Friday, October 31, 2014

Inspiration vs Persistence

For the past year I have been struggling with two novels and a shit-pile of short pieces, torturing myself over how to resolve the plot arcs. Was I avoiding doing the final 2% necessary to finish the first draft because I didn't have a clue of what to do or was there something deeper that prevented me from finding the resolution?

I have a bad habit of doing a lot of writing without finishing, always putting the piece aside for some new enthusiasm that is inevitably replaced by another new shiny idea.  It's probably my ADD, but it happens so I have to deal with it.

It's not as if I dislike writing. In fact, nothing gives me more pleasure than to immerse myself in the story and let the words pour out onto the page.  Spinning a confection into a story from nothing but  stray thought and tangling the strands into a complex structure that amused, confounds, and interests the eventual reader is akin to magic,  There is only the nothing of the blank page and then, through some alchemical action, neurons fire, thoughts form, and lo, there is a sentence freighted with meaning that begs explanation.  Sentence after sentence unfolds until entire pages of a tale lie before your eyes.  There is more to be said, you know, yet the energy to continue is not there.  Tomorrow you will return and carry the story further to some as yet undefined ending.

Except, all too often, you lose the thread that was leading you along. Holding the severed end you puzzle where it might have gone and, tracing back, cannot discern the logic you were following.  It is frustrating, enraging, and disappointing when this happens.  Sometimes, though, you man up and slog on, adding wooden words and leadened sentences to the work, hoping that something will spark you onward, striving to not lose the value of what you have already invested.  Sometimes this works, more often it doesn't.

Only, when you finish and begin editing, you cannot tell which parts were inspired and which were mere workmanship plodding.  It all speaks with a single voice.

I'll never understand this writing business.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

(Almost) Reaching Plotland's Destination

Finally, after blundering hither and yon, stomping through the morasses of confusion, conquering mountains of doubt, cutting away vast jungles of irrelevant prose,  fording gaping chasms of plot holes, and slogging every so painstakingly across the carefully tended furrows of line editing, I managed to finish one of my novels.  This particular one has been a seven year journey and I am grateful it's done.

Except I only get to call my work as a penultimate final draft - other voices are yet to be heard and I will probably be a nervous wreak waiting for the Beta reader inputs that will hopefully help me produce a blessedly FINAL final draft.

Only even then, when I've beaten all the demons into submission, it will not really be final.  There still remains editorial comments to be addressed, squinty-eyed copywriter corrections, and thousand other details designed to drive the most rational of writers into nightmares of revenge and retribution over those who wish to change a single, golden word.  

But such is the way of the world where a writer's suffering* is ever the norm.

Next week the NaNoMoWri obligation will be upon us, during which time I hope to finish off the OTHER novel plus the two (almost done) novellas, and perhaps publish some eNovellas or eNovelettes from my trunk.  Or maybe I'll just stand naked in the cold Autumn air and beat myself on the head with a hammer for a month.

It's about the same thing.

*I may have mentioned this before.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Plotland Slog Continues

First drafts are relatively easy since they are but a framework upon which you hang the decorative elements.  A first draft contains only suppositions, leaving later research to obtain the facts. Characers are sketches whose personalities will develop draft after draft. Scenes are bare skeletons of what they will later become, undecorated by sense impressions, visual descriptions, and/or declarative action. All of these begin to take shape in more careful drafts, edits as you were.

Let me get this off my chest - I hate my first drafts but enjoy the subsequent editing.  That is, I enjoy it until I have all the things I wanted to say said and put in their proper place. Assured that my grammar are correct, as are all the misspelled or incorrected  (damn SpellCheck!) words, and malapropisms.  When the drafting is nearly complete the symbolism, if any, should be in place as are all the metaphors and similes I can cram into the piece without sounding too pretentious.  Finally, the story is in full form and complete, or so you think.

And yet there is that final step, that painstaking, agonizing, foot dragging, soul sucking task that MUST be done.  I am talking about line editing. Crawling and clawing your way through the novel word by all-to-familiar word.  This is not the exciting exploration of an idea that fueled your first and successive drafts, nor is it the skillful manipulation of large blocks of completed text about to heighten the drama or comedy.

No, it is reading for the millionth time words so familiar that no sentence surprises, amuses, or interests you.  You crawl along at a tiny fraction of your reading speed while you try to maintain focus so as not to avoid a glaring mistake or poorly worded phrase.  The pages slip by so slowly when every instinct screams that you must submit this else lose the work already invested with such difficulty.

A word, a line, and sentence more you press on and, to your utter dismay, discover errors that had escaped your careful eye, evaded your beta readers, and would embarrass you terribly if caught by an editor.  You pounce, excited by actually doing something for a change and fix the problem.

Then it's on again, slogging page after page to the final scene and blissful submission.

Which begins the agony of waiting for a response.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Writing Successful Stories

A week ago I revealed the Rules of Writing.  I think that clarification was long overdue but, despite its exhaustive coverage it left the secrets of how to write a successful story hanging.

A story is much more than the proper use of words, careful grammar, and precise, punctilious punctuation. One can follow all the Rules and still be unsuccessful in creating a salable story. Continuing my efforts to raise the quality of the genre I offer these steps to achieving blinding, overnight success*.

1.  Write your story (may require research**)
2.   Complete the story (may require even more research)
3.   Edit the story (yeah, the research thing again)
4.   Submit the story
5.   Deal with rejection (cursing, drinking,and crying helps)
6.   Submit the story elsewhere until it sells
7.   Go to step 1 and repeat.

You would like to think that there's more to it than that, but you'd be wrong.  Writing a successful story requires dedication.  Filling the blank page is slogging hard work; putting down one damned word after another, getting them to play together, and spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with personal frustration, disappointment, and anger, most of which can be dissipated by a kind word, and friendly review, or a fat check (or any acceptance at all, for that matter.)  Be warned that even a successful story may not sell or ever be published.  Commercial success is not necessarily a measure of a story's inherent worth. All writers have a trunk of such.***

After a while, even if you write the most successful story ever, there will still be a little voice in your head saying you could have done better and that EVERYONE will realize that you are faking it!

* Overnight success is usually achieved after years of effort
**Caution: Writers can too easily fall into the research black hole and never escape
*** We just don't talk about it