2004-10-15

What's That Thing About All The Little Wor(l)ds On The Head Of A Pin?

This has been one of those weeks where you can't help thinking that sometimes, writing a novel is like taking the SAT:

Your first guess is (often) right.

I say this from the perspective of a writer who has no fear of revising her work. I have never been a "dash it off and it's done" sort of person. This novel, for instance, is in its EIGHTH start-to-finish draft. And each draft I write is so unrecognizable from the last that it would be impossible for anyone but me to know that the novel I started writing in 1998 has any relationship to the one I am writing now. (All but the two main characters have changed. All but the central plot line is completely different, and even the central plot line has changed to a great degree. But nonetheless, THAT novel and THIS are the same.)

However, just because I have no fear of revising doesn't mean I have no PROBLEM with it. I have a huge problem: I see too many fixes. And because I see too many fixes, I write too many fixes, which means for every START-TO-FINISH draft, I have two or three FALSE-START drafts, which usually progress about three chapters into the mss before I talk myself into starting over. I have about FIFTY attempts at each of the first three chapters at this point, and even this current draft has about six different approaches to CHAPTER THREE.

But I have decided that this is my final attempt at a START-TO-FINISH draft of this novel. There will be no going back. I have now written a new CHAPTER ONE (previously PROLOGUE) and a new CHAPTER TWO. Here, then, I have been at CHAPTER THREE these last few days. My original intent was just to strengthen the CHAPTER THREE I drafted on my last FALSE-START pass at this book, because I liked that CHAPTER THREE BEST.

That is, until I decided it was time to re-do CHAPTER THREE, at which point I decided it was all wrong and spent most of yesterday panicking that I was lost again.

So Husband smartly said, pack it in, you've spent 3 hours worrying over this problem and you're worrying in crazy-making circles. Go to a movie. So I did, and I returned to the office today having decided to rework the CHAPTER THREE I already had. Meaning, not only was yesterday's worrying silly, but so was ALL of the work I did Wednesday. I mean, how boring was THAT?

So today I sat down to rework the original-this-draft-ish-Chapter-Three. I spent 90 minutes writing a scene for the middle of the chapter that doesn't belong there. I took it out. I re-read the chapter without the new scene. I pretty much worked already, I decided.

Because sometimes writing is like the SAT, and your first guess works.

Though I have a horrible feeling that this rule may not hold true for my earlier draft of Chapter Four, which I think actually really sucks, not just sort of.

But I am going to try to let go of this worry for now and turn my agonizing little brain to the new ending for "Dirty Diane," which I still for the life of me can't come up with. What the hell does she do if not run them all SPLAT into a schoolbus?

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