Friday, September 04, 2009

Pounding It Out, Day 4

I'm right at 6,000 words right now, which is a little behind schedule for today (but today isn't over yet). And now it occurs to me that the book might benefit from a little time-jumping, showing later points in the story while doing all the exposition and set-up in flashback.

There's a danger in this approach, really a double-danger, which is that 1) the reader might get confused by all the jumping back and forth, and 2) flahsbacks are a kind of hokey device.

But for right now, I'm just writing straight through, from beginning to end. And it's funny how I really had to get into the story for the connections within the story to start making themselves known.

That's the problem I have with outlining. With every attempted novel that gets bogged down because I'm not sure where to go next, I tell myself, "Next time, I'll spend a lot more time on the outline and avoid this."

And of course, it doesn't happen. I read this neat quote by Lawrence Block in the essay anthology, Writing Mysteries. In an essay about writer's block, he says this about outlines...

...a writer working from an outline always knows what he originally intended to have happen next.

And that's what happens to me, every time. As I'm writing, my characters begin to define themselves, and my world takes shape, and at some point, what I originally intended to have happen seems unmotivated or false or simply physically impossible. And then I have two choices: either abandon what I intended, or find a way to shoehorn it in somehow, because getting to my big climax depends on this thing happening, no matter how unbelievable it is. And as I get further into the book, these things pile up faster and faster, and I dread reaching the end, because it's just stupid now. So I write slower and slower until I abandon the book entirely.

It has happened with every single book so far, without exception.

On Blue Falcon and Hero Go Home, I was eventually able to come back after a hiatus of a few months, slog through the problems and get the thing done, although Hero Go Home still doesn't hold together entirely well. I like the opening, like the ending, hate everything in between. It's like a Twinkie with shaving cream in the middle.

On the first novel I wrote, Stripped, I just admitted surrender and wrote a quick ending at about what I considered the two-thirds mark. Skipped the third act entirely.

On Angel Baby and Flip, I've never been able to solve the problems.

But at the same time, something happens while you're writing, as you're learning who the characters are and what they do in the time when you're not writing about them, that leads to countless little a-ha's. When all of a sudden, something you couldn't figure out before suddenly slides into place, because you know enough about the character now to know why they would do this, or why someone else should do it instead.

God, I've missed this.

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