14 November 2010

the writing process

A couple of days ago I realized that I hadn't posted anything in a while. I think about posting. I'll even start writing. Then I get stuck or decide not to finish the post right now and by the time I remember it, a week has gone by.

In between everything else lately, I have been getting a good deal of writing done. Inspiration strikes when it will, and I spent the other morning, on a day when I wasn't busy, writing down a story. I don't know if it'll go anywhere farther than the dozen pages I have so far, but it was an enjoyable process.

Years ago I started writing a trilogy. I know, there's probably hundreds, if not thousands, of us, the ones who wrote trilogies in high school. But I wrote it for the sake of telling the characters' stories, not because I wanted other people to read it. While I'd love to get it published someday, the whole thing is in a constant state of revision. I wrote the first draft and then let it sit for years, coming back to it every few months and making minor tweaks here and there. Sometime last year I took a good long look at it and said, "What the hell was I thinking?" and cut the entire second book of the trilogy (It was weird. Like, really, really weird and strange). I chopped the first book in half, and turned that into the second book of the trilogy. This helped a lot, although it meant that quite a few things had to be changed. I realized that one of my principal characters wasn't well-characterized, compared to the others, so he's getting fleshed out. I'm re-writing the beginning of the first book at the moment, because it moved far too slowly, given the pacing in the rest of the story.

It's funny...I used to hate changing major aspects of this story. Now I see it as entirely necessary. I think perhaps I had to let it sit for a time so that I could mature enough to be willing to change things. The characters haven't changed much, although I'm (hopefully) making them more interesting. But I'm willing to re-adjust the plot for the sake of the story, which I wasn't willing to do seven years ago.

I hit a turning point with it last week (or was it the week before?). I was at my desk, doing reading, first for my thesis, and then for a class. I needed to take a break, and it was as though I was coming up for air. Concentrated reading always feels like that for me. I had to do something else, but the building was eerily quiet because it was late in the day, and I had an evening class that didn't start for a couple of hours, so there was no one around to talk with. I'd forgotten to bring a knitting project. So instead, I pulled up one of the books on my laptop, and started reading, thinking I'd do a little editing.

But instead, I read. I read and I was enjoying the story.

That was new for me. I've read over old papers, and either wanted to rail at my old self for writing such drivel, or been impressed that I wrote something decently cohesive (My academic writing style has been forced to develop rapidly in the last few years and while it's far from perfect, when I write academically, I worry more about what I'm saying than how I'm saying it, because that part's pretty automatic now). With my fiction...I can change it if I don't like it, and usually when I'm reading it over, it's with editing in mind. I haven't stopped to look at it objectively. This time, I got caught up in the story and forgot to edit.

I'm no genius, certainly, but it wasn't half-bad.

So now I'm writing with a different purpose in mind. I haven't handed it over to anyone to read since I was near the beginning of the first draft, which was at least ten years ago (argh, you think I'd have finished it properly by now, but no, of course not). Once I get the first chapters sorted out again, there's a couple of people whom I'm actually going to ask to read it. I've been scared to do that because I'm afraid they'll tell me it's rubbish. Maybe so. Maybe not. But for once, I actually want to find out.

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