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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Clarion Write-A-Thon – the fourth 5000 – Intermediate MacGuffin Hunting

July 14th, 2012 at 21:00

So, I set myself a challenge within a challenge this week: I not only had to write 5000 words, but they all had to be on the Steampunk Victoriana Fairies and Robots novel. Every single one of them.

When I’m tracking wordcount, it’s usually about making sure I make some kind of measurable progress, and I usually discount any other writing when I’m working on a novel. That’s why I so rarely get short stories written! By the time the weekend comes around, I’m done.

So this year my plan, since it’s the first year in a while with no specific deadlines, was to write a bunch of words (my crazy goal was 200K) and to count everything I wrote, as long as it was fiction. It’s been pretty great because I have been able to keep up work momentum by jumping from project to project – it’s a lot easier to write 1000 words each of 5 different projects than 5000 words on the same thing. Sort of. Mostly. Except I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been doing 300-500 words on 10-15 different projects. Per week.

Scattered, me?

The benefit has been that I have been able to write and complete a bunch of stories, and work in response to opportunities. Like when that Blake’s 7 writers opportunity came along, but they only gave us a week or so to produce what they needed: I dropped everything and wrote my words for the week on just that, and turned it in on time. I wouldn’t have found that as possible if I had been in the midst of a novel deadline, or indeed if I hadn’t been writing at all that month (warming up is important!).

But, yeah. On the other hand, finishing things has been an issue for me this year. I’ve started way more stories than I’ve completed, and most of those I have got finished has been because of a theme or contest deadline. So, um. External deadlines are important to me, apparently. The novel I’m writing at the moment isn’t going to be that long, and yet I’ve been pecking away at it for months with very slow results because of all the other things I have been starting, and not finishing.

I wanted to write words this year: marketable, publishable, excellent words. But the thing about words is, they’re a whole lot less publishable and saleable if they’re not part of something that is finished.

So it was harder going than it should have been, to write this week, but I slogged at it, and I can definitely see the benefits of concentrating one’s attention on the same thing. I need to research more, and I kept running into plot problems and having to make decisions on how to solve them instead of flitting off to write a short story about angels instead. Like, I knew my Extraordinary Device Brothers needed a MacGuffin of some kind, a reason to go to the house, a reason to be kidnapped, and that it would have to be an object that in some way would fix their problems with the queen. But I didn’t know what it was. Now I do. And it’s awesome. I’ve also sorted out all manner of other speedbumps in the road, and at least three character motivations that were a bit whimsical before.

So this is good for me. Like vegetables, and Latin.

And now, instead of being at 20,000 words, my novel is at 25,000 words. Almost like magic, because of course the effort it took to produce those words is fading from memory.

In other news, this is the week that it became obvious that my nearly-3-year-old doesn’t nap any more. Sometimes she does, but only under sufferance, and more often than not the only way she gets an hour’s sleep in the afternoon is if she’s sprawled out on the left side of my body. So um. There’s at least 5 hours or so in the week that I used to have for rapid typing that is no longer available to me. Wednesdays have taken a particularly bad hit, but Tuesdays aren’t faring so well either.

I would not have written 5000 words this week if it wasn’t for the Clarion Write-a-thon, and the fact that I’ve got into the habit of writing about my week’s writing on Saturdays. I might not even have written 1000 words. I might well have thrown in the towel and decided to do nothing but wash socks and vacuum floors for the next year and a half, until kindergarten starts. Or I might have read a book.

So there’s that.

“There was no school room in the London house, and so Flavia mostly conducted lessons in the small library, which was full of the kind of books that matched prettily on the shelves, rather than containing any particular content of note.

She was attempting to interest young Dashmond in mathematics, which was roughly like trying to teach table manners to a monkey. Indeed, it was almost exactly like that for at least two hours of the morning, in which he had refused to be in any shape but that of a small gibbon. Oddly, he was better at counting when he had a tail.

Queenie, meanwhile, practiced her handwriting by copying out a treatise on the science of love philtres, and why they were so commonly concealed in sugary rather than savoury foods.”

If you want to encourage my Clarion Write-a-thon campaign, please consider donating a little something in my name over here. Thanks so much to those who have already donated, I really appreciate it. All funds go towards the Clarion West writers workshops, a great cause!

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