Turning Daydreams into Fiction

16 Feb

Writing isn’t something I do for money, but I do consider it a job. It’s probably best that I don’t write for pay. I’d go hungry, because I don’t set aside enough time for work.

It’s easy to get distracted. For me that means games, doodles, chores, reading, homework, procrastinating, cooking, baking, and reading the entire internet (even the gross parts). There’s something intensely intimidating about sitting down in front of a blank page. My brain immediately starts looking for something else to do. I know forcing myself to throw words on the page is one of the few ways I can learn to be productive and (theoretically) get better at filling writing time with actual writing, but it’s hard.

I don’t know how it works for other people, but there’s a basic process involved when I write and an entirely different process when I’m Having Ideas. Don’t get me wrong, I think while I write. I think a damn lot, in fact, about character development, action, dialog, and scenery. It’s how I flesh out the story and give it depth. It’s just not enough to rely on the write-as-you-go method alone (a fact of which I became painfully aware last November). Any story without a solid plot is destined to be a boneless flop, no matter how prettily you paint the layers.

My best plot ideas come when I daydream. When I’m about to fall asleep, taking a shower, or driving my car (the radio has been broken for years, so I’m usually on my own for entertainment), my mind starts to drift for lack of more interesting things to do and becomes a little like Wall-E, the cute Pixar junkbot. It shovels junk around, compresses it and puts it in neat piles that approximate structure. Just last week while I stared off into space, mulling over an especially grievous plot gap, I realized I could shift one event into an earlier position on the timeline. Suddenly an entire segment of the puzzle fell into place. It clicked. It clicked like motherfraggin’ Tetris.

That click is awesome. It feels like real-life, honest-to-gawd magic. My daydreams don’t produce as much click-magic as I would like, but I doubt I’m alone in feeling that way. Writing, real everyday writing, is just plain old hard work peppered with bits of inspiration. My problem is that I tend to put too much emphasis on the inspiration part and neglect the words. To succeed in any real capacity I have to suck it up, toil in the word mines, and listen to the dreamer whenever she deigns to grace me with her presence. Saying “I’ll work on it” or “I’ll wait till I have the right idea” isn’t enough for someone like me. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, my road is roughly the size of China’s Great Wall. I need goals. I need a plan. What’s the best plan? The plan I can stick to.

My writing goal this year is to complete and edit a novel. For me, that means a complete story between 80k and 100k words, mostly polished. I’ve written over 52k words so far, but some necessary plot transformations happened (craaaaaap) and most of it will need rewriting. It’s okay, though. I have a plan. To make sure I’ll reach my goal, I’ve made some changes in my daily routine.

First, I make myself write every day. If nothing else, it keeps the wheels greased and even if I only manage a few hundred words on any given day, it adds up. I write with a special focus on the characters, setting and dialogue of the story, as well as fleshing out any ideas I had while daydreaming. If the white space is too much to handle I pick a character and write something about them. It’s probably not going to end up in the novel, but it’s fun and helps give the characters depth and personality.

Second, I make more time for daydreams. It’s tempting to park in front of a computer to read blogs, news articles, and Twitter for hours; heaven forbid I log into a game. Rather than spend all my idle time doing things that don’t matter very much, I go somewhere quiet with no distractions. Armed with a pen and a piece of paper in case inspiration strikes, I spend a half hour or so every day looking out the window or folding laundry (anything boring will do, so long as I don’t have to think about what I’m doing) and fix my world. What’s bothering me about Chapter Four? Why is it bothering me, and what can I do to fix it? This time is for tracing problems to the source and finding solutions–or scrapping ideas that refuse to hold water.

Last but not least is the dreaded follow-through. Since I have a history of abandoning plans it’s important to audit myself. I try to be honest. I’m not doing myself any favors if I make excuses or pretend I’m doing better than I am. Am I meeting my goals? Do I start strong and taper off after a few days because I’m not pushing myself? I’ve made it through a week. Did I run into any schedule conflicts? Can I maintain that level of progress and add more, or do I need to throttle back for my own sanity?

As an author I’m definitely an amateur, but that doesn’t mean I can’t–or shouldn’t–take it seriously. I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up: a writer. Now I just have to act like one and go write.

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6 Responses to “Turning Daydreams into Fiction”

  1. Tami February 16, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    I do this too! The daydream thing. Particularly fanfiction, which never makes it past the daydream stage these days, with so many other word-needy projects on my plate.

    I adore the deliberate choice to find more time to daydream. ❤

    • Bika February 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

      When I was in kindergarten, my teacher had a conference with my parents. “She just stares off into space. ALL. DAY.” I’m pretty sure my whole life has been practice for intentional daydreaming. The only problem with daydreaming more is staying awake through it all.

      I have to credit you, Tami, for some of this post. Your worldbuilding articles (does http://tamimoore.com/2010/nano-2010-worldbuilding-1/ look familiar?) actually helped inspire my daydreaming plan, by encouraging my tendencies. 🙂

  2. Verdus February 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    This sounds like pretty much exactly what I need to be doing. Making myself write every day would be a strong first step, but it’s one that continues to pose problems for me. A lot of my time is taken up by work, and writing just a few hundred words at a time has never yielded results that I’ve been happy with. Pushing myself further is going to require that I make some big sacrifices, and it’s been very hard to make myself take that next step.

  3. Mom February 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    Shit, I’m impressed that you fold laundry….you’re makin’ me look bad!

  4. Sarai February 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    I do this at work, since my job doesn’t require thought beyond “find the space on the shelf, see if more will fit”. I’ve come up with some fairly massive Walls O’ Text on the really boring days. The only major problem I run into is remembering to write it all down when I get home. >.>

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Turning Daydreams into Fiction | Bika Central - February 16, 2011

    […] write things. Read all about it in today’s post at Seven Deadly Divas. “I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up: a writer.” […]

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