Emily S. Whitten: Writing the Long Game
I just returned from a week’s vacation out in the sort-of-middle-of-nowhere, and it was glorious. Being my first long non-family or -convention-related vacation in ten years, it gave me some much needed down time to, e.g., work on my non-journalistic writing (along with spending time with a wonderful friend and meeting new friends, reminding myself anew of how terrible I am at watercolor painting, reading the exceptional journalistic work of Ernie Pyle, getting a tad bit in shape, listening to excellent music really loudly through gorgeously immense speakers, stepping out into the sun more than I usually do in my office-bound work, and, you know, actually relaxing a bit).
A lot of editing got done this past week. And yet, on my return, I’m still not done editing my current project, i.e. the comic I’m co-writing. This is not because I’m just that slow (although on occasion I am) but because with this piece of writing, I’m having to practice a skill I’ve always lacked the patience to hone – playing the long game. (In the sense of building and playing out a long-term storytelling goal, not trying to con y’all. Although maybe the story will do that too. You never know.) It’s a skill I really need to develop if I’m going to execute certain of the ideas I’ve been building in my head over the last few years for both this comic and other stories; and yet one of my traits that is actually sometimes an oddly great virtue in my life, my impatience, is in this situation a great impediment. While impatience, used properly, can make me the person to, say, push forward with getting tasks done as efficiently as I think they should be, when it comes to complex storytelling, it’s my downfall.
Why? Because I really want the first part of this story to be done already, so we can start sharing it with the world (because I’m so, so nerdily excited about it!) and also so we can move on to the next bit of story and get even more of our ideas out there. And yet, patience is key to building the story we want to tell. Since it’s a comic, once an issue is out there, you can’t go back in editing and add a bit more foreshadowing like you can when writing a novel. And since we have built a story that, if done right, could conceivably last for at least sixty issues, there are things that, for it to be as fun and cool and twisty as we want it to be, must be built in from the beginning. And that takes time, and patience, and meticulous care.
That is why this writing vacation has been so great for me. It’s given me the time to do much of the all-important editing (I think I’m on my fourth round now?) that is going to make this story sing (we hope). And it has reminded me that if we want our story to unfold the way we are envisioning it in our heads, patience really is a virtue, and it’s okay to take the time to work it all out. Now that I’m back to the daily grind, I’m going to try my darnedest to hold onto that reminder; and for anyone who’s in the same writing place as me right now (I know you’re out there!), I hope you do too.
And until next time, Servo Lectio!