Monday, August 9, 2010

The Writing Life

Look at me, nary a post in months and then two in a little more than a week. Looks like I'm on a roll.

I have found myself thinking about writing again. My fatal flaw is my lack of consistency. I'll write in these weeks long marathon sessions that infuriates my loved ones and runs me into the ground. Then, after hundreds of hours of work and on the verge of a breakdown, I'll produce a (generally) readable manuscript with a somewhat comprehensible plot. In other words, a good first draft.

If past experience is any indicator of future actions then this is what will happen: I'll set my manuscript aside for a few weeks and think about in constantly. I'll try to catch up on the life I let pass me by and repair whatever damages I've caused to my relationships. After enough time has passed I'll pick it up again and start the long slog of the second draft... then things start falling apart.

I'll think about how I haven't been reading as much as I want to. I'll decide to read a new book, it may even be a book about writing, but the point is - I'll start doing other things.

So life has been pretty busy for the past year or two and writing just hasn't been a priority. Of late however, I've found that I've got more free time than I've had in a while. So writing comes to mind again.

Over this past weekend I read a first draft of a novel I wrote for nanowrimo a few years ago (07 I think) and what did I find? Damn. I'm good. I could see that the story could use some tweaking here or there, I need to correct some confusing dialog or action in some scenes, unclear or ambiguous motivations for some characters, but all in all, probably the best first draft I've ever done. To say I was inspired after reading it would be an understatement. Having just finished a string of 15 or so of the most enjoyable books I've read in a while I was stunned at how much I enjoyed reading my own work. I would have thought it would have suffered mightily by comparison.

However, the story wasn't complete. I had stopped writing before I could end the story, not too big a deal, the climax and denouement was the only thing left. 40 pages or so. I know where I was going with the story. The logical thing for me to do would be to wrap up the first draft so I could really pour my heart and soul into a second draft, fixing the obvious mistakes, cleaning up the rough spots, making the story flow - all that stuff.

I don't know if writing is more like riding a bike or mastering golf. I hope it's like riding a bike, that sort of stuff isn't easily forgotten. You just hop right in without missing a beat. However, if I were to take the time and effort necessary to excel at golf and then not play at all for a few years I would expect a disaster when I started up again. Judging from my attempts to wrap up that first draft I would think the golfing analogy is better. It's a finely honed skill that doesn't age well if it remains unused.

I recall Stephen King, in his book on the subject of writing. mentioning how torturous it was to begin writing again after his near fatal accident about a decade ago. He was experiencing physical pain from trying to write, but also his long layoff during his recovery caused him some frustration as well. Getting back in the habit after a long time away is difficult. The words just don't want to come out and when they do they're awkward and clunky.

But I'm dusting off my equipment, I thinking of stories again and will make every effort to get back into the groove.

Happy writing.

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