In the zone…

April 11

I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately. Haven’t been doing much due to my back problems, but that hasn’t stopped me from reading voraciously nor from pondering upon the subject. 🙂

I read an article over at Romancing the Blog by Jo Leigh a bit ago that stuck in my mind: When It’s Good…. The part that stood out the most was this:

For me, it comes down to this – sometimes what’s happening on the page is so fabulous, so incredible, so magical, that my heart rate accelerates, my smile is so big it hurts, the clouds part, the angels sing…yeah, like that. It’s a coming together of plot, character, language, pacing, and tempo that transcends. It’s the writer’s harmonic convergence, and there’s no way to predict it or force it. The magic happens when it will. I might happen once in a book, or once in ten books, but it’s such a powerful rush that I’m willing to go through ten books on the chance there’ll be the scene that soars.

I call this “being in the zone”. (Apparently, I’m not alone in this, as Elena Greene can attest to.) The Celtic bards called it the awen.

I get this when I’m working on some coding projects as well. Everything else fades away: how I feel, what I’m thinking, the music in the background, the insane cat rampaging through the house, it all is swept aside in lieu of a hyperfocus upon me and the code. My fingers type a thousand characters a minute; a flurry of commands, indentations and punctuations appearing on the screen as I battle the problem in front of me. A quick alt-tab to test the new changes, and then another back to tweak or fix until the problem is solved and I am done, the code complete. I stretch my cramped muscles and yawn, realizing suddenly how much time has gone by as the world starts to return to reality and my hyperfocus is shattered.

I don’t get that as often with writing. Why? I have a few thoughts. One: the times when I have, have either been when starting a new short story, or when working on an existing novel. Two: I can’t maintain it as long as when I code. Three: I can’t seem to ever get into it when pre-writing, worldbuilding, outlining, brainstorming or the like.

I’ve got two novels that I’m working on right now through the Above and Beyond class over at Evolution. In the meantime, I thought I would work on a secondary project, Savage Lands. I’ve been having a bit of difficulty with that, and just the other day, it all came to me.

I can’t get into the zone unless I know what’s happening next. My inner editor/critic/plotter has to think things over for too long to reach that spot where I can just cut loose and let the words fly. When coding, each step intuitively leads to the next step, one logical piece falling into place at a time. Writing is only like that for me when I’m actually writing rather than trying to figure things out.

To a certain extent, this is why I’m not really much of an organic writer. I’m semi-organic, or at least, that’s what I classify myself as. I write vague outlines that have chapter goals, and then when I reach a chapter, I work out the details and get down to work. This gives me both flexibility and structure at the same time… because I always know what comes immediately next.

I can’t write Savage Lands organically, which is what I was hoping to do. It’ll take too much time spent figuring out the world– the politics, the people, the paranormal elements. At every turn I’ll be confronted with decisions as to how to take the story, because I don’t know enough about it.

That’s not to say that I can’t write anything organically. The problem with Savage Lands is that I need to figure too many things out. I do have another idea that I’ve been kicking around in the back of my head… a paranormal romance, set in the modern day, in Rhode Island (focusing on Providence/Pawtucket), with a florist/herbalist who is an Earth Mage. I already know the setting, I already know the politics… the only thing I don’t know is the character and the story. And I know enough of the character to start working on it soon. Just a few plot notes, a few things to figure out, and I can probably start winging it along. I won’t deviate too far from where I start, because I have something to ground me… the modern day.

I think this might work. 🙂 And it’ll give me something to actually write (rather than more endless prewriting) while I push the other two novels through Above & Beyond.


Posted by on April 11, 2006 in General, Misc, Savage Lands

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