Writing every day (and why it’s like Snooker)

I’m on day three of deliberately writing at least 1500 words every day, just to dip my toe in the waters of this “having a schedule” thing. It’s not out of a need to be more productive — my lackadaisical eh-I-writes-when-I-feels-like-it schedule certainly hasn’t been a hinderance to my overall output, but I’m not certain I have the best solution until I’ve tried them all, and I’m not happy unless I’m certain about things.

My writing style has evolved to wanting to know where the major explosions are in the story before I start but leaving how I herd the characters to be standing over them when the time comes is down to the daily writing. I learned to love Star Trek behind my dad’s knees as he lay on the couch. But if it wasn’t TOS, it was Snooker tournaments.

Snooker’s a great game. You hit balls into holes until you can’t hit any more balls, then you do your best to bugger your opponent’s next shot. That’s me writing on a schedule. I write until I can’t write any more, and then I set up the next scene so that I have to go away and do some thinking as to how I’m going to get the characters out of this one. Your writing can’t be predictable if you don’t have a clue how it’s going to work until it does.

Some of the best scenes in my work comes from completely snookering myself into a corner with rabid bees bearing down on the characters in a tree which has already been set on fire. That’s what I worry about when I say okay, right, a schedule. Let’s do that. I have the attention span of a gnat and the internet has been designed to monetize what little I have of it into other people’s pockets. If I want my attention span on the thing that’s going to improve my life instead, I have to engage it.

Getting stuck is not something I could blunt force myself out of. In all the years I tried to just carry on and hope things sort themselves out, I just plough the problem deeper into the story. Ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away. If there’s a lull in the story as it occurs naturally, it’s simple to just make the worst possible thing happen and carry on; upping the stakes always works to make the characters deal with Problem(old) and Problem(new) at the same time.

If it isn’t a lull, though, and I’m well and truly snookered or even when I know exactly what has to happen but I still can’t write it, there’s always something wrong. A stubborn simple bridging scene that needs to be three paragraphs and a significant observation has become the cornerstone of a major plot movement more times than I can count, and all because, rather than forcing myself to just write the stupid scene and get one with more awesome parts, I sat with the reason why writing it didn’t interest me until I made it into something that did.

And it’s that part of my process I’m worried about writing. I have gotten better at desnookering myself between writing sessions even when I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next at the end of the last day, but it’s that second case, when I know what I want to write but don’t want to write that I worry I’m going to lose. I like having an attention span that I use like a canary. If I’m not engaged enough to write it, I can guarantee no one will ever want to write something I had to force myself to do.

But you can fix anything in the rewrite. Except for the K-6 curriculum the Alberta gov’t is trying to pass as facts. That needs a do-over. But for day three, I’m happy with the progress so far.

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