Vindication, Sadly

A while ago, I decided to stop tracking my word count. The negative number in the total column, which showed up every time I made a major cut, just depressed me. A couple of times, it made me reluctant to do what I knew I needed to do, and that’s a problem. So I stopped.

I spent the last week or so writing a couple of scenes. The second one got harder and harder to write as time went on, and I realized my problem was that the scene was boring. I went back to the preceding scene, to figure out what to follow it with, and realized that it didn’t work either, though in this case the problem was with story logistics.

So today I have to cut both scenes, and then I have to figure out what happens instead. 4k words, gone just like that.

At Last…

Etta James is playing in the radio in my head, triggered by the title I’m giving this blog. I think, I think, the scene that’s been giving me fits is on the right track. The thing I like best about it is that nothing’s settled by the end — it’s just an agreed-upon point of stasis between the two characters. I can see all kinds of complications rising out of what I have, and I hope the reader will, too. If I do this right, the big difference between my feeling of, “Stuff will happen because of this,” and the reader’s feeling of it, is that I know what happens as a result and the reader won’t. But she’ll want to…and she’ll keep turning the pages.

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One of my favorite blogs is agent Nathan Bransford’s. I like his attitude and his style, the way he approaches his blog posts. He’s just a pleasure to read.

He’s also informative. Today, he had a great post on first paragraphs, one I recommend reading. When he talks about the first paragraph’s three functions, he puts into words something I’d understood but had never tried to articulate. In three brief clauses, he liststhe things I look for when I open a book, trying to decide whether or not to buy it (or borrow it, as the case may be). I just hadn’t named those things.

As a reader, it’s cool but not key that I now know what I’m looking for. As a writer, this information is essential.

Go read the whole post. It’s short, and it’s excellent.

Why, Why, Why…

I half think I should call this “Whine, Whine, Whine.”

The scene I thought was so fabulous two days ago is not fabulous after all, at least not in its current incarnation. I’ve already begun overhauling it, making it stronger. I’d be more depressed about this if I hadn’t remembered that I had the same kinds of problems writing the last scene in Narthé’s point of view — false starts and do-overs. If this happens the next time I write a scene from his point of view, I’ll know it’s just a given when writing that particular character and I’ll prepare for it.

I wonder how much it has to do with the fact he’s a shapeshifting dragon who’s kind of like an angel. He’s not human and I try to keep that in mind when crawling under his skin to see the story from his perspective. That may gum up the works a little bit, so I end up writing all kinds of unworkable things that end up getting discarded. I hate doing that, but maybe it’s necessary.

This is another facet of trusting myself: Not putting any pressure on myself to decide what something means, or that an aspect of my process, however maddening, is a Problem That Must Be Fixed. Tonight, I’m just considering a possibility…and letting it go at that.  

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I’m reading a book that I’m finding fascinating and resonant: Revolution On My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin by Jochen Hellbeck. Part of the fascination comes from knowing almost nothing about the USSR under Stalin — there are glimpses of that history that are triggering my (easily triggered) curiosity. The rest of the fascination comes the way Hellbeck explores four different yet similar lives through their writers’ diaries. 

It also feels as if what I’m learning is going into my imagination’s compost heap, to feed the roots of some story or other. That’s why I let myself wander wherever I want: I never know what’s going to be useful and valuable.

Trust Continues

So I looked at all the work I did on the scene with the two non-human characters…and decided it didn’t work. So, 1,500 words down the drain. It’s maddening, but I think those words were absolutely necessary to get to where I am today.  I think the finished scene will be very short, and I’m okay with that. A scene should be only as long as it absolutely needs to be.

I think when it’s done, it will be a very, very cool scene and well worth the trouble.

Faster Than I Thought

I left work a little early on Tuesday because I suddenly felt under the weather — some sort of weirdness in my tummy that involved pain. (Which is to say, no coughing, no fever, no flu.) I called in sick yesterday and slept most of the day. Today I was well enough to go back to work…and to look at the scene that I thought needed a lot of work.

Once again, not so much. This time, though, it’s not so much with the gloom and doom. I’m not sure what the scene is for in the greater scheme of things, but I think it’s finished. Well, finished for now. I’ll probably overhaul it when the whole book is done, but that will have to wait until then. For now, I’ve decided that this scene and the scene that follows it are all about Ennevel’s friendship with Od and Folet, and that this friendship will be Useful Later On.

Tomorrow, I start the Folet half of things.

Ever onward!

Not So Fast

::Sigh::

I spoke too soon when I said that scene I’ve been working on is done. It needs work. Lots of work.

In fact, it needs to be two scenes.

Back to the salt mine.

Problems Large and Small

Okay, the downside to reading a book that grabs you by the short hairs and won’t let you go, is that it grabs you by the short hairs and won’t let you go even though you really needed to be asleep two and a half hours ago. I had to get up at 5:00 AM today, so — to get my daily allotment of sleep — I should have shut the lights out at 9:30 PM.

I didn’t.

Instead I stayed up until midnight finishing Skykeepers, because I had to see it all work out. Since it’s a romance, I knew it would work out — this is the great gift of romances — but I didn’t know how.

Despite that plunge into mild debauchery, I’m not as tired and miserable with tiredness as I thought I’d be, but I’m also not as sharp as usual. Because of that, I didn’t do much original writing today — closest thing to it was reworking a paragraph that had been bugging me.

I did make progress on the story nevertheless, solving two problems, one small-picture, the other big-picture.

More

Ruthlessness

The only downside to my spreadsheet is that I get very attached to seeing the total of words written increase. So attached, that I resist necessary surgery. I looked at one of the scenes impacted by all the changes I’ve made in the last week or so, and realized that it can’t be salvaged. Too much has changed, and the changes are too great.

So I need to be utterly ruthless. I’ll cut what I currently have for the scene and rewrite it from the ground up. If this is the right thing to have done, it’ll only take a couple of days for me to rewrite it and recover the words I lost.

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

I’m working on fixing a scene in the wip, and if I were writing a straight-up romance, I’d be salivating over what I have. There’s a lot of tension between the characters, and it would be so easy to turn this into a straight-up flirtation scene, perfect for my straight-up romance.

But I’m not writing romance, I’m writing fantasy, and scenes like this make me worry that I’m straddling the line too much, that it’s too much of both and not enough of either. If I’m right, then what I have is neither fish nor fowl, and that’s a weakness.

I tell myself that this could fill an unmet need, a quiet demand for well-constructed fantasy that has strong romantic elements. If a good romance is a kind of modern fairy tale, then this amps the resonance on that, and I know I’d be all over that. If it were well-done. I like to think I’m writing this well, and I’ve been lucky enough to get feedback that supports me in believing that.

In the end, I have to believe it. If I don’t believe it, I’ll quit, and that’s unacceptable.

All Made Up

Hee.

I wrote another 368 words today, which means I’ve replaced all but 8 of the words I cut day before yesterday. That’s very sweet, but what’s even sweeter is that when I reviewed what I wrote yesterday, I discovered it’s definitely much better than the version it replaced.

Of course, I’ve run completely out of gas, and have no idea what to next, but I don’t need to know that tonight. I just need to know that my story’s getting stronger.

Another happy day.

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