Saturday, February 15, 2014

Writing. Chapter 2.


I’m happy to say that soon after my last blog post, I finished my story plan, and started writing my novel. Named it Saviour.

I spent the last 47 days working on that thing, and in that time wrote 11 chapters, 42,251 words, 234,482 tikky-takky keyboard characters (a lot more considering all the backspacing I did). Still, it wasn’t finished. Very far from it.

There are some sections I am very proud of, some I hate. There were moments of pleasure when I came up with a clever description, or threw in something devious and fun that gave my juice to work with, and one part where the words got me so emotional that I cried for my protagonist.

But the amount of work involved… So huuuuuge. My story plan was so big, and I didn’t understand the amount of word-work that would translate into when it came to writing. Such a monstrous endeavour. Barring extensive rewriting and replanning, it would probably amount to a trilogy’s worth of content. And its acts wouldn’t work that way.

The stress was relative to its size. The pressure, often crippling.

Creating worlds, religions, characters. I had to do so much research. Medieval farming methods, practice of taoism and managing its paradoxes, ye olde type clothing, materials, occupations, farming, blacksmithing, hunting, etc etc.

And every decision needed to be the right one, because it’s all well and good to say it’s a first draft and nothing should be set in stone, but if I design something in some way, and in 20 chapters’ time it conflicts with a crucial event, the amount of rewriting that would require is terrifying. I’m back at uni soon. Getting a job after that. Impossible.

And even as I wrote it, I knew that I was good, but not good enough. Not publishable good enough. Editing usually fixes that, but that would take longer than writing the thing, and writing it was going to take me an eternity of hellish stress on its own.

Last night, I came to the conclusion that I can’t do this story any more.

Last night I knew it was time to give this one up, put it on the shelf and let it gather dust.

And last night, I started something new. Not even intending it to be a story. Just took a random idea from a random place and ran with it.

No purpose. No stress.

Just writing, letting my mind take me wherever it wanted to take me.

No second-guessing.

No pressure.

And it was the best fucking thing I’ve ever written.

Rough around the edges, sure. But it was a pleasure to write, and a pleasure to read. That’s what writing should be, that’s what it needs to be, for me, if it’s going to survive while I have other commitments taking up my time.

As if I’m going to want to sit down in my spare time and face a page of words that make me despise myself (because I’m not good enough to do the grand ideas in my head justice) and fret about the gargantuan amount of shit I'll have to do in the future to fix it up, when I’m already stressed about exams and essays and lab reports/work?

I’m not hating on myself. I am an amateur writer, after all. Of course I’m not able to write a huge novel from the get-go. That’s a huge undertaking even for a pro.

I am fully at peace with this. I don’t regret the work that I put into Saviour. If nothing else, it served as a furnace for tempering my craft. I learnt so much about structure and grammar during this, critically reading to find out how authors I respected found ways around the problems that I was facing, and incorporating that into my own work. I learnt skills about how to give subtle, unobtrusive back-story, incidental character description to avoid boring chunks, practiced finding the right words to give a sentence the impact that I desired.

It made me a far better writer than I was before, and that’s exactly what I should be focused on right now.

I needed to take the wrong path before I could figure out what the right one was.

Right now, that's Scumbag. I've taken a vastly different approach to storytelling than I did for Saviour. First-person rather than third-person subjective, present tense rather than past. It’s got swearing, attitude, a despicable protagonist. Lets me be more emotive, more exciting.

So with Saviour set aside, I approach the future more optimistically, and much more excitedly. I’m going to write want I want to write, whatever that is. If this new story doesn’t work out, and I'm not even aiming for it to be a story, I’ll set it aside too, and start anew with another random idea, because being a writer is my dream, and I know I'll never give up. 

It'll be much easier to keep this kind of thing up while I have other commitments, and really, that's all that I'm worried about for now.

5 comments:

naturgesetz said...

My first reaction was being sorry that you decided to stop writing Saviour, but then I realized that you were making a sensible decision, given everything you said about it. Certainly it's good to learn all you have about writing.

While the piece you posted is not my personal cup of tea, short stories, where you don't try to create a whole universe, seem like a good choice at this point.

Maybe at some point you'l want to do a smaller-scale novel set in contemporary Australia.

Mirrorboy said...

Thanks! Yeah, right now I just want to focus on honing my skills.
And finding my writer's voice, as it were.

Jay M. said...

Even if you've shelved Saviour, it will still be there if or when you wish to come back to it. I honestly doubt that any writer, professional or amateur, gets it all right the first time through. I know how much passion and effort and dedication and pure love you put into this story, and it may very well set the path for your writing forever. I don't think you should consider this an abandonment as much as it was a wonderful first step into the world of creative writing. And finishing uni, finding a "real job" and everything else that happens does not mean that you shouldn't have pursuits outside your making of a living, your relationship with Reece, etc., and writing - be it short stories, short novels, or epics on a grand scale have to take a back seat.

I remember the pics of all the outlines, etc. for Saviour and I was astounded. It never entered my mind that all of that went into an endeavour like that. Now I have to wonder how authors like J.R.R. Tolkein and others wrote their massive works. (Well, with JRRT, there is the Silmarillion).

Watching you grow has been such a bright spot in my life. I'm so happy to have been on this journey with you, especially now that you are so close to where you want to be!

Peace <3
Jay

Mirrorboy said...

Thank you so much Jay. You've captured a lot of my own thoughts in your first paragraph.

You're right about the amount of work involved. I filled two notebooks with character/region/religion descriptions, plot ideas, etc etc, and still had a lot left to sort out.

Moving forward though, I think it's better if I spend a lot less time planning and more time writing. Less time working out the meat and muscle and more time making sure I have a great skeleton to work with (inciting incident, solid escalation and conflict, climactic conclusion). The basics, you know, then letting my heart fill in the rest rather than my brain.

Also, thank you for your continued interest in what I do. I'm passionate about it, but few people seem to care. It means a lot to me. <3

Jay M. said...

MB,
I'll be here for you forever. You can count on that.

Planning in writing seems to be a requirement. But free thought also works, depending on the piece you want to write. But yes, what you say makes perfect sense. I guess you've had good teachers!

I will always be interested in your writing. I do care.

Peace <3
Jay