Andrea here, The start of a new year is the traditional time for reflection and making resolutions for the the coming twelve months. (But of course, the weekend didn't count as the new year yet, as we get a pass on extra holiday frivolities until the start of the first work day of January . . . though the concept of the work day has, like so many traditions, become rather fluid because of the pandemic.)
Anyway, now that I've had an extra three days to scarf up sweets before beginning the spartan dieting of January, I'm now getting serious about what resolutions I'd like to make for 2021. There are a number of things on the list, (one of them being to stop baking so many chocolate chip blondies) but the first and foremost one deals with my writing process, During the pandemic shelter-in-place, I spent a lot more time in my writing room working on various projects, and I had a lot of time to reflect on process . . . or rather my lack of it.
I am a pantser (i.e. I write by the seat of my pants.) I usually have a very good idea of the first few scenes. (I think of this as the Magpie Effect. I see a shiny little bauble—that first cool beginning—and immediately bring it back to the writing nest. Alas, the shine soon wears off and I’m left thinking, why did I ever think this was a good idea?) As a famous director once said, “Good ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the ‘what’s next” that kills you.”
Now, I do have a vague idea of what’s going to happen in the end. But then there’s that vast, amorphous middle . . . which leaves me making it up as I go along. There are also days when it feels like my characters are making it up as they go along. I sometimes push back from my computer after 8 hours of writing and say, “Hmmm, that’s interesting. I didn’t know they where going to do THAT!” There's a certain degree of spontaneity and "ah-ha moments" when one works this way, It can be fun, but it's also very stressful. There's the inevitable anxiety when things are going slowly.
My brain seems wired to work this way, and I've always sort-of accepted that. However, as I said, there has been a lot of time to think on this, and I'm resolved to try to change some things going forward. I want to push myself to plot and outline with more detail. Seeing all the pieces more clearly will, I think, help me sharpen conflicts and relationships, and maybe tighten my prose. I'm under no illusion that it will be easy. Habit and patterns are really hard to break. But I hope I can challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone. I think I will be a better writer for doing so . . . and my editorial assistants have sharpened their pencils and promised to poke me if I start whinging.
So that's my new years' resolution. Are there any ones—large or small—that you care to share?