Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Writing patterns

I write really good beginnings, I must admit. Understand I'm not bragging when I say this, because beginnings are about the only part of writing I'm really good at, ha. It's a rare project where I've actually needed to fiddle with the beginning too terribly much--in fact, I can only think of one project in which I actually changed the beginning substantially. That project is still on the shelf because I can't figure out what the hell to do with it. Happily, On a Twisted Tree's beginning is still very strong. Aside from some inconsistencies, I really didn't have to revise much in the first third of the novel.

Yes, beginnings are easy for me. Part of the reason is that a story sits in my head for a while before it ever comes out. I have to know what the first scene involves and even what the first few lines are before I can start. I try not to make that one of those lame writer crutches, but it kind of is. Even the novel that's still sitting on the shelf still bears the original opening lines. I think it's because I have to capture my own interest before I can capture anyone else's.

Another part of the reason that the first part of Tree in particular turned out well is a combination of half planning, half pantsing. I tend to plan a little before I start writing these days. In the first third, though, I pants quite a bit. One scene inspires another, one character inspires another, etc. Building up a project is easy, and in my typical projects, pretty successful much of the time.

And then I get to the middle, where I actually have to do something with all of those doors I've opened and all of the plot threads I've begun. I can start making connections, weaving the threads together, seeing what's behind the doors, cliche cliche cliche. The middle, though, usually takes anywhere from three to ten times as long as the beginning. I wrote the first 30,000 words of Tree in about a month, IIRC, between sometime in May and sometime in June. The middle took me until probably January. I get to that point where I'm like, "....Fuck, what do I do with this?" Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Here's the funny part. I write good beginnings. Middling middles. Disastrous endings. It's not that they lack in quality as far as writing or plotting goes. The plot is actually pretty tight in the ending of Tree, because I'd finally figured out where the hell I was going. And that's just the problem. Almost a year later, I'd figured out a number of things I didn't realize/didn't bother figuring out in the middle. I figured out at least half of the world building /character/plot loose ends in the last two weeks of writing Tree. The last 10,000 words or so. What results is a hot mess of exposition and development that should have happened a hundred pages ago. I had about a week of constant crisis writing that last 10k because I finally had to deal with some gigantic soul-swallowing plot holes. They were fairly simply resolved, but that means that, in the revision stage, I'm now doing an awful lot of cleaning up after myself in the middle.

I'm not really complaining. I write these blog posts because my own writing foibles amuse me in an ironic kind of way and I tend to write in hyperbole. I'm thankful for my analytical brain and my ability to solve my own problems. Er. At least as they relate to writing. Sometimes I wish I was more patient, though, so I could work this stuff out before I had about 70,000 words that look like a kaleidescope of scenes that I have to make into a real picture. But, in the words of a hypocrite who hates it when writers say this, that's not really how I work. So it's back to self-janitoring.


  1. One of my strengths and a potential pitfall in one is my obsessive attention to detail. I swear to god I had a line the other day like "it made him feel like a Russian tank commander in a 1940s comic book" and I had to look up the exact dates of the Soviet involvement in the conflict. I too figured out half my stuff in the first draft but at the same time a lot of it is solid and useable, and I have to remind myself of that as I revise.

  2. Ha, you should've asked. I did research about the Soviets in WWII for the Shadow Embers project. ;) That kind of stuff is how I end up in the neverending search for accurate details.