The Leaky Faucet Theory

All right. I’m back at Starbucks, on what could be described as a pseudo-day off. I don’t technically work, but I do have a supervisor meeting over the lunch hour.

So, I’m sitting here attempting to use my time wisely. Iced coffee is just beginning to pump through me and my ‘Cards’ playlist is swimming through my ears.

Since I’ve moved to Oregon, every piece I’ve written has an attached soundtrack. A playlist of songs that, either through the lyrics or the actual music, make me think about the writing.

The playlist for ‘Vessels’ had a lot of Muse and 30 Seconds to Mars with some Incubus sprinkled in for good measure.

This playlist is a bit different, but it’s working. Way more varied than the last playlist. The Civil Wars, Incubus, Nine Inch Nails, The Heavy, AFI, Cage the Elephant, just to name a few.

As a test I had coworkers listen to the playlist after we closed, and asked them what they thought the story was about. Generally they were confused, but came away with a sense of the wild west and outlaws.

Which was close enough. The steampunk element was lost to them, reflected in AFI and Nine Inch Nails.

Music is a funny thing. And I take it more seriously than most people I know. Though I love reading and writing, obviously, I call Music my religion. Music is what I turn to when I feel lost, when I need an outlet I can turn it up and scream along. When I’m happy there are key artists who make repeat appearances, like Snow Patrol.

And while I can play instruments, its not the creative outlet I seek. I can play trumpet, piano and guitar, but very rarely do I feel the need to play. And if I do, I don’t compose. I play someone else’s music that really spoke to me.

I’m starting to believe that creative energy is like a water faucet. The more you tap it, the less comes out of each tap.

Trevor has recently taken up drawing. He says that he tried in high school and was awful at it, so he gave up. But, he’s been planning out projects, drawing nerdy mash-ups for potential t-shirt ideas. And you know what?

He’s pretty good!

He has zero training, he’s just going on his gut, and it’s working for him. I’m urging him to take a class in the fall, and he just might, since he enjoys it so much.

And I’m reminded of how I used to draw. I loved drawing in high school. But then I danced, choreographing pieces and learning other student’s choreography.

It wasn’t until college, after I’d broken my foot and decided to stop dancing, that I started writing.

And so I return to the faucet analogy. I feel like my creative energy is limited. But, if I only tap it for one project at a time, I can never run out. If I try to write a novel and draw, neither one will get finished.

Also like a tap, you need to leave it leaking, so that it won’t freeze. That’s what reading and drawing and listening to music does for me. I can take in the creative elements from each one and feel my mind absorb them, and start applying them to whatever I’m working on.

I’m curious to see what others think of this analogy. Does this apply to your creative processes, Blogland?


Anyway, yesterday’s work on the novel was decent. I only wrote about 250 words of chapter 2, but I outlined the entire novel. 16 chapters and an Epilogue. A lot of plot details that I hadn’t known were discovered yesterday, and I’m really excited for them. Subplots are growing and making themselves heard.

Like learning that Mal is a little bat-shit. That he’s keeping a strong front, but he’s hurting too. He lost his twin sister, but he’s a leader, and he’s trying to keep his people unified and safe, all while helping Whit take care of himself and his daughter; Mal’s niece.

Like learning that there’s a slave trade, and that’s why Whit’s daughter is kidnapped.

Or that Mel, Whit’s deceased wife, was planning a sort of revolution for her people, and that’s why she was murdered.

Or that Cora was once owned, and escaped. That’s why she’s so incredibly secretive about her abilities.

So, you see, yesterday was actually quite productive. Even if the word count doesn’t reflect that. And I’m already more concerned with word count than I should be. I don’t know why, but this novel is outlined at just about 50k words. Now, ‘Vessels’ was almost 10k words longer than its outline suggested, and I’m guessing ‘Cards’ will follow that pattern. But that’s still only 60k.

That’s a pretty small adult novel. Because this definitely isn’t YA. ‘Vessels’ is, and can use that label to justify its size. But, why can’t I write longer works? I keep asking myself that, and I know the answer.

Brandon Sanderson said that if you read novels and want to write novels, then write novels. Practice writing novels by WRITING NOVELS.

I have only written one novel. But I’ve written and read and practiced short stories for years now. I’ve never had a problem with writing over the word limit. I am good at concise.

So, I’m practicing. And, I think it’s working. This project is bigger than the last one, so it should follow that the project after this will be longer than this one.

I’m sure hoping so.

Anyway, enough blither-blather. I’ve got a novel to write!



3 thoughts on “The Leaky Faucet Theory

  1. I’ve got a very similar relationship to music (, though I rarely set a playlist to what I write, I end up with whatever the playlist is simply flowing through me and making the writing all the easier. I rarely write, play games, or anything without music going. Silence without music is as if I’ve been cast adrift on the ocean of nothingness, instead of plying the creative depths in a grand clipper. Or something similarly imagery-tastic.

    As someone who’s had the exact opposite problem of generally exceeding conservative estimates (my first novel turned out to be WAY too big for a single book and I abandoned it until sometime in the future; my second turned into a trilogy and the first book still weighed in at 103k), part of the difference is how expansive things are.

    I’m also a concise writer. My physical descriptions are of the sketch sort, letting the reader mentally fill in the scene as they wish while I tell of the characters’ emotions, actions, and words (and sometimes thoughts). Everything I’ve written is Big in its scope. The 103k novel I need to edit and get out the door has four characters and four different (large) parts those characters are a part of with their own arcs while being a smaller part of the bigger arc. Reaching 100k with such a large story isn’t difficult just because of how much needs to be told.

    One final note: unless you’re trying to get published by a traditional publisher, who cares what the length is? People will complain far less about length if the story you tell is engaging and thought-provoking. Only make it longer if it feels right to be longer.

    • I’m the same way with music. It is constantly going, and if I’m in the dreadful scenario where playing music just isn’t an option, then you’ll usually find me singing.

      Scope… I don’t feel like my novels are short on scope. I feel like there’s a big picture, but I think, as I crank out rough drafts I’m not actually writing it all. I’ll find out in the next couple months when I start editing the first novel.

      As for caring about length, I mostly care because it’s a part of my goals as a writer. I’ve gotten good at short fiction, and now I’m working hard to expand and be competent at longer works.

      But, my goal is to be traditionally published. I’ve researched Self-Publishing, and it really just doesn’t feel right for me. I don’t read much that isn’t traditionally published and I have no interest in eReaders as a viable platform. It would just be weird to try and carve out a niche for myself as a writer in a market I have very little appreciation for as a reader.

      Doesn’t mean my opinions won’t change, though, so I’m really trying to keep my options open. But, dreams of publishing have to wait until more rough drafts find themselves at my editing table.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave such great comments!

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