Friday, June 1, 2007

Slash and Burn

Writing is such a rollercoaster. One minute I'm in the depths of despair and the next I'm completely chuffed with myself.

Right now, I'm taking a huge dive, stomach in my throat as I jam the gear stick into first draft mode. Honestly, half the time I don't even know what I'm writing!!! Yes, I have the scene in my mind, but what comes out of my fingers is not the same. It's a jumbled version, clogged with too many conflicting thoughts, images, distractions... You name it, I've put it in there.

It's like my characters are screaming at me, 'Let us shine. We can be better than this!'

And they are better. They improve with fiddling and much, much shaving. More like slash and burn in my over-writing kind of style. I tend to do the same when I'm dressing to go out. I'm one of those people that gets ready, then has to take off 5 things.

It's hard to know what's going to work on the page - or not work - until I trial it. When it's there in black and white, it's easier to cut the crap. And there's a lot of it to cut. But even then it's a fine balancing act. Over the years, I've found that if I over-work my writing, it sucks the life out of it. What seems to work best is to throw down the first draft, get the emotions, sensual details and dialogue right, then stand back and work out what needs to be slashed and burned. After that, though, it's best not to agonise. There are many 'right' ways to say something, but I believe there are a lot of writers out there who think there's only one right way, and they fiddle and fiddle - for years, sometimes - to find that writing Utopia. Great if you find it, I suppose, but not that good in terms of creating, shaping, polishing... AND MOVING ON.


Valentina Acava Mmaka said...

Deraest Scribbly
I think you describe exactly what all writers feel. Actually what I can say is that writing needs time. Sometimes lot of time. Writing with a fixed deadline is quiet impossible, writing with the only aim to get published makes things harder.
For each story there's a right way to say something,this is sure.... and this right way can be found after 2 or even 10 different draftings. It is a good exercise to rewrite (not only correct) the chapters or the parts we feel don't sound good.
In my writing experience happened once or twice that I was stuck and fixed on a character who didn't allow me to carry on and finish. I thought was the perfect character to solve that complication I chose for my story, but I was wrong. After one year of rewritings and after letting the work "sleep" for few months, I read it and rewrote it again the whole work, that was the time I found what was stopping me, I changed the character and his role and found the rightest way to tell that story.... now I'm sure there could not be another way to write it.
Live your writing life with all the enthusiasm and always with the feeling that "writing is your life" like poet Rainer Maria Rilke said in one of his lovely diary: "if you wake up in the morning and you feel you cannot live without writing then follow your path".
Love Valentina

Lisa66 said...

Personally, I'm all for slash and burn! Bring it on, baby. (GC reference)

I think you're right - get it all out there on the page. Then start cutting back, sculpting, until it's perfect (or as close as you can get - because what is perfect anyway???)

In category fiction there are no words to spare - every one must count. The difficulty is in knowing which ones to keep.