Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Isn't Always "Writing"

I've reached a point in my revision where I must stop and let my characters reveal the story to me before I jump into the next revision.

Confession: Patience is not one of my higher virtues. I must be forced by circumstances to be patient.

The circumstances I face are:

A) Guests coming in for a week. I am very excited about the family visit. I can't wait to see my brother, my SIL and my niece. We have a lot of fun things planned. This is their first visit to the Southeast. I want to make it a memorable one. This also means not writing a lot.

B) Battling the VA again regarding my FIL's insurance claims. That's phone calls and waiting and phone calls and waiting and ... lots of time finding the right person to help us help my FIL. He's dying of cancer, his wife is focused on him, and we are fighting for his rights. That's called real life. Sometimes real life has to come first.

C) Waiting for responses from my CPs regarding my story sketch. I spent a great deal of time interviewing my characters. My heroine has come out and I KNOW her story. Other characters have revealed themselves. I've got oodles written in backstory regarding the history of why my heroine is where she is and why she wants to stay. I KNOW her inside and out. My hero? Oh, he's being cagey. There's a hole because I had to eliminate so many elements of his backstory to even out the tone of the story. And that leaves me questioning why he's back home--it's not just to stop his mom from making, in his mind, a monumental mistake. But he's not fessing up. That means going to the Villain and asking him. I need to interview him and see what he knows.

D) Researching and brainstorming ideas in general. Looking up information about the laws in my state regarding the subject matter. This takes time.

So writing is not always about getting the story revised. Writing is about breaking down the elements and thinking/muddling/talking about the story. I've sat down in front of the computer three times now. I've written a first draft and two revisions. I've entered contests and received feedback regarding the storyline and the characters. I've been critiqued by a published author and learned more about why my middle is sagging at a workshop. All of these elements, the lessons I've learned, the positive and constructive feedback I've received are gelling in my mind and forcing me to seriously evaluate where the story is going before I sit down to revise it again.

The only problem with this stage of the revision is that inspiration strikes at odd times. I'm not always focused on the real world tasks because one of my characters pipes up and prods me with their information. I have to write this information down quickly or I might lose it. I'm living in two worlds: my fictional world and my real world. And they collide on occasion.

The good news is I believe this dual life is helping me shake out the story elements. I'm not feeling pressured to know all the answers this week. I just want to let the characters reveal themselves to me while I clean the kitty litter, shop for groceries for my company, do laundry, exercise, set up the guest room and make my phone calls.

This is all good. I am glad I am forced to be patient. I'll be released to write soon enough.

What do you do between revisions? How do you approach your story problems?


Jody Hedlund said...

You're right. There are so many different aspects to the writing life: self-editing, planning for the next book, social networking, reading, learning, etc. I use that time between novels to plan my next one and read writing craft books and read in my genre. All of it is part of the "job." :-)

Christine said...

Jody, I had to stop and slow down for the next revision. I think there is a balance that one has to achieve when writing, especially if not published yet. I also whip out the craft books between projects and between revisions. They stir new ideas. Reading in my genre also stirs the pot and helps me generate more ideas.

Great "job" to be able to do what I love: read and learn about writing and then write, too.

JustineDell said...

You mean there's actually time between revisions? Gasp! I've never found it. I've always got something work on. Either the current WIP, the one in the editing phase, or the five in my head that won't be quiet. LoL. Down time is not a word in my dictionary. I suddenly wish is was, though. ;-)


Christine said...

Hi Justine: I think you're doing what I am doing, but not realizing it. By "time" between revisions, I mean I am not sitting and actively editing/revising. To me, revising is totally banging hour after hour on my laptop keyboard. Time between revising is researching information for the next book, brainstorming plot problems, writing story sketches to resolve plot problems, interviewing characters and clarifying their GMC, and reading craft books as well as reading books in my genre.

I also have a book to edit lightly in order to get it ready to query a different publisher with different publishing guidelines. I have to change some of my "words" to meet their heat index. Any rate, no point in doing that till I clarify my current storyline. And I have this company coming so I'm forced to "break" from my usual heavy workload.

I hope you get a little down time--if only to refill your creative well so you can write those stories in your head :-)
I don't think there really is "down" time. But how we approach our writing is a unique process. I do feel I need a "break" between projects to refill my well.

Christine Danek said...

I'm revising now and my chapter 1 is the issue. I'm letting it stew a bit before I go back to it. I think I will just move on with the revisions. I'm also furthering my knowledge of the craft by reading lots of books. Both for pleasure and for self help.
There seem to be many hats to wear in the writing world.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I usually take a purposeful break before doing revisions. In that time, I might review some writing notes or just read for pleasure. Usually by that time I'll have an idea of what to work on first when i go back to it.

Christine said...

Christine D: I like to stew a lot when I am in between revisions. I need to let the ideas gel and percolate and then move on. I just looked at my character worksheets from BREAK INTO FICTION and I hope they stir my stewing pot.

Good luck with Chapter 1! I know it is the most important chapter for setting up the book. You can do it!

Christine said...

Jennifer: I think the purposeful break is a great idea. And mine is not much different. I can tell I am ready to really hit the revisions hard when I am getting miffed about not having time to write at all.

I've gotten back into reading a lot of books in my genre during the "breaks." They feed my writing soul.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I'm still working through my plot revisions, and meanwhile, reading craft and fun books for inspiration. I've been taking lots of notes, and I'm about ready to start working on it again. Good luck with your "time off". ;-)

Christine said...

Hi Gwen: I know what you mean about itching to start again. I am still interviewing my characters and playing around with some writing templates alongside the next interview. I hope to hit the ground hard and fast come the 5th, but I know there will be a lot on my plate as well--looks like Darling Hero is going to TX to do see my FIL and assess the current situation. Sigh. The good news is that I'll have less work to family wise as my Darling Daughter is very low maintenance food and cooking wise :-)

Martha W. said...

Hey Christine!

Sometimes you just gotta step away and let your mind process what is going on in the background. At least I do. The fastest way to get over a hump for me (whether that is the next round of edits or a character that won't fess up or that "right word" just won't pop into my head) is to do something else.

I think you've posted about that before. So this week with your family (yea!) will be great on sooo many levels!

Good Luck with VA & FIL... I'm always thinking about you guys.

Christine said...

Thanks Martha, I am letting the thoughts gel and glad I have some time to chillax before I hit the writing trail again.

And sometimes I do wonder why I do it at all. But I do....

Patricia Stoltey said...

You really have your hands full, so I think you have plenty to do between revisions.

As soon as I get a few other tasks caught up (because I just had family visit for more than two weeks), I'm back at my next round of revisions. How do I approach story problems? Highlight, delete, rewrite!

Christine said...

Hi Patricia: I think Highlight Delete and Rewrite are about where I'm at with this revision. I have another 20,000 written for my characters and their backstories. Now I have to go into the story and do exactly what you said (I think I am glad I have company cause I don't like cutting my words LOL).

Good luck with those revisions!