Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire

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We are here to protect you. We are here to protect you from the terrible secret of Seanans.

Jay Lake recently asked me to collaborate with him on a novella (which is awesome, by the way, and it's about belief and duty and ghost stories and Captain Hook and you're going to love it, really, I can't wait for you to see it). Knowing how busy I am, he coached his request very much as "this is a long shot, but," because he is a sensible man who knows I cannot bend time (much). He was thus, I think, understandably surprised when I started flipping drafts like pancakes. Jay has learned the terrible secret of Seanans:

There are only two speeds. "Stop" and "go." This is why it's taken so long for my foot to heal; once I can move again, I move, running hard toward the horizon because otherwise, it might move before I can get there.

Being a two-speed creature is not always ideal. I strip my own gears a lot. Exhausted collapse is not uncommon. But when everything's working, I can almost break the laws of physics, and for me, it's a worthwhile cost/benefit structure. I'll run, and when I fall, the ground will catch me, over and over again, until I don't get back up. And that, too, is a portion of the price that comes with how I'm wired.

I have people periodically look at my inchworm lists and wonder how the hell I can do the things I do. The answer is a combination of practice and planning. Every day has to be accounted for, because I'm moving too fast to cut corners; if I slow down enough to back it up, I'll drown.

In my dayplanner, I keep a running list of the day's tasks, including target (minimum) project word counts. Writing-related tasks on today's list are as follows:

1. 2,000 words, "Not Sincere" (Indexing #10)
2. 1,000 words, "Loch and Key" (InCryptid, J&F short)
3. Process edits (two files pending at time of this entry)

Note that #1 and #2 will not stop at the exact minimum; usually, I'll have overrun of somewhere between 100 and 2,000 words over the course of a night, depending on when my bedtime is and what point I've reached in the story. At the same time, if I hit that precise minimum, I stay on target.

Separately, on a notepad, I keep my progressive word counts list. This is just a sheet of paper that reads:

6/5 - 2,000/3,000
6/6 - 4,000/4,000
6/7 - 6,000/5,000
6/8 - 8,000[LOCK]/6,000

6/9 - 76,000/7,000

...and so on down the line. That's showing the current word counts of projects in the #1 and #2 positions—so "Not Sincere," which I'm starting tonight, should have a value of 2,000 words before I go to bed, and when I go back to The Winter Long on 6/9, that first day's work should bring the book to a minimum of 76,000 words. [LOCK] signifies a project's projected removal from the list. Every morning, I cross off the totals that have been reached. If I "wrap" the next goal—say, "Not Sincere" hits 6,000 words on 6/6, because I'm so excited—then I completely rewrite the list, advancing everything by one day (8,000 words on 6/7, changing projects on 6/8, etc.). This is because it's always better to be ahead of target: it allows me to do things like "attend a friend's birthday party" and "sleep in on a Sunday" when I earn enough breathing room.

It's hard. I don't pretend that it's not. But there's something comforting in having constant, manageable milestones: if I can write 2,000 words a day for fifty days, I have a 100,000 word book. Not too shabby, all things considered.

This is the terrible secret of Seanans:

We never really stop.
Tags: busy busy busy, contemplation, writing

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