Sundered Peak

through the mind of kyle tolle

Start The Writing

I had finished reading Neuromancer while lying on my futon, and then I stayed there a while. I thought over that book, along with some others I’d recently finished that were written by Arthur C. Clarke. An idea for a science fiction story sprouted in that moment. As my mind raced along, I got up, went into my den, and wrote down my brainstormings. The idea surprised me in its intensity and completeness. This, I thought, is something I can turn into a book. There were still lots of details to flesh out, but it had substance.

Over the next few days, I talked to Zach about some of the technical details to make sure they seemed feasible. I better understood the sequence of events after telling him about it. He gave me the fantastic advice to create something like a storyboard. I’m still working on it, but it will be nice to have a high-level summary of the story as I work on it.

I also talked to Karla, and she helped me realize how I had not yet envisioned individual characters. I had vague notions of people involved like “scientist”, but nothing more detailed. We talked about archetypes and personalities that could help form the basis of actual personalities. Thanks to that brainstorming, I have an idea of who the first character will be.

Next comes the part of figuring out how to make progress toward that leviathan goal of having a completed book. It will take dedication, persistence, regularity, and hard work. I want to hold myself accountable to some standard of effort, but what metric should I use to gauge it?

My initial thought is something like 3 pages per day. But pages is an ambiguous term. The size of the paper and print, margins, and layout of the text can vary the number of pages. Additionally, when I write on the computer, there isn’t a real concept of pages. It’s just a flow of words in a text file.

So what about 300 words per day? I’m not exactly sure how many words that would look like when written out. But it feels like a goal that’s reasonable and doable. One that I could meet regularly. 300 words a day for a year would be nearly 110,000 words. That’s certainly a novel’s worth. This goal of words-per-day does not, however, take into account things beyond the act of writing. Editing blog posts, for example, takes quite a bit of time. I can only hazard a guess as to how much time would be required for something the size of a novel.

Karla suggested something like 30 minutes per day. Or an hour per day, three times per week. This seems like a good benchmark, because this will be a long process. I can imagine there being days where I make decent progress in less than an hour, but that’s foolish optimism to assume it’d happen regularly.

I will have to write the words, and I will have to put in the time. So there’s the possibility of combining the two. 300 words or 30 minutes per day, whichever I reach first.

In reality, these will be guidelines. It’s not a science, and I have never done this before to know better. My hope is that these achievable minimums will encourage me to work on it beyond the 300 words or the 30 minutes each day. Momentum building over time.

The purpose is to have measurable ways to ensure I keep taking steps toward my goal. Perhaps as I get further into it, I’ll know what makes more sense, and what works for me. I can imagine the most difficult part of setting these daily goals to be holding myself accountable.

In the past, I tried writing a book called The Emperor’s War, but got stuck in a loop of editing. I had something like six chapters, and spent a lot of time revising them again and again. Trying to make them perfect. Forward progress was minimal. To keep from repeating myself, I want to set another guideline: keep writing forward. I’ll make good progress if I don’t allow editing until I’m done with the first draft. I can find out what the story is before “refining” it.

I now have a general outline of the story, and a glimpse of how to begin it. But there’s an uncertainty of how to actually start the writing. How do I begin it in a way that makes sense, introduces the world and characters, and doesn’t feel too abrupt? I have a scene in mind, but it needs some setup to not feel jarring. I’ve pondered these ideas lately, but the words are still elusive.

I spent most of yesterday mulling it over, and subsequently putting it off. Around 1am, I found the motivation and then hand-wrote two and a half pages. It was nothing like I expected, and I couldn’t have predicted what it would look like, but it was something. I’m okay with how it turned out.

I aim to write more today, but the idea of starting again is daunting. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m also afraid it’ll turn out like shit. So I put it off some more. This post is a by-product of that procrastination. Nothing like a goal to help motivate you to accomplish everything else on your TODO list.

Anyway, I need to get to the writing and stop putting it off. It won’t be what I imagined, but it’ll be better than nothing. Forward momentum to get a first draft, and then will come the editing to clean it up.