Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is the Mess Worth It?

So one of Nano’s battle cries is "just write; turn off your internal editor." I must have caught the spirit with my last novella, because I’d plunged waaayy past the point where I usually stop, take stock, and organize the ending.

I made a mess.

It wasn’t fun. You guys heard me gripe and complain. (I don’t know where you guys get your patience!)

In the end, I like what happened. As I cleaned up the mess, I realized that I’d found a theme of sorts, and several important messages. I’d made too many scenes, so I had to throw some away, which made me stop to consider which scenes were integral to the story and which were not. It made me evaluate everything, and forced me to turn on a way of looking at things that I’ve never done with my writing.

My DH is not happy with how picky I’ve gotten with my self-editing, lately. Neither is my pocketbook. But, you know, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I just *can’t* turn out a story that’s not better than my last one, you know?

You know, it’s very funny. When I’m actually sitting down and writing at Borders, I’m very calm and happy. Very zen-like. It’s when I get home that I start analyzing and kicking myself to be better, when I start fussing and getting the most frustrated. Or sometimes before I write, my mind throws little mental temper tantrums about pressure or about this or that.

But once I get in the scene, it’s just me and my fictional world.

I don’t know how I’ll approach this next one. That’s what I love about writing. Each story demands a different process, or at least variations on my process. Strange, that.

Where do you get most frustrated? Have you ever made a mess with your WIP?

17 bonus scribbles:

Bailey Stewart 12/05/2007 07:12:00 PM  

I get frustrated when I hit that "saggy" middle. That's usually when the nekkid muses put their clothes back on and inspiration dries up. Yes, I've made a lot of messes.

StarvingWriteNow 12/05/2007 07:51:00 PM  

girl, you know I made a mess! But I am intending to start fresh with that other idea. keep your fingers crossed.

Susan Helene Gottfried 12/05/2007 08:50:00 PM  

Heh. Yeah, that mess factor? Yeah. That'd be why I didn't do NaNo this year. Too much of a mess. I'm STILL trying to beat my 2003 winner into shape and it's been four years (granted, not four years of continuous beatings, but you know).

I always get frustrated and go back and hone from the beginning and catch up with myself, so to speak. That's because even if I write with an outline, the story still comes to life and gets away from me and I have to adjust as I go.

Stephen Parrish 12/06/2007 01:05:00 AM  

What frustrates me most is having to cut scenes I worked hard to create. Or whole characters; I was required to cut three from my current work in submission.

Or entire manuscripts; I've thrown away two.

Julie 12/06/2007 05:41:00 AM  

Hi.
I was archiving my material and came across your comment on a post on fur coats - sorry I missed it! One of the consequences of being prolific while laid up with a leg injury - improving now.
I just did a word count and have clocked up 20k in blogging (and a bit of journaling) in four weeks....

Thanks for calling in. Those discussions at Bernita's are really great for a novice; will come back and have a proper look round yours shortly.

Cheers.

lainey bancroft 12/06/2007 08:27:00 AM  

I always make a mess. NaNo is my writing process in a nutshell. I get the momentum going and just spew it out because if I try to edit as I go, I start thinking it's all $hit and never get anywhere.

But like Stephen says, it hurts to go back and have to cut scenes or bits of dialogue that I really like but know are not integral to the story.

Hopefully someday I'll train myself to write lean and linear and not spend twice the time cleaning up the mess as I spend making it!...or maybe not.

Erica Orloff 12/06/2007 08:27:00 AM  

Puh-leeze. When have I NOT made a mess?

My ultimate? I wrote a Bombshell book called KNOCKOUT. Wrote it down to the second to last chapter. Called my best friend, also a writer, and said, "I just realized . . . she ends up with the wrong guy. I think I have to rewrite the whole thing so she ends up with the sniper . . . and the boyfriend is the bad guy. And oh, my due date is four days from now. Do I stick with the book, write two lousy chapters, turn it in, though my heart will always think it's the wrong path for my heroine? Or do I fire up the coffeepot, pull a few all-nighters, and change it?" Being a true best friend, you KNOW she said change it.

Talk about a mess.

But I was happy with it . . . it remains one of my favorite books.

Cat Marsters/Kate Johnson 12/06/2007 09:16:00 AM  

There is no area of my life into which mess does not extend: writing included!

Michele 12/06/2007 09:38:00 AM  

Have I ever made a mess of a WIP? Heck yeah!

I have a completed historical that I've revised...too many times to count. But, I've always revised it thinking that a particular scene was absolutely necessary to the story; however, I've never been completely satisfied with the first 100 pages of the story. It just seemed too forced.

It wasn't until after I put ms aside and started writing paranormal that I realized I needed to cut that scene out completely, as that was what caused the mess--even though I loved that scene (full of action, suspense).

Now, that I know the solution, I'll probably go back to that story later, after I finish my current ones. :-)

Edie 12/06/2007 10:02:00 AM  

I gouged out 1/2 of a book this summer and 1/3 of another, and rewrote. So, yes, I've made a mess. But it was worth doing over.

I admire people who do Nano, but I've never wanted to do participate. I'm usually chugging away on my ms. at a speed that works for me. It allows my mind a chance to "play" with ideas and themes. I hope. lol

spyscribbler 12/06/2007 10:29:00 AM  

LOL, Bailey. Saggy middles are a fear of mine, for sure.

Writenow, LOL, so you say! Starting fresh sure is fun! I will definitely keep my fingers crossed for you!

LOL, Susan. Wow! Congratulations on winning, but, yeesh. I remember one mess I made, I had to scrap the thing three-quarters of the way through and start over. I ended up using some of the old material, but it was frustrating!

I do the same thing with going back from the beginning. I don't go from an outline, though. Scared to!

spyscribbler 12/06/2007 10:41:00 AM  

Oh, Stephen, I did that this time. I've never cut a whole character, though! That must be painful!!! That would change everything!

I'm glad you're feeling better, Julie! Sounds like you've turned an injury into a time of productivity!

I don't know, Lainey. I used to write lean and linear and hardly cut anything. I thought it saved time, but writing a whole lot is quicker, and you can go back and focus it more. It's more ... freeing, and you end up with more stuff to choose from, so you choose the very best stuff.

Both processes have their strengths, though. I wouldn't say one is better than the other.

spyscribbler 12/06/2007 10:45:00 AM  

That's such a cool story, Erica! I'm so embarrassed, but pseudonym's first novella--first story ever--was a story turned into a novella. The publisher, at the time, would take one chapter at a time, pay and publish it, then wait for the next chapter. (She'll still do that, but I won't, LOL.)

Anyway, after the first twenty thousand words had been published, I realized she was with the wrong guy. I had to *switch* heroes halfway through.

I hate that it's still out there, and I've never looked at that story since. I know it must suck! The poor readers!

spyscribbler 12/06/2007 10:53:00 AM  

LOL, Cat! Me, too! TG for DH!

Michele, it's funny how one scene can derail an entire novella. Okay, funny probably isn't the word I was actually thinking of ...

Sounds like a great scene, though!

Edie, ouch! You are one brave, determined lady!

Angie 12/08/2007 12:33:00 PM  

My main frustration on my NaNo story this year was that I had a hard time differentiating the voices of the two main characters. [headdesk] Usually I have no problem with voices. I wrote a story earlier this year, for example, where one of the characters was from Yorkshire and the other from farther south in England, and I had a reader from Yorkshire compliment me on the voices. I've never been to England and I was just winging it. It just... works. And I never have a hard time differentiating between characters through voice, whether in dialogue or narrative. It's one of the things I can count on to just work while I concentrate on other things.

NaNo was a mess. I have two men who are about the same age, but they're from different countries, with different cultures, their native languages are different, they're from different classes... and yet they spoke exactly alike. :( It was so frustrating, I wanted to take a baseball bat to something. I struggled along and got about six and a half chapters done, but I need to do some serious background work before I go back to it. [sigh] I like the story, but I need to get a better grip on the characters.

Angie, muttering to herself

spyscribbler 12/08/2007 10:15:00 PM  

That sounds frustrating, Angie! But you know what? Dialogue isn't so hard to fix. Sometimes, when looking at a list of edits, I feel overwhelmed. But when I sit down to work, it's amazing how much a little tweaking here and there can accomplish. I bet tweaking their dialogue isn't nearly as big a project as it feels!

Good luck with it!

Angie 12/09/2007 01:44:00 AM  

It's not so much the tweaking itself that I expect to be hard, but rather "finding" the boys' voices to start out with. Right now I have a couple of voices that sound exactly alike, so at least one of them has to change somehow. I need to figure out how, which will probably mean doing a whole lot of unpublishable "babbling" with the guy until his voice separates out and develops. I need to get a feel for it, so I can "hear" him speaking in my head, distinctly, whenever I'm writing dialogue.

I've never had to deliberately work at this before so while I have an idea or two of things to try, I don't have a standard procedure or anything, and I think that's what's making it feel a bit scary and frustrating. [laugh/flail]

Once I do get the voice down, though, you're probably right about it not being a huge undertaking to go back and tweak his dialogue. [crossed fingers]

Thanks! {{}}

Angie