Bookrocacy (Or How Sometimes You Just Wanna Write And Say The Heck With The Note-Taking)

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2023-02-24 07:00:00-05:00 No comments

You would think after all the go-rounds I've had on this particular go-round, I would know better, but I don't.

See, I hate all the bookkeeping that goes with writing a story. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I hate making sheets for characters. I hate writing plot outlines. I hate keeping track of locations and the mechanics of things. I also know if I don't do those things, I'm ultra-screwed.

It's been hard to disabuse myself of the idea that if I couldn't hold the entire story in my head, I didn't deserve to write it. This is one of those goofy ideas that comes from being told way too often and way too early on What A Smart Person You Are. After a while, you feel bad for exhibiting any behavior that would indicate you actually have limits (like, say, taking notes on a story), and you spiral down into a well of self-doubt. Or, you ignore all that and just take the damn notes and get on with your business.

Some of it is also the feeling of budgeting my time wrong. The time I spend "writing" my book could be spent actually writing my book. Again, misleading: of the total amount of time spent writing a book, the time spent actually putting the words to the paper is sometimes not even half. It's a delusion to think that every moment I'm not putting words to paper that have a chance of ending up in the book itself is wasted time.

I've had this bad habit in the past of creating detailed writeups for everyone and everything for my book, not bothering to update them when the book changes as it inevitably does, and then just resorting to what's actually in the manuscript as the source of truth for things. Most of the time, the book's short enough that I can get away with it. (Maybe that's one of the reasons we shouldn't encourage people to learn from doorstopper fantasy as teaching examples: it's far more frustrating to keep track of everything in such a work than it is in something that's a mere 90K-120K words.) But I do find myself drifting away from the project wiki, and some of that is this stupid internal peer pressure to "write a book and not a reference work". It's a kind of snobbism, a self-importance, and I know it, but that doesn't make it any less difficult to fend off.

One other consequence of struggling with this is I'm rethinking how much detail, and in what form, to put into my character dossiers. I hate feeling like I have to fill in a dozen fields, and I really don't - sometimes just a few will do. Physical details matter for the sake of continuity, but the writeup doesn't have to go one for pages. Those kinds of things are best relegated to the discussions one has with oneself about the role of a character, or their behavior, etc., and then condensed into the few salient observations that need to be in the dossier.

Above all, I have to practice patience with myself. If I spent four hours a day for the next calendar year doing nothing but "writing the book", there's a good chance I'd have to throw a lot of it out anyway. I did throw out something like the final third of Shunga-Satori between drafts 1 and 2, and ended up significantly reworking and tightening the book as a whole. So spending a few more hours here and there to know my story better, and the people in it, isn't a waste of time. This I must engrave on my liver, as they say.

Tags: creativity creators writers writing