Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What I'm Writing: Boring Bits

I'm finally back on a more regular writing schedule, which has included work on two new short plays--one is funny and the other is absolute dreck (hard to know if it's salvageable).

I'm also finally back to writing my new novel. I'm sure that at every new step, I say, "the hardest part of writing a novel is _______" with the blank being filled in by whatever step I'm on at the moment. The current step is trying to undertake a second major rewrite, much bigger than the others. I've been at work on this project for two years, and I figure it'll take another year to complete. At the very beginning of an overhaul like this, I'm just peering down into the gaping abyss, thinking, "how am I going to get down this thing?"

The oft quoted line from Hitchcock is helping me: "Drama is just like life, with the boring bits cut out." I just did a quick skim of my manuscript and also put together a new chart showing the structure and timeline (yes, I do such things). It's pretty easy to see that I haven't done a very good job of getting rid of all the boring bits. I've got a draft with a good foundation for the characters, some interesting scenes and some good writing, and a lot of detail about what happens to these people. But as my readers (thank you) told me (pretty gently), it's just not gripping (possibly/probably not even engaging, which is a few steps down from gripping).

The good news is that I have an idea of how to fix this, because it's a project worth finishing. What makes this the hardest stage is that a good bit of it involves sitting around thinking, reading, rereading, and sitting or pacing, while trying to reframe things in my head, listening to new variations of old voices, trying to rewire my brain before I actually let my fingers loose to start typing. It's easy to feel modestly content when there are new pages being written every day, but sitting and daydreaming about the novel is harder than it looks. But, based on my limited experience, part of the trick to getting the novel finished (and finished well), is getting the train moving and then knowing the right moment to hop on for the ride.

Tthings are in motion. And I'm pretty close to being ready to jump.

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