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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This semester has been insane, but boy, have I learned a lot. Most of which I didn't particularly want to learn, but now that it's been forced on me, I'm glad it was. I guess. Well, as soon as some of the pain of constant failure and not understanding anything I'm writing except how bad it is has worn off a little, I'm sure I'll be glad that I was forced to learn.

The main thing was having to write a plot-driven w-f-h book. A huge component of this was having to write battle/fight scenes that had nothing whatsoever to do with anybody or anything except that they were supposed to be exciting plot stuff. Random preassigned bad guys would show up and the good guys had to fight them. On top of that, I had to insert plot-driven suspense--like, it's not enough for somebody to just go into a room. They have to hang in suspense outside the door for no reason except to make the reader wait, so that s/he will wonder what's in the room.

I got schooled, big time. I was basically forced to spend five months outside my comfort zone*, and had to learn a different way to write, from the ground up. I had to learn--or rather, had to be told--how to construct a scene when it's not in the least driven by character. I mean, like in Writing 101: how to apply rules about scene construction and make the scene happen. Like, choreograph it. Then double, triple, quadruple revise to make sure everybody's moves make sense and fit the rules of the story world. Then revise again for flow and pacing. Then go back and check and revise the choreography again and make it build properly.

Then, after the fairly generous deadline for the ms revision--again, I say AFTER the revision deadline--I started to realize that with all the choreography in place and everything relatively smoothed out, I could now make the character arc, emotional story, and theme come into play, too. I could make the whole thing come together so that the fights weren't just about fighting. Once I had inciting incidents and cause/effect and action/reaction and all that sh*t, I could see where the "deeper" stuff could also build to mini-climaxes within those scenes, and also how each could make a larger point along the arc of the Big Story. So I went over the whole thing again; I hung onto the ms and put it through another solid revision. Why did I engage in such unprofessional behavior as revising a ms that had basically already been approved and was past deadline? Because I couldn't stand not to---that's another thing I learned this semester, is that I'm insane.**

This ms isn't Shakespeare and never will be, but holy f*cking sh*t, I don't think I've ever learned so much about writing in so little time. My stomach lining is eaten away with caffeine and I spent six months constantly behind schedule on everything, because this ms was supposed to take 2-3 months, not 5-6.***

I can use everything I did in my own work. I know I can use it in the swordfighting ms, and I'm pretty sure I can use it in the dystopian, too. Because one thing I learned is that just because I see no earthly reason to have somebody linger outside a door, or to spin out a fight to a length that seems beyond its immediate repercussions in the story, doesn't mean I shouldn't consider doing it anyway.

I also have a new mantra: Nobody can tell me what not to care about.

*This has lessened the already minuscule amount of pity I had for writers who don't like to move outside their comfort zone, to the point where that one tiny iota of pity I used to have is now pretty much nonexistent. Students, be warned.

**I also learned that I lie to myself. I tell myself I can do something well in ____ amount of time if I just work hard enough, when really, with some things, I can only do a sh*tty job of it in _____ time, no matter how hard I work or how long the hours I put in.

Or, in ____ amount of time, I can do a job that would pass muster--but apparently I'm too neurotic to accept that there's a difference between late drafts that pass muster and late drafts that are sh*tty.

***There was also family stuff going on, but family stuff always pops up in my house, so that's a given.