Sunday, 25 September 2011

Metaphorical Page Ripping is Fun

This won't be a long blog post, as I'm taking a short break from my book at the moment, after working on it basically every day this holiday, and writing about 100 pages. (yay!).

I should be back writing in a few days, once I've moved into my university house and have found the perfect writing spot. At the moment I'm hovering about in the conservatory of my house whenever I feel like putting pen to paper to keys to netbook without the pen and paper part. Although it is quite annoying when it rains. Fortunately the chapter I'm writing now takes place on a very rainy day, so really it's all atmospheric.

Where was I?

Ah yes! Given that my last two posts were on revision, I wanted to stir things up. Be crazy for once. Radical man. So today I'm going to talk about the joy of ripping up entire chapters.

Well not ripping, unless you have a very thin laptop and super strength. Or write by hand. Crazy person.

But sometimes revision can't help. "Can't help? What do you mean? Stop destroying my belief system!" Sorry Mr. Voice, but it's true. Occasionally you will write something so terrible, so disgusting, so filled with bad language and terrible pacing that you just have to get rid. These times are obvious. When you are writing in a rush you tend to write bad, or I do at least. If you super speed write because a chapter is exciting, or you just want to get through it, it shows. Think of writing a book like doing a painting. And not a two blobs on a page modern art type thing, no no no! A proper painting. (Me + lazy art = urgh). Someone might glance at it and go 'ooo, that looks nice' and then look away again. But that doesn't mean you should rush by the details. It wouldn't have come together as a beautiful work if those details weren't there, even if not everyone really notices them.

Damn metaphors, getting me all distracted.

So as I say, it's pretty obvious when something just doesn't read well at all and you know you would be better just to start again. What isn't so easy is those times when you write something, and it is good, but it isn't right.

Yeah, we're going deep here. Right to the bottom of the ocean and then some more.

I started a new chapter a week and a bit ago, before I decided to have a break. I think I did about 5 pages, and whilst it was clearly not polished (none of my first drafts ever are) it could easily have been shaped into something good. In fact there were a few lines in there that I was like 'ooo, I wrote that? Nice!' And I'd even go so far to say that if I had carried it on, it would have worked. But it just didn't feel quite right.

The chapter before was all serious. It was two important people talking about important things. One specific important thing actually, and I think enough was said about it for the reader to get that this is an important thing. Thing. So then I sit down to write my next chapter, and guess what! It's those two important people, with the main character added as well, talking about this important thing. Now the real drama of this chapter would be something that happens at the end of their talk, but to get there you need to trudge through all the regurgitated information from the previous chapter. It not only felt boring, but it felt like I was going to the reader "Oi! You! Reader! This is important! Remember that thing from the last chapter! Yeah! It's really important  Don't forget that! Don't forget that it's important! Did you forget? Well I better tell you again then!"

So I just skipped to the drama. I know, crazy aren't I. But it felt so much better when I did. It was to the point, it started the chapter in a cool way, and it will save a few pages on a book that is turning out to be a lot bigger than I had thought. (1000 pages is starting to seem more plausible than 600...).

I think sometimes I worry too much about chapter structure. I always feel like I need to have a sort of exposition at the start, something to gently lead the reader into the chapter. I suppose this was important in the earlier chapters. The reader was meeting this characters for the first time, and they needed to be shown during some of the down time so that they seem human, rather than someone who is only there when plot related stuff is going on. But now I'm not really at the start any more. I'm 150 in. If I was a reader, I would be invested here. I would have up until now been reading what is an unusually long beginning to a book, and I'm ready for something a little more chewy.

If something you're writing has potential, keep writing it. If it feels right in the story, and you don't think you could do it any better, keep writing it. But don't be afraid just to rip up some pages, albeit metaphorically if you're me. It's sort of like in relationships. Writing a novel to me is a bit like finding 'the one'. There's no point staying on something this isn't right just so it's there. If you are committed to finding that person/book/person book hybrid, then don't accept any less. You might even find something better than you thought that surprises you!

Luckily for me my first book idea turned out to be 'the one', and my first girlfriend did too. : )


Although I did kiss my neighbour when I was in primary school.


And I did have that book idea about the magic orb that kills people when they touch it.


We don't talk about those things.



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