Monday, December 19, 2011


Writing is a way of life, really. I don’t like writing, it’s painful, frustrating, it takes me away from family, it makes me angry when it isn’t going well, it’s awful really. But once I’m done with something I feel like I have to jump in and do it again. I like the pain I suppose. As it stands, I’ve got a half drafted fantasy novel that I’m considering abandoning – this year’s nano – if I can’t re-outline it into something I like better. Right now it’s a bunch of people wondering around and saying, “Hey, this whole world is really weird,” and “Man, we can totally do magic! That doesn’t make any sense.”

Yep, that’s hard core storytelling right there. Especially since these people aren’t visiting this fantasy world, but actually supposed to be living on that world. Ugh.

Easy mistake to make, happens all the time. But that isn't the Invincible Sword of Leboria - that's Glagnar's toothpick.

Part of it must have something to do with world building, or a lack thereof, I started thinking about my teeny little village that was cut off from the larger world and everyone carrying weapons. Well, that means they had to have a forge, and ore, and something to keep the fires burning hot (lots of trees, maybe coal). Ooh, then I thought of a guy with poor eyesight, then that led to optics, and glass blowing, oh, and don’t get me started about clothing, do they have wool? No, I decided, only cows and pigs… so they wear lots of leather. But then I started thinking of home construction, if they are iron poor (which they are), then they don’t have lots of nails, and if they don’t have nails, do they also have iron hinges (yes, I decided, they will). Is that significant? I have no idea. But I spent too much time figuring that stuff out as I wrote. What do I mean, figuring it out as I wrote? Let me explain by using some (made up) example.

“But Ragon can’t be the town’s only Smith, what if he were injured? Or he died?”

“I know,” Platt said, “but it’s true. We can’t support another Smith, the apprenticeship takes too long, and we need all the able bodied men to help with the harvest.”

Julie frowned. “But the harvest isn’t all year round, surely someone could apprentice for much of the year, and then help in harvest time. It doesn’t make any sense to go without.”

It was Platt’s turn to frown now. He hadn’t seen the poor logic before then. “You’re right.  There is no reason for Ragon to be toiling away without an apprentice. He must be hiding something, making up lies in order to continue working in secret.”

Oh, I can’t write anymore. It’s awful. Now imagine approximately 200 pages of what I’m now calling “plotting through dialog,” which is what happens when I chuck my outline, or even follow it, but miss a major plot hole, which gets discovered during my extended character interactions. I’ll just write it out and move on, and come back later to fix. But when more and more of the time spent writing is really just me plotting, or figuring out the world building, then I know I have a problem, I’ve not thought my story out well enough.

So, that’s where I’m at with that. I do think I’m going to give the novella I wrote late in the summer another editing pass. It’s that one I’ve complained about intermittently that starts as an epistolary tale before sliding into a traditional first person narrative. The problem I’ve been having is I like both methods of storytelling in general, and in particular, I think both serve to help me tell the story I want to… but something about putting the two together, unintentionally, bothers me. I don’t know, maybe it’s like the discovery of penicillin, or a peanut butter and chocolate thing… serendipity that leads to greatness.


Briane P said...

FIRSTIES! And all I had to do was blow off work entirely to do it.

A: I love the sky photos in the next post, but I didn't want to be Twelfthsies there, so I'm leaving the comment here.

B: Is writing really that hard for you? I'm kind of the opposite. I got all excited about my latest story and got up early to start writing it Saturday. If I DON'T get to write something a little each day, I get crabby, like I'm stopped up. So I begin each day with some writing.

C: Man, you put a lot of work into writing. I couldn't do that. I just sort of make it up as I go along. But I actually liked that dialogue. What if you turned your novel into something like the characters discover that one of the weird metamagics of the world they live in is that they can "rewrite" the world they live in, which is why they're all so bewildered by the world they live in?

Go ahead and use that idea. If you get rich and famous, wave to me as your convoy of limousines passes by, and I'll say "I used to read that guy's blog" and my wife will never believe me, the way she doesn't believe me that Duke Coach Mike K. is my second cousin. But he is.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't give up completely. If Santa and the elves can live and work at the North pole, you can make this work! Wait, Santa's not real? Damn.

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

If I get to a point where an idea isn't going to work, I just pitch it on my mental compost pile. Eventually some of it winds up getting used in something else that maybe be just as bad.

Jay Noel said...

If you're writing in circles, you might want to take a break from it. Just don't discard it permanently. I've done that quite a bit, and in a fit of rage, I might add. I regret burning two manuscripts.

You never know, you might be able to use it elsewhere, or that aha! moment might strike when you least expect it.

Tonja said...

I have fun writing. It's kind of a let down when it's done. My nano novel is pretty much the same - I'm setting it aside and moving on.

The Golden Eagle said...

Gee, that sounds like my NaNoWriMo novel. :P

I'd agree with the other commenters--it might just need some room to stew for a bit.

M Pax said...

I find writing hard sometimes, too.

Letting things sit and stew for awhile is often very fruitful.

Put it down & work on something else. Usually that's when I get an AHA.

Andrew said...

Writing is hard work for me, too, but I (generally) have to know where I'm going before I get started. I think I tend toward what you're doing if I don't have a destination in mind. If I have a destination, the details fill themselves in.

Nancy said...

I'm telling you, you will like The Plot Whisperer. But just so you know, even your "bad" dialogue is funny. I can relate about writing. It is kind of like exercising. I know I will feel better after I do it but sometimes it is hard to get started.

Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

I also keep a mental compost pile (ala Grumpy's comment). What you don't use will find life in some other project.

Susan Gourley said...

PB and chocolate was a great discovery. And really, what is the blacksmith's secret?

boopia said...

Okay sensitive soul--love the blog and will follow you!
Chipotle is on "the strip"--on a corner with no parking but off hand I cannot remember exact location--near that popular book store though.
I will try to make something that suits your girlish figure at the next writer's meeting and have light beer.