Saturday, December 5, 2009

How to Work for Hours and Feel Like You've Accomplished Nothing

A Novel-writing Status

Now that I'm fully engaged in my book(s), I may occasionally make additional brief updates like this one at odd times and possibly even on weekends.

Yesterday (Friday, December 4th) felt like a waste, and by bedtime I was extremely grumpy. I didn't even open my "chapter" Word documents, and thus added no real prose to my novel. Nor did I copy so much as one line of notes from my handwritten notepad into my OneNote repository.

Which isn't to say that I didn't accomplish anything of value. It just didn't feel like I was making progress the way it does when I write creative content or at least copy over the notes that I need to transcribe in support of writing that content.

What I did, instead, was spend around six hours poring over Google Maps and Wikipedia to research some fairly important information for the setting of my novel. There are at least two significant population centers to be visited in my first book, and I had had some general ideas about them, including:
  • What sorts of major cities they're near
  • How big they are
  • Certain natural resources that they have access to
  • Certain man-made resources that they have access to
I also need them to be within certain distances of each other - not too close, but not overly far away, either. I had come up with some proposed locations that seemed to fit certain criteria pretty well, but I hadn't really studied them in enough detail to be clear whether or not they were really suitable.

Also, for reasons that will be clear when and if you ever read this novel, I needed to know what military installations exist in those same regions of the country and (if possible) have a general idea of the numbers and types of material and personnel at each of them.

The result of all of these needs? Yesterday's research-a-rama. Hours upon hours of following links on Wikipedia, then blasting out from them to Google Maps. The result? Well, I now have a OneNote Tab titled "Research" on which I've copied and pasted links to Wiki articles as well as the names and rough locations of several dozen US military bases. In addition to that rather simplistic (if very time-consuming) research, I got some good news and some bad news:

The Bad News: I discovered that the two places I'd intended to set some important chunks of my book were totally unsuitable relative to each other. Crap. In the context of my work, having two important communities exist 700 miles apart is totally unworkable. I was able to brainstorm some solutions that made it work, one of which I liked enough that thematically I may very well end up using it anyway, but they were "fixes" for a problem that I needed to be smart and clever enough to accept ought to be avoided altogether. Hooray for being smart and clever, I suppose.

The Good News: I actually found a new location for one of the settlements that, while being slightly less "cool" in one respect, actually fits most of my criteria MUCH better than the place I'd initially selected. In fact, it turns out that there were some very practical issues with my original choice that actually made it a terrible location, but I didn't realize that until I did some research. The new location is far superior in this one critical aspect. And no, I didn't say what this aspect was - apologies for any confusion or re-reading this may have caused, but I'm being deliberately vague until such time as the book is finished and has been accepted for publication.

So while Friday's work felt very lacklustre at the time, to the point of actually making me angry over all that I hadn't accomplished during the day, it was absolutely vital and necessary to the eventual completion of my work and will end up having a very positive, practical impact on the book. Yes, writing it out that way does make me feel better. Apparently blogging can be therapeutic. Who knew?

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