Friday, April 11, 2008

Rip' snortin'

By Lonnie Cruse

I've been working on my WIP for a couple of months. Okay, nearly four months. Sigh. And it hasn't been going well. I mean, I love the basic story line, but the manuscript in general wasn't working. Meaning I wasn't half done and there was absolutely no where to go next.

So, recently I parked myself in the futon on the sun porch and ripped that sucker to pieces. Moved paragraphs. Moved entire chapters. Put two minor characters into far more difficulty than they wanted to deal with. I'm a bit squeamish about doing that, I like happy characters, and one of them doesn't deal well with difficulty. But sometimes a writer just has to get tough with her characters. Has to submit them to challenges and problems above their abilities, then sit back and watch them dig their way out of it.

I also killed off a character who needed killing. I'm merciless in that area.

One of the worst problems with moving paragraphs and chapters and inserting new stuff is that a whole lot of the old stuff no longer fits. I can't deal with that. Really can not. So, I cut and paste it at the end of the manuscript, then hit "save" so I know it's there IF I need it. Most likely I'll be happy to highlight and delete that stuff when I'm done, but for now, it's my security blankie. I'm not it letting go. At all.

When I'm writing, I can not wait to get the manuscript done and start editing because I know I have the story down. I can relax and just catch/fix errors or fill plot holes. Editing is so much easier. NOT!

When I'm editing, I can not wait to get back to writing a first draft because the ideas come as needed, and editing is sooo hard because I read over mistakes and I've already read this story a zillion time and I'm getting bored with it. First drafts are so much easier. NOT!

NOTHING about writing is easy. Trust me. And if you meet the same author I did at a conference last year (who shall remain nameless, no need for law suits) who says she writes a book in ONE draft and turns it in to her publisher, ready for print, don't believe her. And try not to kill her. She's most likely one of those women who had NO stitches after childbirth and the baby slept all night from day one. I've always wanted to kill any of those I've met along the way as well.

Writing takes a lot of time and a LOT of thought. Write a scene. Seems great, so we're on a roll. Later, write another scene. Wait. Something's wrong with it, but we have no clue what. So we take a walk, or load the laundry, or better still, take a shower, and in said shower, lightning strikes. We NOW know what is wrong with that scene AND how to fix it. NO way to write it down so we scrub fast, dry off fast, and dash for the computer or writing pad. And it works. Might require cutting/pasting whole paragraphs or chapters. Might require killing part of the manuscript off (if you can't face that, try pasting it at the end and by the time you get there, you'll be able to do the deed.) Might require putting your favorite characters into deep doo. They won't like it. You won't like it. After all, they live inside you, and they can really ruin your sleep. Do it. Be brave. Rip it up. Snort about it. Keep going. Don't give up, if you love the story. Because if you love it, it's worth writing. Sigh, and editing.


Anonymous said...

Great posting. Creativity is one of the craziest things I know. Colors help, too. Mark passages that need fixing later or that you're not quite sure of in some color other than black. Later, they just jump off the page and demand attention.

I also keep a "Maybe not" folder, where I toss the stuff I've edited out, but and not 100% I want to let go of yet.

Sandra Parshall said...

I hate first drafts. I try to do them fast so I can get it all down before I start itching to rework everything. The second draft is the most fun. Editing can be tedious, but at least I have the satisfaction of seeing that I have a whole book to work with and the hard part is behind me. The blank file when I start something new is terrifying. I never believe that I'll be able to write another entire book.

Lonnie, I have an outtakes file where I dump all the cut material. I couldn't stand having it hang around at the end of a ms like dead weight. At some point I read through everything in the outtakes, and I might be able to salvage a couple of lines that seem perfect for a spot in the book. Mostly, though, it's unusable.

Is anyone interested in this except us? :-)

Julia Buckley said...

You crack me up, Lonnie! And here's one for you: my aunt claimed to have no pain in childbirth and no menstrual cramps. I always resented her, too. :)

Cozy Crime said...

If writing a novel is like having a baby, i'm glad I can't write!

hang in there, Lonnie.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Hehe, thanks everyone! Loved your comments.