motive*

    Thanks for that.
    I need to remember.

    • Julie says:

      Thanks for the comment, Ottabelle. It was a major enough insight that I wanted to share. I keep thinking that if all of us writers on the blogosphere who are learning the craft share the lessons we learn and insights we have, we’ll all be wise pros in no time!

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