I was going on a point in my last Thursday’s blog that I have never been afraid to throw out several chapters of a story that wasn’t working when I got sidetracked by another thought and went with it instead, but I wanted to come back to that.
I know Dean Wesley Smith would bite his tongue while thinking that I was a stupid writer if he heard me say that. He’d fix forward and not waste the words he’d written. Time is words written, and that is product being produced, which is something he can ship out the door. He’s not wrong. He’d tell me not to let my story be a “special snowflake,” to get it done and move on to the next story. He’s still not wrong.
I have been pondering this philosophy of mine and questioning if I am right or not, especially in seeing the publishing industry and its process in a new light. I looked at my goals and did the math on them to see how long it would take me to reach them (90 years at that time, 9 years if I committed myself now – both of those are scary numbers) and realized that I had to do something to speed up my process. Neither of those times were acceptable to me. I knew I’d have to break my thinking.
Where does trusting the artistic process meet the road of being a producing artist?
It feels like a fine line. One I’m having to rethink as I walk it.
Smith has this process he calls “looping.” He writes until he runs out of steam, then he loops back several chapters and takes another run at it. He fills in any holes that he might have created along the way. Once he reaches the end of the previous writing session, he keeps moving forward until he again runs out of steam. Then he repeats, maybe not going back as far as he did previously to start again. My own process is generally not too different, except that I may on occasion have to throw a whole section out because it’s just not right. I wish I could always know exactly what to write. Maybe he’d say that I’m only throwing things out because I let the critical voice tell my author voice that I’m doing it wrong. But if that were the case, then why do I feel better when I’ve moved forward in another direction. Usually, though not always, I do feel like throwing it out to go down another path was the correct choice.
Alas, maybe this isn’t something I’ll discover the answer to without writing another 10,000 words while pondering this question and experimenting while examining my own process. I’m sure I won’t figure it out after having just written one blog post about it. It’s definitely part of the journey. As my character, Ellis, would say, “What’s life without a little adventure sometimes?”
I’ve been following Dean Wesley Smith lately. I swear he’s the writer that I always imagined I would become. In seeing what he’s done, I find myself getting angry with myself (after a taste of jealousy) at having gotten off track. Where did I go so wrong?
Okay, I do know the answer to that. I let my dreams get derailed by a desire for a “normal” life as a wife and a mother. That put me in a bad situation, one where I had to enjoy the rat race while continuing my dreams on the sidelines. I just wish now that I could’ve pushed myself harder than I have over the last 20 year. I’ve been moseying. I haven’t been playing for keeps. Some of that time, I truly feel that the situation couldn’t be helped. I had life issues working against me. But, I still could have been doing more. I wasn’t fully committed. I was scared.
Now I’m more scared.
I realize after watching several of Dean’s videos and reading his books, I have to get my life back on track. I’m not a brilliant writer by any means, but I have stories inside me I want to tell and I am 20 years shorter on being able to get them all out. That’s scary.
It just means that I have to be more focused and productive. I have to write more. I have to be a better writer to make a cleaner draft. Yes, that means doing the work upfront, not afterward. A light edit, not a complete rewrite. I’ve never had any issues before of writing something then throwing it all out to completely rewrite it because the sequence of scenes wasn’t right or I got a better idea. I’ve always trusted the process and if my gut tells me something is wrong I throw it out and go back to when it last felt right and started again. You know, my life hasn’t felt right for some time but I hadn’t wanted to trust the process of life like I do the process of writing. But now I realize how vitally important that is. It’s scary to let go of something that you know. In a Les Brown speech I was recently listening to, he says that “known hells are preferable to strange heavens.” He’s so very right. Now comes the time when I have to throw out several years of my life to get it back on track. I have to commit to something new or I’m going to keep facing the same life I have now. I don’t like this draft I’m writing. I have to break my thinking. I have to go back to where it last felt right and start again.
I know that I don’t have to throw out all the scenes I’ve written, just the ones that aren’t working. It’s going to take commitment to fill in the gaps, but I’m ready. I can see how the Universe has positioned me for this when I thought I was struggling through hard times and looking for answers. I am exactly where I need to be. I’ve found exactly what I needed to find. Learned exactly what I needed to find. Manifested in my life exactly what I needed to have for moving forward. I’m ready.
Thanks to Dean Wesley Smith’s for his encouragement and example. I now know that not only can be done but that it works. I can do this. More importantly, I want it more than ever.
I’m ready to rewrite my life.
My attendance on this blog has been lacking. Okay, my attendance on all my blogs has been lacking. Even though I said on my other blog that I was going to get better about it. No, really, I want to be better at it.
I want to be better at a lot of things. My audiobooks have taken up a major percentage of my focus and time right now. I want great sounding audiobooks, so I’ve been working really hard at learning how to record, edit, and master great sounding audio. That’s even harder than it sounds. Especially when I keep finding problems in the hardware. Frustration and I are good friends now. Plus, I’ve been trying to update my ebook files (including correcting known issues in the files) so I can re-release them for wider distribution. I know that in today’s world it’s so easy to make corrections that it’s best to fix forward and I do believe in this “gardening and tending” philosophy. I know that nothing I ever do will be perfect (I’m not a perfectionist), but I start with as near as I can get and fix forward. I’m not sure how that will work with audiobooks, so that does scare me a bit, but we shall see what happens.
But another aspect of fixing forward is making sure you learn from your mistakes and doing your best to apply the knowledge next time. That’s always been my purpose here with betterwriterblog. I want to point out mistakes so that they can be avoided in the first draft. I don’t want anyone to get bogged down in editing so much that they never get around to releasing their stories. I also see now how this is my journey to be a better writer myself. I am in the process of teaching myself too. I think I’ll be tweaking my scope here to illustrate things I’m learning about being a writer as I make my journey. It’s not about the destination (whether that be a completed book or where you want to end up in life), it’s about the journey (how one continues to grow, even when that growth is painful). I hope that what I share helps you become a better writer too.