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Writing About Writing Instead of Writing

AQATDR Update: Hmm, well, I wish I could tell you that it's blazing along, but it's more like a slow crawl at the moment. I've been working on the same chapter for nearly two weeks now.

The problem is transitions. I know what has to happen in this chapter. It's got a few pivotal events, and a few not-so-important scenes which I suppose some might consider filler. It also covers a somewhat longer timespan than the previous chapters, which mostly took place over the course of a day or two each. And right now, I feel like I am stringing the pivotal scenes together with a little too much fluff. The transitions do not please me, the chapter feels a bit disjointed (“Three days later... and then, the next day... and the day after that....”), and so I keep writing and rewriting the shifts between scenes. Which means I am spending a lot of time on a very small number of words. What I should do is just finish the chapter, because I know I am going to rewrite most of it anyway, because that's what I do. I'll reread and rewrite just about every sentence in my story at least once before I'm through, and often many times, and with each iteration, those transitions will get better, I'll move paragraphs around, and eventually it will all flow nicely. I hope. It would definitely be more efficient to just plow forward, and worry about editing the problematic bits later, since I'll edit everything later anyway. (And this is before I send it to a beta.) But that's not how I write, because the problematic bits are like little mosquito bites, itching and itching and begging to be scratched, and I can't leave them alone.

This is (one reason) why I don't do NaNoWriMo – there is no way I can force myself to write 50,000 words that I know is crap and just keep going.

I have been thinking a bit about my last post, in which I said “I don't let characters tell me what to do, or let plot bunnies run away from me.”

But is that really true? Because I do in fact know what my characters are like, and I know when a subplot isn't working. So to the extent that I know if something is “wrong” for a character, I can't make him or her act out of character. And while I have a general idea of how every story will go when I begin (that is, the major events that have to happen, the ending, the long-term results, and things I have to set up for the future), all of those things change as I go. Some a little, some a lot. So I guess in a sense, I am at the service of my story and my characters, rather than the other way around.

However, what I was rejecting is the (I think) rather pretentious attitude some authors take, talking about Muses whispering in their ears or inspiration seizing hold of them, forcing them (forcing, I say!) to write a story about an anarcho-libertarian werewolf pack versus a punk rock lesbian vampire biker gang. And there's a goddess! A mean, blonde goddess, sprung wholly formed from my imagination like Athena from the brow of Zeus, and she's telling me what to do....!!!

Umm, no. I mean, I don't doubt that other authors may get inspiration like that and be seized with an uncontrollable compulsion to go write it down, but for me, while I can brainstorms ideas by the dozen off the top of my head (I just pulled that last one out of my ass), a story that I actually decide to write has to percolate a while, and I have to devote some serious mental energy to developing it into a workable idea. I have lots of vague ideas in my head; some of them have been floating around for years, but the only ones I write down are the ones I select and decide, “Yes, I want to write this.”

Why did I decide to write Alexandra Quick? Especially in preference to, say, an original idea that might be publishable? I really couldn't tell you. But I do know that she's firmly in my head now and I want to finish her story!

So I guess my characters really do tell me what to do, kind of.

Obligatory AQATDR Teaser: Not really a teaser, per se, but since I mentioned last time little character details that probably won't make it into the story...

Most authors give their main characters middle names. Some authors (like me) give all their characters middle names. You know what's really awkward? When an author has someone refer to another character by their full name, inappropriately, just because they want the reader to know what the character's middle name is. I try not to do that.

I don't know when Constance and Forbearance's middle names will actually come up. I could write a scene in which for some reason they are mentioned – I could have them flash their S.P.A.W.N. results or something – but I don't have any specific plans to do so right now. Therefore, here's this week's offering of AQ trivia:

Constance Gwendolen Pritchard
Forbearance Winifred Pritchard

Several readers have (with justification) accused me of writing Constance and Forbearance as essentially the same character thus far.

(In fairness, what differentiated Fred from George before one of them lost an ear?)

Actually, I think there were small hints of their differences in AQATLB, but there will be more in AQATDR. It's going to take a little while before both girls really come into their own, but I assure you, as much as they are alike in many ways, they do have distinct personalities.

And the spoiler, of course, is that the Pritchards are returning in AQATDR. But come on, did anyone really think I was going to write them out of Book Three? ;)


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2009 07:36 am (UTC)
As for your problems with writing, I would suggest taking a break and reading something by some writer whom you know to be good at that sort of thing (I would look at Dickens, but then that's just me); how they manage transitions, breaks in time, changes in the rate of motion and pace. Then, a day or two later, get back and just write. To try over and over again just to get the thing right - as it seems to me you are doing - may feed a hypercritical attitude that would lead a writer to delete or correct even passages that work.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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