Thursday, October 28, 2010

WIP Diary: Gutted

This is one of those times when I wish I was an outliner, a plotter. That I had some sort of organizational and planning turn of mind. But I do not, and so I spend a lot of my writing time in musing, thinking things through, writing down blind alleys and into corners and backtracking.

I like to tell myself that none of this is wasted effort. That I always learn something, no matter what I write. At the very least, I learn what doesn't work. But sometimes that isn't a terribly comforting thought. Like when you've spent a week writing gangbusters and quite sure you've figured the whole thing out and are zooming along towards the climax and the ultimate ending of the Book That Wouldn't End, only to have to sit back and admit to yourself that sorry, but those last three chapters are pointless meandering, serve no purpose in the narrative, offer no needed information and in fact pull the story in the wrong direction. Three chapters. And I write long chapters. They've got to go.

To which I say right now: Crap. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. I think I may even have stomped my foot.

But it's back to that gut feeling thing. In this case, the more the chapters piled up without getting any closer to the climax (like one of those nightmare scenes in the movies where someone is running down a long hallway lined with doors and the hallway just keeps getting longer and longer,) the more I knew I had a problem. I was circling the climax, trying to write in all of the stuff that was still hanging out there in space that I thought needed to be laid out in preparation. I was writing like your mom who keeps stopping you on your way out the door to make sure you have your scarf and your hat and your gloves and a quarter in your shoe. Enough, Mom! Just let me go already!

What's worse is that when I look back to where I went from the direct line of the story to where I started mincing around writing chapters of nothingness, I had something really hot and dramatic going on right there. That's where to make the leap into the climax. You want emotional peaks and valleys in your narrative, but this close to the climax is no time to take things back down.

Worse still, I thought I was so clever in moving from that scene to those dull, dead chapters. Oh, how we can fool ourselves. Sure, maybe I wrote in complete sentences. Maybe some of them are even beautiful or entertaining. But they aren't doing what they need to be doing, and so.....

There. They are in the "cut" file now. And I am flung back 25 pages. In the immortal words of Dorothy Fields, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again. Or at least, start at page 383 again.