Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Rush of Rushing

Hey, did you know I'm writing a novel??

You didn't? Well, I can't blame you. You wouldn't know it from my recent blog posts. What can I say? I've been caught up in the alluring world of creative non-fiction, where almost no research is required. What a beautiful place...

I know, it's been a while since I posted anything about my WIP. In my defense, I'm still working my way through this monster, which doesn't so much involve reading as it does navigating the research rabbit holes. You know, those places you stumble into when you're researching something, and quickly get lost in. The places that take you from the world of South American archaeology into the strange, sealed world of cliff tombs. For example.

I'm not disparaging these rabbit holes - they can provide surprising plot twists, fascinating tidbits of information, and lovely hours of procrastination - but I can't help but feel like a horse delicately picking its way through a field riddled with little rodent burrows. One wrong step...

I won't go into excruciating detail, because, well, it's excruciatingly dull, but I will explain the basics: I am attempting to place my South American lifetime in a specific set of locations and a specific time period, so that I can then attempt to figure out how the people of those locations and periods lived and interacted, so that I can then figure out who the hell my characters are and what the hell they're doing.

This process is of course not linear. I start with a vague set of parameters: one character probably lived in the dry Andean highlands, and the other in the semi-temperate edges of the Amazon basin. So I look in my giant archaeology book for articles about peoples who lived in the altiplano, or the high Andean plateau. That leads me to a variety of dense, academic treatises on the Early, Middle, and Late Periods of Pre-Incan civilization, so then I have to go look up when each of these periods occurred and what occurred in them.

The problem, though, is that it's very hard to find general information on early South American peoples, which is fair, because there were many of them living all over the continent in vastly different climates.

So then I start researching actual tribes who lived in the altiplano, which leads me to that BBC show on the Chachapoya people and their cliff tombs, which, although fascinating, is not what I need to know, because the Chachapoya lived in the Peruvian cloud forest, which is not at all arid and therefore not at all what I'm looking for.

I dig myself out of that particular rabbit hole, and dive into another.

I know it sounds a lot like I'm complaining. I'm not. The research is difficult, sometimes boring, but generally fascinating and rich with gorgeous ideas and images, and I need to know all of this. I just...well, to be honest, I just want to be getting this done faster. I'm constantly fighting that urge to rush, to finish my book as fast as possible and get it out there in the world. It's a totally self-manufactured rush - I have no deadline - and it's making me feel like I'm never getting enough done. Which means, really, that it's not helping me at all.

I know I'm not alone in this - Anne Allen had a great post about it a couple of weeks ago - but that doesn't make it easier to handle. It's so hard to fight that inner voice that screams for more, faster, now - and to not feel defeated when you know that less, slower, later, is better.

Send along some good vibes, and let me know how you fight the voices that tell you to rush.

35 comments:

  1. I get that feeling, since I've been working on my book for what feels like forever and I feel like it should be done by now. But if you rush things, it probably won't come out like it should. I think getting it right is more important than getting it done fast.

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  2. Tough. The research is where the unique novel-worthy plot point is often found, and so you want to stay there and discover all the fascinating bits. Yet I understand your impatience to get the writing done. I fight that urge every day as I finalize my edits. Want to send query now! Want to publish now!

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    1. Yes, EXACTLY! Want to be published NOW. Hard to convince that part of myself that that's not exactly how it works...

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  3. You're going to be able to write a non-fiction book based on your research when you finish. Maybe several.

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  4. It's hard not to tell yourself to go, go, go, especially when you hear of other people's good news that you'd like one day to experience. I just have to remind myself that they put in years of hard work too, to get to that point, and you can't rush art, right?

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  5. Ah, research. I told my sis-in-law the other day that I was doing research, and she looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, "No. You? Really?" I hadn't realized how much research I actually do until that moment. I typically regurgitate what I find to her, because she's the unfortunate soul who is the most easy to snag. :)

    Even though it takes time, I'm sure you won't be happy with your story if you don't spend the time researching all you want. And with a story of your scale, it's going to be great!

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    1. Ha! That's great. She's a good sister-in-law :) I need a regurgitatee (I just made up a word...) It would be really satisfying to tell someone all of those excruciatingly boring (to them, not me) details!

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  6. I so enjoy reading about your research adventures. I say take your time and get it right. I've read some great fiction that took the writer 10 years to write because of the massive amounts of research. but they took their time and got it right.

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  7. Good Luck with the continued research! It can be tough, but it's really great that you're taking the time to make it authentic instead of deciding "It's fiction" and making up what you want.

    Happy reading, and happy writing (when you crawl out of that book!)

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  8. And this is why I said your project is ambitious. I've written historical fiction and it takes a while to get comfortable with one historical setting--say nothing about 6. (That's how many you're using right?) Insane--but it's going to be brilliant.

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    1. Yes. Six. Good memory :) I'm a crazy person...

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  9. It's so easy to get lost in research. I've been down many rabbit holes myself.

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  10. When I get to feeling rushed, I stand up and go to the bathroom for a distraction. I do it at home and at work.

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  11. I think research is the best and worst part of writing. On the one hand, you learn so much that you probably never encountered in a classroom. On the other hand, it can suck you in and keep you from writing. It's a bit of a double edged sword, but it's a cool sword. :D

    Good luck to you!

    Writing Through College

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  12. Oh I just want to give you a hug. I understand that feeling. I am not writing a book but there are several things i feel guilty about not getting to and want to. I jam up my mind with all those feelings and feel I need to rush to do it. I feel like i am letting myself down and others when the others look at me and say they are fine(hubby, friends not ghosts). So I am doing my best to "calm the mind" I watched something funny to make me laugh and I know i will get to the things I need to do. You will do the same. We often mis judge how much we have in our lives until someone points it out so remember you have many other things in the fire that you have to always do. You will get it done and it will be brilliant!

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    1. This feels like a virtual hug, and I did need one!! Thank you :) Calming the mind is very, very good advice.

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  13. I sometimes feel like I'm straining at my traces when I know, if I want to get there in one piece, I'd better slow it down a bit. But I'm too eager! Sigh.

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  14. You're writing a novel? I think I may have picked up a hint here or there. :)

    If I haven't said it before, then I have to tell you how impressed I am with the effort you put into writing--even before you start typing. Doing all this studying and research to get your book right...well, I know you can't see it, but I'm bowing to you. Great work!

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    1. Yeah, what a shocker, huh??? ;) Thank you so much. I really, sincerely hope the effort pays off!

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  15. Your research rabbit holes (a term that I LOVE! Thanks for letting me steal it.) are much loftier places than mine. I get caught up searching for images of crazed carnies and two headed goats, and end up finding out exactly what carnival folk call pickled punks. Yrrg, You don't want to go there!

    Good vibes to combat those rush demons are yours!!

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    1. Steal away! It IS a fun term :) And please, your research rabbit holes are freaking fascinating. Like a little glimpse into the dark underbelly of America...which should be the catch-line for a book you write someday, I think :)

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  16. I know exactly how you feel about the self-induced rush - I put myself into that all the time, and have to stop and tell myself that no, I don't have to start a book in October so I can be sure to finish it by mid-November, no, I don't necessarily have to write another book this year even though, I'd like to, no, I don't... you get the idea. O_o I'd love to say how I do it, but it's just old-fashioned discipline.

    Y'know, the same stuff that keeps me writing in the first place. Gah!

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  17. You certainly don't lack ambition! :) Sounds like you have a strategy that works for you, which is the most important thing. Good luck! :)

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  18. The title itself makes one read..... The Rush of Rushing.

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  19. Your new project sound great and really interesting but I must say, it is quite ambitious. But I also think that great things do not happen without ambition. So off you go with your research, your promised land is near :)

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  20. Wow, Liz. Just reading about all of the fascinating research you are doing literally baffles my mind! I thought I had a lot of research to do with my WIP but mine hardly compares to all of the exciting things you are embarking upon for yours. I understand it's tough but you will get through it... in your own time. Do the research and let the story unfold as your mind embraces all of the wonderful information you are stumbling upon.
    You have honestly made me think about going back to some of my older ideas and turning them into bigger projects. It's just that they require an immense amount of research. And the day job doesn't really allow me the time I wish I had to get it all done!
    My WIP has been in the making for 8 months now. I finished the 1st draft in the spring and I've been procrastinating going back to it to do all of the necessary edits and drafts. I also have my children's work to promote which has my other work on the backburner. Ugh, more time please!!

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    1. 8 months? That's fantastic!! I'm moving at a glacial pace in comparison. Damn these day jobs...

      I hope you do rework some older ideas, if just for the fun and challenge of it! The epic size of this one is sometimes overwhelming but exciting. I'll let you know which emotion wins when I'm done...in like twenty years ;)

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  21. The setting of the first novel I queried was changes so many times. It was probably set in almost every decade of over a century because I couldn't make up my mind.

    Good luck with your research and rabbit holes!

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  22. Umm, patience is definitely something I lack, so yeah, I probably do tend to rush towards the end, but thankfully I let the novel sit long enough that when I come back to it, I see all the "problems." I tend to rewrite my endings several times, probably because of the rushing! :)

    Good luck with all your research. I am amazed by your dedication and the ability to retain all that knowledge! Just keep pluggin' along. One day it'll be finished and you'll think: "That really was but a small moment in time." Or maybe you won't. :)

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    1. Yes, that sounds familiar to me, too, LOL! The end isn't always the last thing I wrote - usually the last thing I write is that hard scene I've been avoiding the whole time. By the tie I HAVE to write it I'm rushing, so it's usually high up on the rewrite list!!!

      Thanks, Kristin :)

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  23. I'm a sloooow writer. However, my brain tells me to rush. I lack patience, but I've learned over the years to BE patient, or least to look patient while my insides are tumbling over themselves. Don't get snared in the rabbit hole for too long. Claw your way out and get your arse out of there....

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  24. Liz, you are preaching to the choir. I think we all go through this and for some reason we're in such a hurry to rush when sometimes, a novel needs to simmer for quite some time before it's even ready to be plotted. I know it's frustrating for you, but hang in there. The research stage will be over sooner or later and eventually, you'll be able to write. And when this happens to me? Well, I just drive myself crazy thinking that I should be further along than I actually am. But I know that if I want the actual novel to match the vision that I have, no matter how frustrating it is, I have to wait it out. Sending good vibes your way:)

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  25. Like I tell my students: First is worst. No need to rush. Don't be Russian, just Finnish. And how about this: Set your entire novel on an alternate Earth where you get to create the history. Problem solved. =]

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  26. All the best Liz. I like to keep the first draft flawless...so you guessed it-I'm very slow!

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  27. I am in the same research-is-holding-me-back-and-inspiring-me-at-the-same-time rut. Gah! I can't wait to get writing! LOL

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