Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Rich Gifts of Procrastination

Bull Run Coffee acknowledges writers
participating in NaNoWriMo and
encourages them to track their
word count here.
We're midway through November and NaNoWriMo. I see many other writers have already hit the 50,000 mark and some have shot well past that. Me, I'm procrastinating.

A couple days ago I sat in a coffee shop and agonized over the etymological roots of mage, wizard and sorceror. I had long been wondering what the hell the differences actually were. Most fantasy writers and video game writers just come up with their own definitions and treat them consistently within a work, but from work to work they won't match. And it's fun to listen to people who haven't studied this at all churn up their own answers at a flippant question, because they do dredge some respectable insight when trying to reason out an answer.

But that doesn't further my novel.

I also wrote out a calendar of events in my story, and that does help. I realized some errors immediately: some of the action was happening too fast, as one of the characters had left town for a short trip and wouldn't be around for some events he had to be part of. The priest in my story is performing services at her church, and the date I cited did not fall on the day weekly services occur, so that had to be fixed. Two characters are getting mad at each other right before a prominent youth social, and I want one character to leverage another to create some jealousy, but the other one was scheduled to die in the time frame I'd held in my head, and now I could see how that ruined things.

Also, the world I've created has far, far too many holidays. The calendar's fairly choked with feasts, holy days to various gods, celebrations for seasons, etc. The villagers barely have any time for shearing, farming and repairs between decorating for holidays or hunting meat for feasts.

That helps my novel but doesn't go toward my word count, and the word count's the thing.

Today I pulled one of my favorite Gene Wolfe novels off the shelf to study it. I'm extremely self-conscious of how I start sentences (even in this post, I start with "I" often enough to flag a psychologist's attention) and paragraphs. My structure seems too parallel, each sentence resembles every other sentence. I try to... That is, trying to mix it up with speech and actions isn't always successful for me, so I thought I'd go through a few chapters in this Wolfe novel and see how he writes.

Turns out, he also has a similar structure, though he keeps his sentences simpler than I do. But yeah, it's all I did this or We did that, and The noun's owner did this and The noun went there. But the reader doesn't notice this in the story: it doesn't leap up and snag all attention. The story just trucks along and everything's fine. What am I getting hung up about? All I have to do is let myself off the hook and bang out 50,000 words as soon as I can. I don't have to produce a finished product on my first try. What I have to do is get my story all typed out, actually manifest the plot and see how it flows along, if it does, or note the obstacles and deal with those in December.

And I will, right after I think of another project to pursue to put this off a little longer.

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