Friday! And Lots of Writing Related Musing…

17 07 2009

Weather: High: 70 degrees and partly sunny. ::rechecks calendar: Yep. Still July. Strange.

Spent a good long time mulling over my plot quandary yesterday, and finally said, re-read the damn thing, with your inner editor bound & gagged, and see what it sounds like.
Interestingly enough, the read through was more reassuring than I’d have thought. The plot is fine,  up until the most recent scenes. I think I’m just forcing myself through interim scenes that bridge the bulk of what has come before and the ending I’ve outlined. To be honest, the scenes I’ve recently written seem oddly out of place. I mean, the scenes in and of themselves are fine, but they’re slowing down the action. So what to do?

I think these are the “in the background scenes” that Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling have both talked about. The kind where you need them for your own world building, but they are not necessarily needed in the actual manuscript.
Neil made a comment once about knowing the back history for all the characters in “The Graveyard Book” but didn’t need to include that info in the book itself.  Sometimes, the author needs the info, in all it’s in depth & detail to craft characters and maybe explain behaviour.
As JK Rowling said about the characters after the ending of “The Deathly Hallows”, she knew who married who and what happened to them. She didn’t need to include it all in the book, but SHE needed to know. They’re her characters and her world after all.
So I think what’s gonna end up happening is I will need to set aside some of these scenes as invisible background info for my own edification and find a way to only obliquely refer to the events entailed in a way that doesn’t bring the story to a grinding halt. This is why Captain Exposition can be your friend and enemy in the same breath. I suppose it’s that old rule of “Show, Don’t Tell” coming back to beat me on the head.

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to put crayon to paper. My mum has a story I wrote on that godawful woodpulp paper we got in First grade (with the two mile wide lines?). I think it was two lines about a bird.

I wrote my first story proper when I was in 7th Grade, a horrifically fluffy rip off  amalgam of every fantasy novel I’d read up till then. (Think “Lord of the Rings” & MZB’s Darkover Series & the Dragonrider series in some sort of unholy blender accident.)

I was getting known as the “writer nerd” at school, as I always carried notebooks around with me, filled to the brim with Mary Sue stories about bands I liked or fanfic for shows I watched. (Duran Duran & Tom Baker era Doctor Who respectively, if you really want to know. ) I still have all those notebooks and occasionally, I’ll sit down and poke through them.
Mostly because among the badly worded scenes and implausible plot lines, there are a few gems of dialog and some humor that I can see still shows up today.
The reason I’m bringing this up is that I’m 42 now and have been writing for almost 30 years. And I’m still trying to finish a manuscript.

The main reason behind my lack of finished stories is lack of self confidence. But in the past year, that’s started to finally wane.  Not because I’ve suddenly deemed myself some sort of fantastic talent or because I was blessed by the muses with the gift of perfect prose.
But because I’ve reached the point that I like what I write, and I think it’s good enough to show other people. I’ve gotten good feedback from people I trust. I’ve also gotten good criticism from people I trust. And both are necessary.
I’ve also stopped wallowing in the “I’m never gonna be good enough” mire. At some point, you just have to say to yourself “It’s not the great American Novel, but it’s a good story. ” And that should be enough to get yourself through it. Will I get published? I hope so.  But I’m still going to write no matter what. Why? Because I have stories that fill my skull and demand to be told. So I write because I must, because I actually need to get these stories out of my head. Whether or not someone else feels the same need to read them is out of my hands. I can only offer up the results and hope for the best. And in the process, I can hope that I learn to be a better writer and a better storyteller.

Just a quick aside: I tend to quote or refer to Neil Gaiman a lot here at the blog. This is partly because he’s a writer I admire without reservation. But mostly it’s because he’s a writer who gives good common sense advice to other fledgling writers, such as myself.

There are a billion books and advice givers out there with a myriad of types of writing instruction. If you spend a lot of time investing in both, you’re going to find yourself getting a lot of conflicting info on how to write, who to emulate and what makes a good story. Not that there ISN’T good advice in any of these arenas. (Hell, I’m getting a lot of good motivation and insight from following other authors and editors on Twitter.) But, sometimes you need to consider the source of the advice.  If the person who’s telling you that you need to follow their recipe for writing success hasn’t actually written anything? You might want to re-think their advice.

Ultimately, and take this with as much salt as you think it warrants, I think that a writer should stick with a writing method that works for them. Of course that also should be a PRODUCTIVE writing style, because if your method of writing isn’t producing anything, it’s probably not a GOOD writing methodology.
Write in a place you can have the least amount of interruptions and the most focus. Play music if it helps. And do yourself a favor and lock your inner critic in a closet. Your inner editor can be constructive, but the inner critic? More often than not is only going to keep you second guessing everything you write.

All I can offer to anyone else is this: If you have a story you feel compelled to tell, then get to it. No one else can write your story for you. And there are no stupid ideas or bad inspirations — only lack of effort in developing them. No one will criticize you for trying. So try. And you’ll find, as I did, that getting started is the hard part. But once you get started, sentences tend to start breeding like rabbits. Next thing you know, you’ll have a scene, then a chapter, and before you know it, that story will have legs under it.

Anyway. I know this was long and rambling. And take this for what it’s worth: I’m not a published author yet. I’m just a writer trying to finish a story. I know what produces wordcount for me. I know what environment works best for me  to  get the most writing done. I also know that once the damn story gets finished, that’s when the trepidations will start up again, but I’m finally ready to jump in with both feet.  We’ll see where it goes then. Until then, I’ll just continue to put in my time with my characters and hope that others will love them as much as I do.

Now playing: Bauhaus – She’s In Parties
via FoxyTunes




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