Stitching The Moments Together

Earlier this year, I wrote about something I call the time discrepancy. You can read the whole blog here, but the gist of it is that I end up spending way more time writing my stuff than anybody does reading it.

Take this blog, for example. I spent a few days trying to figure out the best way to make the point I’m going to make, and it was hours before I could figure out how to start the darn thing. We won’t even talk about how much time I spent writing, deleting, rewriting, debating comma placement, and stalling by checking Facebook.

You, hopefully, have spent a few seconds getting to this point.

And so here’s our time discrepancy. When I write, my time is spent in these weird expanded moments. It’s kind of like dog years. Fifteen minutes that you spend reading my book could equal several hours of my time, or maybe even a couple days.

I honestly couldn’t care less if readers know how much time I spend working on my books. It can be an interesting piece of information (especially regarding this one book I totally didn’t write), but I believe books should be judged based on how good they are, not on how long it took to write them.

Writers, on the other hand, must be acutely aware of the time discrepancy.

When you spend your time inside expanded moments, you can forget that they are only that: moments. You slave away on a rough draft for an afternoon and only have a couple pages to show for it. You sit down for a day of editing, and you realize you’ve been writing pretentious gibberish.

If you let yourself get sucked into those moments, it’s easy to think you’ll never finish the book. It’s easy to think that even if you do, you won’t end up with anything worthwhile.

But if you step back from that moment, if you realize it really is just one step in the middle of a long process, you’ll realize that every word you write is a step closer to a completed draft. You realize that every bloated sentence you delete makes your work a little cleaner. You eventually realize the only way you’ll finish the stupid thing is if you keep on stitching these moments together.

Now, as I’m finishing up the final book in the Marian Trilogy, the time discrepancy has struck again, but in an unexpected way.

When I outlined the plot of this trilogy, my method was pretty simple. I just kept on asking myself, “How could things go wrong here?” And then I would make that thing happen.

Occasionally, I would ask, “What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen here?”

And then I would totally make that thing happen.

I didn’t want this to be an easy journey. I wanted my characters to go through – and overcome – a lot. I think that’s helped make the series more exciting than anything else I’ve written.

I also think it’s made the series incredibly dark.

The Hunted ended up going to some pretty dark places, but that’s nothing compared to the stuff that’ll go down in The Cloud. That’s the nature of stories. Things need to look more and more hopeless as you approach the end, or it won’t be all that inspiring when your heroes emerge victorious.

And this is where the time discrepancy kicks in.

With this book, I’ve spent a lot of time writing some of the darkest stuff I’ve written in my life. This darkness occupies such a small section of the story, especially if you think it in terms of the trilogy as a whole, but I still went through long stretches where my only goal was to drag these characters through the worst moments of their lives. For several days in a row, all I was trying to do was to make these scenes as horrible as possible.

I’m not done with those scenes, either. I’m going to have to come back and edit them. I’m going to have to make sure the darkness I’ve written is the best possible darkness I could’ve written. I’d be lying if I said that hasn’t worn on me.

Once again, I’ve had to remind myself of the big picture. I’ve had to remind myself that I’m only making the darkness this dark so the light can shine that much brighter.

So that’s where I’m at right now. It’s kind of a weird place to be for a guy who doesn’t like darkness for the sake of darkness. But I have just a little longer, and then this story will be finished. Just a little longer, and I’ll be able to step back and see all these moments of slow writing, bad writing, and dark writing all stitched together.

As usual, I can’t wait to share this story with you.

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4 thoughts on “Stitching The Moments Together

  1. I think one of the beautiful things about being a creator of things is the perspective it puts on so much of the rest of life. We wonder “why do bad things happen to good people” and the like, while we meanwhile do the same thing to our characters because we see that big picture and know they need it to come out the other side in triumph. Really helps to temper the times we hit rocky patches ourselves. 🙂

    I hadn’t considered the time discrepancy thing, but you’re totally right. I’m going to have to keep that in mind while I’m working on this next book of mine, too!

    • Great thoughts. One of the reasons art is so valuable. Both consuming and creating is a very enriching experience.

      And as a guy who was an athlete in high school, I could probably say something similar about sports. Maybe not as much in watching, but definitely in training and playing. Maybe the important thing is to be open to lessons that come outside the classroom 🙂

  2. Yeah but your story isn’t meant for just one person. If you spend an hour writing a paragraph that takes me two minutes to read, but then a hundred people read it…? I don’t know how many readers one would have to have to “break even”. I’m sure it varies based on how fast or slow of a writer you are and what kind of audience you write for. But writing isn’t a one-for-one activity, and I think it’s not that unrealistic to think that for every hour of work you put into it you created so many more hours of something good for other people.

    • Great thoughts. Each individual reader only experiences his or her reading time, so there’s an imbalance there, but I hadn’t thought about the “aggregate reading hours” factor.

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