Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Few Lessons Bob Has Taught Me

And is still teaching me, I might add. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’ll give you an idea of some of the ah-ha moments I’ve had lately.

First drafts are made to be destroyed. The first way I write something down is never the only way, and rarely the best. I’d be embarrassed to show you the first draft and query draft of some of my other projects, because they are remarkably similar. Sure, I streamlined the prose, even shuffled some scenes around, but in the end, chapter one is chapter one is chapter one. And I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to write it now.

Good writing is all about good decision-making. And when I say good decision-making, I mean making A decision, any decision, about every scene, every character action and reaction, every word. It doesn’t matter when I make those decisions (now that I’m an outliner, I make more decisions earlier, but pantsers tend to make their decisions later and everything works out all right), but sooner or later, I should be able to justify every word on the page.

Which is not to say you can artificially control your story or your characters. Even though I have to make decisions as a writer, they shouldn’t come across as manufactured. They should grow naturally out of the story world I’ve created.

Case in point: In one of Bob’s closing scenes, I thought it would be really sweet if my MC, Seth, picked up my secondary MC, Adair, and carried her back to her (hospital) bed. It sounded like a good idea in my outline, but when I got to the actual writing of the scene, it just didn’t work. Seth is way too geeky/awkward/clumsy to pull off all that knight-in-shining-armor stuff. So he puts his arm around her waist and helps her hobble across the room instead.

Every project will have its low points, but those points do NOT define the project. A few weeks ago, I was stuck. (And a few months ago, same thing.) My second draft was foundering/floundering (I never know which of those words to use), I was only getting through about six hundred words a day, and every night I went to bed feeling like I’d spent the past hour and a half reworking the same stupid sentence over, and over, and over again. I didn’t want to quit, but I didn’t want to keep going, either. I thought about switching over to my other project and coming back to Bob.

But I didn’t. I forced myself to stick it out. And now I’m back up on my board and feeling good about where this wave is taking me. (Not that I know what I’m talking about, at all, because I don’t surf, at all. But I still stand behind the principle.) I fully expect to hit another dip, and I fully expect to climb back out of that one. Writing, like life, has its ups and downs--the trick is not to take myself too seriously, especially during those downs.

Well, that’s all I’ve got, but I’m sure you have a few more. What lessons have your projects taught you lately?


Ant said...

Sometimes NO email in the inbox is better than a rejection in the inbox. Heh. Can you guess which stage I'm in right now? Good post! Thanks for the reality check :)

Kelly Bryson said...

I had a few months of really tough, every word is torture, kind of writing. Then I got through it. And things got a lot better. When things are going well, I tend to forget how hard it was. Thanks for reminding me, so when the words are hard again I'll stick it out!

Kristi Helvig said...

Right now, I feel like I'll never be finished revising my current project. :)

Krista V. said...

Someday, Ant, either today or tomorrow or some day in the future, you're going to land that agent and that book deal. You're too good of a writer not to. Best of luck.

Kelly, it always surprises me how cyclical writing is. But then, most things are. Shouldn't be so surprised, I guess:)

Kristi, I'm right there with you. I've now been working on Bob longer than I worked on any of my previous projects - and he's nowhere near finished. So we'll just keep plugging away... :)

JustineDell said...

Listen to your gut. Not everyone knows whats best for your book.

I like your list. I'm printing it out and hanging it up!


Myrna Foster said...

The hardest section for me to write ended up being one of the easiest sections to revise on this draft. And there's this line that gives me goosebumps every time I read it.

I only have 12 pages left! :o)

Kelly Bryson said...

Wow Myrna- you're almost there! Yay!

Krista V. said...

Justine, your comment made me smile. Nice to know I made the wall:)

Interesting observation, Myrna. And I can't wait for those last twelve to be finished!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I've compared writing to playing a game of golf. Sometimes you hook, sometimes you splice, and sometimes you even whiff the ball, but every once in a while you hit a long drive that goes right down the middle and it feels soooooo good. Writing does have its highs and lows. :0)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I don't know who Bob is, but he's got some great advice!

Krista V. said...

Kathi, thanks for the comparison. I think - I hope - I hit more long drives in my writing than in my golf game, though:)

Solvang Sherrie, Bob is what I call my WIP. (Although I wish I had a wise, writerly Uncle Bob who wasn't afraid to dispense some pointers:) )