days go by so slow, so fast
and they’re all the same
I was hoping to have a hilarious story to blog about today, but so far, nothing. The dog Houdini’d his way out of the backyard yesterday, but he promptly went and sat on the front porch, so that was good. But not hilarious.
I smashed my baby toe on the ottoman. Not hilarious.
I started reading Atonement by Ian McEwan and then I stopped. Not hilarious.
The wee-er one spat applesauce onto my glasses. Not hilarious.
And as far as everything else… well… I can’t do anything else because I’m stymied as far as writing goes. I thought I had this fantastic idea for a new book and I sent the first 55 pages to my agent. He was not impressed and I think his comments are right on target. My problem lately (well, forever) seems to be that writing dialogue is fun and easy, whereas developing a unique plot might as well require the ability to invent, create and detonate a fission bomb.
Part of the problem seems to be that I’ve been trying to map out my books before writing them. This gives me a rough idea of the beginning middle and end, but it has a horrible stalling effect. I need to stop doing it. I need to just write and see where the story takes me. That’s what I’ve typically done and it works very well. I end up having to do about 40,000 revisions and the end product is about as far from the original as possible, but the end product often doesn’t suck.
I guess I’ve been trying to shorten the cycle. Reasonably, you’d think that getting a good idea of your story and character before writing would help you write a better story. But for me it takes all of the fun and mystery out of it.
Typically, as I write, my characters tell me where the story goes. They do things that I would never have predicted or imagined. And so I’m forced to write down their antics, and the story just builds from there. I know this is how I work. I know it. And knowing this, I should also realize that showing people the first 55 pages of something isn’t a good idea, because the story isn’t alive yet. I’m still finding my way, figuring out who’s who and what they’re trying to do.
I frustrate myself because I don’t want to work this way. I want to plot and outline and create character studies. But when I do that I can’t actually write the book. The story seems finished before it even begins.
So now I’m stuck with 55 pages of… what? Somewhat entertaining dialogue? A story that’s playing out like a million other stories everyone has read? I don’t know. But I need to do something about it. Either trash it and start over, or keep barreling ahead and trusting my characters to sort everything out. Moping about it isn’t helping. Though the moping has made me take a step back and so I’ve started reading Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job. It’s a great book – funny, weird, surprising – about a single dad raising his infant daughter and struggling under the pressure of finding out he’s just become a dude who has to retrieve souls from the dead and pass the souls off to other people who need them.
I need to go now and write without thinking. That’s the trick. I talk all the time without thinking first, you’d think writing that way would be easy.