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?”