Wednesday, May 07, 2008

producing at a consistent rate

One of the precepts of writing I hear most often concerns the absolute necessity of producing consistently. I don't do that; I can't. I do have goals; right now, I'm trying to write 1000-2000 words per day, which is not unreasonable when I'm writing regularly. But yesterday I didn't write more than a few hundred: I just finished that last scene.

It's not that I didn't have time to spend in the study; it's that I had to stop and think. That scene was the end of a chapter, and I am switching between my PoVs by chapter--and while I've known for quite some time what the plot points of this next chapter will be, it wasn't until I'd written through the last one that I could plan the part of this chapter that matters. Because as far as I'm concerned, it's not what *happens* in this chapter that matters, but what it means to the characters.

In my view, plot only satisfies when it is a vehicle for character. I believe the stories that matter are about characters, not events. The events are critically important: they are the things that force the character to reveal himself, to grow and change. But if telling you the plot points of this next chapter would constitute a spoiler in one sense, in another sense they hardly matter at all--because what happens at the Winter Solstice in the Cathedral of St. John is important only because of the things Lesle learns about herself, because of the decisions Deaclan is forced to make which will push him closer to the commitment he fears, because of the conclusions the movers-and-shakers who are in that building will draw and the things they will do in response--which will reveal to each of my PoVs things they might never have otherwise figured out, and cause them to react in turn.

My characters surprise me--usually in little ways, but occasionally in ways that leave me reeling for days--in every chapter I write. It isn't until I put them into these situations I dream up that I discover how they will react--and, naturally, their reactions shift the situation as it unfolds, so that I exist in a state of continual surprise. That's what makes the work of writing interesting, as far as I'm concerned: in part because the work continues to challenge, as I must continually adapt to their shenanigans. It's part of what makes the story come alive; but it also makes productivity uneven, because once enough surprises pile up, I have to stop and think about how the PoV whose task it is to begin the next segment of the tale (in this case, Deaclan) will react to the things that happened while he wasn't driving.

I know enough of what's on his mind now to begin the next chapter--so off I go.

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