Today's guest post is from David W Edwards, author of the new paranormal thriller Nightscape: Cynopolis. As we enter November and many of you gear up for NaNoWriMo David shares his tips on how to deal with those days when you just don't want to write your novel any more. Over to you, David.
Making art is inherently chancy. The main risk is that you’re never assured it’s going to turn out the way you envision (much less better). In fact, art that surprises the artist may be considered a defining aspect of the genuine sort as opposed to, say, counted cross stitching.
I began my latest novel, Nightscape: Cynopolis, in the fall of 2012 thinking I’d dash it out in a year Elmore Leonard-style. I spent about six months conducting research and outlining the story before writing in earnest. Although I typically do a lot of research, especially interviewing prospective character models, I don’t develop detailed outlines for fear the narrative will come across as too mechanical or inorganic. In this case, the outline was a scant five pages for a book that grew to over 152,000 words.
The first draft took about two years to the month, followed by extensive editing that resulted in a manuscript of about 126,000 words. There’s no way I could’ve predicted in 2012 what hectic, widescreen form the novel would take in 2015. And even though I was never seriously tempted to give up on it, there were moments when I worried I’d got myself in over my head.
To beat back those panicky feelings, I adopted several coping behaviors. I offer up the three most effective as a self-deprecating gesture of goodwill…
1. Run away from home
During the week, my standard writing routine is to get in an hour or so before I leave the house for work and then add another hour in the evening. On weekends, I usually write between eight and ten hours a day, again, starting early in the morning. I write almost exclusively in my home office and, particularly on the weekends, it’s essential for me to get out of the house after my first long stretch at the computer.
Getting out of the house helps me clear my head on those days when I find myself working and re-working the same stubborn paragraph. The best option is to go for a run or extended walk as the physical activity seems to free my thoughts for awhile. But grocery shopping or browsing the local bookstore can work too. Often, the problem I had at my desk sorts itself out in the course of doing something else. (If not, sometimes a nap or a night’s solid rest will do it.)
I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be helpful to have a spot for writing outside the house. I’m currently reading Zachary Leader’s superb biography, The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-1964, and one thing about Bellow’s writing habits that stands out is his chronic need for a private writing space. Maybe someday, if I ever devote myself to writing full-time, I’ll try it out.
2. Read work by low-bar rivals
I’m not competitive on the scale of say, Norman Mailer, but I was raised by two coaches, so I definitely have a competitive streak. When I’m feeling stymied or disappointed in my work, it’s occasionally motivating to read stories from writers I consider low-bar rivals—successful genre writers whose work I regard as patently inferior. I’m not about to name names as I’m sure you already have your own go-to list.
The exercise I employ here involves comparing randomly-selected passages of the selected author’s work to my own. Repeated judgments in favor of my work help restore a measure of confidence. If this joker with his clumsy similes and thoughtlessly bland dialogue can make it, what am I worried about? I’m not proud of this impulse and it never lasts long, but while it does, it can help overcome a temporary doubt.
This exercise spurred one of the most innovative sections of the book: its thirty-plus page action-packed climax. At a point near the end of the book when I felt overwhelmed with all of the plot and character bits coming to a head, I decided to complicate the final action scene in terms of both content and structure. I not only ramped up the supernatural threat in a way I hadn’t originally planned, I wrote the scene as a continuous sequence divided into shorter and shorter snippets from alternating points-of-view—all part of assuring myself the book would go beyond the merely ordinary.
3. Make an investment in yourself you can’t afford to let go to waste
You’ve probably heard or read about the benefits of telling friends and family members you’re writing a book in order to psyche yourself up for it. I recommend taking this idea one step further: make an investment you can’t afford to let go to waste. The investment should be something that has few or no applications outside of writing, say, software like Scrivener or Storyist, cover art, or Facebook ad credits.
By making these kinds of investments, you’re daring yourself not to fail. I made plenty of them in my run up to finishing the book, including investments in editing, cover art, a new website and advertising. I made it too expensive for me to fail by giving up.
That old lottery truism holds here: you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket.
About the Author
David W. Edwards is the writer, director and producer of the feature film Nightscape and author of the novels Nightscape: The Dreams of Devils and Nightscape: Cynopolis. He attended the University of Southern California’s prestigious screenwriting program and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature while working for a variety of Hollywood production companies.
He’s the founder and former CEO of a successful high-tech market research firm, and a former two-term state representative. He currently lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with his family.
About Nightscape: Cynopolis
Nightscape: Cynopolis is the second book in this transmedia series of supernatural thrillers. Each entry in the series is designed to work as a standalone release but those who delve deeper will be rewarded with surprising connections.
The book concerns a former countercultural radical who starts a thought-virus that turns the city’s dogs feral and its underclass into jackal-headed beasts. Abandoned to their separate fates among hordes of monsters, the few surviving humans must find a way to elude the military blockade preventing their escape or defeat the virus at its source—before government forces sacrifice them all.
Kirkus Reviews calls it “entertaining, poignant, and heady, a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride powered by jolts of philosophy.”
Find out more by visiting www.nightscapeseries.com.
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