(This entry was taken from today’s entry of Morning Pages)
As of writing, Project: HARP (my code named MG fantasy novel) is surging across the front of my mind. A word overload that is taking to the pages rather…nicely?
It’s hard to tell, honestly.
In the middle of the novel writing process, I feel you only really focus on the words in front of you. Like planting and nurturing trees in a forest one at a time. When the novel is done, you leave and take a look at the entire forest to see what you’ve made. Some bits work, some need to be trimmed, and a lot of bits need to be burned away in hellfire.
At the end, you either have a forest a literary agent will be interested in camping in or they’ll politely pass in favor of that nice bed & breakfast up the dirt road where the slightly older couple that runs it serves freshly made English muffins at breakfast and it doesn’t matter how nice your forest is you cannot beat homemade English muffins.
Anyway, maybe what I’m writing is good, and maybe most of it needs to be fixed up when I start typing my 2nd draft.
However, as I write, and during the quiet hours of the day in between my students, story ideas pop up in my mind. Nuggets of a potentially larger tale.
Pieces and strands of a more massive web.
But all my focus should be on Project: HARP, right? If I spread myself too thin and try too many things at once, the idea fountain will run dry and, eventually, all my creativity will dissipate.
According to papa Warren Ellis (you can subscribe to his newsletter at orbitaloperations.com. WARNING: Naughty language follows), said this in regards to writing a 22-page comic in one day and creativity:
But I wasn’t starting from scratch. And herein lies a lesson about this sort of writing work. Also, why I bang on about always carrying a notebook.
When I wrote the bible for the series, I did a detailed outline. I listed twenty-three things I expected to have happen in the first twelve issues, surrounded in something like 2500 words. So I already knew where I was going.
In spare moments over the last month, I’ve been working in what I call a “rolling” document. I pasted those 23 things into a different document and started expanding on each thing, adding meat to the bones, images, dialogue and notes…
…When I sat down at 1pm yesterday, then, I had a significant amount of “pre-writing” done. The spine of the piece, chunks of scenes, transitions, fun bits, shit that needed to be edited down. I’d left the fight sequences largely blank, and there was a lot of connective tissue to write, and as I went I could see what new scenes needed to be added. I filed the script at 2am.
What I’ve also learned from a lot of other professional authors is something along the lines of, “Not all ideas are golden. Sometimes you need to get them all down on paper or on your computer to you know how to curate and cut out what’s not working. That way, only the good, probably-will-get-written stuff remains.”
Or something like that.
Ellis was saying that real, honest things can start from notes in a notebook, built up over time. Other authors say that if you get them all out, you’ll eventually find that not all of those pestering ideas are winners.
There’s story ideas I want to follow, and since my success in this business is my writing output, I shouldn’t tighten the creative faucet completely. In the moments when I’m not handwriting my book in the hopes of it being “the one” to get me in, I need to log all the characters and plot points and worlds that I think of.
I shouldn’t worry about “running out of creativity.”
Cut the ideas out. If it has legs, it’ll walk for you. It not, chop ’em down.