Writing the Great Office Novel

by Steve

Author at work!There is only so much procrastinating one can do. After a long hiatus, this weekend I finally got back to writing a little fiction. Right now the focus is on a (very ironically named) Great Office Novel. It really is nothing of the sort (certainly not the Great part), but is a means of me channelling some of my recent experiences, assimilating some others, and generally having fun with our 9-to-5 lives. Write what you know and all that. It’s been done before, it certainly has been done better, but I figure it is a good way to ease myself back into this fiction-writing lark.

I very much doubt I’ll let it see the light of day, and I’m not entirely sure why I’m trumpeting the news of “Yay! Look at me! I managed to string a few sentences together!” Perhaps ‘going public’ is a means of encouraging me, or shaming me, into actually writing some more.

I have no idea why it took so long to put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard, as the process seems to generally be a very enjoyable one. I guess there are a lot of distractions in the world, from the worthy (real life, friends and family, reading good books) to the less worthy (trashy TV, sport, games on my phone, beef jerky etc etc etc).

However, I do think about writing and possible tales to tell quite a lot. It seems like a fun game to play when stuck on a train, or heading to the shops. Maybe this is lazy, or self-indulgent. Maybe I should just roll my sleeves up and get on with it. But, at least someone is on my side.

The ever useful/interesting Mark Athitakis recently linked to a particular take on the writing process (the whole thing is worth a read, not just this quote):

“The biggest quirk to who I am as a writer is that I don’t like sitting at the computer until the life is full in my imagination. I call this “hitting critical mass”—the point where the character (in the situation, in the place) is so alive in my imagination that it’s clawing at the backside of my eyes to get out. About 80% of my process is spent not putting words of a blank page, but doing anything I can/need to do to reach critical mass.”

I don’t think I could be so eloquent about the process, but I can certainly relate to this. When I did actually sit down to write, I’d thought about it enough, and made enough notes, that the actual writing was pretty straightforward. I was able to dive into it. Maybe I was just lucky that day. Or maybe all that daydreaming and scrappy note-taking was worth it.

The writing became a discreet part of the process as I had already done a lot of the work while the page itself sat blank. I didn’t have to start from stratch, the writing wasn’t bound up in worrying about characters or action or whatever, and that obviously helped. I knew who I was writing about, I had an idea what they might do, and so could concentrate on getting that down in the best way possible.

This may, in fact, be just an apologia for my lack of activity. If I don’t follow up my first, productive, bout of writing with some more, then this is definitely just a weak excuse. But right now it makes me feel a little better about my own process (or lack of it). It doesn’t mean I think I’m on the road to creating a bestseller. Far from it. I’m strictly in the boundaries of hobby-dom right now. I write, but I’m not a writer.

But if I do write some more, I may give you an update on how it goes. In the meantime, any comments on your writing (or non-writing) habits would be most welcome!

Image from the State Library of New South Wales, via Flickr