I've talked about the importance of "butt-in-chair" time if you want to be a writer. There's really no escaping the central reality that, if you want to write a novel, you'll probably be spending a couple of hundred hours sitting in front of your computer pressing keys. The more you keep your butt in the chair, the more you're going to produce. It's a pretty simple equation.
In November, I did pretty well at keeping my butt in my chair, cranking out 50k words on my new novel. Then I hit a wall. I made my way through the first 50k because I knew how the story began, and was able to introduce my three major characters, spend some time exploring the setting, and get in a few action scenes to establish the pace. Unfortunately, I really didn't know how the book ended, and now that I was done with all my introductions, I couldn't move forward because, without knowing how the book would end, any further typing I did would be directionless meandering.
I've been thinking about this book for at least a year, and completely immersed for over a month. My inability to figure out an endpoint was frustrating. I always have some idea of where my books are heading. But, every ending I could think of for this book was too direct. The hero beats the bad guy, the end. Yawn. I needed something a bit less clean.
So, it was time for "butt-in-air." Yesterday, I took a ten mile hike along the Eno, alone. I had my phone full of podcasts to listen to, but found the willpower never to start those up. Instead, I spent five hours in solitude and quiet, utterly bored for most of the journey. The Eno has some wonderful scenery, including a quarry lake with water like a mirror and the ruins of old farmhouses and mills emerging like memories from the hilly landscape. But, it also has lots and lots and lots of roots and rocks, so 90% of the hike isn't spent looking at the scenery, it's spent watching the leaf-strewn ground three feet in front of you so you don't break your ankle.
Under such conditions, the mind wanders. In the quietness, I could begin to hear my characters talking to one another. I could listen in and discover just what the heck it was they were planning on doing, and by the time I emerged from the woods, with sore feet and completely sodden with sweat, I had figured out a satisfying ending for my book. It may not be the final ending; I'm sure it will grow and mutate in the weeks ahead, as my endings always do. But, it's a destination, something I can look forward to reaching, the way I looked forward to reaching the lake when I was hiking.
All those hours of daydreaming will mean nothing if I don't have the willpower to sit down and keep typing. But, sometimes, to make the hours you spend with your butt in a chair count for something, you need to go as far away as you can, not just from your computer, but from your television, your books, even your friends and family, and hunt for the silence where you can finally hear your book.
Welcome to my worlds!
I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collection, There is No Wheel. In 2017, I'll be releasing a new superhero series, The Butterfly Cage. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public.