Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Slow And Steady Wins ... The Race?

It’s been a little quiet round here this week! “Life” is keeping all of us busy, and/or distracted, or, as in my case, both …

See, once the holidays end and the kids head back to school, I’m usually back in my writing routine in a flash. This time round, though, something’s gone awry. The kids have been at school four weeks now, but I am yet to get my rhythm.

Sure, I’ve been crazy-busy with matters other than writing – organizing Child #3’s sixth birthday party; recovering from said birthday party (who knew thirteen, six-year-old girls could wreak such havoc on the house?); then the scads of August birthdays in our immediate families – eight of them! – and the attendant present buying and socializing … throw in a few school assemblies, hearing reading at school, and having kids home sick, and I’ve been flat out.

But that’s really not the problem.

See, I’ve discovered just how shitty my SFD really is.

With my first go-through in revising my manuscript, I got through 53K … and concluded it sucked.

Second time round I hit 31K and pulled the pin. And again with my third go-through …

That’s when I opened up Scrivener. I needed to get a handle on the shape of my book, the flow of scenes, and as it’s too long to print out (cough, I know, that’s another problem), I turned to Scrivener. It’s brilliant. Scrivener allows you to “see” the whole book, by outline, or index cards, and you can shove notes here there and everywhere to be picked up when you come back to write or revise a scene … well, I won’t bore you with the details, but trust me, it is a brilliant piece of writing software.

So, I’ve spent the last two weeks using Scrivener to basically re-outline my book. I’ve discarded a lot, tried to increase the stakes, tried to weave plots together as tightly as I can, with the result that I’m now fairly happy with Act One, Act Two still needs pruning, and the rest is looking OK but much has to be re-written …

The bottom line is I still have a crapton of work ahead of me. But I’m not daunted.

Should I be? Am I being pig-headed? Am I blinkered to the fact that this book is broken, and nothing I can do will fix it? Or, worse, am I stuck in some endless, psychological rut with this book and can’t let it go, can’t admit defeat?

No. See, learning to write is as much about learning how you tick as it is about learning the craft. And what the last years have taught me is that I’m the slow and steady type of writer … because that’s just me.

When I started my law degree, I wasn’t daunted by the fact that I’d have to study full-time for six years before I got the pay-off of being a lawyer. I could delay that gratification (such as it was, in the end. Ahem.) and plug away until I got there. And earlier this year, after indulging a little too much over the Christmas holidays, I decided I had to shed the excess kilos I was carrying around. Again, I just couldn’t face the quick-fix, the lemon detox, no wine or chocolate ever again type of diet (God, I would have gone INSANE! ) So I concocted my own, slow and steady, but doable, regime – half-arsed sticking to Weight Watchers for 4 or 5 days a week, exercising for a measly half hour, 4-5 days a week … and though it’s taken 6 months, I’ve lost 5 kilos (11 pounds, for you imperial measurement-types.) And maybe, before the end of the year, I’ll be back to the weight I was before I had kids.

So that’s me. The tortoise. Slow, but I get there in the end. And I’m glad I’m far enough into my writing journey that I can see it, acknowledge it, and make it work for me. I might not ever be the “bang out a novel in six months” writer (though I hope having written one book means the next book comes out just a wee bit quicker) ... but that’s just fine.


  1. Rachel - I started my first book in 2000 and finished it, really finished it as in polished and ready to go out of the door in 2008. So yeah, slow.

    S-L-O-W. But I didn't mind. I was learning how to write a novel. I was learning craft, researching techniques, plotting, gaining confidence, etc. I consider that book my writing college. Not my masters, though... :) Frankly, I still have a lot to learn. THe moment I stop thinking I do, I'm probably in a heap of trouble.

  2. Kristen, that's exactly how I see it. I know that not only do I have a ton of work to do before this book is done, I also have a ton to *learn*. And keep on learning ...

    It's a good thing that I love this writing gig. :-)

  3. Maybe I shouldn't feel so badly then... It took me a little over 2 years to finish Austin's story, and I've already been plugging away at Rose's for a year. Why do I feel like I need to rush?

  4. I'm like the rabbit who got winded before hitting the actual finish line. (sheepish grin) I started with a BANG with FI and have been floundering around with it FOREVER. So yeah, nothing wrong with slow and steady... you'll likely finish before I do! LOL.

    Oh well, to each his own pace. We'll all get there when we're ready to. :)