Pistols at Dawn

This weekend saw me make a start on my proposed novel by setting up certain sections, and searching out some background material I’ll need. This can be a fun part of writing, but also, a distracting part now that we all have access to the WWW. So when I start a project, I like to get as much of the background and research done as soon as possible. Names, places, character ideas. Plot points, outline, anything I think I’ll need to keep me on track, and not distracted.

Which is why I’m going to write this one in Scrivener, a writing software that’s a little more than the name suggests. It offers a way to keep all your research and writing in one place. And while the program itself can, at times, seem a little overblown, with maybe one or two more bells and whistles than seems necessary, I thought I’d give it a try this time around. Given I’ve had the software for quite a while now.

So late yesterday evening, in a moment of clarity, I sat down and wrote about a 1000 words for the prologue. It was a thing of beauty to let it just flow out of me. Of course, this morning, in the cold light of day, when I go to reread it later, it may turn out to be an utter load of crap well, you get the picture.

The problem for me, as an editor, is second guessing every word, every sentence, every paragraph, and over editing everything written the day before so that, in the end, I wonder if I’ll ever finish a single chapter, let alone an entire novel. I can nitpick to the point of driving myself crazy, and have to go through a process, before writing, whereby I effective take the editor in me, and imprison her in a quiet corner of my mind (figuratively speaking). So that writer me can get on with the task in hand. Writing—undistracted by an editorial harpy screaming: you missed that typo, what are you thinking!

It’s very unhelpful having editor me and writer me arguing it out while I stare at the black screen wondering whether these two parts of me will come to blows over a simple typo, and wreck a morning’s worth (or afternoon worth) of writing. There’s a psychological trick to getting editor me to go away while writer me does her thing. And that doesn’t involve a figurative black-eye.

Ah, don’t you just love the writing life—fisticuffs at dawn by warring segments of your own psyche.

Welcome to my world for the next few months.


  1. I know just what you mean, Alex, about that feeling when the writing is flowing well. It just takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And I enjoy the research part of writing, too. It can be distracting, but it’s so interesting the things you learn. I’ve found, too, that most people are delighted to help if you have a research question.

    • La Blonde says

      It’s also the excitement of starting a new project, especially if you haven’t written anything in some time. I love researching and yes, as you say, learning something new. It’s a great way of expanding our knowledge and horizons.

      Oh, and I know the writing community, reviewers included, are a great bunch when it comes to finding out stuff. The Hive mind is always helpful, Margot.

  2. Kenny says

    I’ve lost my way several times due to the inner idiot who thrives on complaining, nitpicking, and trying every which way to divert me away from the page. Try another word, move that sentence from here to there, and get that paragraph situated before writing another word. The idiot won’t shut up at times. You said it, Alexandra, the “editorial harpy” needs a muzzle.

    I love research and detective work, hunting down what really happened, and then superimpose another reality.

    I’m a loyal fan of Scrivener; it’s got a lot of tasty meat on its bones, and I love the focused writing view, which I’ve got configured to give me a black screen with a moderate green font.

    • Alex says

      Ah, yes, Kenny, you too have the same small voice that is on auto-correct and hates to see a misplaced participle go unchecked, or a typo uncorrected. We are our own worst enemies when trying to find the sweet spot to write.

      The frustration goes without saying. But yes, research is a beautiful thing, it can be one of the most enjoyable parts of writing. And getting the small details right make everything fall into place. And having our characters feel real, is important. They must laugh, love, cry, and bleed like we do.

      I think I remember you telling me you had and loved Scrivener. Well, wish me luck. I usually write in text edit, happily pounding away without worry. And put my research notes in a small file program called Alepin, which saves to rtf. So easy to access anywhere by any software.

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