Friday, April 14, 2017

Reaching a tipping point

I have to write a certain number of words before a book really 'comes alive,' for me. Part of it is getting to know my main characters better; part of it may simply be that it takes a while to persuade my brain that it really does have to turn itself on and generate a certain number of words every day.

It seems that I reached that point on INSURGENTS yesterday, at 9000 words. Today's 1,000 words were effortless; I could see and hear what was going on in the chapter, and all I had to do was type at top speed trying to get it all down. I love it when this starts to happen, not only because writing is no longer hard work, but also because writing in this mode seems to smooth out something in my brain. I become a nicer person, kind to children and small animals and actually willing to cook for the First Reader. I shouldn't be surprised if this actually alters something in my brain chemistry, generating endorphins like exercise or playing chamber music.

This shift is also why I had to have a sitter when the children were small. I'm really not safe to watch over small children in this mode, because I stop hearing and seeing what's going on in the outside world.

There's a temptation to go on and shoot for 2,000 or 3,000 or more words. I've done that in the past, when faced with deadlines, and it really doesn't work out very well for me. I can push it for maybe a week, but then I pay the price with several days of staring at the air and feeling like a total idiot whose brains have just been scooped out with a spoon. It seems my personal story-generating mechanism works at a rate of 1,000 words/day and that's that; if I speed up one week, I stop altogether the next week, so I'm not really that far ahead. And before anybody says, "But look at John Ringo," I would like to point out that I don't have the use of John Ringo's brain and his inexhaustible, high-speed story generator.

In any case - Hallelujah! Good Friday has been very good to me.


  1. I'm enjoying these posts on your writing process. I follow several other writers and find that all of you share the same mindset, problems, feelings of triumph and having to face reality about good ideas gone bad as I do, although my creative endeavors aren't with words but with images, not with paper and ink but with fabric and thread. I can especially relate to the this final section, when the words flowed effortlessly, how you "stop hearing and seeing what's going on in the outside world" when that happens, and how your whole mood lifts at the end of that burst of positive creative productivity. Indeed, lift a glass and shout Hallelujah!

  2. You're absolutely right. I used to be able to get into a similar "flow" state while working with fabric; I suspect all creative artists have a similar experience. We're all trying to give the idea form, in words or images or music - and whatever form we achieve is never quite as glistening and wonderful as the book/art/music in our heads.

  3. I am just envious that you write, period! Let alone how you work, which is so interesting. Guess I never thought much about writers and how they write. And I just thought you locked yourself in a room and wrote until the book was finished! HA

    1. When the children were toddlers, I would have loved to lock myself in a room and write for hours!


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