Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The "I Have Other Things To Do" Rule

The last posting deals with the frustration of finding too many possibilities while editing and needing to keep focused around THE PLAN (outline, whatever) for the story. In addition to the KISS Rule I mentioned in the last posting, there is another rule I should mention: the "I Have Other Things To Do" Rule.

During the planning and writing phases, this rule was one of the most helpful when I felt bogged down with the enormity of the task that at earlier points in the process still lay ahead. Now, as I'm in the editing phase, with the bulk of the effort behind me (although there is still a substantial chunk of work to do here with editing), it should come as no surprise that this rule would continue to be of value. In fact, I think this rule is of value at all times, whether in the midst of working on a novel, taking a break between novels, or at any other time. It's so tremendously helpful.

The gist of it is this: the task at hand may seem daunting for whatever reason (and there are plenty of good reasons to make the work daunting at any particular point in the process), but it's important to bear in mind that whatever you are working on at the moment is ultimately just one task in a very long series of tasks. If you're having a problem figuring out some detail in one scene, remember that there are other scenes still to work on in the present chapter. If the present chapter is a hassle, remember it is just one of many chapters. If the current novel seems to be overwhelmingly difficult, remember that it is only one novel of many that you intend to write.

In other words, "zoom out" and take in the larger picture and remember that any given struggle is just one small piece of a much larger puzzle. While this realization could cause you to throw your hands up in the air and run screaming from the room, swearing never to write again since it will always be endless confusion and difficulty, a better way to look at this is to see the present challenge as just a small thing and you have many other things to do, so simplify the task at hand, find a solution, and move on -- you have so many other things to do!

Therefore, don't make the current task any larger than it needs to be. See it as a smaller challenge, demystify it. Consider using the Q&A approach to find a solution -- write out your questions (makes them more concrete), then figure out your answers. If several possibilities exist, consider the main ones briefly, then review your findings, and choose the best solution. Yes, Keep It Simple (KISS Rule) and also keep things in perspective! You have so much to do, any given challenge can only be so big. Find ways to make it smaller, less challenging, to gain victory over it. Time and time again. Don't spend "forever" on this one task ... you really do have other things to do!

Obviously, I'm having this problem as I have hit yet another "pivotal moment" in Chapter 4 and am seeing far too many possibilities in the editing....



Wynn Bexton said...

Hi, this is the first time I've visited your blog and I enjoyed reading your posts so much you can be sure I'll return soon. I'm also a novelist and the advice you gave was definitely useful!

Adrian Swift said...

Welcome, Wynn! Glad you enjoyed your visit. From your profile I see you are also a travel writer! That's great! I'll check out your blog soon. Thanks for the positive words!