Wednesday, July 29, 2009
There are a couple things that I think help a writer actually do the work -- attitude and focus. I talk about attitude on the FM boards quite a bit. Attitude can be a huge factor in how you work and how hard it is to get work done. If you go into something convinced that it is horrible, difficult, impossible work and everything you create will be crap ... well, guess what? You have just created your own expectations. That's what you're going to do, and you're going to suffer for every word of it.
If you go into writing expecting it to be work but exciting, and that you are going to tell a great story that will likely need additional work later, but is still going to be a good first draft to work with, then you're more likely to write something that will fit those expectations.
In fact, in both cases the story may be very much the same, but since you've already convinced yourself of what you're going to get, you aren't going to look at it with any hope. I see this happen all the time. The person convinces themselves that what they're writing is horrible and there is no hope for it, so they never even try to improve it.
It's back to that Puritan ethic problem : If something isn't hard work and miserable, it isn't real work. If it isn't real work, then it isn't important. So writers will do their best to prove that they are working hard and that they couldn't possibly enjoy this, because we all know that no one enjoys real work, either.
My suggestion, seriously, is to get over it. It's still going to be very hard work. You are allowed to enjoy the work of creating stories, though. And you're allowed to write things that are going to take more work later to make them right.
That brings me to a second thing I think writers need: Focus. If you continually let yourself get sidetracked by everything that comes along (new stories, email, laundry), then you're not going to get much actual work done. There are times when you have to do some outside things, but not all the time. Once you commit yourself to focusing on a story and actually writing, it starts becoming easier to do it again and again. Focus has another side benefit: once you train yourself to focus on the work at hand, it's actually far easier to fall back into the work each time. That not only means you're likely to get more work done, but you're going to stay more connected to the story and it will be more coherent.
There are so many little tricks outside of learning to write well that can help sometimes. I've found that something as simple as changing the font now and then can make a difference because the material stops all looking alike. You can always format back to standard submission guidelines in about five minutes.
Anyway, time for me to get back to work! Below is the first draft start to a little story I'm working on and that I hope to have done tonight or tomorrow. Not much here, but I think it's a good start!
The Last of the Bad Luck Porters
There wasn't much to see the day Rabbit left the village and he didn't go looking for an adventure. He left to save his life, hoping to find a place where no one knew him or his family. He hoped for a job -- just enough to pay him for a cheap meal now and again. He'd given up hope of anything better years ago.
Lucky to be alive, he supposed, considering the fate of his late --and very much unlamented -- uncle. He would not go to the hanging. Instead, while everyone else in the village gathered in the green, he grabbed the small bag that contained his clothing (and a couple of Uncle Dirk's better things) and prepared to walk away, and get clear of the family name.
No one thought good of the Porters, and with good cause. His father had died in forced labor to pay off gambling debts. His mother had run off with another man, and they'd both died when the man's brother-in-law caught up with them.
Today they would hang his Uncle Dirk for killing Lord Willis's middle son in a drunken brawl.
A fourteen year old with a family background like that had to wonder about his own future. He wondered if he could, maybe, get away from here and the trouble that followed the Porters.
He slipped out of the room he'd lived in with his uncle for the last three years, a fetid little corner on the lower level of a block house too near the tannery. It always stank. But it had been a roof and solid walls to protect against the weather and the shadow men at night.
Rabbit found Sara sitting on the steps out front and chewing on a stick as she watched a bug on the street. Her belly pressed tight against her skirt -- his uncle's child, he thought, though she never said. He wondered if that wasn't why she didn't go to the hanging.
"Get to the room and take what you want before the others get to it," he said.
She nodded. He turned and walked away.
He hoped that getting away from Williston Keep would give him a better chance at making a life. He didn't exactly know what better might be, having seen so little of it in his own life. But he left looking for it anyway.
But he didn't walk away fast enough. He heard the cry go up, a wordless shout followed by a moment of silence; the stillness as a life ended on the gallows.
He hurried faster.