Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taking a different approach to writing.

I think what's bothering me about my new book, is that I don't feel fully engaged in it. Not like I used to be.

Some of this is the way I'm doing it in a measured, cold-blooded way. This was on purpose, to be effective. But I don't seem to have a lot of emotion in there. I mean, I wanted to tell a story with Star Axe, but I also had quite of bit of empathetic feelings in there. Snowcastles and Icetowers were light, but I still was reaching for symbolic level.

So...I'm not sure, but I want to imbue the second draft with a bit more feeling and drama. I really need to totally immerse myself in the book --- totally commit. Can I find the time to do that?

I think, if I wait until January and don't have interruptions for a good few months, I could maybe really go for it.

I'm not sure the story has enough meaning -- but then again, a story has the meaning I put into it. I need to think about that.

I think a lot of the "meaning" I had in the earlier books came from my drinking, at least to some extent. I'm much more emotional when I drink, and I think I'm confusing that emotion with what was actually being accomplished on paper.

I don't think there is more emotion in those earlier manuscripts, but the illusion. It was weighted with ambition and desire and feeling and wish fulfillment.

Whereas, this book is much more workmanlike. Like a puzzle. To see if I can do it.


My original motivation for writing, I think, was to recreate those wonderful moments in books where I was excited and emotionally fulfilled. LOTR's, for instance. Watership Down. The Once and Future King.

I'm well aware of how hard it is to actually accomplish that.

But that's my goal, my motivation.

Well, I probably had that ambition from the time I was 12 years old. I wanted to own a bookstore and be a writer.

But I couldn't get anywhere, until one night, when I was about 20 years old, when I found the key to getting started. I told myself:

"Tell A Story."

I had the basic ideas for Star Axe within one night of feverish thinking.

Actually being an effective writer, however, is a whole nother thing. It took me another 5 years of writing classes and workshops before I finished my first book.

The second and third books came relatively easy. The fourth and fifth books were duds. The sixth book, I remember trying to stretch my boundaries -- trying something new. And being put through my paces by the publishers and editors -- rewriting to their specifications. And my seventh book was written while Linda and I were getting together, so there was a rosy glow.

However, my work process was so all encompassing and intrusive, that I couldn't continue once I owned a business and had a family.

So when I decided after 25 years to write another book, I knew that I wanted to take a different approach. I wanted to be effective. It wouldn't do any good to burn myself out again, if I create a 25 year writer's block.

What went wrong the first time?

I think that I immersed myself a little too much in those first drafts, constantly writing and rewriting and changing. I was totally obsessive, compulsive. I can remember going with sleep or food, of being actually dizzy when I went out into the world.

Then, when I wrote the second drafts, I tried to be more workmanlike and structured. But by then, I was worn out. I just wanted my book to go out. I wasn't really willing to put that effort into it.

I couldn't work that way anymore. Nor was it -- in the end -- truly effective.

So I tried with this new book to take a new approach. To learn from past mistakes.

The start: "Write a Story." Still the most effective key to unlocking my creativity.

So that's what I've been doing. In a measured way. About a chapter every 2 weeks. Yes, I could do it faster, but I'm purposely doing it this way. When I was stuck at page 50, I went on a writing trip, and was able to write a bunch and figure out the plot. But then I went back to the measured writing.

No drinking. No compulsive days on end, dizzying writing sessions. No obsessive rewriting over small changes.

So now, as I approach the end of the first draft (two chapters!) I'm starting to look at what I'm going to do in my second draft.

I think I'm going to continue the more workmanlike method for the second draft. I have exposed most of my story to my writer's group, and they made comments and corrections, so I'm going to use those as my springboard. Concentrate on the outline, the consistency, the writing.

And then -- when I'm ready to write the third and final draft, I'm going to totally immerse myself compulsive obsessive like. Do it in a month. No distractions. Completely committed. Imbue it with all the depth and feeling I can.

So in a sense, I'm going about this in a completely backward way from the way I used to do it. The three steps are reversed, almost.

I have more patience now -- and I've come to realize that having great emotion and depth of feeling doesn't necessarily translate into effective writing, unless I do it right.


H. Bruce Miller said...

"I'm not sure the story has enough meaning -- but then again, a story has the meaning I put into it. I need to think about that."

The meaning and the passion have to come from the connection the story has to your own life, your own experiences and your own emotions. If it's just a story you make up about some people doing things that mean nothing to you it will be flat and sterile.

"I think a lot of the "meaning" I had in the earlier books came from my drinking, at least to some extent."

The alcohol might have relaxed your inhibitions and allowed you to access your emotions more easily. That's why some people cry when they get drunk and others get angry.

Duncan McGeary said...

Exactly. But that doesn't mean the emotion is tranferred to the page, necessarily.

And there is "meaning" in any story that gets written, or it probably doesn't get written.

I'm layering this book differently.

Duncan McGeary said...

I've always written the story I write. There isn't a qualitative choice, or a choice in subject (except not to start or finish) there is the story that comes out, done as well as I can do it.

So I'm not worried that the story will not have meaning and depth and emotion -- at least to me. But I'm worried about being effective as a writer, and that means changing my writing habits.

Duncan McGeary said...

It's as if I was a talented runner -- at least talented enough to be in a track meet.

So I go crazy in my training, wear myself out, break myself down, and by the time the race comes around I'm not as good as I should be.

Being smarter in my training (work habits) and saving it for the big game (the final draft) is sort of what I'm trying to do.

Anonymous said...

Smoke some pot boyz, your creativity will improve from zero to a little bit higher :)