Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Chasm Between Dreams and Reality

Are you awake? Are you sure? Sometimes, I'm not too sure...

Those that follow me already know this -- I write at nights. It's just how things have worked out in my life. No complaints -- just a statement of fact.

I have both a day-job and an amazing family to tend to. By the time our two boys fall asleep, it's right around 9-ish. For the first 60 minutes I finish up day-job related matters so that the next morning isn't a complete cluster. Then, around 10-ish I enter my world of writing. It's a lonely world... by design.

Noise canceling headphones + novel-specific playlist + coffee = Approximately two hours of writing

I am efficient by necessity. I don't have the luxury to write eight to ten hours per day, or write for many months. But there's more to it than meets the eye.

As I reach the point of exhaustion (typically around midnight) it usually coincides with the start of a new scene or the start of an important conflict. As I slip under the sheets, although exhausted, my brain is still hyper-active. And I want that. I need that in order to be efficient with my time.

Let me explain.

Jaume Plensa Dream
Once I'm out, in my half-dream-half-conscious state, I see the scenes that I've just written. I "see" the movie of the scenes. I hear the dialogue, I see the facial expressions, I feel the thoughts... and then... something amazing happens. The story -- the movie -- continues. I see how the movie plays out, I see the next scene.

I am saddened to say that by the time I wake up, 80% of what I saw is gone. But those nuggets that remain I immediately jot down in my writing journal.

But it doesn't stop there. Throughout the day, when getting coffee, when in the car, when eating, I start filling the blanks.

By the time I am ready to write, my brain, my fingers, my heart is bursting at the seams to write it down. So when I launch Scrivener, I have an explosion of material coming from my fingers.

My daily goal is 2,500 words. I have done 5,000 on many occasions.

I don't say this to show off. In fact, this type of work is not sustainable. My worlds are sometimes blurred. Headaches are common. I start to think my characters are real. Which is why it is critical for me to write with velocity. I often think that if I take too long with a novel, either the story will leave me, or I will have a nervous breakdown -- or both.

All the best tell the aspiring novelist to separate themselves from a finished first draft for 30 days -- to create distance and objectivity.

I've done this with both my novels. With Aces I finished the first draft in 8 weeks. Rocky Peak, my second novel, was done in 6 weeks. During the break I did my best to "heal" the scar tissue left on my brain. But it less than a week, my brain begins to fill the plot gaps that I've missed during the first draft.

But I resist the temptation. Even though I am certain my characters are calling me back.

I hold out for as long as I can. Because I know that once I start, the chasm between my two worlds will collapse again. In perpetual purgatory. And you know what? I actually like it... What can I tell you? I'm a writer.

Fight the good fight.


  1. I'm kinda the same way. I'm in college and I work, so the lack of time is pretty stressful, especially when I can feel my characters bulging behind my eyes. Gotta love the madness.

    <3 Kelsey Leigh

  2. Thank you, Kelsey. Our madness is what makes us unique :) I read 80% of Americans want to write a book. But only a few of us have that madness to keep us going, even when the circumstances of our lives try to get in the way. Good luck! And by the way, I love you blog!



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