Wow, Time and All That … Sure has slipped by.
Wow, it’s been two years since I last wrote anything on this blog. That’s because I was writing a novel that went haywire and needed a lot of re-writes, and after that I just wanted to go supine on the couch and read. Which I did. For a long time.
A lot’s happened since then. The cliche about how awful 2016’s been just goes to show how awful 2016’s been. So, there was that. I’ll blame 2016. 2016 kept me from updating this blog.
So, anyway, I’m writing a new novel now. You know that last post I did about writing and editing? Well, I talked there about how I’m too lazy to plan novels. Yeah, about that …
I’m actually too lazy to undergo the kind of re-writing necessary to get the story right if I don’t plan novels. Because I had to completely re-write my previous novel. A lot. More than a lot. Because I kept getting the story wrong. I know now that this kind of thing happens if I don’t plan my novels at least a little bit. And all those wall-to-wall re-writes weren’t in the least bit fun.
So, after reading my last novel about three or four times (bless her), my kick-ass agent suggested it might not be a bad idea if I worked the story and pacing and beats out a little bit before I tried writing it again. Once I got over the ego-bruise of enduring the intolerable suggestion that my writing routine could use a tweak or, well, an entire re-think, I got a copy of the book she recommended I look at. It was a book for screenwriters, and there was a lot there I disagreed with (for instance, I love the film Memento), but the gist of it made sense, and I’ve always appreciated a certain cinematic immediacy to fiction, so I did what the book said. I even bought a corkboard and covered it in notecards. And what I discovered is that I kind of like the whole panning thing. Okay, so, it was easier to plan and corkboard something when you’re on your fifth draft of it and already mostly know what’s going to happen. But, I ended up with a better novel. One that was suitable to send out. Yeah, okay, it crashed and burned when it went out to publishers, but it crashed and burned to high praise, which is something, right? Most editors said it was better than my previous novel. (Yeah, I figure they say that kinda thing to a lot of authors.)
Which brings me to … my current novel. This one, unlike any other novel I’ve written, was planned in a fair amount of detail from the start. I even wrote a blurb first, the main pitch. The planning took me a couple months. It gave me headaches. But it also gave me a condensed version of all those a-ha moments I got from previous writing. In other words, it wasn’t a dry, formulaic process. It was imaginative, and satisfying, and it has made the actual writing much less exhausting, much less stressful. Because I’m not simultaneously trying to write good fictive prose and also trying to figure out what’s going to happen. Gone is that big dense white wall of nothing that used to sit right there one cursor space beyond the end of the sentence I was writing. Now, there’s story beyond that sentence. And that takes some of the pressure off. I’m not flying along, frantically flinging words onto the page, free-styling at the very edge of the storyline, hoping that sheer momentum will propel me into whatever the next story event may be, so that to miss even a day of writing might mean the pace and the story simply die because I’ve dared to slow down and I need that speed, speed, speed to show me what’s going to happen next, and next, and next, pant, pant, pant. No sir, confident in the knowledge that I have a good idea of where I’m going, the pressure to write five or six pages every single day, and the panic that ensues if I miss a day, has evaporated. Yes, I still write everyday (mostly), but if I miss a day? If I take a weekend off? Not a big deal. I do have a family and a job and a life and all that. And those things need attention, too.
So yeah, it’s a more deliberate process. But I like to do things on purpose, rather than stumble through them by accident. It makes me feel a little bit like I know what I’m doing. And there are still surprises. Characters have still popped up and said, You know, I think I can fit into your plan, so have some fun with me. And I like that.
So, for all its otherwise nauseating and downright terrifying, depressing shittiness, 2016 did see, for me, the discovery of a healthier, saner writing process. Now, just don’t get me started on Trump, or Brexit, or Bowie, or, or or ….