The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
I'm looking at the place where I left off yesterday--just after the writing problem I may or may not have solved--and feeling zero inclination to dig into that particular writing bog today. A bog is what's what it'll be, if I keep writing in a straight line. If I write from beginning to end, what comes next is in between the parts that are important to me. It's the explanation for the stuff I know happens. A lot of it is where the reader needs to follow the character's reasoning and internal struggle as he switches from doing/feeling ___ to doing/feeling ___.
My natural inclination is to skip the in-between till later, when more of the ms is put together. By then I tend to know everybody better, and often will already automatically understand how earlier events play out. By the time I've done that, these earlier sections will sometimes even write themselves.
Since I haven't figured out more specifics of what's going on later in this ms (I just have a general idea in my head) I'm looking at today's in-between part, and suddenly I feel that I'm also looking at a choice, here. I can start rewriting this in-between right now, and go over and over it it a hundred times, shifting tiny little things to see what works to lead into the next part, whatever that may be. Or I can skip it and come back later. Then I can rewrite it maybe two or three times to fit a framework that's already laid out and is clearer in my head.
The second way is more fun, more productive, and better for the ms. The first way is better for my mortgage and health insurance payments.
I need to let go of the idea of finishing this first part to get it turned in to agent--of thinking of this as one stand-alone piece that will hook up with the rest of the ms later as I continue on. From a technical standpoint it makes sense that I could work this way. From a technical standpoint I should be able to do it. Actually--from a technical writing standpoint--I probably can. I've got the writing chops to do it. It just wouldn't be any good.*
There are a lot of good things about doing w-f-h, but there are a lot of bad things, too, and maybe one of the bad things is having to force a ms when it's not ready. You don't have a choice with w-f-h; you have to make yourself sit down and get the ms working.** It's easy to get in the habit of doing that. And sometimes it is a good thing to force one's way through a sticky part. Other times, it's not.
I need to keep a grip on the fact that I have a choice. I don't have to get this part right now. I want to get it, my blood pressure wants me to get it, my agent wants me to get it***, and for once some of the people around me have actually read part of my ms, and they want me to get it, too. It doesn't matter what we all want. The only thing that matters is what the ms needs.
What it needs is for me to lay the f*ck off and go back to the characters and their interactions.
*You may ask yourself, can something be technically well-written and yet not any good? The answer is yes. Yes, it can.
**Business-wise, it seems to me that the industry is growing less able to perceive the differences between writing something somebody tells you to write, and writing something you love and connect with. Some editors, agents, readers assume it's just about figuring a book out, then sitting down and getting it done. Sometimes a writer buys into that, too--if you're talented enough, you should be able to crank out your novels on demand, right? And if you can't, that means something's wrong with you as a writer?
Nope. It's the system that's wrong. But the system also pays you and gets your books out there, so everybody's got to find their own comfort level working within (or without) it.
***To be clear, my agent is not pressuring me. Said agent would likely be happy if I could get it done, but also knows how writers work. And that, in a nutshell, is why I'm with said agent rather than somebody else.
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