Thursday, September 02, 2010

Breaking things...

I’m not good at it. My kitten Grayson excels at it. Me not so much. Of course I’m not talking about bric-a-brac. (That’s such a cool word.) I’m talking about writing.
As a writer I’ve learned I have a really hard time breaking something I’ve already written in the hope of making it better. As I prepare for my weekathon of writing I spent last weekend getting caught up on what I had done, where I was in the story etc, so I could hit the ground writing.

There was one scene I thought to move. Maybe keep things vaguer for a little while longer and do it as a reveal later on in the story. But as I read the scene I really liked it. I liked how it all fit and how it transitioned. I didn’t want to break it. Breaking it would leave sharp edges that would have to be filed down and smoothed. I worried the end result would read like something was broken and put back together. Choppy. Disconnected.

I left it alone and learned that I don’t like to break things.

What I love to do however is add things. I’m a huge adder. I was trying to map out a timeline of events. In a mystery it’s crucial to know each detail of the murder so that even what the reader doesn’t see still makes perfect logical sense. I looked at what I was doing. Looked at where I was in the timeline of the story and all of the sudden it came to me…

I’m missing an entire scene. It was like that moment in Harry Potter (Order of Phoenix) where he goes to the house that magically appears between two other houses. The story moved from A-C so it was a logical forward transition. But all of the sudden B popped out of nowhere. And the beauty of it is I don’t have to break A and I don’t have to break C. I just need to insert B.

As I write this I realize how probably trivial and absolutely commonplace this is to all of you – our writing audience - but still it was the thing on my mind this week.
Moral of the story… I will add 20 chapters if I have to, but I will do everything I can to avoid breaking 1.

Crazy.

What are you as a writer? A breaker or adder?

9 comments:

Karen W said...

Hey Steph! I'm both. For the last several books, I started over maybe 5-6 times on each book. This book I'm working on now, I haven't started over once, but like you I suddenly realized I was missing a crucial bit of information and had to go back and add it. Actually, I've had to do that a couple of times, even though I'm 70 pages into the story. Still going forward though, which is a good thing!

Sinead M said...

Steph, I'm the opposite. I'll break, but I hate adding...

I'll rewrite till I'm blue in the face, but adding extra scenes, it never works for me.

and it seems easier than breaking somehow in that whole the grass is always greener way.

Maureen McGowan said...

I'm reluctant to break things, too... But the few times I've forced myself, too, boy did it pay off.

But I don't think it's always the right answer. Every "problem" in a story finds it's solution. We hope.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm in awe of you rewriters... I find once it's out of me it's done.

If I focus too much on it - I spend an hour re-writing one sentence over and over again. I have to hit myself in the back of the head to say ... forward!

On a side note my assistant just handed me her copy of Mockingay... I need to be strong and NOT read this until all my writing work is done.

Eileen said...

I'm with you, Steph. I find it extremely difficult to crack the whole things open, take out the pieces and redo it. I've done it (once in a big way that I can think of), but it ain't easy for me.

I am constantly adding. My rough drafts are very bare bones. There will be entire scenes written as nothing but dialogue since that's what slows me down the least. I have to add in tags, physical action, reaction, weather, clothing.

I also leave out a lot of transitions when I'm writing a rough draft. That means sometimes I have to add a sentence or two to set things up, but other times, I need to add entire scenes that get my characters from one place to another (physically, intellectually or emotionally).

Molly O'Keefe said...

I was just thinking about this! I've finally figured out how to streamline a subplot in my book which means that I have to go back and totally break nearly every scene in a character's POV - so I'm rewriting, I'm adding, I'm subtracting and last night as I was lying in bed all I coudl think was - I'm just effing this whole thing up.

we'll see of course - but still, it's not easy to break things. I agree with maureen, though, when you manage to reset the broken stuff - it ends up much better.

Molly O'Keefe said...

weird thing about my process right now is that I get days to write with days in between when I don't look at my mms - so I broke a bunch of stuff on wednesday and today I'm going to look at the damage....I'm a little worried.

Side note - went to go see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World last night - HOLY CATS!!!! I sat there mouth agape the whole time. Amazing movie. Rolling Stone was right - a total game changer....

Molly O'Keefe said...

OH and Karen - I just the GREAT review for your october book! Can't wait to get my hands on it! we need you to guest blog when it comes out!!!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Molly - actually I'm taking all the credit for Karen's great review. That was the very first book I did a critique on.

Sure Karen wrote it, had the great idea, the great characters, the great story...

But I read it and said it was good... so I'm like all over that 4 1/2.

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