Writing and the Sabbath

Today was my first Sunday in a new ward, and we had a really good Elder’s quorum lesson on keeping the Sabbath day holy.  This is an area of living the gospel that I really need to improve on, and I need to both stop doing things that aren’t appropriate for the Sabbath and start doing things that are.

My question is this: in your opinion, is it breaking the Sabbath to work on a particular story that you’re writing?

It’s not as spiritual as reading the scriptures or doing service, but it’s not as worldly as watching TV or playing Halo. It is an activity that requires creative thought, and I suppose that it does have the potential to draw you closer to the savior if you can see gospel principles in action in the story you’re telling.  On the other hand, it can really distract if the story is full of bloodshed and craziness.

I’m pretty liberal when it comes to Sabbath day worship, but I think I’ve been a little too loose in the past, and now I need to set up some personal guidelines to help preserve the spirit of the day. That’s why I’d appreciate the feedback.

I know that everyone is going to have different ways of living this commandment, and that’s perfectly fine. What helps one person to keep the Sabbath holy may or may not help another person, and what distracts from one person may or may not distract from another (for example, I think I need to stop browsing my blog subscriptions on Sunday!)

What I really need is some way of thinking about it.  I really don’t know on what terms to consider this; why exactly it would or would not be considered a Sunday appropriate activity.  That’s why I’d like to hear your thoughts.

1,257 words tonight and where I’m going with the storyline

1,257 words tonight.  That should make up for yesterday’s missed goal.

The great thing is that I’m starting to really get into this story.  In my mind, I’m already thinking out the details of the events in the next couple of chapters.  Now, I just need to make sure to keep up with it!

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually start writing until after midnight.  That will hopefully change.  I don’t want to be going to bed after 2 AM every night.

I’m coming up to the part where the main male character, whose name is Sayed (though I’ll probably change that) meets up with the main female character, whose name I haven’t yet figured out.  Sayed and two of his crewmates are stranded on the planet and separated from the captain and the rest of the crew.  They decide to walk out of their situation and try to find the captain.  Along the way, they come across a group of bandits who roam the desert on these bipedal lizardlike creatures and make a living stealing from the local tribes.

Of course, Sayed and his crewmates don’t realize this, so they approach the bandits peacefully without expecting a fight.  When the bandits attack, a firefight ensues, in which the bandits are cut down like butter by the superior weapons of Sayed and his friends.  All of the bandits, about thirty or forty, are killed.  However, one of Sayed’s crewmates is fatally injured, and his other crewmate Aaron is severely wounded.

Sayed doesn’t know it, but this group of bandits has recently captured the main female character.  She is the daughter of a local tribal leader of some influence.  While the men went off to rob and plunder from the strange foreigners, their wives and the princess stayed behind.  The wives of the bandits are jealous of the princess and treat her abusively.  When their husbands don’t return, they are scared and force the princess to go and find out what’s going on.

She comes across Sayed and Aaron at the site of the battle, but Sayed (who is peaceful at heart) sees that she is unarmed and doesn’t attack her.  They try but fail to communicate, because of the language barrier.  When the princess sees how sad Sayed feels about his wounded comrades and the bandits they killed, she realizes that he’s a good person at heart and won’t hurt her.

However, she connives a scheme to get herself back home–and to get back at the women in the process.  She takes Sayed and Aaron back to the wives who abused her and tells the women that these foreigners have come to rescue her–and capture them.  When Sayed tries to communicate with them, she pretends to speak on his behalf, and Aaron has such a jittery trigger finger that the women quickly come to believe what she tells them.

She then leads Sayed and the others back to her home, where, to Sayed’s great surprise, he is treated as a prince and a hero.  The plot thickens from there.

That’s the basic gist of the story at this point.  I don’t want to reveal too much in this blog, but I also don’t want you to read about my writing without having any clue as to what’s going on in the story.

I think that’s enough for now.  As always, suggestions are always welcome.

Writing Is Not Mindless Entertainment

So, I’ve been unpacking and moving in all day–what a freaking chore! It didn’t help that my sister, who left me her car while she’s visiting the family, was 5,000 miles overdue for an oil change, or that it suddenly decided to leak power steering fluid. Holy cow! I could go on listing things, but basically, I’ve been busy all day. That’s not the excuse, though! The excuse is even lamer. While unpacking and moving in, my flash drive with all my writing was buried under a pile of junk (ازبل, as my Syrian roommate taught me to say), and he went to bed before I could completely put everything away. The result was that I couldn’t find my flash drive while glancing over the pile in the dark with my cell phone as a light, and I didn’t want to disturb him so I stopped looking. So, no writing today (::innocent emoticon::). I’ll try to write at least 1,000 words tomorrow.

But here’s a question, and something I noticed: at what time of the day do you do your best writing? At what time of the day do you do most of your writing?

I’ve noticed that with this daily word goal, I’ve been doing a lot of my writing at night, right before I go to bed. I’ve also noticed that I get really loopy right around that time (haven’t you noticed while reading this blog?). I wonder if perhaps it would be better to write at a different time of day. Would that increase the quality of the writing? I dunno.

I’m not quite sure how to logistically do that. Every time I’ve set a goal to do something at a specific time each day, it always ends up not working out. Every day is different, and different obligations pop up at different times. I suppose I could set a flexible time, such as “after lunch” or “before such and such class,” but would it really work? I don’t know.

I think the ideal thing would be to get so excited about your writing that you think about it when you don’t have to think about anything. That way, you’re much more motivated and it’s natural to make the time.

But writing doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of thing that you can do when you’re bored. It takes a lot more thought than watching TV or browsing random blogs and websites. I heard from somewhere once that the brain is naturally wired to minimize work and maximize output. That means that you’re naturally wired to seek for highly stimulating things that require little or no effort to obtain. I’m sure it’s possible, through an exercise of will, to overcome that, but it would require quite a lot.

Besides that, writing strikes me as something that you can’t really do in little chunks here and there. If you want to catch up on your blogs, you can go to a kiosk between classes and check out half a dozen or so before you have to go. But writing is something that, in order to do well, you have to take time to work yourself up a little bit more than that. It takes inertia, and it’s hard to accelerate if you’re starting from zero. Once you’re going (I’ve found) you can go practically forever, but it takes a bit to get started–to REALLY get started.

Because of all this, I think that writing really is something that you have to set aside the time to do–it’s not something you can just expect to naturally do when you’re bored. This means that the solution is either to set aside a time each day (either by the clock or by routine) or keep it constantly on the front of your mind.

I’m going to try doing that. I’m going to try to get my writing done during the day and not right before I go to bed. Maybe while I’m eating lunch…


I moved back to Utah today. Got about two hours of sleep before leaving for the airport at 4:30 (I tried, but I couldn’t help it! I couldn’t sleep!), then basically slept, listened to podcasts, and talked with this lady from Tennessee all the way to SLC. Then, busy busy busy busy busy…holy cow! I’m pooped.

But I did get some writing in while I was in the airplane. And, surprise, surprise, it wasn’t on my novel. You see, last night, while I was writing on the novel, I had this idea for a story flash into my mind. It could make for a very good short story. I decided today to run with it.

The idea is this: what if there was a guy who could tell who was and wasn’t going to hell? And if this same person could give people a vision of hell? What would happen? How would individuals and society react to him? Would they accept him or reject him? And what if he wasn’t even a religious guy? Just because he knows about hell doesn’t mean that he knows anything about everything else. He could deduce some presuppositions to the existence of hell, but logic doesn’t translate into faith. What basically would be his story?

I started today by basically brainfarting on the subject. I put it in the first person and just started writing anything that the idea brought to mind. When I realized that I had to describe what hell looked like, it became a little bit tougher (and I’ll probably edit that section a lot), but mostly it just flowed out. However, the stuff that’s flowing out of my mind is DEFINITELY not anywhere close to a finished product. It doesn’t have a whole lot of structure, and where it does, it’s too lengthy. I’ll definitely have to cut it down. But that comes later. I figure it’s better to get it out now.

This is a lot different than Decision LZ150207 that I wrote a while ago. That story basically sprouted from my head fully formed. I’ve since edited the beginning quite a bit, and some of the descriptions, but the basic story hasn’t changed.

Also with Decision LZ150207, I had a great idea that I didn’t act on for a long time. It just sat in my brain and played itself over and over again until its demands to be written were greater than all of the other demands on my time. It was probably some of the least painful writing I’ve done, but that idea had a lot of time to die. It surprised me that it stayed alive.

What I’m wondering is this: if, in a flash of the mind, you get this idea that you think is really good for a story, is it better to focus on that idea right away, to at least start the story before the idea fades and is forgotten, or is it better to wait and not write until something just comes to you?

So…Freaking…Tired…my knee jerk reaction is to say that you should run with what you’ve got. And that’s why work on the novel is going to take the backseat until I figure out if the idea works or not.


3,000 Words Today

Yeah, I did about 3,000 words in The Lost Colony today.  I’m just about caught up to the place where I was before I decided to rewrite the first chapter.  About a third of that was cut and pasting from the previous part, but I did have to substantially edit it.

The funny thing is that it was a struggle to get myself settled down and actually writing, but once I did, the time flew by like nothing and so did the words.  Last night, I didn’t write anything because it was late and I was very tired, and I figured that it would be better to make it up today.  I figure that goals are only useful if they push you to the best possible end.  They’re not there to make you feel guilty or satisfied, they’re there to get you to do something.  If I get overly swamped with schoolwork, or a family death happens, or I’m in desperate need of sleep, I’m not going to make myself spit out 500 words of forced prose.  Apparently, I’m not the only one thinking or saying this.  (I highly recommend Mur Lafferty’s podcast, by the way.)

All day today, I had it in the back of my mind to sit down and write, but whenever I tried, I always distracted myself.  It was weird.  I need to get past this, but I’m not sure how.  I figure it will happen naturally as I get deeper in the story.  I think that writing is most enjoyable when you really believe passionately in the story itself.  I think that that’s also one of the best motivators for writing.  I’m sure there are others–like, for example, starvation–but when I really have a good story idea, I almost CAN’T keep from writing.  This past winter, I had this awesome story idea of a bunch of guys in someone’s brain piloting him like some kind of spaceship and helping him to overcome his fears and ask a girl out on a date.  I kept poring over the story in my mind until one day I just sat down for three hours–and voila! an entire rough draft came out beautifully!  One major edit and a few cosmetic changes later, it actually won a writing contest.  So yeah, it really helps if you’re passionate about your story!

The question is, how do you get yourself more excited about the story you’re trying to tell?

School is coming up, and I’m about to discover if I’ve got too much on my plate.  18 credit hours, advanced Arabic plus living in the Arabic house, working part time, no car (not yet–I just sold my old one), and other craziness.  Despite all this, I am very much looking forward to going back to school.  It will be exciting!  It will also be exciting to get involved in Quark again.  We’ve had some good online meetings, but only a handful of people have shown up to those (mostly just Reigheena and Aneeka).  A lot of people in the writing group have graduated, so I really hope we can bring in some new blood this semester.