Sunday, May 15, 2011

A writing weekend

Long weeks just aren't going to go away.  That's actually a good thing as well as a bad one.  Crazy as this may sound, part of what I love about my job is how hard I have to work to succeed at it.  I have some clearly defined (to me, anyway) parameters for success, and it feels good when I leave, usually late enough that it's after dark, having accomplished enough to call it a successful day.  Unfortunately, that means I don't get to write as much as I'd like...or to do other things, like spending time with my family, as much as I'd like. 

It's a double-whammy, then, when I come home from a long day at work and have research to do before I can write anything.  Now, I know I've said I love to research, and I do.  But I'm a parameter-driven guy, and the most obvious parameter for measuring the success of a day of writing is word count.  I've blogged about it very early on, in fact, and even added it as part of the footer to each blog post as a way of motivating myself.  I go for a minimum, usually, of 1,000 words in a day, and I call it a good day when I get over 2,000.  That level of effort works out to a certain size of novel within a certain number of months, true, but it doesn't matter.  What matters, to me, is setting a reasonable goal and then reaching it.  A goal of 1,000/2,000 seems good to me, so it's what I've set. 

Problem is, being a numbers-driven anal-retentive Hun as I am, if I consistently (consistently being at least twice) fall short of my goals it gets me down.  Yes, I know, intellectually at least, that when much of my writing time is devoted to research, my goal for production is going to have to slip a little.  But that doesn't mean I have to like it.  And when I'm already getting beaten up at work, and then beaten up by my own goal in writing, it makes for a long, long, long week.  Don't feel bad for me; we all have long weeks, after all.  But this has been mine.

See, research, for me at least, and to qualify it again: in fiction, at least, doesn't happen like I would've expected it to.  The way I do research for academic papers is go out, study what I need to study, gather the quotes and data I need to back up my points (that I already know I'm going to make), and then get down to writing.  Very seldom do I find a need to research once I begin the writing.  Thus, I can set reasonable pre-defined parametric goals for myself.  In fiction, though, I don't even really know for certain what to research until I'm writing.  I've not got the story planned out, outlined with points I, then A, then B, then (1) and then (2).  No, I enjoy writing by looking ahead and figuring out where the story needs to go, and then discovering it as it flows.  Thus, it's not rare for me to write a hundred words or so and stop to try to figure something out.  It's a method that lends itself well to my enjoyment of the writing efforts, but not so much to the goal-setting process. 

That makes it all the better, then, when everything comes together on a weekend.  Yesterday morning I sat down to write, since the research work was done.  Everything I needed for the story that I didn't already know about blacksmithing, I had filled in through books and web sites and videos.  It brought a special and especially gratifying feeling, then, to be able to just sit and tell the story.  It just flowed onto the page...pages, actually.  Ten thousand words is a lot of pages.  And it twisted a bit...I discovered a really cool little side twist last night that I was excited to commit to paper.  It'll make the next part a little more complicated, made me happy. 

Off to write more today!  But first...a little research, this time in hand to hand combat techniques. 

Word Count: 62,881

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