Re-establishing the Flow

So. The beginning of the year again. I’m still getting used to writing 2013 dates. They seem supremely weird for some reason. Perhaps I have been unsettled by the odd number. I guess the ‘3’ rather than the ‘1’ or ‘2’ really means this decade is going to scroll away like the others.

In any case, it’s time to get back into my Urban Fantasy manuscript. Having told all and sundry about it through the Next Big Thing, I guess I better deliver!

I had hoped to get a first draft completed by the end of last year, but factors conspired to keep me away from the desk. I even did NaNoWriMo for the first time, but posted a pretty pathetic effort somewhere upward of 20k. Usually I am pretty consistent, but last November turned into the worst writing month of the entire year.

So I’m back, trying to build up a head of steam. As usual, my experience of starting on a manuscript is like pulling teeth without anaesthetic. All the various story elements I had managed to keep in my mind at the same time, and the feel of the prose, have all vanished away. Disappeared with all the reindeer back to the North Pole.

Right now I’m looking to find my way back into the story. As usual I need to try the back doors, which date from an early era and are prone to be left latched, rather than deadlocked.

I spent a few days trawling through my journals and found the entries where I first toyed with the ideas for the world, the history and magic. Then I found other entries with notes from books on New York history. These had helped me – along with a visit in 2009 – to get the feel of the place. Then it was back to my story notes, and my character backgrounds.

I’m not quite there yet, but I am starting to feel the right creative energies building again. The path is starting to open up. [Not that I wouldn’t opt for the round-the-world trip if I won the lottery right now, but then again I’ve never needed much encouragement to look for the nearest escape hatch.]

How do you find your way back into your manuscript after a break?

Cross-posted at chrismcmahons blog.

10 thoughts on “Re-establishing the Flow

  1. For me, it’s usually rereading what I’ve written. And then making sure that reading doesn’t become an avoidence mechanism. When you “just have to” reread this other one . . . Especially bad in a series, where you can almost justify starting at the start. Even worse when you’re doing a major revision or final draft of something that’s already got sequels, even if in very very rough drafts. I can keep reading until I’ve forgotten what I was suppose to have started last week.

    1. Hi, Pam. I’m a bit the same, except I seem to be able to redraft and correct manuscripts endlessly. Once again, it’s a bit of avoidance! Much easier to re-draft than break new ground.

  2. As I start my third in the series, I’m finding it difficult to get rolling strongly, too. I’ve got the plot roughed out, etc., but what’s holding me back is the residue of the exciting scenes in the latter part of the just-finished and released prior book — I want that high again. It’s making me dwell on action stuff that’s coming after Act 1, rather than concentrating on getting the new show underway.

    So now the start seems all “talkie” to me and I can’t trust my judgment. I’ve just about decided to ignore my judgment for now and get into the meat of Act 1 (past the talkie stuff) for a while before going back and making any significant decisions about it. Onward!

    1. Good luck with the new manuscript. Nothing beats that high of being in the flow, that’s for sure.

      Sometimes I have had that same experience with new work. Often I find it’s something that is bugging me at a subconcious level. Usually it’s that I have not connected properly with a character and need to explore their backstory before things start to make sense again.

      Good luck with the series!

      1. My starts often get too “talkie” and full of data dumps. I just ignore it on the first draft. My first clean up is to move this sort of stuff to where it is needed, or toss it in the Trash Can file I have for every series. I don’t even think of it as editing or a new draft or whatever. It’s just organizational material that _I_ need to know to write the story. Sometimes finding “where the story really starts” can be a bit of a hunt, not to mention removing an alarmingly large chunk of the total word count.

  3. I’m almost finished getting back into the swing of actually writing and revising.

    The process was to import EVERYTHING into my newly-learned Scrivener. Hundreds of Word files. Research. Pictures.

    And to create a new way of incorporating all my plotting features from Dramatica.

    My brain works in small chunks: when I go to a scene – to write or revise – I need to have, in one place, everything that goes into the scene. I used to have an elaborate paper system + Word + Excel.

    It has taken a couple months (and a class on Scrivener) to get a new, computer-based system. I’ve almost gotten everything loaded into it.

    I miss paper – I have over 20 notebooks for this story. But none of them are searchable – and searchable trumps handwriting. I will read in relevant parts of my notebooks (have Dragon Dictate, and I know how to use it!), but that is a big task, and I’m not sure I need it.

    By comparison, writing is easy.

    I will do a global ‘is this working’ pass, and then go back to my individual scenes. My plan is to start posting them on my blog, but the time it takes to do a complete reorganization is so unknown, I didn’t want to start serializing the novel before being sure I could keep it up.

    It really helps to know EXACTLY what I’ll be doing next: if I don’t have the answer to that question (with my filled in scene template – see website), I can’t write.

    1. Well it certainly sounds like you are quite organised & have a system that works for you. I’m a plotter as well, but a lot looser than you by the sounds of it!

      You’re right about one thing though – I have taken to putting all my storyline work into a Word file for the single reason that it’s searchable. That makes it so much easier to find things.

      1. I can’t do it that way. I’m the original “it all has to fit on a single sheet of paper, even if I have to tape several pieces together and write very, very small.” So I can see it all at once, you know.

        That’s for the overall story arc so I can draw little boxes holding significant activities underneath and attach them to the upside down “W” line at the top (Acts 1-3). Book 3 for me is a new challenge, several different major stories going on simultaneously in different places, and I have to make sure they’ll line up right.

        But I can only draft the actual upcoming scene sequence, with all the little filler scenes, too, no more than one act at a time at most, and that I do in a single document (Scrivener, in my case). That dictates the “what’s next” part for me as I write. Too much changes within an act — I come up with better ideas. If I tried to plot in detail beyond that either it would be wasted or it would rigidify (pretend it’s a word) ideas that may have drifted out-of-date by the time I get there. I can adhere to the major plot points, but a lot can change in-between about how I get there.

        I’m getting as much of a kick out of watching my head work as I am from the actual writing. I picked up the violin for Scandinavian folk music in my 30s, and it was the same thing — just as much fun to watch my head try to make sense of it all as to actually play the music. Neat toys, these brains.

        1. Brains ARE fun – mine just doesn’t work. Any more.

          I would never recommend someone else work my way – but the computerized file system that is Scrivener merely replicates, much more tidily, the elaborate paper system I already had – which grew, like Topsy, completely randomly over years.

          And my brain still works if I do what I call ‘atomize the task’: make the piece I’m currently working on small enough so that I can still keep it all in my head. Otherwise I wander all over the map, having wonderful ideas for new bits, never getting anything actually written.

          You do what YOU have to do – it’s neat seeing what a variety of ways lead to finished books. With the internet, and all those lovely people who tell you how THEY do it, there’s no excuse not to find a way that works for YOU. I appreciate everything I find.

  4. If I have the plot and/or characters already in mind, I go back and read a story or two set at that time period, in order to keep the continuity right. If continuity is not a problem, then I’ll start with a scene, maybe pull one from my odds-and-sods file and use it as a seed.

    For non-fiction, I start by reviewing my outline and then going through my notes. That refreshes my memory and gives me starting material. I’ve also started and outlined separate chapters. That gets the flow of the story going and provides a framework to hang footnotes and figures on.

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