Labor Day has come and gone, and my now annual summer writing hiatus is over. I read a lot, and spent quite a bit of time on walks and in the car mulling over story ideas for the next novel, so the time wasn’t wasted. Far from it. I decided the reason last year’s novel idea didn’t pan out was because I tried to write a good story in the wrong setting. The decision was made to set aside private detective Nick Forte for the time being, and take the parts of that story I liked and move them to Penns River so my cops can deal with them. It will fold well into the evolving arc I have there, and allow me to find a better vehicle for Forte, who I still hope to get back to.
I’d like to thank Declan Burke for this gift. I was until a few years ago of the “a writer must write every day” school. I’ll admit, it allowed me to improve my writing quickly and kept me locked in. It was also in the process of burning me out, especially when coupled with an inability to sell anything. I was about to chuck it, and said so on this blog. Squire Burke not only made immediate efforts to set me straight, he recruited friends of his to drop by and lend some encouragement. This generosity will not be forgotten.
Just as important was Dec’s advice. To wit:
“…finish the WIP, take the summer off, watch the baseball. One of the best things I ever read was an interview with William Golding, in which he was asked about his writing routine. "Well, when I'm writing ..." he began, and that was the first time I realised you don't always have to be writing. In fact, all the time writing is like only breathing out. It can't be done - at least, it can be done, but not very well.”
As the Guinness ads used to say, “Brilliant!”
Time was I worked on an Anthony Trollope-like schedule: finish one book, type THE END, turn the page, and start the next. Trollope did well that way; I did not. The Golding quote and Dec’s breathing out analogy got me to see hard and consistent work is necessary, but so is time to recharge. Now I set aside the current project—whatever it is—on Memorial Day weekend, to resume after Labor Day. I read, I watch baseball, I take walks, I nap. I may write something short if the mood strikes me, but I make little or no effort to think about novels. By the end of June ideas come unbidden during walks or trips to the store. Sometimes it’s a solution to a problem, others it’s a whole new idea. Some I discard quickly, some are examined and discarded, and others have bits sliced off to be used while the rest is discarded. Little is written down. Summer is for letting things flow without the pressure of knowing a page needs to be written today.
This weekend I’ll write the ideas I have onto index cards and start sorting them. I have too much for one book, so a decent chunk of the next may also be laid out, subject to complete change if next summer’s walkabout leads me in a different direction. What matters is, I’m ready to write. I’m enthusiastic about getting back into the groove, and I have already adjusted my schedule to make it easier to sustain progress once I begin. I’ll not only be writing every day, I’m looking forward to it…now that I’m writing.