Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Speed Demon

I wrote my first "longer" novel, my first women's fiction project, very quickly. It was the first time I tried NaNoWriMo, and well, it was awesome. (Not the novel, the experience. Although I still think that novel had some shades of awesome, too.)

At the time I was using a Palm and an extended keyboard and I would sit down somewhere (usually a coffee shop) and just type and type and type until my battery ran out or my brain exploded. The good thing was I didn't have any internet access on the palm, so minimal distractions. Then I'd go home and upload it to my PC, pat myself on the back for how many pages I'd done (usually 10-14) and laugh at all my horrible spelling mistakes.

I swore I'd try to replicate this with each one of my subsequent books, problem is, it never worked again. I think it's because I learned a hell of a lot about writing and storytelling during the revision process for that same book, as well as a lot about my own voice, which actually shines through for me at least partially via the revision process.

Basically, I think the issue was I started to expect more of myself. I started to expect what I produced each day to be closer in quality to what I'd discovered I was capable of producing. I expected the wording to be a little clever or interesting or at least avoid too many repeating words in the same sentence. And I'd learned more about storytelling and I expected myself to come up with cool reversals and to ensure I had a clear goal in each scene and that my characters were acting consistently and being well developed. If I realized something I added in chapter 10 should've been foreshadowed in the opening chapters, I'd go back and foreshadow. If I realized in chapter 15 that I really hadn't understood my hero's motivation when I first started, I'd go back and rewrite the opening scenes -- maybe even rewrite everything up to ch 15 again to make sure the new motivation really worked. I told myself my revisions would be easier because I was writing a much stronger first draft.

Thing is, I think it made my revisions HARDER. Harder because I was less likely to just scrap entire sections I'd spent days writing and agonizing over. Harder because I'd struggle to make a particularly clever or hard won metaphor or quip or description fit into my revised version of the scene. (How can I revise this scene so he still gets to say that after she says this, even if it doesn't make sense for her to say this anymore...) Harder because I was less willing to, as they say, "kill my darlings".

Now, out of sheer necessity and an insane deadline... (more about that on my own blog very soon ;-)... I am writing quickly again. And once again I've fallen in love with writing quickly.

Yes, I am probably deluded. Yes, you'll probably see a post on this blog sometime in December where I'll whine about my revisions and how stupid I was to write my first draft so quickly...

But for now, my fingers are flying, ideas are flowing, and pages are accumulating. Yippee!!!

6 comments:

Eileen said...

There's something magic about when it's just flowing out of you and you're not second guessing yourself to kingdom come. Ride the wave, baby, and enjoy it!

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes. I am still second guessing a bit... but trusting that I can fix later. Freeing.

Sinead M said...

Maureen, so glad the writing fast thing is working.
It's worked for me in the past as well, the key, for me, being not to edit at all. Not even to second gues.. although that too has bitten me in the butt..

Bev Katz Rosenbaum said...

Yay, you!

Molly O'Keefe said...

This week has just been eaten away from me...

I have been thinking about your new process and wanting to get my hands on it. I think that relentless editing can make good stuff great - but it can't fix good stuff that doesn't work. And when you're totally immersed in your world and your story - I think there's so much more opportunity to make the story bigger. It's like building a house - what you're doing allows you to add crazy rooms and vaulted ceilings and big stircases and little hidey holes and surprising corners - the editing is the paint and the windows and the facny cedar shingles - but as pretty as that is, it won't make a square house more interesting, or a sagging house more stable.

I want what you've got right now - I really do.

Maureen McGowan said...

I hope you're right, Molly, I hope you're right.

Though I do fear I'm building crooked walls, staircases to nowhere, and other structural mistakes the paint and decorating might not fix. There may be a hell of a lot of spackle in my future.

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