The In-Between Time (or when one gets addicted to LiveFeed on Facebook…)

I’ve been trying to think of a good blog post to write. It’s been a slow month, writing-wise. The only serious project I’ve been working on is prepping Willow up for the 2nd draft. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been finalizing names, places, histories, backgrounds. I’ve also put up a new word counter, seen to the right. Everything should be set for me to start writing the new draft by March 2.

But other than that, I haven’t been doing much. I’ve been toying with a story, but I’ve pretty much been slacking in the one-story-every-week goal I set at the beginning of the year. At first, I figured I needed a bit of recuperating after the intense writing session I had in January. So I played a couple casual games. Got caught up on a bunch of short story ezines I’ve been meaning to read. Did some maintenance on Facebook. Did some more maintenance on Facebook.

Around the time I found myself sitting and watching the LiveFeed on Facebook, I realized I was no longer in the Recuperating Stage. I was in the Slacking Off stage.

It’s a weird time to be in when I’m between writing projects. Granted, I should be focusing all my hard work on Willow, but the stuff I’m doing doesn’t really feel like writing, although it’s just as important. It’s more like maintenance stuff, getting all the players in place and making sure my character has gray eyes instead of green and the name of his sister is "Daphne", not "Ashley". Therefore, it doesn’t really feel like I’m writing.

Likewise with the story I’m toying with. It’s more freewriting than anything, which is what I needed to do, just letting my mind and thoughts wander while my mind plays with story ideas. But it’s not like I’m getting to the meat and nitty gritty of a story, like what makes the story tick and what not. What I’m doing is pretty much mental doodling—not really serious.

So I’m at this weird in-between place in my writing, where I’m between serious projects. On the one hand, it’s an okay place, because it allows my mind to replenish its creative flow (I was about to write "juices", but then that got me to thinking about simmering meat, which got me thinking weirdly enough about cannibalism, because I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night and Johnny Depp had this great line—okay, creative "juices" seemed just to creepy to write).

But on the other hand, it opens me up to tons and tons of distraction. Like watching Facebook’s LiveFeed. Because I really, really want to know what my friends are doing at that very exact moment

What it is really, is that I have a productivity vacuum inside my head. When it’s pointed towards a writing project, yeah, I’m with it, I’m in the groove, things are rolling along nicely. But when it’s not directed towards a project, then it’s directed towards any old thing, which means I spend three days trying to escape out of a locked room… 

(Actually, you’ll be amazed at how addicting these escape-the-room games can get. Especially since the more you play, the more tricks you pick up, the easier the games get, which means you start scrambling towards harder puzzles…what? What do you mean I’m digressing agai–)

The point is…procrastination.

And the other point is…ummm….sometimes it’s good. Because when you recognize that you’ve had too much of it, it means that you’ve had enough rest and recuperation and you’re setting yourself up for your next project, which is good, because you can now look forward to your next project with eagerness, and it means that you can start looking at all the stories you have sitting in the sketching stage and think, "which of these stories can I flesh out more?" And you start thinking and start writing and before you know it, you got yourself another project to do. Which is good.

I think I’m ready for that now. And I think I need to wean myself off the LiveFeed. Too much Facebook can be a bad thing. Besides, the Facebook RSS Feed is far more useful.

Well. That was a nice rambling, makes-no-sense post. But considering that it’s something that I did after a week of nothing, hey, I’m feeling pretty productive. 2nd draft of Willow, here I come!

One Story to Rule Them All. One Story to Bind Them. (Or how a writer’s brain works with other stories)

Every once in a while, my hubbie gets a hankering for some orc. Not cooked, of course. The movie kind of orc. So I dig out our extended version of Lord of the Rings and let him glut his fill.

This time around, however, I found myself maddeningly distracted. Wasn’t by Sean Astin’s perpetual scowl or Viggo Mortensen’s perpetual scowl or Orlando Bloom’s perpetual…uh…hmm….okay, Sean Bean’s perpetual scowl.

Nope. I was distracted by the story.

What made the story tick? What moved the story along? How did the characters get from point A to point B? How do the choices Frodo makes influence the story? As we moved from the Shire to Rivendell to Rohan to Gondor…I couldn’t stop myself from analyzing. In a weird way, it was similar to what I did with Xanadu on the Agony Booth…except Peter Jackson put special effects to actual good use…

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a writer. Aren’t I supposed to notice such things already? Ahh…but that’s just the thing. When I first started writing, when I read books or watched movies, I never really thought about such things. I just read, or watched, and pretty much enjoyed (or, if the story sucked, not enjoyed).

But ever since I started writing seriously, ever since I started editing and revising my own work, I found myself reading a fantasy book and thinking How did the author make this work? What makes this story publishable? I started keeping notes, sometimes comparing the book to my own novel-in-progress. I guess it’s not surprising that I’m beginning to view movies in the same way. After all, a movie is just a short story. (Though not in the case of the LOTR…but that’s besides the point.)

All this analyzing, though, has me a little worried. Won’t I get burned out? Can’t I just enjoyed a story and not care about character development, plotline, protagonist and antagonist? What if I get sick of all this analyzing and just stop reading and watching movies altogether?

I don’t think that will happen. At least, not in the near future. For one thing, there are ways to entertain myself that don’t rely on books and movies. I can listen to music. I can play pretend with Daniel. I can knit. Play video games. I think a little balance is in order to keep me from glutting on too much story.

But I think there are also times when I can read a book and just enjoy it for what it is without trying to figure out what makes it tick. I just finished reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch with the clear intention of not trying to analyze it. Went pretty well, I think. I’ll have to put up the review of it soon.

I think also genre plays a big role in it as well. With LOTR being fantasy, of course it will get my analytic juices flowing, since the story has elements that I can use in my own work. The other day, I watched Vertigo, and not once did I wonder about how the character development influenced the storyline (though at the time, I was mashing roasted garlic into potatoes for Thanksgiving). It was a nice change of pace from all the fantasy stuff I was reading and writing.

I wonder if that’s the reason why writing experts suggest reading outside of your genre. Not so much that you don’t get burned out, but it helps your brain to rest, to enjoy story without getting burnt out on it. Any other writers out there who want to chip in your two cents? Be curious to know if you’re at the same point I am, or offer any other advice.

As for me, it’s late. We still need to finish the second half of The Return of the King. It’s gonna be a loooooong night.