In Which The Writer Has A Witlow

And before you wonder if I’ve hit a wall on the book — no, I actually know exactly what comes next, but I’m going over the printed chapters and — trust me on this — it will be richer, not to mention more coherent if I actually look it over today.

This is part of my process, and I find it funny to see it played off like this in a book that is being written as I’ve never written a book before.  Never? you say.  Never.  I’ve taken years to write a book, but that’s usually a week one year, a week the next, due to issues of time/place/pregnancy/poverty, etc.  I’ve never, in my working life, written a chapter a week.  In a way it’s fascinating to me how it’s working out.

Part of it increases my natural issues.  The reason I tend to write novels in a heated rush is not that I’m either not interested enough to take longer nor because I’m a super genius.  It’s because I have about a two week attention span — two weeks in which I can keep the story with all its nuances in my head.  (Yes, I can write outlines, but not with ALL the nuances.  Also, half the time the d*mn story hides in my subconscious and writing it is a series of “opening doors” each one revealing a bit more.

Even in two weeks to a month that it normally takes me to write a novel, the d*mn thing changes shapes on me.  I must be incredibly stupid, because I start out thinking I know what the story is about, but it takes being 2/3 in to see the theme behind the theme (for all stories — short stories, novels, series sometimes.)

Witchfinder is suffering from straying into the weeds a few times.  Not a big deal, nothing that can’t be cut and fixed, but at the same time I feel like the meaning of the novel should already be plain.  It usually doesn’t take this long for me to know for instance “why the title.”  (I think honestly the title is setup for the series, but we’ll see.)

What I do when I feel this way is go back, read and mark up, then finish.  This usually happens one and a half weeks in, but this needs it all the more for being slower.

Meanwhile, in the way of such things, after struggling for a week with Noah’s Boy, (I was offered a chance to go away for a week and isolate myself to write at very little cost for myself — and this from the writer who has been known to fly across the country and camp in a friend’s living room for the purpose.) I just figured out why it felt so out of kilter.  See, I’ve now finished the setup for the series, and the true meaning has unfolded.  I was trying to write this to outline, written four years ago, which made this book the last one of the setup — but instead it needs to be the first one of the unfolding.  Well…  It’s work for the plane today — in a couple of hours, actually.

Also I’ve figured out how to rewrite an OLD (rejected — for various reasons) fantasy work and file all the serial numbers that weren’t mine, so I can release it indie sometime in the next month.  That was part of what I wanted to achieve this week and it’s done.  (The figuring out is done, not yet the rewrite, of course.)

Now that the kids are in school and seem to be falling into their routine, if I can JUST avoid getting sick, I should be able to start feeding the fans again.  Which would be good as, with two kids in college, we’re what’s known as “dangerous levels of broke.”

Anyway, I’ll be back at the (command) desk in the normal Hoyt Writership this evening, and might even post a chapter then — or it might be tomorrow afternoon.

The one thing I have done this week is sleep A LOT.  And I mean industrial levels of sleeping.  Since I’m normally an insomniac and a broken-sleeper this is not exactly bad.  And even though it didn’t result in as much USABLE wordage as I expected, it seem in fact to  have broken through the MENTAL barrier behind which the words were hiding.  Part of it is that like my commenter Beth, who says she needs to read but the novels won’t let her, I too tend to come to a point where I block because I haven’t been reading any fiction, but feel guilty about reading fiction because then I’m not writing.  This time away gave me the chance to read some, if not a lot, and might have broken that particular logjam.  I REALLY should take a day a week to loll around and read.  The problem of course is that my pen names don’t have their own set of fingers and while I’m reading deadlines are passing.

Meanwhile, those of you interested in the field and epublishing and what the changes mean to us pixel-stained wretches, go read Kris Rusch.  For the record when reading that keep in mind that in contrast to the moaning and gasping of the big, big names, I’m set — this year — to match and perhaps surpass my highest net gross yet.  (Of course — waves hand — between college fees and the hole we’re still filling for the years of virtually no income, that gross is gross indeed.  Positively disgusting, in fact.  However, if payments for stuff not signed but hand-shaken on so far come through I’ll be making around 40k, which is not something to sneeze at or wouldn’t be if it weren’t for aforementioned hole.  The last time I came close to that was 35k — I THINK — 7 years ago.  Normally I hover between 20 and 30k but for the last two years have made 5 and 8k [hence the hole and the reason I will have a fundraiser, because we have to fix the house and sell it and move somewhere smaller and cheaper.  Because we can’t count on staying at this level.  But heck, I’m going to try.)

46 responses to “In Which The Writer Has A Witlow

  1. Right. A secret hideaway. That’s what every writer (and reader, and plumber, and teacher, and . . . ) needs. And as the farmers say, “Make hay while the sun shines.” But I hope the lean times are gone, forever.

    • I do need it, periodically. Usually I troll the flights for bottom-of-barrel prices then crash unannounced (or close to it) on a friend’s sofa (okay, so far Amanda.) But I’ve also taken advantage of bottom-of-the-barrel hotel rooms in town (the last one to finish Soul of Fire, which tells you how long ago that was.) For the last three years, I just haven’t… and things have been slowing and slowing.
      IF I ever make enough I’ll buy or rent a teeny tiny studio nearby (like Denver) and to there for a week a month or so, just to isolate myself and break the daily routine of cats-kids-house with occasional writing.

      • I keep eyeing some property out in the country. Solid trees. Nothing that needs mowing or weeding. Of course there’s nowhere to live, other than a platform to set a tent up on. But it’s far enough north to be out of the Houston humidity. So all I’d really need would be a solar laptop battery charger, right?

        • Depending on construction skill and/or ability to afford construnctiony people (or ability to commandeer them!), might could stick in a “vacation cabin” of some sort, too… Something like http://www.architecturaldesigns.com/house-plan-21760DR.asp, say — or just chop off the whole “living space” part of that, ditch one of the beds, and put in your desk for writing when there’s rain… (Not sure what you might want to do with the bathroom side of things. Drag in a portapotty for outdoors, and have a hip tub with a bucket?)

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Or something that I’ve seen elsewhere – drag a travel trailer out to it.

          • I DO NOT CAMP. Seriously. I grew up with an outdoor bathroom and a hip bath in front of the fire. My idea of ‘camping’ is Embassy Suites.

            • You and my mother. :) “If I have to cook, it is NOT a vacation.” Her idea of roughing it means missing Sunday brunch at either the Little America in Salt Lake City, or at the Broadmoor. Primitive conditions means Warsaw Pact plumbing.

              • yes. Look, if you live it for years, you do NOT want it again.

              • Oh yea – outhouses, sleeping on the front lawn because it is too hot to sleep in the house, etc. etc. Plus no electricity, hauling water. Once you have lived that way, you don’t want to do it again.

                • We slept on the balcony in summer. We had electricity except through most of the summer, when it would go out at six pm and not be seen again till noon. And mind you — I once was telling someone about this in front of Eric Flint, who decided we were “peasants” … sigh. Except for a brief politically motivated time, our life was VERY MUCH upper middle class. It’s just upper middle class back then was not what it is now and what it is now is still NOT what it is HERE. At any rate, I think camping is a #firstworldfun. I LOVE — usually when we CAN afford it it’s on sale and it’s only for one night or two — “vacations” at embassy suites, because we get breakfast someone else cooks, the bathroom is nice and I don’t have to worry about housekeeping, much less more housekeeping than I normally do.

            • Every day I giver thanks for living in an age where porcelain and a/c are readily available, and see no reason to insult the deity by spurning such blessings.

            • Were you my neighbor? I don’t remember you…
              Seriously, we were the “genteel poor”. I wore shirts made from cow feed sacks until I was twelve. We papered over the inside of the house with cardboard, because there were three-inch gaps between some of the boards on the wall (do it right, wallpaper over it, and it’s not so bad, really – and it provides insulation). Our first house didn’t even HAVE inside walls – or ceilings. I didn’t KNOW we were poor until I was in high school.

              I actually like to camp. Jean doesn’t. Her idea of “roughing it” is a 34-foot Winnebago. I’m one of three people that actually GAINED weight during a week-long “survival” course. Nowadays, though, I do prefer a nice cabin with full plumbing, somewhere within walking distance (for me, about 200 yards) of a lake brimming with fish.

    • Seconded. I agree on the make hay while the sun shines. And I, too, hope that the lean times are gone, forever.

  2. It has been a bad week/month/two months for me. One thing after another. But I am glad to hear you are doing so well with your books. I just finished Neptune’s Orphans, which was a really good read. Thank you for writing it.

    Shoot, I wish I had broken into the 4 figure salary. ;-)

  3. I am delighted – both on income and sleep. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  4. It’s not often I come across a word I’ve never heard before, but “witlow” has stumped me. Google wants to autocorrect it to “whitlow”, which is an infection of the tip of the finger (also known, amusingly, as a “felon”)… but your post isn’t about your painful fingertips. So what’s a witlow?

    Also reiterating everyone else’s congratulations on catching up on much-needed sleep, and good wishes for a productive getaway time.

  5. I’m about at that point, myself. Jean and I are saving our money (when we can) for a few days up at Grand Lake after the tourists leave. I’d rather go in spring, so I could see the animals, but late September or early October will do. The constant sound from roofers yesterday nearly put me over the edge! They should finish this morning — I hope!

    As for the need for sleep, Jean has that a lot. That’s a normal part of MS, so we understand where it comes from, and what it’s all about. I think all people need to get away from “civilization” now and then, to recharge. We aren’t programmed to live in huge clusters like ants or bees.

  6. Wayne Blackburn

    Congrats on catching up on sleep. WAY to go on income!

    I have property in the country, but family and work keep intruding. Blech. Hopefully, #2 son will be off to college in 2 years. Not sure what #1 son is going to do. I’m trying to give him leeway to get his Computer Artist creds by making an online game. If he succeeds, that kind of thing should become his career.

  7. *nods* Yup, the GUILT-AT-NOT-WRITING also hits. At least the only deadline I really have is next year, and for a short story, and I have a shorter-than-wanted story that I could, if I had to, pad a little or say, “…this is what’s DONE! *sob*” and fall back to it. Heh.

    Good luck on chasing the funding ducks into their rows!!

  8. It will all come right, when the time is right. Would love a hide-a-way. Would prefer and houseboat on a VERY large lake though. Not that I need one to write, since I don’t write. But it would be fun. Here’s to success in your life. (lifting my glass of diet Ribiena)

  9. I’ve been enjoying two of three weeks without the rest of the local branch of the Red family (they went on vacation). [No, not that Red Branch.] It has not quite been a vacation, but just being able to set my own schedule makes a huge difference. I got the bones and world-building started for a new series, have edited a bunch of stories so I can get them assembled for an e-book launch, and have managed not to kill any houseplants (yet. There’s still a week.)

    Congrats on the break through and the pending new releases! Maybe you could find someone with a gently used portable barn/shed/workspace that you could tuck into the backyard. Or on someone’s National Forest lease.

    • For a number of years The Daughter and I commuted to an Anime Con just outside Durham and gave The Spouse a birthday weekend at home, largely on his own. His mother, who likes a fuss tended to think of it as abandoning him, but it suits him. As he described it, he liked the idea of playing whatever music he wanted, when he wanted, at whatever volume he wanted, without considering the effect on anyone else. And, what ever else, there was the immense pleasure of just reading a book with no one to interrupt…

      • Wayne Blackburn

        I haven’t had an opportunity to do that in YEARS. Damn, I miss it. Don’t currently have any way to get everyone else out of the house, though.

  10. Actually, Sarah, you are just practicing the latest in memory enhancement:
    http://bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/22/13400970-spacing-out-for-a-bit-can-boost-your-memory?lite

    I saw this on Instapundit, and had to post.