Wednesday, October 19, 2011

on writing: skipping, stalling, and stalking

Myth: Writers finish every book they start. Once you've been published, every book you write will get published.


Guys, I've got to be honest. I've got 3 books just sitting in folders on my laptop, half-written and waiting. I've got one idea that obsessed me for weeks before a fatal flaw became obvious and I killed it. I've got AN ENTIRE BOOK that will never go anywhere because the idea is unsellable. It's just sitting there, written, the characters fully-formed and deep, a tremendously awesome title, ready to go-- and yet the book is a complete dead-end.

And just yesterday, I started another one.

The idea obsessed me. I tried to think of the three half-finished books, politely waiting their turn. Two of them even have my agent's blessing. But all I could think about was SHINY NEW BOOK. Things that happened, character quirks, scenes, lines. I wrote the first chapter of SHINY NEW BOOK. I went to Writers Group and used the assignment to write an awkward scene I'd been salivating over. I decided the main character wore only white undershirts. I knew the first sentence had to involve eating salad, because someone on Twitter said you could never start a decent book with someone eating salad.

In short, SHINY NEW BOOK totally cut in line.

And I hate line cutters. I hate quitting or stalling out or starting something and not finishing. I hate to think of things dangling, waiting, going nowhere.

But that didn't stop SHINY NEW BOOK from barging right on in.

And I know how this works, so I just let it take me away.

I went through my ritual. Open a new document in Open Office. Format the page, set the paragraphs, add in the indent to .5, write the title in all caps, insert page break, type "1.", and then ZOOOOOOM. We're off on another adventure!

I'm going to treat SHINY NEW BOOK as a NANOWRIMO book. You know, National Novel Writing Month, which is typically November? I'm going to aim to have a short and dirty first draft of 50,000 words by November 30. And that should purge the damn thing out of my suggestive and stubborn brain so that I can get back to those other books.

That's how art works, sometimes.

No matter what you're doing, what you should be doing, or how you've worked in the past, something consumes you. Overtakes you. Obsesses you. Demands precedence. And if you're the type to listen to your muse, you let it. There's plenty of time to finish those other things, and if they want to be finished, they'll start to seep into your subconscious, just at the right time.

They'll obsess you, too.

In conclusion:

If you love something, let it go. If it bothers the crap out of you, get a restraining order. If that doesn't work, just write it all down and hope for the best. You can sleep next year.



Simply Valorie said...

Ha, I love your conclusion advice! I write some too and I have felt this happening to me - the I MUST WRITE THIS NOW and the guilt of "!"

Anonymous said...

Great post! Good luck with shiney new book!!

Sir Ferdinand/Falsor Wing/NyuuLucy said...

*sniff sniffle* I don't think I've ever identified with a human being more than I am identifying with you right now.

A short play: I Totally Agree With That Thing You Said

Dad: "What thingy are you working on now? You said you're almost done with that space guy one right?"
Me: *thinks to himself that at least a third of them have a "space guy"* instead says: "I'm working on a new one and its AWESOME! *starts running around in a circle while writing on arm/notebook*
Dad: "Why don't you concentrate on one and just get it done?"
Me: "Um, er you don't understand, it doesn't work like that. It's like... um... OMG!" *wanders off scribbling out more on SHINEY-NEW-BOOK-IDEA-IT'S-SO-AWESOME-DON'T-GIVE-ME-THAT-LOOK-I'M-NOT-CRAZY*

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

Thanks, y'all! Here's to obsession, shininess, and identification!