Wednesday, January 2, 2013
KEVIN B PARSONS
Have you ever gotten stuck in your novel? Your protagonist has overcome numerous setbacks, but then the story just seems to fall flat. You stare at the screen, go for a brisk walk, check your notes from the last conference... and hang there, your hands poised over the keys, and... nothing.
Time to write some crap.
Go ahead! Just go with it. With modern computers, it's no problem to cut, paste or even (shudder) delete. I know, you love those words. You've slaved over them, those lovely tidbits of prose that your readers simply must read. Chop, chop.
Take your character to the edge of a cliff. Oh, go ahead and push him off. What does he think about during his last moments? It never has to be a part of your book, but you could learn about what makes him tick.
Get her arrested. Shoot him in the leg, or go ahead and stick him in a coma. Who knows? You may stumble onto something. Take comfort that the words you write don't necessarily need to be read by anyone- ever.
Think about football players. In practice and scrimmages, they run plays without pads, doing their patterns at half speed. Those guys are no good. Not so, they're just practicing. Why not practice yourself? Forget about the word count, take your protagonist on a hike and interview him. Or visit her in the hospital. Talk to her sister, who isn't even in your story, but has a great perspective of her. Take your antagonist to a bar and get him drunk; listen to what he has to say about your protagonist. What if he has very reasonable perspective on why he hates him? Now you've developed some great tension.
Change up the story. Your protagonist is supposed to trip up the guy who's bent on stealing his girl. Let the guy win. Write a different ending. You may come across something better. If not, highlight, delete. Go ahead, be brave.
We could learn from Hollywood. They shoot hours of film and turn it over to a heartless editor who slashes it up and leaves bunches of very expensive scenes on the floor. What about you? Your tome is supposed to be 85,000 words. Write 100,000, then go back through and tighten it up. Ask your critique partner what should get the axe. Now the book moves at a better pace for your readers, those people with the attention span of an amoeba.
I struggle with love scenes. Killing, maiming, chasing, sure- but a guy slobbering over the girl he met at the supermarket? Not so good. So I read romances, then write. And rewrite. Good writing is good rewriting. Do you limit your rewriting to once or twice?
Still frightened of the delete button? Save your story, copy it, rename it and take it in a different direction; write without worrying whether it will sell or not. Write for yourself.
Perhaps through all your chaos a better story may appear through the fog.