A few weeks ago, I got laid off from my job. For most of the almost 18 years I was with the company, I was the in-house developer for the desktop applications we used in the back office, and the designer / programmer for the website we had for our field agents. In that time we grew, going from about 150 agents to almost 500. The executives decided a few years ago to start outsourcing a lot of the tech work: since we were a consumer of technology rather than a producer, they saw that it was a better value to contract out the larger projects to people who already had the necessary skills than to have the company cultivate those skills internally. Little by little, projects got turned over to third-party vendors, and for the last year I was largely doing make-work to justify keeping me on the payroll for the minor odds and ends. Eventually, we both acknowledged that there was not much reason for me to stay and came to a mutually agreeable separation, with severance and everything. I still go in occasionally to help train the person taking over what is left of my projects, but that leaves me with a lot of time on my hands and no immediate need to find a new situation. What is a wanna-be writer to do? Hmm….
So, I set up a “writing den,” a nice, reasonably distractionless part of my apartment where I can concentrate on writing. A bright corner with plenty of indirect natural sunlight. A few houseplants to sooth the eye. A fan to improve ventilation on days that are muggy or warm. A padded chair with lumbar support. Desk at the right height. My laptop, which does not have World of Warcraft installed on it, nor Dragon Age, nor The Sims 3.
The first three and a half chapters had been written, so I settled down in this nice, reasonably distractionless part of my apartment and finished chapter four. Then I started work on chapter five. And sat there. Edited what I’ve written. Sat some more. Watered the plants. Sat and stared at the computer. Opened the window and adjusted the shades. Edited what I’ve written. Sat.
It took me two weeks to realize what my problem was. The Longest Night has three narratives, loosely intertwined and only occasionally touching. I was trying to write the chapters as they would occur in the finished novel; makes sense, right? Unfortunately, that meant switching point of view after spending time looking at the world from someone else’s head, and I was having trouble switching gears. Then it occurred to me in a flash of light so blindingly obvious, it hurt: the story has three narratives, loosely intertwined and only occasionally touching!
I spent this morning rewriting the outline, splitting it into three separate works. Once that was done, I split what I had written into three separate files, each of which will become a novella from a single character’s point of view. This way, I can stick with a character for as long as I want and move between them when I am ready, not when the story arc requires. When the novellas are finished, I will interleave them to create the finished novel.
I will be at the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade tomorrow, so I don’t expect I will get any writing done then. Refresh the batteries by browsing craft booths and eating fair food, you know how that is. Sunday, however, I will make progress on the book. I will. Or at least, I will sit in front of the laptop and try not to edit what I have already written.