Monday 12 July 2010

Overcoming a snag to hit a wall

I've seemingly overcome a snag in the scorpion story only to hit a wall. It's quite comical, actually. I start something new because I get bored with editing old stuff. I delude myself into thinking that that project is "short" and "easy". I hit a snag once the initial burst of energy is spent, I pull free, race forward. I then realise it's not holding together (prompted by first feedback I'm getting - no, it wasn't just you, Kate. :) ).

I end up with the choice between stopping entirely and fixing the problem or continuing to write something which will need enormous re-writes, in effect putting me back into the same quagmire that the project freed me from in the first place.

I have a pile a metre high of projects that need rewrites and rethinks. I'm still bad at editing, at least on the structural level, and at least when it comes to novels (I've rewritten and restructured short stories and novellas, but I'm not good enough yet to tackle a novel that is structurally flawed).

This is where I'm hitting my limits, and hit them hard. It's one thing to be a competent first draft writer, and another entirely to tickle out the best of the material you have there. It can mean to mess with characters on the most fundamental level. It means to kill your darlings, the scenes that are actually good but might not work best for the characters you're dealing with. It means, often enough, to remove overwrought bullshit.

The real challenge is to rise above the limitation there and put in the work. The real problem for me is that I tend to follow the fun. Rewriting isn't fun, not even remotely so. Over twenty years, I've focused on delivering a good first draft that needs only a polish and some (few) changes. My first drafts are damned clean copy already, but they have to be structurally sound or I'm fucked.

Well, in this case, the latter option applies.

Back to the drawing board, to the endless, boring, frustrating drudgery of rewriting and restructuring. The 24k I've written will need a good vivisection - unless that kills my fun in the project (which has happened before and makes writing a chore rather than fun).

So, the scorpion story went on the same pile as the other dozen projects that are advanced but not done (including ROI, IC and TCAS). Logically, I should focus on TCAS - it's the most advanced and really needs the least rewrites.

And that's where all momentum hits a wall. Switching projects at full tilt is downright painful. So sorry to everybody who was expecting "Scorpion" to get finished anytime soon. It won't happen in the next weeks or likely even months. It needs some more simmering and germinating. I have no doubt it'll be a good novel once it's done, but this isn't it.

Sometimes, this writing thing sucks.

But I moaned enough. Tonight I'm going home and work on "To Catch a Spy". Once that is out of the door, I might have a solution to the scorpion problem. I'll continue making notes and watch what the characters are up to, but it's now seriously time to plot and restructure, and that works best while not writing on it. Switch from left brain to right brain (only it's the other way round, since I'm a south paw).

In other words, great start to the week. Boss at least thinks the piece I did on regulation was 'very good'. There's one thing I'm good at structuring, at least.


  1. Don't let your fun projects become chores. I can't imagine that would work well. I don't understand most of that, but as the reader, I just ... trust the author to know what's best. Perhaps Scorpion just needs a rest. I'm sure he'll simmer and germinate nicely while he's over on that pile and you'll end up with something great.

    Sorry you hit snags and walls. That's got to be frustrating.

    I've enjoyed watching you work thru the process thanks for sharing.

  2. I'll try and not lose it while I work out what the hell I have on my hands there. I know it can all come together, but so far it simply refuses. Bitch of a story...