5/06/2009

Boredom

Boredom, I find, can sometimes be a useful creative tool. The more hours stretch out, the more the mind wanders, and if you're a writer, that can actually turn out to be a good thing. It not only allows you to get some distance from the story you're working on, it's during those distracted moments when some of our best ideas can come to us via the subconscious.

I'm in the final stretch of the third, as yet still untitled, Dakota Merrick book (some working titles - Killing Light, Ghosts of the Magi - if you can come up with a seriously good title without knowing what the book's about, I'll send you a copy of everything I've ever published. And I'll also be eternally grateful). I didn't write the end of the book during the first draft, not because I didn't know what happened, but because it needed something 'more'. For the kind of fiction I write, which is strongly plot-driven, I want to surprise the reader, to come up with twists or unexpected ideas that spin the last stage of the story in interesting new directions. What I had for an ending in that first draft was good enough, but that - if you follow me - isn't always good enough. I needed something more.

At times like this I might get inspiration just by randomly typing any idiot idea into Scrivener's notepad until something emerges, and sometimes I've been surprised by the ideas that have come to me this way. Writing out the already-familiar details of the story or scribbling randomly about the relationships of the characters to each other can lead to unexpected connections becoming suddenly apparent. Or new ideas can appear that require me to go back into the text and rejig the story in order to foreshadow it. This can allow the plot to go in unexpected new directions that themselves prove to be springboards for yet more new ideas.

Another approach is to do anything but write, and this is where carefully cultivated boredom comes in, the only drawback being the conviction I'm not actually doing anything productive if I don't have my fingers permanently glued to the keyboard. Today I've deliberately done no writing, having reached a point where I know I want to develop the end of the book to include new themes and events that should eventually pop into my head. I could tinker endlessly with the existing text, but in my own experience that doesn't get me where I need to be. So instead of doing anything at all I'm watching tv, or youtube, and getting that jittery feeling I get when I haven't really done any writing all day.

At some point - today, or the day after, or the day after that - the ideas I need will come, as they've always come.

Other stuff; it hit me recently I've written pretty much nothing about life here in Taiwan. I may need to do something about that, but if so it's going to have to wait until book three is finished - the deadline is July 1st, or slightly less than sixty days. Nova War, the sequel to Stealing Light, is due out at the beginning of September, in hardback. It's currently available on Amazon UK for pre-order.

Someone pointed out in the comments recently that the Angel Stations link at the top of the page doesn't work. Yeah, sorry about that. Authorial laziness, I'm afraid. I really need to do something about it. I also need to take the other online book samples and make them into downloadable formats - epub, Sony, Kindle format etc. Lots of things to be done. I could do them while I'm thinking about the book, but that kind of displacement activity, I frequently find, rarely results in the genuine ideas that result from the kind of mind-numbing tedium I'm after.

I've been informed by a friend in the banking industry (Chris! Pizza!) that he believes the economy will be back on track by this time next year. I tend to pay attention to Chris's opinion on financial matters because he saw the credit crunch coming and gave me some very useful financial advice during the year I was half-paralysed with an injured spine.

If Chris is right, an improving economy would be good news for me, since I'd like to be back in the UK by this time next year and I'll need to get some kind of day job. I won't - unfortunately - be able to live entirely off my writing income the way I can over here (and even that isn't so straightforward anymore since my money is worth a good bit less than it was before the financial crisis).

I have a couple of practical work ideas in mind, but I must admit the idea of teaching creative writing does appeal, although it may not prove to be practical. A random browse through the websites of various local colleges and further education establishments back home shows they all have creative writing courses, but whether or not they pay enough to be at all worthwhile doing is another matter; I know little about how these things work, and I have a dark suspicion any income generated from such efforts wouldn't really amount to much more than pocket money in the greater scheme of things. But it's something at least worth investigating, especially now Edinburgh's Napier College is now running year-long courses in genre writing. Clearly a lot of people want to be writers.

2 comments:

Paul said...

At the risk of going near a Doctor Who reference, Russell T Davies has written more than once about how sometimes the best way for him to sort out script problems is to tear himself away from the keyboard and do something -- anything -- else, including (on at least one occasion) wondering around a wet and windy Cardiff Bay at three in the morning. Essentially, just thinking about anything other than the script. Or, indeed, thinking about nothing much at all.

Almost inevitably, his subconscious will eventually kick up a radical new idea at some point later.

Of course, in these particular cases, the end results were a couple of Torchwood and Doctor Who episodes that had some people pulling their eyes out, but the basic principle seems to hold.

Bob Lock said...

OK, I'll give it a go :)

Extinguished Light

The Light Shadowed

Dakota In Darkness

A Haunt Of Magi

Spectral Darkness

Spectral Light

Darkness Dawns

Of course Gary if you send me a PDF of the first draft I could probably come up with something more suitable...

*inserts tongue in cheek*

Bob