Creative Limitations

I blew past my goal of an additional 10,000 words this past four-day weekend. My draft of The Other and hit 14,600. Once I got going, it was easy to keep up the momentum. It's been a long time since I've had the mental energy to really focus on my writing, and it felt great.

The Other is divided into three major parts, the first of which is now done, at least as a first draft. Assuming that the word length of the other two sections is about the same as the first (24,600 words), the novel will end up in the 75,000 word range, though I'll do my best to keep it more compact, perhaps coming in at the really healthy 50-70k range.

In writing this novel's progenitor, Alterra, I had set myself an explicit goal of keeping that novel short. I had let my first novel, Voyage Embarkation sprawl as much as I'd liked, and my second novel, Insomnium came in shorter, but not by much. I had begun to suspect that I was using prose length as a crutch, and so I forced myself to tell the story of Alterra in under 45,000 words.

The exercise was frustrating at times, but I manged to do it. I told the story I wanted to tell in an extremely limited space, and it taught me a ton about how to structure novels and efficiencies I can utilize in moving the narrative forward. My fourth novel Schrödinger's City, came in at 78,000 words, a project that, had my pre-Alterra self been writing it, would have easily topped 125,000.

I had a similar experience with short stories. I thought I would be terrible at writing short stories. When the structure of a writing group I wanted to run demanded that I write in that form, I found something surprising—I actually enjoyed it, and a number of those stories turned out quite well, becoming my Lore & Logos and Transmutations of Fire and Void collections (the best of those are now available as Transmutations).

Each time I gave myself some limitation, the limitation has, rather than hinder my creative energy, actually helped me thrive. It's a lesson I try to keep in mind, especially when I find myself anxious about some restraint, for example, time.

Categories: Writing

Tags: The Other