Strategic versus Tactical


I have this writer-friend who loves to tell a story about how he once gave feedback to his wife, who’s also a writer.  He read a story or something she’d done and she asked for his opinion.  Before he would give it, he opened the refrigerator, stepped behind the door, and said something like, “You have to promise not to kill me.”

Or something like that.  So, yeah, I guess it was a bad book/story/whatever.

I bring this up because I asked for the husband’s opinion yesterday.  There’s been something that’s been bothering me about the book–that’s where I’ve noticed this theme, lately, of either slowing down or finding another point of view, and I wouldn’t be much of a shrink if I couldn’t do a little self-navel gazing–and so I asked him what he thought of one particular thread.  Or maybe I was moaning about how slowly the whole thing feels like it’s going (I am such an impatient soul; books do take time, though I know I’ve written books faster).

Anyway, so the husband said something like, okay, so tell me the different plot threads so far and the different POV characters.  So I did, and he started writing everything down, which kind of ticked me off because that’s so SLOW, and he said, in essence, that writing things down helps him visualize where things are going, see how the novel flows, that kind of thing.

So I’m standing there, trying not to kill him, because I did ask for his help after all but regretting it now, wondering why I didn’t keep my mouth shut…when the husband said something both interesting and revelatory.  I kind of knew where he was going to go because we have been married a while, but it was still good to hear him say it, out loud.

It’s not a shocker.  It’s not that unexpected.  But he pointed out that fretting about character details (like what village someone comes from) and names and all that is, yes, important, but it’s also way too far down in the weeds.  He also thought I’m in the weeds and not taking a step back to look at the bigger picture because I haven’t plotted out what the bigger picture is.  That is, I know what has to happen, but only to a  certain point.  Once all the characters are in that spot…well, I don’t know what happens next and have only a vague idea of the end (and that’s mutable, too).

What he said was, really, it’s one thing to think tactically.  It’s quite another to think strategically.

And I was, like, wuh?

But you know, he’s right.  People confuse the two all the time.  I sure did/have been.

Look, tactics are what they sound like: they’re what you employ to achieve a goal.

Strategy, though . . . now you’re talking big picture.  What’s the objective?  What are your goals?  What’s the campaign you’re waging?

If you know strategy–that is, you’ve defined goals (say, all your characters have to end up in a certain place and then get out of it)–that’s when you start moving around pieces to achieve those goals.  For me, I’ve been very focused on WHO the people are and not enough on HOW they get to a certain point and then what happens to them once they’re there so they get out of it.  I’ve not defined my campaign.

So the husband was right.  Doesn’t mean I wasn’t pissed off, though.

But he’s right: take a step back, have some patience, finish the OUTLINE so you have the PLOT/CAMPAIGN STRATEGY (because I really do know the characters pretty well even if I haven’t got names and nitty-gritty details for two of them), and then that will dictate the tactics you use to go forward with actually writing the thing.  (Not that the writing went badly this week; it went quite well–but also because the husband was out of town for part of the week, which gives me a lot more freedom to not worry about things like getting dinner ready at a certain time.  I didn’t sleep all that well, but I slept enough.  I miss that lump in the bed.)

I hate it when he’s right.

Also lost two days to prepping for a get-together (never again and never so elaborately) and then fretting.

One bright spot: Scary Out There, a lovely anthology of YA horror edited by Jonathan Maberry and in which I’ve got a story has gotten its first reviews (and they are good).

Scary Out There jpeg

The anthology comes out August 30; Jonathan’s also doing a blog tour on the same.  Check it out.

Gosh, I’d better update my website, huh?

Stay Dead (started 5/05; Days 1-4, false start)

Day 1: 1000                 Day 23-26: 9450                Day 51-52: 4500
Day 2: 1200                 Day 27: (novella) 2000    Day 53-57: 6000
Day 3: 1800                 Day 28: 2500                     Day 58-61: 10,200
Day 4: 1350                 Day 29-32: 8850               Day 62-67: 11,250
Day 5: 1000                 Day 33: 3400                     Day 68-74: 16,110
Day 6: 2000                LONDON HIATUS (13 days)
Day 7-10: ~4500        Day 34: 3000                     Day 75-79: 11,900
Day 11-12: ~5000       Day 35-39: 9,800             Day 80-84: 13,000
Day 13: 1600               Day 40-43: 10,500
Day 14: 2300               Day 44: 2000
Day 15-17: 4450          Day 45-47: 6000
Day 18-19: 4500         Day 48: 4000
Day 20-22: 5220        Day 49-50: 3500

Blog Post: 800

What I’m Watching: Caught up on The Last ShipMotive.  Watched a few episodes of The Americans with the husband.  Tried to get free to watch some football but my bloody Roku NFL Mobile app doesn’t work and when you contact NFL Mobile support, they just say, gosh, we know; we’re so sorry; but, hey, you can still watch on your computer, right?  Yes, but I wanted to have games on as I cook and stuff.  Like, sheesh.  I feel like they’re stalling me just to turn around and tell me it’s been too long now and so, no refund.  We’ll see.
What I’m Reading: The Book of Negroes; Chained in SilenceThe Reliable Wife.
What I’m Listening to: The Haunting of Hill House.  Can you believe I never read that even though it’s a bloody classic?  Unreal.

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