About mid-week, a book arrived in the mail. Yet another writing prompt book I’ve been ordering from amazon. I looked through it and had the same reaction–nothing in it was prompting me. But among the prompts were little blurbs of writing advice. Most of it was cliched stuff, like, “you don’t have to be perfect” and yada yada. But that tired nugget got me thinking about what was blocking me. It’s not some misguided need for perfection; I don’t mind writing badly in the first draft–picking the wrong words, leaving stuff out, using crappy grammar and spelling, etc. My ’93 novel taught me that, and fan fic reinforced it. When writing the first draft, you need to just get it out on paper (or the computer screen), and worry about making it pretty later. And I’m cool with that.
As long as I’m working on the story I have in my head.
The problem is, there isn’t much of a story in my head at the moment. Just some vague, hand-wavy things that “I want to write about,” a few characters sketched out, and some one-liner ideas. Ideas, that, by the way, I don’t want to be wedded to just yet. I think when I sit down with my writing prompts and say, “OK, let’s work on this scene idea here,” I just feel, “You know, I don’t want to work on that. I’m just not sure I want that in the story”–for various reasons.
Part of me wants to be organized and systematic about this project–my strong left brain–and part of me doesn’t want to be tied down to anything until I have a chance to meander through the possibilities and discover what overwhelms me with passion (my very strong-feeling right brain). Split brain syndrome: this is why I’m a borderline INTJ/INTP.
And honestly? I think the right brain needs to be given sway for the time being. I need to allow myself to “paint outside the lines”–as long as I don’t paint too far. The story isn’t really conceptualized yet, and I shouldn’t act like it is. But what counts as the “lines” is clear enough: the list of things I said “I wanted to right about,” fuzzy as those lines are.
With this realization in mind, I returned to my writing prompts again, but only the one-word prompts. I have been collecting words since November, and I brought them all together this week and picked out about 172 that are the most evocative to me. Then I finished organizing my outline notes.
My idea for a weekly original fic writing goal is to write a fictional prose blurb each day using (1) a single word prompt and (2) a single outline note sentence. I can pick any word prompt and outline note I want, and I don’t have to pick any of them as long as I have another idea. The daily blurbs will be about 100 words each. That’s to keep things manageable for the multi-tasking, but also so I don’t have to commit much to any blurb I start writing. If the words keep flowing, I’ll keep writing. If I’m having trouble even getting to 100 words, I’ll have to stretch myself, and I’ll know based on how difficult that is that this scene might not be something I want in the story after all. So the new writing goal will be 700+ words of original fic. Not very ambitious, but the idea is, I have to write at least 700 words each week, more if it works out that way, but at least 700.
My process for TD is a bit more well-established and systematic at this point, so my idea for a weekly goal there is just to decide each week where I am in the process, and set a concrete goal for that week that is easy to judge the completion of.
I had this new plan ironed out on Thursday night, and then it was time to put my fingers where my words are. I picked an outline note, and a word prompt, and dove in, giving myself permission to just mangle it if that’s what it took to get words on the page. I wrote 112 words, made a note of which prompts I used, and buried the blurb in a folder on my hard drive. The point here isn’t to “write a novel,” yet. It’s just to write.
I put myself to bed that night, and as often happens with me, my brain started imaging a new scene. Writing begets writing. I cobbled that scene together as best I could Friday morning, and wrote 461 words. Even though I hadn’t picked a word prompt or outline note prompt first, I was able to tick off one of each for that blurb, then it, too, went in the bottomless pit.
Doing a little math from the word length of my outline notes at the beginning of the week and the end of the week, I wrote 502 additional words on those, doing the math from my single-word prompt list at the beginning of the week and the end of the work, I “wrote” 489 additional words, and my fictional blurbs totaled out to 573 words. Bringing my word count total to 1564 words. Next week I will dispense with the jury-rigged word counts and give *actual* word counts of my original fic blurbs and my goal for TD and what I accomplished of it.