Momentum

See, I've run out of ways to work "Just Do It" into blog post titles without repeating myself. 

But that's the gist of it. And even though I've written on the subject multiple times, it still bears repeating because I still can't get it through my thick skull that just doing it is the only way to actually get any writing done. It somehow comes as a surprise every time.

If you've been following my progress on Fracture and Embers, you've probably noticed I have not, in fact, been making much progress. Even though I was excited to continue the story, I think part of that lack of progress can be attributed to, frankly, burnout. Ronan was such a huge, emotional story, one I'd technically been working on for over two years, and even though I still had all of these plots and characters buzzing around in my head, my brain just said, "What is writing?" and didn't know how to start from scratch. It didn't help that I started a new job and didn't have nearly the free time I'd had in college (jotting down plot notes during meetings somehow seems more taboo than doing it in the back of the room during class...). Obviously I've written something during that time, but I'm almost embarrassed to say that I've only written about 10,000 words in Fracture over the past year. I know, I know, progress is progress, but that's still pretty pitiful.

Long spells of very little -- if any -- progress actually used to be fairly commonplace for me back in the day. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've always had so many hobbies, and I often find it difficult to focus on more than one at a time (completely, anyway). I've mentioned in passing a couple of times that I went through two different phases, both spanning multiple months, of not writing back when I was supposed to be working on Nexus. It ended up taking 2 and a half years to finish. But it's not like I was doing nothing during that time. I was probably churning out artwork like a maniac, or maybe gaming considering that's about the time I discovered Mass Effect. Similarly, when I was getting a lot of writing done, I wasn't doing any art or gaming. Temporarily abandoning certain hobbies in favor of others has just been how I roll, and I feel a little guilty about that now that writing has turned into something more than a simple hobby. 

So, by the time I got over my burnout, I wasn't in a Writing Mood™ anymore and jumped back into gaming. I started Fallout 4 early last November (yes, I hear all of you who have played it groaning because you know what I'm talking about). Being the fanatical completionist that I am, it took me until the end of January to finish. Then I jumped straight into the original Mass Effect trilogy, since it had been ~3 years since I'd played it and I wanted to do another thorough runthrough before Mass Effect Andromeda came out. That took until mid-March. Then I went on vacation, and when I got back, Andromeda was out. I just finished it about 2 weeks ago. All told, that was 6 straight months of gaming (on the weekends, in the evenings after work, you name it). Now don't get me wrong; I think games -- especially the story-based RPGs I like to play -- can keep your brain juices flowing and actually be used as storytelling tools, but that's a blog post for another time. I was still jotting down story notes in the background and messing with scenes every so often, but I wasn't focused. When I finished Andromeda, I looked over at my stack of un-played games wondering which one I should tackle next, but instead I stopped and told myself, "No, now it's time to get to work."

So I have. Or at least I've been trying to. I started by just sitting and taking a long look at the materials I have to work with, and I realized I've made kind of a mess for myself. I went through the various notebooks I've used for plot notes and compiled all of my random scribbles into one document, sorted in what should turn out to be chronological order. I bought a copy of Scrivener a few months ago when it was on sale -- hadn't used it for anything, but I figured now would be a good time to start. I still haven't had a chance to really explore all of its functionality, but I've found the Corkboard feature really handy so far. I've been using kind of a popcorn approach while working on both Fracture and Embers; I have a general outline in my head, but I've just been jumping around writing the scenes as they come to me, regardless of whether they're in order. Then I paste them into the document in approximate order. Ergo the document is kind of a mess. Using Scrivener, I've started breaking the story apart by scene and making each of those scenes an item on the Corkboard so they can be shifted around easily if needed. It kind of feels like I'm taking it apart like a puzzle and then putting it all back together again. 

The ideas that have gone into this thing lately are indeed brilliant if I do say so myself

The ideas that have gone into this thing lately are indeed brilliant if I do say so myself

And no matter how much my tendonitis hurts or how much faster typing is, I still feel compelled to at least write out some of my notes by hand. There's something about having to physically wield the pen that forces you to put more thought into what you're writing. I'd found a bunch of old notes in the margins of another notebook, so I took pictures of them and planned on just transcribing them into my current on-the-go notebook so they'd at least be in the same place as all the rest. I figured I'd expound upon them a little, mostly so I could look at them later and remember what my train of thought had been, and (luckily) I ended up getting carried away. Before I knew it I had 2 full pages of notes, when I'd been hoping to just end up with like 3 bullet points. And with those notes, I managed to fill a plot hole and solve a couple of logistical issues I'd been stuck on. Progress.

Even though it's kind of redundant, I've also started making notecards for each scene. On the blank side of a 3 x 5 card, I give the scene a unique title then write down the setting, POV, and list of other cast members. On the lined side, I include a brief synopsis with any notable events. These can then be shuffled around just like the Scrivener Corkboard, but like I said, I feel like it helps to be able to physically write things down.

At some point soon, I'm also planning on reading back through my current books, just to be absolutely sure I have all the details correct in the WIPs. That and I'm planning on including a synopsis at the beginning of Fracture, so this will help me choose what to include. So yes, there will be a synopsis of the trilogy, meaning technically Fracture and Embers can be read without being familiar with the other books, though I wouldn't recommend it (then again, I'm super biased). It's also just to give my followers a reminder of everything that happened. I hadn't wanted so much time to pass between Ronan and Fracture, but the story does take place a little over 2 years later, so I guess it's realistic. 

So it just feels good to be getting back on track. For me, momentum plays a huge part in my writing. I think it's one of the reasons Ronan went so smoothly - I wrote at least a little every single day, and that routine kept the ball rolling until the book was finished. With Nexus and Dakiti, I didn't have a set routine, and I wasn't 100% focused while working on them. Of course, that was way back before I ever decided to publish and I could write at as leisurely a pace as I wanted. Now with Fracture and Embers, focus has once again been a problem, but now that I'm starting to rein it all in and get back to work, I can feel the energy level rising. I WANT to write right now, and I'm not sure if I could have said that with 100% honesty at any point during the past year. My brain is constantly working. I've been losing sleep at night. Ideas are coming to me faster. I can take one look at plot holes or problem areas I've been stuck on forever and immediately figure out a way to fill them, because I'm focused. Now the key is to just keep all of this up for another few months :)

I'd almost forgotten how fun this is.