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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Friday, January 21, 2011

Writing Messy

Writing is such a messy process.

And it's like hairstyles. People who have naturally curly hair wish it was straight and vice versa.

As a writer, I keep wishing I wrote according to someone else's much neater, much more expedient methods. I keep trying to find the magic formula where writing is not a messy business.

And I'm not succeeding.

When I wrote my first novel, I plotted it out from start to finish then started writing. That was nice as far as it went but as I got into the writing, I realized that even though I plotted the novel out in the cold hard facts of scenes, there was no way by plotting for me to anticipate the emotional effects of the story's events on my characters. I had to learn that as I went. I struggled. And I rewrote. And rewrote. And rewrote.

Enter January 2011. Last year was a bust on the production of words and I had neither time nor motivation to do any plotting of my story in advance (the one I wanted to begin writing in January). I just knew basically how I wanted the story to end. My brain was further muddled because I was asking myself, as I often do when thinking of a story idea, "does this concept have the potential for two different novels, not just one?"

And so, muddled brain in hand, I began the huge task of working to get 50,000 words on computer by January 31, 2011 as a participant in ACFW's NovelTrack. I am slightly behind, but confident I will reach my goal. I just need to write 2050 words a day for the next 9 days, and the feat is achieved.

Here's the good side: If you have never participated in a group accountability setting for word count production, such as NovelTrack or Nanowrimo, you're missing out. It has worked wonderfully to instill in me the habit of writing daily. You'd think it wouldn't be hard for writers to write daily, but we are some of the best excuse-makers in any business. 8-) And the consistency has helped me keep better track of my story (although I still have problems remembering character names I've used, and I haven't yet taken time to jot down a character list yet).

The negative side? Writing ad hoc with no detailed plot in mind is just as messy as writing with a plot. I suspect that a good chunk of what I'm writing this month will not actually make it into the final cut of the novel--it will be background material to be tucked away inside the writer's brain to draw from for the rest of the story.

To sum up, just as writing from a detailed plot wasn't a magic bullet, so too, writing more from the seat of my pants is no magic bullet either.

I know what you're thinking: "Well, DUH! What fool thinks it's easy to write a book?"

Correctimundo, as Fonzie used to say (can't you just hear Henry Winkler's voice when you read that word?).

I know it will never be easy to write a book. But I keep shamelessly hoping for a way for it to become easier. You know, just a teensie weensie fraction of a bit easier. But so far I haven't answered the question in my mind about plotting vs. seat of the pants writing. They are both lengthy processes.

But the good news is, writing consistently has put the joy back in it for me. I look forward to chasing my story all over the map to see where it ends up---which probably won't be for a few months yet. There's no telling what these characters will get up to.

What methods have you implemented to make your writing a titch easier?

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