rule #7: just step away

after i spent the end of tuesday evening with both arms covered in ice packs watching an episode of As Time Goes By*, and then the morning with alternating ice pack and heating pad on my stiff neck, my wife convinced me that perhaps i needed to take a break.

for which i owe her an(other) enormous debt of gratitude. not only are my forearms not burning anymore, but i discovered the answer to my problems with the current section of the story, which i don’t think would have happened otherwise; not until a much later revision, at the very least.

see, i got caught up trying to finish the typing in record time. i have about 45 handwritten pages left and i was hoping to have it all completed and ready to print out by today, as we have some family coming tonight. i was on target, too. i’ve been able to manage 20 pages in the mornings before work and then usually some more in the evenings. so i would’ve finished this morning, at the latest.

but i wouldn’t have been done. i don’t mean the fact i still have revisions and beta reader comments to go, but that this revision would not have been done. i was so caught up in just trying to type that i was ignoring (or trying) some rather glaring alarms going off around me. i’ve mentioned the environment issue and my waffling there, but when i look ahead to the expected word count total, it appears the current book will be about 25,000 words short of the last one.

now, in itself, this isn’t terrible, but it made me recognize an issue i’ve been ignoring, regarding a subplot. a couple minor ones already exist, but they have been extremely peripheral so far. one must remain so, but the other deserves an upgrade.  the real discovery, though, was an unexpected line of resonance (and future conflict) that’s been running through both books, in fact, which i’ve not consciously picked up on, to my discredit. of course, kelly’s going to be none too happy, but this one will ultimately bear some wondrous fruit, which i believe she will thank me for.

this didn’t come to me in full, though, until writing in my journal last night about not typing, and then referencing the idea i had a few days ago that helped me answer the environment question** . in a rush, i realized what i’ve been missing, and it all made perfect sense and i started scribbling out the ramifications and developments as they came to me.

the point being***, though i know this and teach this over and over in my writing courses, it’s incredibly important to walk away, at least for a day****. usually, i recommend this between drafts, but it is equally important when logjams occur at other points, and i had forgotten this part. i’ve been so hell-bent on finishing and getting something to readers before the start of the school year that i’ve let the story suffer as a result.

never a good idea.

if i finish before school starts, great. if i don’t, that’s okay, too. deadlines are important, and i still think i can do it, but i don’t ever want to put something out in the world that i know i short-changed.*****

now, i probably won’t be able to take care of any of this until the weekend, though it’s impossible to describe that as unfortunate when we get to play host to some of Mary’s family whom only rarely get to see. maybe i’ll grab an hour here and there.

* truly, the cure for whatever ails me

** though, yes, i’ve triple-guessed it since, but i’m confident now

*** yes, i eventually get there.

**** though that’s asking a lot of the average first-year college student. i know; i was one, too.

***** obviously, nothing i write is perfect, and there’s always something else to try, some other way to write something, some phrasing that might be better suited, but that’s par for the course.