Sprints vs. Marathons

It’s Monday once again, but not, this time, a marathon. Nope, done with those, after last week’s events, so if I’m not doing that, then that means I have to do something else. Easy logic. Thankfully, the weather forecast has flipped from its previous brutal high eighties all the time forecast, to a more moderate lower to mid eighties deal. That, I can handle more easily. I’m stocked with sports drinks as well as water, planning smaller, more frequent, lighter meals, there’s a second fan in my office, aimed at my feet, and a new ice pack at the base of my spine. Quite comfy, really, which means there’s only one thing I need to get the second draft of this chapter done, which would be…the first draft of this chapter.

There is one, I should mention, but it’s short, and, now that I know more about Ruby, her Hero, and their story, these scenes are going to require something more. I don’t mind that; it means that the story is real and alive, and it’s going places. That’s all good stuff.  What is not so good is the old  “oh crap, what am I doing, I was supposed to work this all out over the weekend and now it’s Monday” feeling. Which would normally turn into “welp, guess it’s an uber-marathon in that case. Put the previous versio aside, start from scratch, keep pushpushpushpushing no matter what, even if it takes all night.” Which, after last week, no. Not doing that.

Which means new approach needed. Long term solution, better time management, enforcing boundaries, and keeping track of what environmental factors are in place on especially successful/productive days. Looking back at the time, a few weeks ago, when I shot far past my page count, the habit that sticks out to me most is that I took short, frequent breaks. So, this time, sprints instead of a marathon. Marathons are necessary sometimes, and there are days when I don’t want to stop and would happily chug on long into the night, and into the wee hours, but that’s the difference, and it’s an important one.

This past week, I got current on season two of Poldark, and I have a lot of feelings about that. Mostly, impatience, because I want season three to begin now, thankyouverymuch, but also anger at Ross, and the very firm decision that, if things come to that (no spoilers, please) I am firmly on Team Demelza about the thing Ross did at the end of Season Two. There will always be a part of me that will forever blink at the screen in disbelief. but A) Poldark is not a romance novel, B) the story isn’t over yet, and C) while I hated what happened, I loved being surprised.

Though I’m currently reading a YA that has my attention, Poldark gave me a thirst for historical romance with the same flavor. That sort of story that could not possibly take place in any other place or time, or with any other people. It’s not comfortable, and bad things most assuredly do happen to good people, but that’s what makes it interesting. Doesn’t hurt that the story takes place in the same era as Her Last First Kiss, so, in a way, it was pretty darned close to a trip back into HLFK world. I love to drink in the use of light, the subtle differences in clothing, not only between classes, but the more traditional styles and those more fashion-forward. The social interactions, how characters behave differently among their intimates from how they behave to newly met acquaintances, the modes of transportation, the way they use their leisure time, family celebrations both big and small.  That’s what I want to see in a historical romance, both those I read, and those I write.

Which brings me around to the sprints vs. marathons thing.  Rather than have a “must get at least x amount of pages ready,” focus on this scene. Take the time to feel the temperature, not in my room, but the room (or outdoor location) where my characters experience their “now.”  What can they see, hear, smell, feel, taste? How do they move through the space? I connect best when I write longhand, so this translates well to the non=marathon way of tackling a bigger section at once; break it down into smaller bites. Write longhand, away from the desk, break, transcribe and tweak, break, next bit, bit after that, and so on.

Is this going to be a foolproof technique that will work forever and ever and ever? I have no idea, but I don’t expect every book or every day to be exactly the same, so I expect variations. I expect interruptions. I expect some therapeutic housework, to sort out whatever it is on the back burner of my brain, and know that these things have a way of working themselves out. I know where my characters are going, and I know where they came from, and, since we’ve been through the initial draft with each other already, we’re going to figure out this slight detour. Not because pages are due for critique meeting, but because it’s fun.

The writer of commercial fiction, by and large, are in a funny place. We know what readers of our genres want from a story, we know what we, personally want to read in such a story, so writing the story we want to read should be a blast (and often, it is) but then the market has its requirements, and there are production schedules, and and and…. Which is why there are headphones and playlists, and a list of rewards I get for completing, not onebigmonsterthatMUSTBEFINISHED by a certain time ORIANDTHEBOOKWILLBOTHBEDOOMED, but a collection of shorter bursts. In eighteenth century terms, a turn around the garden. (Spoiler: nobody takes any turns around any gardens in this book. Maybe next time.)

Right now, I can cross “blog entry” off my list, and then I get to noodle with my art journal for a few minutes, then take one of those turns about the garden. If that means I end up taking something rougher than I like to critique meeting, that’s fine. Still counts. The same amount of ground gets covered either way.


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