Thursday, April 21, 2011

Writing: Find The Sweet Spot

The last couple of months have been, as you can imagine, a little difficult when it comes to my writing.

I know some writers deal with difficult circumstances in different ways: some use their work as a way to power through; others absolutely fall apart. I think I did better than I expected - I was fully expecting a complete crash in productivity and there was a moment or two where I questioned what the hell I was doing, but I knew that was just the stress talking.

In the first couple of weeks I solely focused on the incomings and outgoings - keeping my submissions rolling after a rejection. Three to four weeks in I was happy to do a bit of editing and rewriting of older manuscripts and I got a couple more stories out on the slush piles that way.

The last three weeks have seen my productivity pick up, and I'm really pleased: I finished a story I started just before the quake (after three false starts); I started rewriting an old story in a completely fresh way (using some concepts and ideas I've picked up since I originally wrote it); I rewrote and submitted a piece for a competition (then after rejection rejigged it); and just this week I got my old Writer Monday back to good form by completing a first draft of a story in one sitting.

Writing all this down, thinking about it, suddenly makes me realize how much I've got done even in a stressful time. I know it's not working on a novel, or 3000 words a day, but I've done something where I thought I couldn't, and that's a real boost to me, the eternal procrastinator.

In the last couple of months, perhaps because I wasn't worrying about my technique (I worry constantly if I'll ever get better), things have clicked a little better into place. I think this comes down to three things: I had a punchy opening line (I LOVE punchy openers); I wrote copious notes about the theme, characters and worlds; and I had a clear place to finish (I have this habit of wanting to be a bit obfuscatey/obscure sometimes). What I didn't do though was plot completely. I have this thing about being a "loose planner" - I let the world and characters drive things, which took my notes in fun and fresh directions.

Another thing I noticed about these three recent stories is that subtlety seems to be creeping in, and it makes for a better reading experience. I'm not hitting the reader over the head with the theme, or how to feel about the problem/character. I attribute this change in my technique to sheer hard work and persistence. I've written some clangers in the last year and been about as subtle as a brick some times. Now, perhaps, my good vs bad stories are going to become less haphazard as I discover the good parts of my writing voice, and what style of SFF I'm better at.

I have always been about writing sociological SFF, but I've gone a bit softer than I originally intended. I want to write some fun Space Opera and harder SF, but I'm a little scared of it - I don't want to muck up the facts (make myself look silly, like I don't know my science). I could probably resolve this issue by taking up some research techniques - I need to start reading science journals and articles more.

I am more than happy though with my exploration of gender and various -isms. I know I still have a long way to go to put aside my privileges, and I want to learn and explore a lot more. I hope I don't let people down or do any harm with these explorations. If I do, I fully deserve a good dressing down about it.
It's all about finding my Writing Sweet Spot: getting a good writing groove going on and being in the zone; being so enthusiastic about a story that I'm thinking about it all the time to almost all exclusion of all else until I've tweaked it to perfection; and ultimately really pleased with what I've written...

...then waiting for rejections and feedback to kick my ass. feet

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