Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Wednesday, 06 June 2001

Yesterday my free time came in little 5 minute chunks, so I used the time for bits of the journal entry. Today my free time came in big blocks, so, of course, I used it for writing. I'm finally making some real progress.

In class, Steve went back to the chakra model for character and pointed something out: as the aspect of character under threat moves up the list, it becomes less universal, and therefore less appealing to a mass audience Threats to core survival are understood by anyone, but purely emotional threats are compelling to fewer people and purely spiritual threats are compelling to only a few.

He also talked about theme. He suggested that it was bad to start a story with the theme in mind. The theme was better discovered in the writing.

For finding the theme, the said "Meaning comes out when the hero finally makes a choice and you see what happens." If the choice works, then then theme is what your character expressed; if the choice doesn't work, then the theme is the opposite. The example he gave of the latter was a movie ending with a character standing on the beach shouting at the waves not to come in. When the waves come in anyway, you know the theme was that the universe doesn't care what we want.

Once you have discovered the theme, he said you should go back and structure the scenes so that each scene is an argument either supporting or refuting your theme, and then order the scenes so that they alternate. Then, when the final scene says what you're trying to say, people will buy it, because the preceding scenes have already made the counter-arguments and disproved them.

Steve talked a bit about "flow state" and "edit state," and blamed writer's block on getting stuck in edit state, where you can't write because you keep finding flaws in what you're writing. He talked about finding ways to get into flow state, mostly by paying attention, noticing when you get into flow state and remembering how it felt and what triggered it.

I have a trick of my own that helps. I selected an object to associate with being in flow state. In my case it is a moleskin vest that my wife made me, but it could be anything, or even just a ritual. What I did was start putting on my moleskin vest when I found that I was in flow state. Over time I came to associate the two. Now, if I have trouble getting into flow state, I can get out the vest and put it on and the fact that it is associated with being in flow state helps me get there.

Class ran long again, but I'm not so unhappy about it today. Amazing what a good night's sleep will do. I wrapped up my critiques last night around 9:45, got ready for bed, and then slept until 6:30 this morning. Everything is easier and everything makes more sense when you're awake.

Well, I made some good progress. I'm at 4930 words, about half of that written since I got here. Unfortunately, I'm only about half done. Turning in a 10,000 words story would no doubt put my life in danger, but I just might get away with it if I do it on Friday so that people have the weekend to get it read. Still, I'll see if I can trim it before I turn it in. I won't do that now, though. I'll finish it first.

Now I have four critiques to do and about half an hour before bed time. Wish me luck.

No exercise today. I lifted yesterday evening, my first workout here. I wanted to run this morning, but it was cold and rainy, so I decided to put it off until after class. But when class ran long again I skipped it so I could write. Tomorrow.

We played our first game of Mafia today. I was a villager twice and got killed twice.


Philip Brewer's Writing Progress homepage