Monday, January 28, 2013

Rimmer Revision Exercise

Arnold Rimmer was an organised person. In fact, he was so organised he never achieved anything.

Whenever he was about to take the engineering exam he would organise his revision timetable to maximise his effort and ensure he wasted no time on fripperies. First of all, he'd get a piece of paper, then list all the aspects of engineering he needed to revise and when the exam was being held. This took a whole day. His next step was to schedule his revision periods around his work on board the Jupiter Mining Corporation Ship, Red Dwarf and avoid the sarcasm of his bunkmate, Lister.

Once these periods were blacked out in his timetable, he added into the spaces all the subjects he needed to revise, carefully colour-coding each one so it stood out. This was after he'd made the decision which colour each module needed to be.

Should Engine Operations be yellow or marine blue? Is green an appropriate colour for Astrophysics? He wanted to make it dark blue, but then it wouldn't stand out against the black for the times he was at work, or when Lister was out of the room in the bar getting drunk or sleeping on the floor of the bar too drunk to walk.

By the time Rimmer had evaluated all the respective options regarding module colours, made an allowance for rest on the day before the exam was scheduled, and which were the best times to study, he'd lost a week of his revision time and had to redo the chart.

Four weeks would go by, and each week he'd have to rewrite the timetable to take account of the time he'd spent organising the revision timetable. By the time of the exam he was so exhausted from the planning of his revision he hadn't actually revised anything. Still, like all good space corps employees, he went to the exam...and failed each time by passing out on the floor in the first five minutes.

On one occasion he had managed to write something on his paper. In big, black, bold letters he neatly wrote, 'I AM A FISH'.

I wonder, how often do we spend a lot of time planning our books so we can avoid the actual writing? Do we plot, research, write character descriptions, an encyclopedia of the world we're setting the novel in to avoid putting finger to keyboard? Do we convince ourselves that what we're doing is actual writing?

Stop right there. Be an author, not a Rimmer.


Nick Wilford said...

Arnold Rimmer, what a legend. I wonder how many will get the reference? :)

Definitely a fine line with planning. I don't do any more than a vague outline because the story tends to change a lot from what was in my head. And I can't do character bios because I don't really know them until I start writing about them!

Martin Willoughby said...

Nick: It may be better if they don't.

Kelley Lynn said...

I actually don't do much in the way of planning. Haha. which means more work after I type 'the end' since its kinda a mess. but you're right, we have to just do it. There's only so much planning that is productive and then the rest is just procrastination ;)

Martin Willoughby said...

Kelley: I bet if you tried to plan it would be an even bigger mess. We write the way that suits us, though it never hurts to try something another method.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Guilty! I spent four months outlining my last manuscript. I finally had to start writing it because basically, I already was writing it. (Fortunately the first draft only took two months and revisions four.)

Laura said...

I've never heard that story before, it's pretty funny! I can be accused of that sometimes, I do spend a bit of time on my timetable! But usually I'm the opposite; I'll jump into something too soon and then have to go back and plan.

Anthony said...

I just spend a lot of time procrastinating... ;)

Dana said...

I think it's too easy to fall into this trap. Every time I think "Oh, I'll write that someday," I have to remind myself that the time to do it is now. However, that doesn't mean I don't procrastinate. ;)

Jay Noel said...

I plan, but I probably deviate by at least 50% as I write. Maybe it's because I'm a reformed pantster.

Shell Flower said...

I am the total opposite of this. I usually plan AFTER I write a novel, weirdly. I probably spend just as much time fixing as some do planning, though.

Martin Willoughby said...

Alex: Now that you've served your time, you are allowed back into the community.

Laura: If it works, it works.

Anthony: We all do. (hangs head in shame)

Dana: I wonder if there's a patron saint of procrastinators?

Jay: Me too, though I'm not exactly reformed.

Shell: That's not weird, it's the way a lot of people write.