Deja vu, breaking boxes and bottlenecks

Last night was a reiteration of “the night” at the conference.  The night where I had a few scant hours to redraft a written proposal in a completely different genre.  That night I spent several hours on the phone with R, bouncing ideas off of him, trying to untangle my own ideas by talking them out.  In the end, it seemed to work since I got a doable proposal out of it.

Well last night we weren’t on the phone, and I have more than a few hours to figure it out (though if I *could* get it figured out in a few hours, I might feel a little less deadline-pressured).  Back and forth and back and forth.  And the more we talked, the more I realized that I have been thinking far too much in these two boxes.  There is the MS1 box.  And the MS2 box.  I thought I was rewriting MS1 and panicked when I realized that maybe I should be rewriting MS2.  But really, what I am actually writing is MS3…which can take elements of both MS’s, as long as I am willing to break those out of their boxes.

It took some time to wrap my head around this.  MS1 has been sitting in its current form for nearly a decade.  MS2 has also been in a neat little (albeit unfinished) package for quite some time.  I caught myself often thinking “Well, I can’t combine them into anything workable, they’re too different”.  But it’s not a matter of combining them.  It’s a matter of taking what works out of each of them and fitting those pieces into the new MS – and since the proposal was fairly high level, I can still write what I had in the proposal.  Just as MS3, rather than a ‘rewrite’ of anything.

So I have given myself two plot-working/outlining days.  And after a day at it, I’ve learned why I don’t tend to outline.  I know very well that I should.  But I’m a very linear writer.  I write in sequence, and sometimes I don’t really know what is going to happen next until I’m writing it.  I know I shouldn’t do it like this – I’m always having to check for continuity errors and constantly having to go back in to tweak things so that they’ll make more sense.  That being said, formed habits die hard.  Today I made pages and pages of notes, both on paper and on screen, but they are mostly linear, and highly repetitive.  And when I did hit a bottleneck, trying to get around it proved to be a fairly monumental task.  I am so used to doing everything in a A-B-C fashion that the idea that I could write anything down that happens after D if D wasn’t sorted out is pretty hard for me to swallow.  I’m still struggling with it.  D *isn’t* sorted out and my brain is refusing to believe that it can move past that.  After all, if D isn’t sorted out, who knows how E will turn out.  Right?

Wrong.  I already know that if I can sort out what happens post-D, D will likely just reveal itself.  That’s already happened more than once today with other scenes, they just weren’t throwing me off as much as this one particular jam.  So I’ll maybe hash it out with R a bit more tonight and take another stab at it tomorrow.

And then I had damn well better start getting some word count in.


12 thoughts on “Deja vu, breaking boxes and bottlenecks

  1. You are not alone in your writing approach. Russell Smith, who teaches creative writing as well as being a published author and journalist, wrote a column the other day where he supported a “linear approach”. (I cannot see how to add an attachment, so I’ll email the article to you.) From interviews I have read, this seems quite common. Authors talk of not knowing where a story will go, but rather being led by the characters.

    So, I think there are various ways to write; you just have to go with what works for you.

    • Thanks Keith,
      I just read the article and it was really brilliant – very concise tips. I’m going to keep the blog up though.

      I think my main concern was that with MS2, it was entirely led by the characters and then eventually I realized that no one had any idea where it was going (as in, I didn’t know, but neither did the characters). After some more intense thought and brainstorming, I think I can put something high-level together now and hopefully go from there.

  2. Yes, what he said! In writing there is clearly no right or wrong ways, it seems, only what works and what doesn’t work. I write in a “popcorn” fashion; a scene here, a scene there, and then try to weave them together in a coherent fashion, with a story arc and everything. Believe me, that is a heap of work, back and forth, editing here, changing dates, hair colour, etc., but eventually it all works out…either way, it’s a lot of work. Like Michael quotes: “There are no great writers, only great rewriters.”

    • Ah, I could never do the ‘scene here, scene there’ thing, but I’ve always been impressed by those who could. I think if I wrote like that, I might wind up only writing the scenes that I was really excited about and never getting to any of the connecting parts!

  3. Outlining is a fairly new thing for me. I found I had to break the habit of trying to pants my way through books after Elemental died. It died because I couldn’t figure out what came next, and then I lost momentum. Then I stopped writing for the next 5 months. Not good.

    What surprised me was that I have found that outlining, the way I do it at least, wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought, largely because I’m already a big time note-maker. I always start my story ideas with a (electronic these days) file of notes. The notes are for all over the story, wherever the ideas for the story take me. I only get linear with the outline. My outline is really a short 2-5 word scene description (so basic it’s not funny), and then I go into detail about what happens in the system. Those details really take the form of notes on that scene. Since I do it on screen, I can move things around easily, and I do. I also tend to do the outline in a very linear fashion, as long as it doesn’t trip me up or slow me down. Again, the joy of screen work is that you can move it around as you want/need.

    And I will say this for outlining, it’s clearly working for me, since I finally finished a novel… As in everything in life, though, your mileage may vary. I’ve found that every writer’s process is a little different.

    • Julie, that’s *exactly* what happened to me in MS2 – barrelling along, until no one had any idea where they were going and then it just….stopped. And, as you know, I didn’t do a lot of writing after that, except for my classes. I think I’m likely to use a lot of MS2 in MS3 and I’m very happy about the idea that MS2 (which I really did enjoy writing/exploring) will hopefully finally be able to turn into something!

  4. I can’t imagine writing a scene here and a scene there as my brain is much more linear and I’m okay with that. I have learned to rewrite sections, change hunks of plot or characters, a talent I have had to acquire. Good for you, pushing your way through to the decision to birth MS3 out of 1 and 2. Sounds like a plan to me. And if you want to write according to what works for you, go for it.
    Congrats on starting to blog. I find I meet the most interesting people on my blog and through my other social media forays.
    Finally, I, too, am ripping and snipping at my ms after Niagara, but it’s all for the best, and I hope eventually it will be all good. Best writing wishes!

    • Thanks Elaine, best wishes to you as well! As I said above, I don’t think I could do the ‘scene here and there’ thing either…it is tricky enough trying to sort out an outline that isn’t 100% linear and then putting it all into line later.

      The blogging thing has been interesting! I’ve toyed with the idea for quite a while, but I’m fascinated by how it is going now that I’ve actually started it up (and yes, I promise to add some more detail over the next while. 🙂 )

    • I have every intention of keeping up with it…but like I said, 1-3 posts per week. That way it hopefully won’t interrupt the actual MS work too much!
      I’m glad you’re blogging again too…I always find your posts entertaining. 🙂

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