I’ve been busier than usual with community activities, recertifying as a fitness professional, and researching and planning the switch to an electric car. Time well spent, but meanwhile, book eight in the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series has been getting about an hour a day of attention. I don’t feel like a full-time writer.
On the plus side, when I’m less wrapped up in the book, I question everything about it. Does the plot really work? It has to be meaningful, not just a puzzle being solved. How does it further the lead characters’ series arcs? How does the very nature of the mystery challenge their development? How does it interact with their personal lives?
Then there’s this question that comes up with every book: Is the antagonist character too much like prior antagonists? And how does this new enemy make the perfect opponent to fit my main characters’ strengths and—even more important—their flaws?
How many components of the plot need to change? Are there aspects of it that might turn off my long-term fans? If I feel it doesn’t sustain visionary fiction element of the series, my readers might think so, too. I have to create stakes that are serious as death without the threat of murder.
This blog post was my “thinking aloud session.” I’ve got some revisions to make, but I’m more confident of them now. Thanks for listening!
A day without fiction is like a day without food, sleep or exercise. At times, I may be so busy I can only write for twenty minutes or can only devote fifteen minutes to reading a novel, but I don’t go without. This is requires no self-discipline. It’s like the desire to run that grabs me on a beautiful day or the need to get up from my desk for a yoga break.
My fiction time comes after I empty myself of the day with journaling and meditation. It takes a lot to shut down my community and planetary concerns and my ever-growing to-do list for work and then keep them shut down for the night. These thoughts aren’t unhealthy, but once I’ve talked with others and taken what action I can for the day, I need to shift gears to save my sanity. At a set time in the evening, I turn off everything but my laptop and in perfect silence, I write. Ah. The best time of the day.
There’s only eustress, not distress, in the effort of writing, even when I’m analyzing a stuck plot or revising the antagonist’s motivation again and again until it makes sense. At present I’m working on a “cut revision,” focused solely on eliminating excess verbiage. (And slaughtering darlings as I go.) It makes me happy. So does the first draft; so do the later revisions. Writing is totally absorbing in all its stages. This is what Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi calls flow. Activities that bring about flow create more happiness than those that are easier. Reading is more demanding than watching TV and is thus more likely to produce flow
I have to write at night, and then I have to read before I go to sleep. The harder the day, the more I appreciate my escape into a well-told story. While I’m in engaged-citizen mode or professor mode, I’m trying to make the world a better place, but in its own way fiction does that, too.
My fellow writers, I thank you. You’re doing your part to keep me sane.
Does anyone else depend on fiction this way? Or have I actually gone crazy?