Scratching That Itch

Most of us are in the middle of the so-called “holiday season.” Right now, we’re somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Day. A lot of people are on vacation, enjoying time with family and friends, or perhaps just some peace and quiet as the year winds down.

My habit for the past several years has been that when I start a new book in November, during National Novel Writing Month, I write every day. Once November comes to a close, I scale back to weekdays. I find that weekends are helpful for giving me a chance to recharge and think through what I will be writing next–to flesh out characters and scenes beyond the outlines and notes I already have.

But at the moment, I haven’t written since last Friday… and I’m starting to feel it! As much as I enjoy a vacation from productive activities (like my day job and, yes, writing), I end up feeling an itch that I very badly need to scratch. Luckily, a post like this helps scratch it! I’ll be back to my usual routine on January 2nd, most likely.

There’s another time when the writing bug hits and I need to find outlets for it, too: soon after I finish a novel draft. That normally happens in the spring, unless it’s a shorter book. It doesn’t bother me right away, since I’m usually still recovering from ending a book. The last section of a novel is often very difficult to complete, having to put together a satisfying conclusion that is worthy of the reader’s time. So, at first I am exhausted and I need time to recuperate! But give it a few weeks, and I’m feeling the urge to write again. Of course, I have books in various states of editing that always need further revision, and I spend my time on that, but it’s definitely not the same.

Another thing I do is start working on outlines for the next book. Those start off pretty simple, just chapter-by-chapter bullet points of what I want to happen, from start to finish. But then I go back and add scene breakdowns, which add a bit more detail, noting each scene I want included in a chapter and how it begins, progresses, and ends. As I am doing this, I also start thinking about character beats, either as developed from the scenes themselves or as ways to evolve the scenes in tune with the characters involved. I do tend to start from a plot-oriented place and then work backward into how this affects the characters and how they ultimately drive the events that follow.

By the end, I have a detailed outline that is long enough to be a lengthy short story in its own right. Depending on when I start working on that, I may still have weeks or even months before I start writing the book itself. So, I’m still left with all this downtime from writing new material! I am definitely hoping that keeping a blog will help with that. I will likely blog on various topics for my publisher, as well, to help promote the Totality series.

I used to think that as I got older, I would get bored with writing–that I would find myself reaching the limits of my abilities with it, and tire of the prospect of writing more and more. In fact, the opposite has happened: I find myself enjoying it and craving it more than ever. I can sense my own proficiency increasing, and it becomes much more evident when looking back at things I wrote only a few years ago. I have yet to reach the peak of this mountain–with any luck, that will never happen, and I will always be climbing, pursuing that summit.

Here’s to a new year of pursuing your passions! May we all get better and better at the things we love doing–scratching those itches that demand our attention.