Getting to the Point

by Autumn M. Birt

I’ve been working hard on the final book to my epic fantasy series, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Things have been flowing good, but a few weeks back I was typing away and hit a wall.

It wasn’t writer’s block.

I’d just started a new chapter and it wasn’t flowing. I picked and prodded, typing notes to myself more than really writing. What I ended up typing after a few minutes was this:

Writing with purpose

That really summed up my feelings at that moment. I had no idea why that chapter was supposed to be there. I knew it HAD to be there for a variety of reasons: pacing, character development, so forth. But what it added to the entire arc of the story… I had no concept.

That is why I said it was’t writer’s block. I’ve dealt with that before and have learned quite a few tricks. Usually, if I start describing what the character is seeing, the weather, or make the characters talk to each other. Everything gets going again. I can delete the bits I don’t need later, no problem. Usually it isn’t too many wasted electrons.

But when it comes to a whole chapter that I truly feel needs to be there but can’t fathom how it progresses the actual story one iota… well, then I get stumped.

The advice to ‘just write!’ is great, but isn’t entirely realistic. Like so many other indie authors, writing for me isn’t a full time gig. I have a full time job, a husband, family, a house (which we finally moved into btw). On an average week, I can cobble together eight hours of writing time. That is in bits and pieces, usually at least half an hour, but sometimes less. I actually get a little gun shy when I find over an hour and a half of solid time that is empty of commitments and I am free to write. It gives me a nagging feeling that I’m forgetting to do something (like cook dinner). Hmmm….

Sure, if you look at the basic numbers with eight hours of writing time in a week and an average productive typing speed of 60 wpm, I could write a 90,000 word novel in Pi… errr, just over 3 weeks (I love math!). But if most of that ‘novel’ has no plot or direction and I have to delete a third of it… well, I haven’t really written a novel,  have I?

Now THIS is writing with a purpose!

Now THIS is writing with a purpose!

There is more to a story than typing speed and words on paper.

To actually produce enough words written in an order that tells a concrete tale within a year, I need to have a strategy to use my time efficiently. That is why I’m (1) a plotter and write when I have a solid storyline already in mind, (2) write notes to myself within the novel on the set up of future chapters and events, (3) work a lot on character development before I write, and (4) don’t waste my time writing things that I just KNOW I’ll delete (I apparently also make lists. This is new…). I don’t have the time to wander aimlessly in a word forest. I’d rather do dishes or spend time with my husband then stare at a little blinky cursor. When it all makes sense, then and only then, will I sit down to write.

It can be a tough balancing act. There are times I’m wondering if I’m procrastinating. Am I stuck? Maybe I should I try to write – at least flesh out the notes on what I think should happen to see if that clears things up? I love writing enough that I can never stay away for too long. Even the chapter I’m using as an example resolved itself with an ‘aha!’ after a day of pondering. I finally found something to include that was important to the overall plot and story. It added something rather than just existing. Whereupon at that point I abandoned my family, my chores, and dinner to sit down and write (I had to make up for some lost time)!

What about you? Do you find ways to make your writing time more efficient?

– Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy series on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. She also has lots of other WIP (read TOO MANY), but she has put them ruthlessly aside to concentrate on Spirit of Life, the final book in her current series. It is going well! You can find her occasionally online on Twitter at @weifarer or on her Facebook page or on Goodreads. But after writing this and realizing that she can write a book in a month, theoretically, well, you might NOT find her online!

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2 comments on “Getting to the Point

  1. Hate to say it, Autumn, but I just keep writing. I’m a huge believer in the idea that editing is where the work really happens. I’ve moved chapters, cut them, rewritten them, even moved them to completely different books. Sometimes the solution makes itself known by pushing on.

    • I can’t say that I haven’t done huge edits, rewriting and rearranging chapters (never to a different book though!), but if I don’t know where I’m going with my writing, I get stuck. Maybe they is the plotter part of me? If I sit down and think out where things are heading (do more plotting), the writing usually picks up again. I’ve learned to back off and think instead of writing something I’ll delete.

      I agree though, the solution comes from pushing on. Either writing, or thinking, or scribbling down notes, something. I can’t switch to a different story because the same problem will be there in the first. And this is part of why I love writing. I’ve always been a ‘daydreamer’ but writing means you figure out the plot and problems. It is SO much more fun than idle dreams! 🙂

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