Some good news last night regarding my current rewriting project:
— Amanda C. (@Mandaray) April 14, 2014
Yay! Ten down, twenty-eight to go. ^_^;;
That sounds like a lot, but actually it isn’t. Even though my progress has been a bit slow since I started this project, that has largely been due to my own procrastination, as well as several other projects taking my time and attention. (See also: The weather has been FANTASTIC here in Knoxville lately, so I decided to start a garden. Anyone who’s ever tried their hand at gardening–no matter how casual–will know how much time/energy that takes) So even though the hard numbers might sound a bit daunting, I’m extremely confident and happy that things are going well. Despite breaking a much-lauded writing rule with this project, I continue to feel it was absolutely the right decision, and I regret nothing.
Yesterday, I spent a bit of time looking back on what caused me to break this rule in the first place. Those who read the original post will already know that this happened because I got badly off-track with my plot, writing myself into several corners that I just couldn’t seem to get out of. It pretty much killed all enthusiasm I had for this novel, which was a shame because my outline was perfect and I never should have deviated from it.
But what I realized is that said deviation didn’t happen slowly, or even deliberately. In fact, it almost happened for a second time while I was rewriting Chapter 8. I got off on a tangent and my fast fingers took off, skittering over the keys and pumping out nearly 1,000 words before I realized what I’d done. I had to go back and carefully prune what I’d written to keep it in line with what I wanted, because as soon as I looked at it, I realized that if I followed this tangent it would ruin the sequence of upcoming events in a way that would have me firmly back in Square One. It was an easy fix, but if I hadn’t caught on to it right away, it might have ended up being a lot more difficult.
As I pondered this event, it occurred to me that I do this a lot. I’m an incredibly fast typer–I think I clocked myself at 90 wpm once–despite never being formally trained. I can pump out a 6,000 word narrative in about two hours if I know what I want to say, or I’m under the gaze of a timer. (Word sprints are my jam… particularly when I’ve had a lot of caffeine. >.>) Now, whether or not those 6,000 words are any good is another matter entirely. But since I pretty much learned how to write from participating in year after year of NaNoWriMo, (and listening to a lot of podcasts) it’s become my habit to follow those tangents, pump out the words no matter what they’re like. This feels great at the time…but afterwards, it’s more like getting into a sports car, assuming an incredibly fast speed, and plowing straight into a snowdrift made up of my own imaginings.
And it’s a tough balance, too, because sometimes those tangents are wonderful. Many writers, myself included, have had that moment of “Wow! Did I just write that?” when something unexpected comes out of our fingertips. Maybe a character goes off and does something we weren’t expecting, or our subconscious selves patch a particularly glaring Plot Hole without us even realizing that we’ve got the sticking plaster in our hands. Obviously, I don’t want to slam down the gates and forbid myself from ever doing this. BUT, it’s also not a good idea to get into sports cars and plow into snowdrifts. It’s bad for the paint job, the insurance, and Future You who is going to have to edit all of this shit at some point. (That is, of course, assuming that you don’t end up like me, and write yourself into awful corners before you even get to editing.)
I mentioned NaNoWriMo earlier, and I’d like to mention them again to say that they’re a big reason why I’m the writer I am today. But I also learned some bad habits from them. Don’t take this as me bashing NaNo. (And none of that in the comments, either! I know how some folks feel about NaNo, but do me a favor and just cool your jets) I don’t regret a single moment of my time spent participating in NaNo, not at all. They were reckless, they were fun, and the friendships I formed (or strengthened) were precious to me back then. And like I said, I probably never would have kept writing had it not been for NaNo. My dad, in his desperate efforts to mold me into a “successful” author when I was younger, would have pretty much squeezed every last drop of joy out of the writing process. NaNo helped restore that for me, and I’m eternally grateful. But they definitely taught me a few things I need to unlearn now that I’m having trouble.
And, hey! For some folks, writing with reckless abandon might be something that works really, really well for them. (Go for it!) For me, it’s dangerous. Maybe it’s because I write too fast, or my imagination likes to go off on too many tangents. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s something that I’ll be able to control more effectively with practice. But for now, I think it’s time to rein myself in a bit. And in the meantime, this situation seemed like a good opportunity to talk about how the writing process can change for a person, and how that’s not a bad thing! :) It’s also a good reminder to examine your writing habits from time to time, and make sure they still work for you. And hey, if something isn’t broken–don’t fix it! Writing is a very subjective process with a very objective goal. It doesn’t really matter how you get there, as long as you do.