There’s no two ways about it. Writing is an insane activity. Both when it’s working—and one walks along city streets in earnest, deep conversation with oneself, periodically stopping still to jot down notes—and when it’s not working (which involves more air-punching, sulking, frustration, etc, and yet one keeps getting up in the morning for it).
The other day I was complaining to another writerly type, and giving vent to my less than decorous feelings about my key villain. This villain still just isn’t working. I’ve had this problem with the villain the entire time. I’ve switched the villain’s goals, motivations, background—everything—precisely forty zillion and seventy three times.
But for some reason, the precise rude bent of my rant suddenly opened my eyes to the true nature of my villain. Oh—joys! It would require…a HUGE revamping of the novel, but…this might be it.
Now, villains are the context of a hero’s actions—both protagonists and antagonists are affected by external as well as internal pressures—and so this change has pulled with non-genteel abandon at my frayed plot threads. A new framework is rising, beam by beam, and it might even work.
This time I’m taking a different approach. I’m taking notes. I’m zoning into the plot and lingering in thought, pulling at the threads as they’re entwined with the beams, checking for weaknesses, checking for consistency. I’m not writing. I’m living with the options and recording them in my little notebook until I see it works. Then—the writing.
In a sense, I’m not so much planning as I am letting the waters fill up and calm around me, taking stock as they clear, to make sure they’re right, healthy…and then I’ll sit down and pour them into the manuscript.
I think this might actually work…
Writing is full of so many false-starts. You never know if you’re on a wild goose chase. All you can do is ride and learn. Patience, fortitude and stick-to-it-ivness. Because in some cases you reach a point of no returns—when no matter your effort, nothing’s working and even making one part better is really just procrastinating from the problems with the whole—and you just have to keep on keeping on. Beyond the point of no returns.
No second wind, no strain, no patience, no flexibility, no learning –> no improvement.
Writing novels, I conclude, is a hell only for the stubborn.
At any rate, I’m thinking of printing the manuscript so I can see all the spots I need to rewrite… But at the same time I can imagine that 400 pages is rather unwieldy…but I guess that’s the only option. When have you started effectively printing your work for similar reworking?