Lessons learned while #vacationwriting

So, I have not been around much because I have been obsessed with my little #vacationwriting project, as I’ve taken to calling it. It’s completely for fun, never-can-count-for-anything beyond practice.

Why? Well, it’s fan-fiction, something I’ve long derided as a total waste of time. Why write in someone else’s world when you can be writing in your own? And while there are a few Mary Sue skeletons floating around in my hard drive from years past, this isn’t that. It’s fan-fiction, but it’s more like the stories I used to write inspired by ElfQuest, but my own tribes. (I did even try to write one for the EQ universe, even submitted it per their guidelines. Ah, youth.)

My little #vacationwriting project is a mash-up of fantoms, namely the BBC Sherlock series, the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies, and Doctor Who. I’m striving it to make as much sense as I possibly can and hopefully recapture the characters. I have no idea if it succeeds, but I will be firing it off to similarly obsessed members of the writing group I belong to once it’s finished. Not sure whether I will get back howls of laughter or consoling pats on the head.

It’s doubled in size since my last post, and I think I’ve plotted out the remaining elements of the last third of it. At the rate I’m going, it should be no more than 30,000 words — which, is monstrous, I get that, but also will be pretty spectacular output, since I figure it will take another week or so to finish. I’m hoping that this momentum will carry me forward. I’ve built some pretty solid work habits as I rush towards my self-imposed deadline. (I meant to be finished by the end of January, but I am going to give myself an additional week so the story will be complete.)

What’s been interesting is how the #vacationwriting project has modified my approach to writing in general. So, some thoughts:

1. When you know your characters really, really well, you can sit back and let them go.

This is advice I’ve heard before, but this is the first time I’ve really felt it, understood it. I’ve watched both Sherlock Holmes movies several times, ditto for the BBC series, and I am pretty sure Doctor Who has re-written vital strands of my DNA. I can see them in my head perfectly, hear their voices talking over each other. When it comes to plot, I just have to push them towards each other and see what happens next.

This bone-deep familiarity with my characters (unless I’m really lucky and sometimes I am) comes way into the second half of the novel’s draft. Sometimes later. Now, there are just something things about your characters that you will only understand after you’ve written them, but I think I can sit down and do more planning and brainstorming about them to help ease that process along.

2. When it comes to what happens next, I drill down to logical possibilities, and pick the coolest thing that makes sense.

Questions like, “Where would the most striking place to have this scene?” and “What would these two argue about?” are not normally questions that I think about when writing. For the longest time, I’ve always had this sense that there is only one story that I am trying to write. The writing process then, for me, was trying to discover the story, like an archeologist. If I dug deep enough, I could find all the pieces and reassemble them into It, whatever form It might take.

Now, it’s about being playful. Coming up with all the ideas and picking my favorites, mashing them together, seeing what works. Nothing is written off as, “Oh, no, I can’t do that.” It’s a more open, exploratory process. “Can I? Yes, no, and why? And which gives me the greatest benefit, story-wise?”

3. Getting out of my own way is half the battle.

Because there is absolutely no pressure on making this thing be anything other than something fun, I have not been able to ball up into an angst-bunny and start chewing on my ears. I just get come home and play. Carrots all over.

And playtime has meant research in Victorian England, modern London, the British Museum, the Metropolitan line, Faraday cages, the Deptford Power Station, and more. Seriously, I let out a squee when I discovered that the streets of London haven’t changed all that much from the 1890s to today, something my plot replies on.

Things to take with me on the next novel, methinks. And besides, I’m having way too much fun. Which is what you’re supposed to do on vacation. (At least, that’s what I’m told.)

Meanwhile, final edits on The Big Picture are underway, and notes for The Star Door have been gathered. I’ve more work to do on both of those, and a #vacationwriting project to finish. Back to it!


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