Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Driving in the dark

I'm hoping to use the next two months before my course starts to finish a very rough draft of my current novel. I've been trying a new strategy for this novel. I write a scene or two every week. I don't revise, I don't rewrite. If I see an error, I make a note to correct it later in green. It's a funny way to write. I'll decide two scenes later to change a character's hair color or name, but I don't go back and fix the previous scenes. Or more major changes, I've changed the setting, then changed it back, all without rewriting.

The goal is to figure out the story, let the characters tell it to me, before I obsess with emotional consistency, transitions, sentence-level corrections, etc. and become afraid to change the bigger picture because the smaller picture is so perfect and lovely. Is it working? No idea, but for the most part I have been happily writing away, content until I meet with my critique groups (one in Bristol, one in Chicago) and am embarrassed to share anything.

Except this past week I have reached the climax. And you know how everything is supposed to come together in the climax, reach the ultimate moment of truth, answer the novel's big question? Well, that gets a bit tricky when I'm still not sure what the setting is. Honest, I keep changing my mind.

Monday I thought I had it all figured out. Today I wrote one and a half great scenes. However, at the end of that half, I realized I was going in the complete wrong direction and needed to start all over. It seems such a waste, but at least I can comfort myself in knowing I didn't spend a month working on those one and a half scenes.

It's like that great writer's quote from E L Doctorow, "Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights let you, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Much like life, I suppose. Terrifying and thrilling, sometimes at the same time, and I just pray that I'll end up somewhere worth driving to.

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