The Joys of Meat and Po-Tay-Toes Writing

The past two weeks, as I’ve mentioned, have been about getting back to work on my WIP, Shadow of the Black Tower. It doesn’t make much in the way of exciting news, but it has been productive “meat and potatoes” writing time nonetheless.

I love meat and potatoes writing time. It’s where work really gets done, and progress gets made. Just give me a cup of sweet Earl Grey…

…some epic music…

…and let me plant my butt in a chair and write!

“Butt in Chair” is a legitimate stratagem I recommend to authors seeking to write professionally. By all means love your craft, the art of it, and the process. But at the end of the day, if you want to get your stories out there, they’re not going to write themselves. You need to sit your butt down and write them. Do this as often as you can: Have a realistic schedule that you can live with, and play around to find out what works for you. My schedule involves writing on my big projects over weekends and my smaller projects on weeknights because of my day-job constraints. But above all, the important thing is to WRITE when you can.

Make it a habit, and you’ll come to crave that “Butt in Chair” time even when you don’t feel like writing. And that, my friends, is a step in a professional direction.

Sunday before last — having been away from Shadow for two and a half months — I decided the best thing to do with my “Butt in Chair” time would be to immerse myself back into the story and reread the entire 16,500 word draft from start to finish and do edits, cuts and revision-additions as I did so. This worked out really well. It got my creative engines and excitement to finish the tale rolling again, and I also found and fixed some problems. Some of these were fragments leftover from the big revision I made when I removed all reference in it to R.E. Howard’s Hyborian Age, but mostly I cut and added here and there to aid in foreshadowing and provide better characterization.

Once I’d completed the edits and rewrites, I wrote the end of the story’s eighth chapter. With that done — plus and minus all the rest — the draft stood at 17,100 words.

I didn’t get any additional time to work on the piece until this past Sunday, which was disappointing. However, I used my time well and added 1,200 words, starting chapter nine and getting the manuscript to 18,300 words total. The draft is now definitely in the territory that most would define as a novella, and I’ll certainly be comfortably within anyone’s definition of a novella by the time I’m done writing it.

Chapter nine is creepy and tense as I write the group going deeper into the tower. They’re learning more about its builders, and the protagonist’s dread is growing as to what the ultimate aim of the slayers he’s aligned himself with truly may be. This weekend’s work also included some cuts and revisions as I corrected an oversight and error on my part that required surgical rewrites across three chapters. These all had to do with the non-humanoid nature of the tower’s builders, and how the structure not being built for human use — or to appeal to human aesthetics — makes its exploration unnerving and difficult. Those changes really worked to pump-up the eerie, particularly now that the characters are exploring huge chambers with just the light of a small oil lamp to see by.

I also added a bit of foreshadowing I was particularly proud of that will help the climax play out well, and yet still hold a surprise. I really can’t wait to write that part… all the tension leading up to it will make it a great moment for the reader.

And I should reach that moment soon. The end of chapter nine will bring us to the setting of the tale’s climax, way down in the dark. Once I’m there, I think it’ll only be one or two chapters before I finish the novella.

My goal for the upcoming week is to get as much done on the ninth chapter as I can. I’m using a vacation day from work this Friday to lengthen my weekend towards that end, and I’m hopeful that I’ll finish the current chapter and start the tenth by Sunday. :-)

Have a great week everyone, and keep writing!

~Jason H. Abbott.

7 thoughts on “The Joys of Meat and Po-Tay-Toes Writing

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  1. That sounds like an exciting story you’re writing, I’m sure it would be fun to read it once it’s finished ☺ what’s the “meat and potatoes” writing time all about? Is it simply the time you spend writing when you don’t necessarily feel like it? (I loved the gif you used btw!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Meat and potatoes writing time in this context is time spent writing, editing and revising as opposed to plotting, planning and worldbuilding. It’s the solitary work of putting your butt in a chair and writing to get stuff done.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh alright, thanks for the clarification! In this case, I only get my meat and potatoes writing time accidentally, simply because I proof-read my chapters for the sake of reminding myself of the plot and to enjoy the story, and if I feel the need I revise it too, add or delete certain details 😅 I guess it’s just how it works for me.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. My experience with writer’s block has been one of discovering that it’s mostly about letting our fears and anxieties get the better of us. Always remember that bravery is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it.

      Put your doubts aside, your butt in a chair, and write my friend. No time spent writing is wasted: Even if you’re less than satisfied with your work after, a draft can always be revised and the act of writing alone improves your skill. :-)

      Glad you liked the music! I’ve been listening to a lot from this composer while writing “Shadow of the Black Tower”.


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