As you might have guessed reading my last update at the beginning of April, losing my job due to the coronavirus pandemic threw my established weekly routines (writing and otherwise) out the window. For the first week after, there were things like setting up unemployment, job hunting, and seeing what can be done about my student loans, bills, and mortgage. In addition, I just needed to decompress and reassess. And my wife needed me to soothe her frayed nerves.
It was all too much to keep my focus on a big project, so during that time I took a ten day break from A Contract in Azure and Indigo. I put a priority on getting to a healthy headspace first. Aside from that, however, I also kept busy clearing my table of small projects. I did something similar when my time was in upheaval in February and again in March while the pandemic was ramping up.
It proved as productive as it was last time. I got my social medial features done in spades and setup to run until mid-May and then some. With that out of the way, and now clear-minded, I returned to A Contract in Azure and Indigo on the Monday after Easter. I spent my first day getting my head back into it after the break. I took some time to think about where I am going with the manuscript, and how the changes I’ve introduced to the story alter the second and third acts of the novella.
The changes don’t create plot holes so much as render a fair chunk of the already written material in the second half uneven and awkward. Perhaps even clunky and redundant. Moreover, my tinkering opens the door to implementing a fundamental change to the story I’d thought about, but hadn’t committed to. The conundrum boiled down to two possible paths: The first was to do a few cuts and key rewrites to smooth-out what I’ve already got… and hope it works. The second was a much more involved route that made that fundamental change. It would require larger cuts, larger rewrites, and some not insubstantial newly written additions. But I felt confident that the end result of the second option would be a superior story to what I’d get just winging it with the first.
I am always one to aim for quality over speed, and I have more time to write than usual right now. Therefore, I took the latter of the two paths. :-) It is a bittersweet choice, however. It takes the story farther away from my original ideas, and writing this story in 2014 was what told me “I can be a writer”. On the other hand, I’ve learned a lot in the six years since then. The original version had many problems that I fixed in the 2016 version. And the 2016 version had flaws I could see with a more experienced eye in 2020. In that sense, this is part of the continuing evolution of the tale and my ability as a writer. These changes will allow me to keep the core story I still believe in, and yet rework it into something new and special with all I know now.
The rest of my first day back was spent plotting out what needs to be altered to support the changes I envision, scene to scene. The good news is that the first five chapters— about 60% of the novella, thus far— escape without need of alteration. The lone exception is a one-paragraph rewrite and addition I made in the first act, which plants a seed that will grow to fruition for a third act payoff.
That remaining 40% of the novella, though… I’ve got some work cut out for me there…
Since then, it has been all about writing on Azure and Indigo for the most part. As beforehand I basically only had Sundays to work on this, getting to write on it most days is a huge increase in output. There has been some shifting of gears on my part to adapt and make the most of this temporary paradigm of unemployment as well. One example is that I’m now writing my weekday microfictions that start life on Twitter in the evening, then scheduling them to post in the morning.
Previously, I would write and post them live during my long morning carpool to work, which isn’t happening anymore. I discovered that writing them in the mornings now— before I start working on Azure and Indigo— was seriously throwing me off track creatively. This week I changed things so I work on Azure and Indigo after breakfast and lunch, and write the daily microfiction and other stuff after dinner. It’s working out much better.
I’m also taking breaks from Azure and Indigo on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Refreshing my eyes with a day away from an ongoing project is helpful to me while I edit as I go. I also use the time to stay ahead on small projects. These days aren’t picked at random either: Saturday is an interrupted day because I’m hosting #SciFanSat on Twitter, and it’s one of my wife’s days off when we can spend time together.
And Wednesday is Grocery Day. In this time of pandemic, that means a lot more invested effort and stress than it used to. But my wife and I remain healthy and isolated as the crisis continues. That comfort is well worth the added effort put into gathering essentials. And now that the CDC has recommended wearing masks for everyone in public, Kim has put her considerable sewing skills and spare fabric to good use making some for ourselves and others. This resulted in my adoption of a new alter-ego…
Next update, I hope to report lots of progress on Azure and Indigo. Maybe even that its seventh draft and significant rewrite is done. We’ll see. :-)
Take care everyone. Be safe, and keep writing!
~Jason H. Abbott.