Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery
dr_pretentious

Good Writing Day! Broke 20K!

Oh, man, I thought I'd never cross that line. Today was my most productive day yet on the Stisele project.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
20,387 / 50,000
(40.8%)

New words: 2567 Made today's quota and caught up the new deficit from yesterday. Came up one word short, had no mind left for a whole new sentence of story, and so looked for an old sentence to stick exactly one more word into. The one more word was--Ezra Pound forgive me!--an adverb.

Current deficit: Back down to 2951.

Working conditions: I should know better by now than to attempt my first writing shift of the day directly onto the laptop. I spent 3 hours (!) producing 669 words, and then this evening spent 3 hours producing the other 1898 by jumpstarting my brain with a longhand hour.

Notable incidents: We're in Chapter Three now. Semi-villainous Jrene's doing her duty by the royal line and wishes she were dead. Poor girl. It's a pity and a shame she has so alienated her siblings that they regard her misery with a combination of revulsion and fascination. Stisele's 13 in this chapter, and any minute now I will send her off to war. Any minute now, if I can just get out of these interminable scenes in which she and Harentil fuss with one another's hair.

I figured out why I got stuck in Chapter One for so long. In the last book, I had a bunch of viewpoint characters, and anytime I needed to change the POV to get new information to the reader, a new chapter just happened all by itself (well, in the most recent draft, anyway). But in The Traitor of Imlen, I only have one viewpoint character, unless you count the tiny little interludes from Laurebes's flawed biography of Stisele. As a result, the whole book feels like one big chapter to me. If I'm not changing viewpoint characters to get from the seventh year of Stisele's life to the 13th, then it feels perfectly natural to get through those six years between plot points through tedious continuous narration of every goddamn day.

Fixed it: Said to myself, you don't have to think about 13-year-old Stisele as a different character to recognize that she has a different mind. Developmentally, she has a radically different brain at that point. And if there's one thing Stisele's good at, it's changing her mind, even once she's grown and on her way. (In that sense, she's kind of refreshing, after two years of writing about the House of Ythrae and the stubbornness that is their besetting family dysfunction.)

I spent my first writing shift of the day at Starbucks with Breva the Axe, who is coming unglued about her impending dissertation defense. This is a perfectly natural, predictable response to the ordeal. While talking her down enough so she could begin her day's revisions, I found myself saying a lot of things about the dissertation process that are probably applicable to writing and publishing novels. What do you guys think?



You don't have to believe it's going to happen in order for it to happen. Can you think of even one person you know who finished a doctorate who believed, just before the end, that the end would ever come? (No, not even Anthony.) It's a Big Lie that you have to have hope in order to triumph. Sure, there are people who give up the minute they run out of hope, but that doesn't mean it's a universal imperative. I bet a lot of them only do it because somebody else told them it was impossible to persist without hope--what do you think those people might have accomplished, if they'd overcome this damn fool false doctrine? You know how to press forward in the absolute absence of hope. I've seen you do it for years now. You're really good at it. Well, I'm pretty sure that's the only way anyone finishes anything that's actually hard. It's the only way I've ever made it through the endgame of anything.

You don't have to think you can do it. I can sit right here and know that for you. The task of belief is delegated. Carry on.

Of course your director told you the best you could hope for was to pass with revisions. Did you ever hear of anybody who passed without revisions? (Not even Anthony, right?) Your director has been signing off on doctoral dissertations for 30 years, and I bet she never once did it without demanding revisions. If there were such a thing as a perfect dissertation, and you wrote it, and then you submitted it to your committee, they'd still demand revisions, if only out of habit, or to make themselves feel like they were doing their jobs, or to have their thumbs in the pie. Everybody loves to have a thumb in the pie.

Everybody loves to have a part in an inevitable victory. Your graduation is an inevitable victory. When you need help, ask for it. Your family and friends will be that much more jubilant when you graduate for their having proofread, cooked a casserole, tended the printer, etc. (How did we all feel, when Anthony got that tenure track gig? Remember that?)

The dissertation you submit next week is not the book you will someday revise from it. It can't be, so it's a good thing it doesn't have to be.


(Yes, sabrinamari, you have heard a lot of that before. Can you think of any other bits that were especially helpful? Breva the Axe could use more, timing being what it is.)
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