I ended up this weekend able to scratch off one and a half of my goals…and one of those was SWTOR. You might ask if that’s a failure. Well, yes. Yes, it is. No way around it, but I’ll keep working at it. I wrote this weekend that it was hard to come back to this story, to writing in general, after being so long away. The major reason is because I am looking at this manuscript and seeing all the things that don’t work. I’m seeing dialogue and writing that is sloppy and wordy. I ramble too much and a lot of the times my dialogue is too stiff and has too much exposition.
My biggest concern is the pacing and I have struggled with all summer.
First the issue. The story is about an expedition. There’s a lot more going on, but that was the original point. Around July, when I finally had a beginning, middle, and end, I found myself on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I was trying to write at work and realized that the story’s journey doesn’t begin until two thirds of the way through the story. I was flabbergasted. How in the hell did I allow a story about a journey develop where the journey doesn’t begin until two thirds of the way through? Imagine if Frodo didn’t leave the Shire until Return of the King!
Amelia told me to put it all down and not worry about it. Instead I ran through my table of contents and how I could shift things around. What needed to stay, what could happen after the expedition began? In the end I swapped a lot around, swapped it back, deleted a chapter, deleted some scenes, moved a lot of exposition and realized that the second half of the story was so raw that additional writing would beef it up anyway. Most of this was a mistake as I just steamed ahead anyway. When you’re wife tells you to do something, do it, she’s always right.
Lesson here, don’t write in panic.
So how did this happen? I’ve already stated that the story developed over four years. Originally, it was going to start with my main character getting the offer, wrapping up his affairs, and taking off but those four years saw a lot of changes in my world, character, and plot. It was kind of like an old house that has been renovated and added onto time and time again. Unless a lot of effort goes into making it all blend than you don’t have one really big house, you have several rooms that just so happen to connect together. I think I have done a good job of blending blending them but the real issue is that the tone of the story has changed.
It’s a hard thing to see the issues in your story. It’s intimidating. Unfortunately, I let it intimidate me this weekend. I hear a lot of people say writing is hard. I was in a good enough place with it (ignorance) that I didn’t quite realize how hard it was. Having taken a break from the story and seen it’s state through fresh eyes, it may take more time to edit this and get it ready than I thought, but it’s also an opportunity to do more with the story, to make it better. And a lot will depend on what my feedback people say as well.
The biggest thing I’ve learned this summer about writing is that it’s a lot like sculpting (from the eyes of someone who has never sculpted). That is, you start with a big block of stone and the easy part is forming a general shape. That’s the initial phase of writing. It’s not pretty, it’s grunt work. Just making sure you have a beginning, middle, and an end. The hard part, the part that separates the Michelangelos from the…well, me, is the fine detail work that makes the material look like a living thing. I’ve scraped off all the chaff and convinced myself that it looked like a person only to come back later and realize it’s an ugly rock.
Now the real work begins.