I’ve been not-blogging for some time now while I wrestle with my novel manuscript. It’s a hard slog that is chewing up a lot of brain power and time, neither of which I’m finding available in abundance.
I am now well and truly into the trench warfare stage of the writing process, mired down in an intractable internal debate about where I want the story to go and how I’m going to get there. Every time I feel like I’ve taken a step forward, with a fun scene or a halfway-ingenious plot twist , I get bogged down. How do I make the characters’ decisions seem convincing? How can I make some plot-essential development compelling? How do I write my way out of the corners I am stuck in? How do I live with knowing that a good third of what I’ve written so far definitely has to get chopped out?
The other night I had hit a wall so badly that I figuratively reworked Raymond Chandler’s famous writing advice: (paraphrasing) “If you don’t know what happens next, have two guys with guns come through the door”. The scene I wrote in accordance with that principle dropped a side character into a pivotal scene so that I could explore the scene from the outside. It was a lot of fun to write, and helped unblock a few gunked-up plot pipes, but it probably won’t survive to the final manuscript.
I’m discovering that my writing method appears to be to over-write in the hopes that future edits can pare everything back by about 25%. That feels like an impractical waste of time, but this far into the project I am not sure I can change my work methods. something for the post-draft review, perhaps.
The other thing I am discovering, which comes as no particular surprise, is that I am desperate to write some short stories instead of perservering with the novel. There’s not surprise there – short stories (at least the ones I write) tend to depend on fewer ideas, they’re less complex by virtue of having fewer moving parts (characters, locations, scenes etc) and they take less time to draft. They’re easier, is what I’m saying. I know from experience that I can finish a short, whereas with a novel-length work that confidence is at best theoretical .
There’s also the sense that with short stories, I can feel like I am making tangible progress toward my goals as a writer by finishing and submitting a few for publication. In my ideal world, I would have at least three, if not five, short stories out for submission at any given time, and others in preparation in the event that one of them was accepted somewhere. While I think it’s just as important to me to develop my ability to craft a novel, it’s a much slower and more frustrating process than the comparitively immediate gratification of placing a short story (which includes posting it up here and getting feedback from someone who read it all the way to the end…).
Yes, this is petulant whining. I know that. “But it’s haaaaaard!” is something my five year old says (a lot). Sorry for boring you lot with it but I do find posts like this a necessary evil. Calling myself on my lazy, work-avoiding bullshit is part of my process for getting stuff done. Feel free to ignore these posts and hopefully sooner or later I will get back to boring you with my opinions about Lost.
I’ve made finishing the novel a goal for this year and I have a deadline to work to (my critiquing circle is expecting a finished draft at the start of July). I will perservere. I will march on through the harsh weather of fatigued self-confidence, undermotivated characters and unintelligible plot convolutions. I will deliver a manuscript that has THE END typed on the last page, even if I know it is imperfect. I will get there.
It’s just that, right at the moment, it would be a hell of a lot easier to be doing almost anything else.
 For certain values of “ingenious” which are probably not shared in th common vernacular.
 I don’t count Bard Wars, my 2003 NaNoWriMo piece, in part because it was written in very different and now-impossible circumstances and in part because I never did go back and do the hard work of knocking it into a reasonable shape, which is what I am doing with this work.
 Clam, I am still pulling together a response to your anti-professionalism essay. I’ll get there soon.