No guru, no method, no teacher
That's a Van Morrison album, titled for his revelation after he left Scientology. I kinda feel like I just left some kind of cult, the cult of not trusting myself. I am never again going to use someone else's work method as my own.
I'm a slow writer. I hate that. I've been trying to speed my output up, and several people extolled the method of breaking a novel down: three sections (acts one, two and three), so many chapters per section, so many scenes per chapter, so many words per scene. That way you know just what you're going to write every day and can go faster. It's logical, right? It should work. Just outline your work into that handy structure, write a scene a day, and boom, novel.
I've been struggling for nearly a year trying to work this way, believing it would speed my writing up. All the trouble I've been having, I've been chalking up to other things--things that were contributing, for sure, but in the end weren't the problem. I found the choke points (mostly stuff from the original draft that doesn't work any more), worked them out, and still couldn't get this book into a coherent shape.
Today I said fuck it. I jettisoned everything but the scenes themselves. Got rid of the three part structure, the x number of chapters per part and x number of scenes per chapter. Which I knew I didn't have to follow slavishly, but even having it like that in Scrivener was fucking with my head. I dumped all the scenes into one folder...
...and it straightened itself right out. In an evening. I rejiggered the timeline, adjusted the wordcount targets, and went over the outline obsessively. I moved parts around, discovered what happens in the missing transitions (which will now have deep resonance), and I'm finally ready to finish this goddamned book. For the first time in weeks, I'm excited about writing. I got excited a little while ago, but it foundered on the structure I was trying to use to "speed my writing up."
This is the umpteenth time this has happened to me. It's no one's fault; no one's ever led me astray or forced me, I just haven't trusted my own process. Last year, I lost an entire Drifting Isle novel because I followed advice that I learned doesn't work for me: finish what you're supposed to be working on, not what you want to work on ("otherwise, you're procrastinating"--remember, I'm trying to speed up). I was supposed to be working on book three. By the time I realized I'm the kind of writer who has to follow the energy, it was too late: the Drifting Isle novel energy was completely gone, and I didn't have the book three energy, either.
After two years of working on book three--almost a year of which was spent having and recovering from various health calamities, granted--I'm finally on a serious track to finishing this goddamned book. As things already stand, I'm 90% done by wordcount, and 100% done in outline.
And I'm finally ready to trust my own process. After six years. No guru, no method, no teacher. Just me.