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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

World Enough, and Time

Greetings, Challengers, and welcome to the first of (I hope) a long series of articles on "finding the time to write and to publish."

Otogu ("Other Things of Greater Urgency," the demon-entity scourge of the Friday Challenge) is a many-armed beast.  No one person--a sane one, anyway--could possibly hope to catalog them all, or live long enough  to even accomplish half of the dreaded task, but here, at least, is a representative sample.  On her right side, she has arms labeled "Ultimate Time Sink" (aka "The Day Job"), "Commute Time," "Daily Chores," and "The Horrendous List of Things You've Been Putting Off Since Last Halloween."  Her left arms include "Quality Time," "Poker Night," and the horrific "Writer's Block" (aka "We Don't Need to Eat Until Next Friday").  (Oh...and there's also an extra mouth, filled with row upon row of jagged black shark-like teeth, labeled simply "Video Games").

But this series is not about Otogu; rather, it is about the weapons we can take up in the holy quest to fight Otogu, and the skills to use those weapons to their best effectiveness.

At the top of the list is the Lance of Portability.  There is simply no substitute for having the ability to write with you at all times.  That way, unexpected surprise delays--like sitting at a railroad crossing, or or the wait in an emergency room with the thirteen year old who did not realize that that particular branch, thirty feet off the ground, was rotten and easily broken--become instant excuses to add a few lines to the work-in-progress.  In ages past, there was little alternative to a pad and pen, but in recent months, the ability to actually type while away from the keyboard has become more and more practical.  Alphasmart, Quickpad, and laptop computer have all given way to netbook, Star Trek-style Pad computer and ebook reader, and even smartphone (two pages of my Nano novel attempt last year were punched into a Blackberry).

Flexibility is a critical blade.  I find it difficult to "move on" to another scene in the story before the current one is done...but if there's a piece to the scene that has not yet worked its way up from my subconscious, the story bogs down to a halt.  Last year's Nano attempt was the first time I've ever been able to "jump around" in the storyline.  Consider it a cure for writer's block; if this chunk isn't flowing, move on to something else, and keep going.  It is a difficult weapon to master, but well worth the effort.

Some writers--not me--find the Holy Armor of Organization to be of utmost importance.  They outline the story, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, even paragraph by paragraph, so that the entire story is clear and concise before the first word of exposition reaches the page.  Sorry, but this is a suit of troll's armor that this particular hobbit has never been able to wear...mainly because my stories seem to wander from the outline as the characters take on personalities and minds of their own.

Last, and most definitely not least for this particular article, is the Shield of Support.  Take it from me, guys...if you don't have encouragement and understanding from She Who Must Be Obeyed, your writing career will slowly grind to a halt.  Ladies, there's no doubt in my mind that you'll have a similar problem without the understanding of your significant others as well.

Now, properly armed and armored, we can wade back into the heat of battle, and start lopping off arms, right and left...


Allan Davis is a writer, photographer, database programmer, and--along with wife Yvette--new business owner.  He also seems to enjoy the pain and punishment of trying--and failing--to complete a novel in thirty days each November...and fully admits that the purpose of this series is much more to find time to write himself than to help anyone else find the time to write, though that's an added benefit.
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