Streets of Payne – My commute to and from the day job each day gives me approximately forty-five minutes to an hour of down time. Rather than listening to music (which eventually becomes monotonous for me) or talk radio (which almost immediately gets me angry and has me yelling at the radio), I listen to podcasts. In a way, that’s what got me serious about my writing. I was listening to Podiobooks on my iPod and heard a sponsored ad in one of them about a podcast called The Dead Robots’ Society. Their tag line was “for aspiring writers, by aspiring writers”, and I remembered how much I enjoyed writing. I started listening to the Robots and began learning about the new business model that is modern publishing. Since then, I have also become a big fan of Nathan Lowell’s Talking On My Morning Walk (personal tidbits from a fantastic indie writer), and Jack Spirko’s The Survival Podcast (because yes, I am very much a proponent of a self-sufficient lifestyle – call it “prepping” or “survivalism” if you like, but to me it’s just common sense).
My kids like to joke about my listening habits, often lamenting that Dad would rather listen to “the talkie men” than to music. But the thing for me is that between those three regular podcasts, I’ve found a balance between keeping the creative juices flowing, learning more about the crafts in which I am most interested, and allowing my mind to wander just enough to keep the storylines percolating in the back of my head.
But on rare occasions, it stops working. It usually starts with a slightly uneasy feeling that something is off. I find myself unable to concentrate on what Justin and company are discussing on the DRS podcast, or on what Nathan was just talking about on TOMMW. Sometimes I find myself getting too caught up in what Spirko has to say on TSP, and forgetting that I’m also supposed to be letting a plot air out in my hindbrain while I listen. Whatever it is, I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms by now and whenever I spot them in myself, I know what I have to do. The iPod goes off, gets packed into the console, and I refuse to allow myself to listen to any more of my “talkie men” until I figure out what’s bothering me, and what I need to do to fix it.
Just recently, I felt that niggling in my hindbrain… the lack of concentration that let me know something was off. I’d had a decent run of writing, reached the end of a sub-plot arc, and then stalled. Something was wrong and the plot wouldn’t gel for me. In order to force my mind to focus, I decided that my commute time would be better served by concentrating on SoP and the problems I was having with it. So I put the iPod away and began the mental exercise that forced me to openly concentrate on identifying the problem. It took almost a week before I realized that the antagonist in my current work in progress (Streets of Payne) had some conflicting motivations. He was acting against himself, and my subconscious had evidently been screaming to get my attention.
Finally! Step one was completed. I had identified the problem. But that led to another problem. Once I examined the character’s motives, it turned out that he wasn’t really the antagonist after all. So who was? What character had sufficient motivation and strength of character to serve as a worthy antagonist to my protagonists? It took another week and a half before I was satisfied with my conclusions, but I finally figured out who it was. More importantly, they told me how they pulled it off. It’s taken some tedious rewrites to make sure the plot and character changes worked, but I’m pretty excited about the changes.
And I pulled my iPod back out. Once again, my daily commutes are filled with the musings and teachings of my chosen instructors, and SoP is flowing again. I still don’t get much time to write, but I hope to finish the first draft by the end of the year.
12P – What is 12P? It’s the designation I’ve given to the HPM sequel that won’t leave me alone. Part of the reason it took me so long to figure out the problems with SoP is that as I tried to work my way through the problems there, 12P kept intruding. Every time I started my commute with the intent to hammer through my SoP issue, my mind would detour to what needed to happen in 12P. It was both exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.
SoP sequel? – Yes, to top it off, I had an idea for another SoP book. Not sure when I’ll get to it, but there it is. Yet another book for the idea factory.
All right, that’s it for now. Time for bed and I really need that beauty sleep. Stay safe, everyone.