A Writing Uniform?

FedoraThe most recent episode of Writing Excuses introduced me to the concept of a “writer’s uniform.” I think they were referring to the clothing an author wears while conducting writer business, but I am thinking about it in terms of clothing to wear while writing.

In general, I don’t particularly like dressing up. But I have to admit that the act of putting on business casual attire does make me “feel” more like a professional in the ol’ day job. So I’m wondering if there is an outfit I could wear that would make me “feel” more like writing.

I say this because I’m still struggling to write. I’m improving, though: I actually want to write this story again, but now I’m struggling with “finding the time.” (Although if I’m going to be truthful with myself, it’s not so much a matter of “finding the time” as it is “giving up distractions.”)

So I’m wondering if changing my clothes would help. After all, if I take the time to dress up, I surely wouldn’t want to waste that effort by goofing off. But what kind of clothes would I wear? Not jeans, because I don’t like sitting in jeans for long periods of time, but not Dockers either. Some kind of button-down shirt but nothing fancy. According to Writing Excuses, Hawaiian shirts are popular with authors now, but I am not a fan of those. Maybe a hat. Yeah, maybe that’s the ticket. A writing hat.

Update on the Lack of Writing

Since it’s now March I should probably write an update. I am still struggling with writing, and failing miserably. This is the result of many factors which are incredibly easy to identify, but not very easy to resolve.

The first is NaNoWriMo. I’m wondering if I should skip it in the future, because the blitz of writing during that one month has always been followed by a period of severe burn-out which is hard to recover from. As it is now three months later, that’s probably the least of my problems.

The second is that I’ve been moving a lot of stuff from one house to another over the past month, which has eaten into my time and energy. This is a pretty flimsy excuse, because really, even with only a half-hour a day, you can write something.

The third is a more weirder thing and the most hardest to deal with, and it’s a direct result of the marathon of Wheel of Time audiobooks I listened to. See, I live alone now, so the house is usually dead quiet. But while I was listening to those audiobooks for weeks on end, I got used to hearing voices all the time, and when I finished, I discovered (or re-discovered, because this has happened before) that the quiet of the house is extremely unsettling, especially after dark. So now, to stave off the willies, almost as soon as I get home I turn on something with voices, be it an audiobook, podcast, Netflix, or YouTube. I’m not sure if it’s fear of silence or fear of being alone or some combination thereof.

Unfortunately it impacts my writing because it’s basically impossible for me to concentrate whenever I can hear people speaking, particularly if they are narrating or acting in a story. My brain seems to zero in on the voices and process them automatically no matter what else I’m trying to do at the same time. It’s the same with singing. I can’t write while listening to any kind of songs with vocals, or podcasts. I always have to put on instrumental music or nothing.

So… there’s that. Periodically I try to turn everything off and return to writing, but so far I haven’t gotten more than a hundred words down before giving up in disgust. And somehow it feels worse to only write a few words than it does to write nothing.

Dissecting What Went Wrong

In the continuing saga of what to do with Airworld, I believe I have figured out why I don’t particularly want to continue it.

Somewhere along the way, the story stopped being fun to write.

It seems pretty obvious in retrospect. If it was fun to write, obviously I’d still be writing it. But what happened? This exact thing was something that Rachel Aaron addressed in her NaNoWriMo question-and-answer thread again and again. She advised not to continue writing something that wasn’t fun. She also advised that you should figure out why it isn’t fun to write, because it probably indicates a problem that needs to be fixed.

So after some thought, I think I know exactly when it stopped being fun: It was November 16, at the precise moment when Falclef rescued Naobi from the trial in Leavon.

I recall thinking at the time that there was something “off” about that rescue. I now realize what the problem was. Up until that point, Naobi was driving the story. She made the decisions that moved the plot along, be they good, bad, or indifferent. But when Falclef came along, she was helplessly carried away into a whole new setting and a whole new situation, getting tangled up with a rebel Order faction fighting a bigger war.

In my attempts to outline the rest of the story, I came up with a plot that took Naobi and Cheton away from Koerl and Falclef and that whole faction of rebel Order folk. I was overjoyed to get them back on their own, and now I realize that it’s because the rebel Order war with Dark Horizon is a whole different story.

Whew. Glad I figured that out.

Now I just need to figure out how to fix it.

Finished A Memory of Light

The Third Age is finally over. I powered through books 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 all in a row, which has left me exhausted, yet exalted.

Say what you want about it, but you can’t deny that The Wheel of Time is EPIC. I quipped on Facebook that they should retire the category of “epic fantasy” after this because nobody else could possibly write anything as epic. I’m trying to think of anything I’ve read that had a similar scope. Lord of the Rings, obviously, but that was only three tiny, tiny books. The only other books I can think of (that I’ve read) that came close in terms of sheer immersion were Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and possibly The Sword of Shannara, which I remember as incredibly epic in scope, even though it was only one book, and I read it when I was a teenager.

Wheel of Time completely dwarfed those two in terms of sheer complexity. The Last Battle. Wow. It was pure shock and awe in terms of how all of the plots and factions and characters wove together. As an aspiring author, I now feel like a toddler playing with plastic blocks.

It was bittersweet to read the Epilogue. Knowing it was the late Robert Jordan’s words. The end of the series. The last time I’d be seeing these characters. Knowing there would be no more, even though you could sense that the aftermath could fill many more books. And there are many things to be discussed. But alas, no more questions, no more answers. I picked up this series late in life. I can’t imagine what the people who have literally been with these characters all their lives must feel.

What Would a Professional Do

So yeah, I’m still stuck on Airworld. The main obstacle I think is my complete lack of confidence in the outline I have sketched out for the rest of the book. It sounds like it will be terrible. Nothing makes sense, nobody is anywhere for a reason, entire plotlines are pointless and stupid. And what’s worse, according to my 3-books-a-year schedule, I should be starting a new book in February. That’s less than a month away, if you’re somehow unable to look at a calendar.

Let’s look at this like a professional writer. Let’s imagine that I’m under contract to deliver the first draft of a book by February 1. What would I do?

Well, I’d finish the book, that’s what. Because if I didn’t, I would develop a reputation as one of those temperamental writers who is hard to work with, and that’s probably not good, particularly for a new author. Seems pretty simple and straightforward.

Does it matter if I deliver a book with a sucky ending? My internal editor screams, “Of course it matters! Your entire life and reputation is riding on this!!” That’s probably not exactly true. But still, as someone who is supposed to be a pro, it’s not ideal. My theoretical publisher is probably expecting something they can sell. But then it’s still a first draft, the worst version of any book. I certainly wouldn’t be the first author to write a lame ending. Perhaps a theoretical editor could provide some tips to make it better. It’s also remotely possible that it’s not as bad as I think. Unlikely, but possible.

Okay, well that was easy. A pro would write the ending, deliver it, and move on.

But now let’s look at it from the view of an aspiring author who’s never published anything. Which is very realistic because that’s what I am.

My business goal right now is enticing an agent to represent me. That means I need to send out query letters. That does NOT mean I need to send out full manuscripts. If an agent is intrigued by a query letter, they will probably want to see only the first few chapters as a sample, NOT the full manuscript. They might also want a summary of the entire book. But if an agent is intrigued they will eventually want the full manuscript, so I should have it finished and ready to deliver, even if it still needs work.

So I still need to write an ending. However, re-writing the first few chapters is far more important at this point. Which means I should hurry up and finish the ending, then spend a little time revising the beginning. Then write queries. Then move on to the next project.