Friday, 9 January 2009

The Mirror Pool

As I tie up the first act (that's one third of the novel first-passed), and as we bounce upon the lacy bladder of a new year, I'd like to do a little reflection.
I still feel very much like a noob, and I still find myself learning what I feel are obscenely obvious things on a regular basis. But I'm learning more and more, too, that this feeling never goes away, and should not be prohibitive! So here are the most important lessons I've learned - and I mean properly learned such that I understand and apply them - during the course of the last 30,000 words or so:

1) Swelling the river. By tying everything into the protag's quest, I transformed my novel. The fat has been trimmed and everything leads somewhere. And with the fat trimmed, everything leads somewhere quicker! However, I could only realise this by looking at a bigger picture (woods and trees and all that).

2) Just write. I read so many comments on agents' blogs from writers who all, ultimately, express the same thought: I can do it. We know that's not true; it's very far removed from being true. Regardless, there's a world of difference between 'can' and 'do'.
I blog to keep a journal of my discoveries and it's useful to me to spit this stuff out of my head. But, in the years I've been writing, this is only the second time I've finished a first act. I've noodled here and there, and it's all been fun and all of it has been valuable. But none of that stuff has made a career.
I've upped my game and have found new mysterious pockets of time within which to write. And I'm no longer stopping to refine a chapter: it's straight on with the next. It's easy to see how, as the novel evolves, I'll need to go back and amend a few paragraphs here and there. But they can wait. I have another 60,000 words to write first. A daunting prospect, for sure, and it comes with no guarantees of success or even satisfaction, but in terms of carving out a career, it has to be preferable to the noodling.

3) The trouble with orgasms. Learning to temper exposition and fancy prose, and to get to the bloody point (indeed, to understand the point!), has made a world of difference to my writing. In revamping the structure to TC, I wrote out every scene on a card (I had no paper plates to hand) and circled those which were powerful and eventful. It was actually surprising to me to observe such a paltry gathering of circles. Goodbye to all those unnecessary protag musings; hello to conflict and strong emotional charges. (N.B. I observed that these circles occurred predominantly at the point where a subplot connects to the protag's quest [see Swelling the river].)

4) Understanding my abstract. What am I attempting to achieve? What do I enjoy about writing? Where do I want to take it? What are my strengths and weaknesses?
It's worth plotting a little roadmap.
It might be hard finding any comfort in all of this, but I can say that I feel better about what I am doing now than ever before, and that has to be of some value. And it helps to know that we're all in this together! Fools!

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