>The Spaces Between

So, in the very first week of throwing the gauntlet and promising to do a lot of writing, I didn’t do any.

I have tons of excuses – there was Mile Hi con which inexplicably tired me more than it should. Then again, it sounded like a consumptive ward, so perhaps there’s some bug going around. Then there was this trip, which I’m dreading because it involves – horrors – flying and I hate flying. Also, we haven’t been to World Fantasy Con in years, and as you know – or perhaps not – there is a “con cloud of acquaintance” (defined as the people you look forward to seeing at each particular con, also those you can count on to run interference for you, etc.) and in the years we’ve been absent, we probably don’t have our acquaintance comfort zone, anymore. So, it’s almost like a brand new con. (And yeah, hard as this is to believe, for those of you who only know me from cons, I’m not comfortable in public. I just put on a good show.)

But beyond the excuses there is something else. Oh, not on the shorts. I’ve been doing revisions on old ones of those, and it will take me a while to get back to the swing of things. At least two weeks. However, there is a reason nothing got written on the novel – I’m in one of my patches of silence. I hit these periodically. And yeah, sometimes it means I took a false step. But most of the time it just means it goes… silent.

Some of you know I can – and have – write a novel in two weeks. So, you ask, why don’t I write twenty novels a year? The answer is these patches of silence. I’ve fought them for years. It’s not that I don’t know what the next chapter is – I do. Or that the novels feels wrong – it doesn’t. It’s more like the next scene/chapter/whatever needs to ripen. Seems to be part of my process, as annoying as it is.

I expect to hit the ground running and after WFC, I want to finish two novels (both started) for NANOWRIMO (what? It surprises anyone I NANOWRIMO?) The Brave And The Free and A Fatal Stain.

Are you NANOWRIMOing? Have you done it before? How did it go? Are there periods of silence in your writing life? If so, what purpose do you think they serve?

For those who picked up the gauntlet and are having trouble coming up with ideas, here are a few suggestions.

1 – write a story with the following: character: gymnast; setting: a siege; problem: a feint

2- three words (feel free to discard one): brush, landmark, spoonful

3- start with: Being dead wasn’t the problem.


  1. >Oh no! No, I rescind that. Whatever works. Creatives know their own brains, or they're not creative.Flying and public appearances are two of the most draining things for me, but I've been getting better at writing on planes. At least on int'l flights.

  2. >Yeah, I tend to write unripe scenes. I find that they ripen after I've plucked them from the branch, as it were; I consume them with raw sugar and non-dairy cream product at the rewrite.

  3. >Silences.If it weren't for men having the same problems, I'd blame it on hormones.Some times I can't write a romantic scene to save my soul, other I just want to kiss and make up. Sometimes I can skip over the scene and write it later, other times I have to play it over and over in my head, like a movie, until I'm satisfied with it. Sometimes a detailed outline to organize it is necessary.Sometimes I just need to spend a week editing while the subconscious kicks it around.And sometimes it's really nice when the voices shut up for a few days, you know?

  4. >MataPam,Silence is a blessing. I almost had to pull over on the drive to work and start typing just to get one of the voices to be quiet. Silence is Golden, Rare, but golden.Sarah,NaNoWriMo- Yep. Sane? Questionable. Manageable, technically, if I can get my butt in the chair and type…It's too funny about the plot-lines, I've run across so many "what about …?" ideas, but no actual writing time, odd that. Today… Today I'll write. Really.Good luck with (and enjoy?) the silence Sarah. I've got to get another idea out in text before it drives me nuts. cyberpunk meets rogue emerging magic, with evolution of the species. Looks like a continuous (a opposed to discontinuous) series of novellas, not sure how long, character's aren't speaking to me or each other right now.Sorry, I'm rambling. Until later.

  5. >Had some silence last night, but I'll make it up tonight. I'm working on that story I started Sunday and have committed to finishing by this Sunday to start another one. And it has taken a totally different turn since the actual writing started. It was going to be a fun, happy type story, but now it's a mysterious, magical laden story. The title I love, "Jujubes Me, Baby," will no longer work.Are you a pantser or a plotter with NaNoWriMo? I've been busy getting a story arc together and have outlined the first few chapters. I fear that will be totally inadequate once the first few days are past, so I'll spend a lot of this weekend getting my arc and chapters outlined. It's a lost colony sf story for YA, so I'm having to universe build a lot more than normal. I'm finding that universe building is not my strength, and Steve's been helping me out a lot with it. Turns out, while he's not a writer, he's a hell of a universe builder. He may end up with a co-by-line. Many times with my writing, I have to think about it and think about it until I'm tired of thinking and totally disgusted with myself for not getting it down on paper. Then I go put it down on paper. It, too, is a process that works for me sometimes.Linda

  6. >Hi Sarah,I was a little reluctant to take on writing a short a week (because of my silences) but I've submitted one and written another this week so far. Had to check up on dialect usage and found an old post of yours here from 2009.Helpful as always.

  7. >Being dead wasn't the problem. Even being dead and still mobile wasn't the problem. Having your fingers fall off when you tried to type, on the other hand – the one now on the floor, again…THAT was the problem.(This comment brought to you by a mental state not that much more lively)

  8. >David,Yes, I'm starting to think maybe in this case it is a matter of my being nervous about the trip. At least I wanted to write after I got here, though I still haven't done it. I should be able to after the con, definitely.

  9. >Pam,Dean Wesley Smith says that there is no such thing as writing block; you block on a project, not generally. Only in this case, I was also blocking on house cleaning, craft projects and walking. I think it might have been a combination of nervousness and being slightly ill.

  10. >Daniel,The problem was that the head wasn't silent, only the fingers. As I said, I think it was physical and partly nervousness. If so, I'll come out cracking next week.

  11. >Linda,I've done both with NANO. Some novels I can plot, some just come up totally pantsed.You've touched on what I call "dreaming the story" the thinking time. Sometimes when I get stuck, I need some routine boring work while my head plots.I think this is part of the issue I've been having for six months, because I walk with audio books, so I don't get that silence in which plot is born.

  12. >Chris LI'm glad it helped. I'm sure once I'm past the "life rolls" of mild illness and con (with relatives visit on the way there — which is where I am right now) I'll be writing madly. Sometimes when you have been inactive very long you need time to turn it around.

  13. >Hi, Sarah. I don't want to demotivate you – but are you expecting too much from yourself? Maybe the silent periods are just part of a natural cycle. I have often berated myself for not being a writing machine and doing everything, all the time, but the reality is I work in sequence – I need to get a whole bunch of stuff into my head, then the story comes out. I can't do both at once. Maybe the silence is part of your process – 'clearing the slate?'

  14. >It's been a rough week here too, but I've scraped 13k on book, 1K on another and a few hundred words on a short… May it pull together for you Sarah. This is not enough…

  15. >Don't everyone go beating themselves up over what they do well – create. We all know the problem is in the sales and marketing department. It used to be external, but now we're having to take on the job whether we like it or not. This is both stressful and time consuming, with inevitable impact on our writing.But picking on the writing and the cycle of creativity won't help much. That's not the problem. Well, for us beginners it is. But Sarah and Dave, you guys are good on that department, don't gnaw at it – the problem is over there, in marketing. Maybe we all need a crash course in sales techniques, or How to Rebuild an Industry.

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