Monday, September 13, 2010

move along

note to self:
if the writing's not moving, neither is the story.

my first completed manuscript took more than a year to write, largely because i would hit a patch of disinterest and walk away from it for a loooong time (one break lasted 3 months).

my next completed ms took less than three months, because i never got bored writing it. the story kept propelling itself forward, to the point where it was moving so fast i had to write every day, or i wouldn't be able to keep up.

guess which book is better?

i didn't really make the connection at first, but i think the parts where i walked away for awhile as a writer are the same parts where a reader would walk away forever. if you, as the writer, aren't interested enough in what happens next, you can bet most of your readers will lose interest too.
i mentioned in an earlier blog post that i deviated from the outline in my current WIP, because i needed some action for the characters. before this deviation, i found myself writing a couple hundred words then walking away for a day or two... because i was bored. but once i changed the direction, i sat down and BAM! - 1500 words in an hour.

it made me realize my writing pace matches the story pace.
i know a scene is working if i spend an hour or two writing in the morning and still can't turn off the words. i'll dictate the next paragraphs into a voice recorder on the way to work. if the words are still coming, then i'll email myself a couple more paragraphs from work during lunch. then i'll transcribe all of it into the manuscript that night and probably write another thousand words or so.

that doesn't mean it's always good writing or that the whole chapter won't get deleted later, but it does let me know the story is moving.

this might not be true for everyone, but if you hit a point in your book that has you wishing you were doing the dishes instead of writing, it's worth asking yourself what's happening in the story - the answer may be "nothing."


Jamie said...

Excellent post...that's right where I'm sitting at the moment - at a never-ending red light. But I don't know if it's because my story isn't moving forward or because I'm just such a procrastinator and lazy that I can't force myself to put words on the page/screen! Any advice for how to move past that problem?

Joann Swanson said...

Brilliant insight! I'd never thought about the writing process in these terms and I think you're right on.

McD said...

The story of my writing life. If I cannot write what is good I will write what is fun. Yes I have probably deleted more chapters than I have kept but in the end I have replaced writer's block with some (be it great or foul) sort of story telling. Some of my best ideas (and yes a few too horrible to admit to) have come from these "what the hell just write what you want to" sessions.

Jennifer Hillier said...

"i think the parts where i walked away for awhile as a writer are the same parts where a reader would walk away forever." Really well said! I too learned this the hard way. Great post.

Remilda Graystone said...

Brilliant advice! Definitely something I need to be looking into. So much truth in this post. Thanks for it!

erinjade said...

thanks everyone. :)
and i think Jamie just gave me an idea for tomorrow's post...