Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Being Content With My Productivity Rate; IE T. L. Hines, T. M. Wright

Some of my blogs are premeditated, others are mind splurges. This one's a mind-splurge, one that sorta formulated while napping after writing this morning.  

In recent posts, I've talked about coming to grips with where am I as writer, being content with what I've accomplished, and not getting caught up with all  the "stuff" that gets attached to pursuing a writing career, and just focusing on the writing itself. 

So this morning - ironically, as I'm in the middle of a furious burst of productivity - I got thinking about my overall pace and productivity in general.  Now, I'd like to think I'm consistent and dedicated. Somehow, I make it a point to write at least two hours, every day.  And, when I have the free time, I pass up a lot of other things to go cloister myself somewhere quiet -  the public library, at my junior college alma mater's library, or even somewhere on campus now - and just write for hours.

However, I don't think I'm ever going to produce a real huge body of work, for several reasons:

1. My method is very slow.  I have to write all fiction long-hand, first.  Can't seem to just sit down and type stuff out.  That big blank screen without hard-copy to type from just shuts my brain down completely. 

Plus, I'm prone to re-writing.  I'm apt to rewrite a paragraph or phrase multiple times until I REALLY feel good about it.  I'm not gonna lie. I TOTALLY prefer this method of writing. I feel like the extra handwritten draft really smooths my prose out. But I've TRIED to skip this step - as often advised by other writers further up the food chain - and it just doesn't work for me.

2.  I seem to have a hard time generating sensible, cohesive plots that make sense. And this really bugs me. Hiram Grange I don't count, because I was writing in a given universe, and even though the story was mine, I knew what had happened before my story, where he had to be by the end, and his back-story had been established.  

But with all my other stuff, I spin my wheels checking for plot holes, inconsistencies, completely illogical plot turns, inconsistent and illogical characterization - you know, the stuff that annoys me as an avid reader and drives me INSANE as a  reviewer. Oddly enough, I'm far more confident in my ability to spin a pretty phrase than I am in my ability to write a good story. 

I know people say: "Get it done, then make it pretty", and I've gotten better at that...but still.  I agonize over whether "this choice makes sense", or "would your normal, average person, confronted with the supernatural, do that?"

To be fair, since embracing outlining, this has gotten a lot better.  Still, I envy folks who can just churn plots right out.

3. I've entered this whole thing late in the game. Sounds weird, but it's true. I lament - probably too much - the time I wasted in my early twenties before getting married, even my early thirties before we had kids.  Probably why I love teaching Creative Writing, trying to point folks in the right direction, because for nearly 10 years I operated in a complete vacuum, and I feel that now, especially.

So I'm 38.  Have only written a novella and sold a handful of short stories to the semi-pro market. Will certainly finish my first novel by 39, but will it be published before 40?  Granted, lots of people start late.  And when the kids are more independent, I'm sure I'll have more free time to write, especially over the summer.  But I'll never generate as much work as someone who hit the ground running in their early twenties or thirties, even.

But you know what? I'm becoming more and more okay with that, too. I think a lot about author T. L. Hines, these days.  Now, there's been other considerations that have affected his writing pace - some health issues a few years ago, and a recent family move to another city - but since his first novel Waking Lazarus was published in 2006, he's seen only four more novels published, the most recent being The Falling Away in 2010.

So only five novels in six years.  No short stories or novellas or editing gigs.  Just five novels. 

But five DAMN good novels.

Again, he stated on his Facebook recently about moving his family, and how writing has taken a backseat.  So you have to account for that.  But still, I always think of Tony's work when I get a little frustrated at how slowly things seem to move for me, worrying that I'll only ever write four or five novels in my lifetime (much less see them published).

But I'm completely okay with that.  Especially if those novels are REALLY DAMN GOOD novels.

I also think of veteran writer T. M. Wright.   Who, in his 43 years of writing, has only seen 23 novels published. Now again, I know his health has suffered as of late, and I know even less about his circumstances than I do Tony's.  But his novels - the ones I've read - are so well done. Written so well, even down on the word level.  So who cares if I only write four or five novels?

I only care that they're DAMN GOOD NOVELS.  And maybe if that happens, someone will read them and remember them.  I'd much rather be remembered for that, than for writing 30 novels read by nobody but sketchy, questionable reviewers who glad-handed me and gave me  five star ratings just because they're trying be "supportive".

And I'll stop there, because I'm NOT going into that topic, today...