Hi, all —
So, yeah. Been keeping busy with some stuff. My latest mystery will be out in a month or so. Give or take (let’s hope it’s the give). And I’m working on a few different projects at the moment. One is really causing me angst. I like the characters, I like the overall plot arc, I like the setting and the romance (yes, it’s another romance), but like any project that sits a while, it needs work.
I wrote this novel back in…um…2009-ish or thereabouts and then it kind of sat around for a while on my hard drive, drinking beer and scratching itself while watching The L-Word and Ellen over and over again. I dug it out a few months ago because I knew it was time for it to get ready for its debut.
And time to gut a few parts of it and add some other parts. For some reason, that’s proven a bit frustrating for me. Okay, it’s pissed me off. I’ve gone rounds with this manuscript and with the characters. And now it’s time for more of that.
MORE BLOG THERAPY AHEAD!
The infrastructure is pretty solid, and the overall craft, I think, works pretty well. But the story needs re-shaping. I’ve already re-named a character, given her a slightly different and more prominent role, moved several scenes around, deleted a few others, and written maybe four new scenes. I’m also going to add a few more tertiary characters. That’s a term I use for characters that aren’t necessarily present enough to be secondary and push the story, but they are there as research evidence and as a show and not a tell. They also help reveal things about the secondary and primary characters.
Sure, I could have the main character tell you all about where she works and what she does. But I prefer to let her show you, and that involves interaction with secondary and tertiary characters. For me, a tertiary character is someone like the unnamed server at a restaurant where the death ray plot is unveiled and the server interrupts the discussion with coffee, thus reminding the reader that this is still a restaurant and even death ray builders gotta eat.
So last night right as I was finishing up my writing session, I realized that I needed to fix a few major things with the main character’s place of employment and one of her overarching life plans. This thought caused another round of angst and pissiness, as well as that strange form of despair that writers get — the one that grips your gut in a cold vise as you realize all the work you’ve done already is getting left out on the curb like that skanky couch the neighbors finally got rid of and you wonder why the fuck you’re even writing this goddamn soul-chewing project and all these characters are assholes anyway and nobody will give a rathole of shit about them or this story and it’s doomed, this project is utterly doomed and you, the writer, should just watch re-runs of The L-Word and Ellen and throw yourself onto that skanky couch and sob because all those self-defeating prophecies are coming true and they’re yelling in your ear like starving ravens: HACK.
Yes. I have those days. I’m having a few now.
Ever have your house remodeled? Or a room in your house remodeled? You got an estimate for cost and time, and you were happy-happy joy-joy about the prospect of awesome-ness that such an event would bring.
But you forgot to calculate in the OTHER stuff. Those time and money (and energy) estimates? Multiply by three. And your frustration level needs at least a multiple of five. Ten’s a better bet.
So, too, with writing.
And I forgot something important about this project. I forgot to freaking HAVE FUN. Why the hell bother writing something if it’s not fun? If you’re not deriving joy from the story or the characters, then why the hell are you writing it?
A good question. I thought about it. And I’m imagining all the scenes I’ve torn out of this project, and it’s like shattered drywall and 2 X 4’s strewn all over the place after you tear a wall down and I can’t see past the evidence of all this willful destruction. I can’t see the end result because I’m in the middle of the process.
Which, I think, is working. My process is telling me that a few things weren’t working here, that my writing abilities and understanding have changed after four years, and that ABSOLUTELY this project is going to look, read, and feel a bit different than the original. It should. It’s supposed to.
And that’s okay. Yes, I’m in the midst of a pile of WTF, and I’ve just torn a bunch of walls down and yanked the plumbing and electrical out elsewhere. And tomorrow, I’ll throw all this old stuff out so I can then start framing the new walls, and I’ll run new electrical and new plumbing and then I’ll put new drywall over it.
The mess is part of the process.
I keep telling myself that, and I keep telling myself to relax. It’ll get cleaned up, there’ll be new walls, new paint, and new writing. I just forgot to multiply time and energy by three and frustration by five. And I forgot to have some fun with this. After all, it can be really cathartic to take a sledgehammer to a wall.
Lesson? Don’t get attached to what you write. Especially not something you put on a shelf a few years ago. Hopefully, you’re a different and BETTER writer now. So you’ll see the story with new eyes, and there is nothing wrong with taking a sledgehammer to parts of it. Just have fun doing it.
And read this blog by Chuck Wendig. That, my friends, sums up PROCESS.
Happy reading, happy writing, happy Thursday.