Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pushed Process

I was thinking about pushing the process and the results I've seen from doing just that, but I haven't been able to do that in about a week and pushed process has been happening naturally.

Which is to say when I have a short turn around on two short articles I don't know how to find the info for and which I didn't work on over the weekend because it was our 17th wedding anniversary and which are due tomorrow, that seems to be one of the best triggers possible for making the fiction want out.

I wrote something around 850 words last night on two different projects, but what impresses me is this: First, neither had a concrete due date. One was a short story I wrote a very long time ago for an anthology project that instantly folded, like the minute I hit 'send' or something. It's a slippery time travel story mixed with alternate reality mixed with the main character's actual schizophrenia mixed with an incident or event that sets everything in motion. I haven't looked closely at it in years, just knew I've always liked the story and believed in it, so when a magazine I'd very much like to get into wrote back and said if I'd clarify some issues, they'd read it again, because they like it, I decided to. After having put this off for no less than three months, I did it last night when the end of a nonfiction book and those two articles and another article that, now I've done the impossible 12 interviews for, really should be written even if the editor isn't in a panic about it (she knew she was giving me 12 interviews to track down.) Net new word count was something around 400 words. Old words taken out were around 100, since the story ended up 300 words longer than it had been. Probably took around 90 minutes and turns out the problem was the central conceit or instigating incident no longer made sense without the anthology wrapped around it. So I changed it, and to me it makes sense, and it took a good chunk of time away from those niggly deadline mortgage-paying nonfiction projects. The other 400 words came in a story that has no deadline, is just a short, silly little story that I rather like, and which was finished only that market doesn't take present tense, so I spent about an hour changing it to past tense.

Second, I did not head over and work on the novel (which is so close to the end it has apparently frightened me, so work on it is scant) or any of the 4 or 5 short stories in progress or any of the other 4 I think stories that someone as said they'd like to see again if I made changes (I am not particularly good at changing stories - as opposed to just writing new ones with the new info in them - but in these instances the suggestion was usually cutting about 1000 words and I'd like to see how each of these would look shorter, which isn't a process that lends itself to just writing a similar-but-different story.) I didn't go do these things, I did head over to the nonfiction (where I promptly lost myself in the pleasure of the book project and all three articles languished). But the fiction did yammer in my head.

Which is why it's not always necessary to clear the decks and find a glorious sun-drenched (or moody thunderstorm-ridden) two or three or four hours to work on the fiction. Like anything else, fiction can expand (at least in my experience) to fill the time available to it, without necessarily producing more than it would have in a constrained shorter span. Sometimes when I'm on deadline with articles or books I find I write more fiction than ever. Maybe because the writing engine is primed, maybe because I'm contrary. I really don't care which - it's fiction! Other times, having done battle with depression or tiredness or those fiddly little life details that sometimes eat up vast tracts of time, I find that Rick calling from Reno to say he'll be home in 30 minutes causes me to dive into the fiction and write upwards of 1000 words in that time.

So today I'm writing a post when I should be finding the two short articles' info so I can start the minute Rick leaves for work when really I meant to start by now and I can only hope that not only does the nonfiction flow and get itself well done and out of the way, but that the fiction will notice it's being edged out - and react.

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