Saturday, October 30, 2010

Letting it Flow

Most writers, after they have been writing for a while, get to know their own style.  Some writers edit as they go so by the time they are finished they have an almost perfect manuscript.  To me, these kind of writers belong in the same category as women who can just go into any clothing boutique, grab something off the rack and whoompa! they look like it was tailor made for them - in other words they blow my mind (and okay make me as jealous as hell)!  I wish I could shop like that, but even more so I wish I could write like that.

Then there are the writers who write a few chapters and then go back and tweak and twist here and there and then continue - going backwards and forwards and then they too end up with a nicely polished first draft.  These are the writers who grab things off the rack, add a belt and you've got instant smokin' outfit.

And then there are the writers who write like something possessed, the words gushing from them like a veritable fountain of verbosity and when they are finished, they go back and are more than likely surprised by some of the things they read.  You can often hear them murmur "Hey that's pretty good," or "Did I write that?" (which can either be a good thing or a bad thing), or "What the (insert expletive of choice)!!!!"

This is me.  I'm the kinda girl who has given up on doing anything more than window shopping in certain shops because I just know that nothing in there is going to fit like it's supposed to and I'm only going to come out empty handed with a insatiable craving for hot chips and chocolate  fudge ice cream.

I've described my writing process before as me watching a movie of my story in my head and I just write down whatever I 'see' happening.  I know writing is a craft and over the years I've learned sooooo much so I know that after the great release has occurred and my first draft is down, I then have to go back and add details, layer in the five senses, remove the stuff that is just filler-talk and *inhales sharply*......edit.  See all that other stuff, that's not editing to me, that's just process. it's almost instinctive.  You read it and that little voice in your head goes "Ahhhh.  No".  Editing is what I call the new bits of knowledge I have gathered recently.  And that's where I'm coming unstuck at the moment.

My current WIP is a lovely story.  A gushy-romantic-feel-good story (all in a good gushy romantic feel good sort of way).  Think Notting Hill.  If you like Notting Hill that is.  If you don't like Notting Hill then think of some other movie you like.  It's that nice.  And I was having a really great time writing it.....until *cue dramatic music* I started reading some blogs about the most common mistakes that new writers make.  You know the ones they preface by saying: "It's always easy to pick a new writer because they:...." and then they go on to list all these hideous sins that new writers make.

I've dreamt about those lists.  Woken in a sweat promising some faceless agent that I won't ever do numbers 2, 4 and 9 ever again.  They've tormented me at night and even picturing Hugh Jackman in and out of a tuxedo can't get them out of my mind.  I find every time I type the words: 'had', 'was' or 'felt' I cringe and then spend precious writing minutes trying to think of how I could say it without using those words and by the time I create something reasonable, I've lost my flow.  Editing as I go just doesn't work for me.  I stumble and stutter and the result is stiff and cold.

So, great fan that I am of giving myself permission to do things, I've given myself permission to write what comes naturally and for me that includes using 'had' and 'was' and 'yelled' and 'mumbled' and 'felt'.  And telling too much.  And not showing enough.  And ....oh the list goes on.  Forgive me father for I have sinned; it's been three pages since my last confession.....

And my self - great wise woman that she is - has given me (not quite) papal dispensation to collect all those rules and guidelines and tips and tricks and lay them down very neatly in a beautiful box lined with tissue paper and tuck it away under my desk until AFTER I have finished my first draft.  Then I'll drag it out and apply them liberally to my manuscript - transforming it from large interesting looking rock to brilliantly faceted so-sparkly-you-can't-look-directly-at-it diamond.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the fear of making mistakes that we cramp our own style.  We lose our flow.  We hobble ourselves and make writing a chore or worse still, a tool to chip away at our confidence as a writer.  How many times have I caught myself thinking: "I can't do this.  I keep writing all those things they say not to.  They'll label me as a newbie straight away."  I forget that no one is going to see my first draft except me, so I can make every mistake in the book and it's okay, as long as I have the knowledge to fix them before I submit. 

Writing is hard work.  Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  But you know what, I figure it's that 1%, that small part of art, not craft, that makes each book different.  That's voice.  That's style.  That's me.  And you can take courses, attend workshops, read 'How To' books until the cows come home, and you can learn all the craft stuff.  But that 1%, that's up to you, and for me: well, I just gotta let it flow.


Joanna St. James said...

I feel u let it flow there are loads of pple looking for unpublished writers, editors and agents who are interested in shaping and molding your career for u.
You know what I have learnt abt all these rules? its all just a bunch of hogwash, u just have to make what u have work for you, that is the genius of you.

Lacey Devlin said...

Ah yes the "rules". I tend to write a dirty draft and go back and fix my sins against the industry later because there's too many different things to keep in mind and they do get in the way of the story.

Nas Dean said...

About the "How to" craft books and workshops however, how essential are they?


Talei said...

I agree - its a LOT of hard work! Looking forward to the great big -'so-sparkly-you-can't-look-it-in-the-eye diamond' moment! ;)