Tuesday, February 14, 2017


I should write something.

Of late, I've been hacking at a number of different projects, none of which are getting done.  I've left off the bard sage abilities, catching my breath on those; I'm digging a bit at Iceland but not going at it full bore; I've been working out the sea distance trade routes for the islands of Britain but those are a huge bitch (many, many trade towns) and it is going slowly; I've left off the writing of pages about weapons and armor on the wiki [finished the armor at least] ~ and, I've been working on my book.

This last has been the priority and as of a few days ago, I solved a HUGE problem with a late in the book climax that has been bugging me for a year.  Swear to gawd.  A year.  More about that in a moment.

I want to explain, first, that not finishing things does not need to be a crippling disease.  One of the reasons why the various features about my world or my writing gets done is because I haven't "quit," I've taken a rest.  I read around the 'net and I seem to find that people believe that if they don't start a project, work on a project, then finish a project, all in one grand push that lasts for weeks, then they've failed and they quit working on the project forever.

That just doesn't make sense.  We have to pace ourselves.  We have to expect, ahead of time, that we're going to put down the project that we're working on, deliberately, with the expectation that we'll pick them up in a few months or even a year from now.  Some projects take years.  The trick isn't to bury ourselves in a succeed-or-die mindset, but to prepare the project in a way that it CAN be put down, when we're ready to rest.

Rest is vitally important.  Rest gives us time to think about what we've done so far, to appreciate the work we've done, to address issues that are making the project difficult or ~ after a fair time has past ~ to re-evaluate the structure and intended function of the project.  What will it accomplish?  Is it the best we can do?  Are we going about it in the most efficient way possible?

I will be honest.  Those first few days of returning to a new project are difficult.  The immensity of the project, the feeling that it can't be finished, the sense of not really remembering what was going on when we were working on it before, these things can be daunting and it can overwhelm us.  My present book has been like that, but more about that in a moment.

The trick is to go at it slowly, in bits and pieces.  If all we can take is ten minutes of the project we put down last summer, then ten minutes it is.  Maybe tomorrow, or Friday, we can look at it again.  Maybe for twenty minutes.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of looking over what we've done ~ and remember that we DID that.  WE did.  We need to remind ourselves of our accomplishments.

After a few rough goes, a few tries, a glimmer will arise about the project; a memory of what we liked when we first started at it.  Soon, there will be a little leap in our hearts, a little excitement . . . and soon enough, we'll find ourselves working away at the project again, vigorously, wanting to work on it with the same intensity that we did all those months ago.  And the work will fly forward again, doubling in size . . . and we'll recall that experience when we apply ourselves to some other project we put down a long time ago.

This is how things get done.  Not all in one try, but in many tries.  In spurts and gobs, just like you won't manage all the orgasms you'll have in a lifetime in one afternoon.

I'm sorry.  I couldn't get that metaphor out of my mind once it got in there.

Just now, the Fifth Man is like that.  A year ago, you wonderful readers helped me in a very troubled time and I promised you a book.  And there is a book coming . . . in spurts and gobs.  I've been reworking the language of the preview I sent out in late April of 2016 ~ which now seems like a long time ago.  The writing, well, the writing has needed some work, but on the whole I am pleased with the structure and the characterization.  Mostly, I've been working on the beginning again because it helps to keep the whole book in my mind, not just what's left to make.

I wish I could think of a way to reassure those who supported me, that I'm not going to disappear or declare that the book is off.  I'll pay everyone back first, before I do that.  Since it is easier to just write the book, that's what I'm doing.  I don't hate this thing, not yet (though it always gets there, I'm afraid; that's the business).  I'm happy with it.  I'm going to be very happy when it is done.

I'd like to find some way of proving that it is being written that doesn't include actually putting up the content somewhere.  That would make me feel better; would make me feel that people who supported me were comforted in the knowledge that support wasn't in vain.  I continue to think about how that might be managed.

Good.  Post written.  On to some other project.


Scarbrow said...

Thanks for the update, Alexis

I don't know the others, but after following you for... oh, my, it's been 7 years already? From the 8 1/2 that you've been writing here, that is. And seeing that you have still things to say... I take that as proof enough that you simply don't quit.

Maxwell Joslyn said...

Perhaps you could put a page on the wiki with a line for each chapter saying DONE, NEAR-DONE, MESSY, or WHATEVER states you feel are appropriate.

You could also have, on that page, a series of lines with the date, and then the word count at the end of that day. I know word count is an ambiguous measure -- often the writer's job is to throw things out because they don't fit, or tighten them up so they're less verbose -- but then we'd at least see the ups and downs. I always find it helpful to put a number on something, even if it's not a perfect measure.

Just thoughts. Hope you're doing well.

Tim said...

This is a great post. I had some trouble trying to articulate what I wanted to say about it, but it definitely spoke to my own struggles with completing my goals and projects.

I remember our conversation during the long-term planning class about finding ways to persevere and continue in one's goals, and you really turned me around then on my own personal frustrations with starting projects that don't ever look like they will get finished. This post was a wonderful reminder of the fact that, as much as perspiration is the bulk of any effort, we need a bit of inspiration to stay satisfied with it.

Thanks for continuing to be part of that inspiration for myself and many other readers.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Thank you, Tim. I like hearing that.