Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fish or cut bait...

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon

Over at JeffO’s blog, he asks this question: How do you know when you’ve really reached the end of all you can do with a particular story? Now, I don’t know the answer to this question or even if there is one right answer, but it is something I’ve been wrestling with in my own writing process.

Actually, I don’t really have a writing process. Not yet. It’s a work in progress, just like my stories.

But, back to the question. My first response was:  to see a story through to the end is the best course of action for a beginner writer. But, do I really believe that to be true? Or, is it more a manifestation of my own fears around failing to complete a novel and failure in general? A writer can sure get herself in a twist with this kind of reflection.

This led me to think again on my plans for juggling two novel projects. It isn’t an original tactic, but one I’ve read various published authors’ advice about.

Right now my first novel is in the fermentation stage (warning: whisky analogy ahead - just got back from a trip to Scotland. I blame you, JeffO, with your gambling and Kenny Rogers). The draft is finished, and I’m waiting for it to germinate before I try to make a proper novel out of it. I figured that I would go ahead and start on my second novel, complete my pre-writing tasks and write a full first draft, while I wait for the first novel to sprout.

Here’s where I am torn. Part of me, high on the excitement of all that I’ve learned in my first novel writing experience, is desperate to get in there and re-write the whole thing, right now. I’ve been reading about plot structure, story telling, and grammar. Reviewing others’ words on the AW site has helped solidify what I’m studying on craft. I know the conventional wisdom is to let it ferment, I believe there is truth to that wisdom, but I want a more complete first draft. I wants it NOW!

Then, there is the other part of me. (Why do writers have split personalities - is it just me?) She is sick to death of that first story. It is a tangled knot of plot mishaps, purple prose, cliche, and tell, tell, tell. She looks at that mass of misshapen clay and feels…fear, overwhelmed, dizzy. This part of my psyche wants to jump to the shiny new toy, the story that is exciting, as-yet-unblemished by bad writing, and full of possibilities and new places to see.

Now my impatience comes in. I want it all now. The polished 2nd draft, the second finished novel - I want them both. My greediness is tangible; I can feel it in my bones. Ick.

I’m trying to remind myself that writing and developing as a writer is a process. I can’t have it -being a better writer- today. The journey would be over. Where’s the fun/torture in that?

As for the process: Will writing a second novel, infused with knowledge from my experience with the first, allow me to better edit/rewrite that first novel? OR, will revising a first novel completely better prepare me to start anew on the second? Does it even matter? Does anyone else get tied up in knots with this stuff?

Hope you enjoyed today’s trip through my mindscape.

Gonna go find the Scotch, now.

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