I have not written any of Tallulah since Christmas Eve. And to be perfectly honesty, I’m okay with this.
Once I had that big revelation thingy about how much importance I put on the finishing of this draft by the end of the year, it occurred to me that I actually wasn’t that fussed about reaching the deadline, because the deadline no longer existed. And while this lessening of pressure has de-motivated me, it’s also given me time to recalibrate and have the myriad elements of the story that have yet to fall into place to gently slosh around in my mind without having to freak out about it – so once I get back to writing I’ll have a renewed perspective and probably blitz through it.
There is a lot yet to happen, and that’s the main thing I’m realising; not in terms of key moments, because there are like three of those left and I know what they are, but as always it’s the little things that matter, and it’s always the bridging process that trips me up – yes, you can just write the key moments by themselves, but then you’re not exploring anything, and if you don’t explore, your story won’t grow. and also it won’t feel like a story, because it’ll just be a bunch of stuff happening in a relatively arbitrary sequence. it is the prospect of this bridging act that is freaking me out the most, so while I’m taking the thought-sloshing that comes as a result as a positive, not knowing what I’m going to end up writing in order to link these scenes together – because I never know, because I honestly don’t have any clue what should be done – that is really hard to get past.
and this is really what keeps me from writing most of the time; it’s not that I don’t know ‘what happens next’, it’s that I don’t know ‘how to get there’, and it’s actually what leads to me writing as much filler as I do. which is just a more focused and specific way of stating a problem that I’ve always had, with every draft I’ve written for a story, but that’s important, because now I realise that it’s not actually just that I ‘don’t know how to get there’ – it’s that the ‘bridges’ actually require just as much planning as the key moments, because they are what holds a story, which is ostensibly about the key moments, together, and actually makes it into a story.
it means that actually filler is not a bad thing.
in a first draft.
because ‘filler’ is simply what happens when I try to do this whole ‘bridging’ thing without having any specific idea of what needs to happen, of what needs to cross the bridge, if you will – of how to transport which elements of the previous key moment over to the next, and how that transition tells part of the story. ‘filler’ represents an effort to provide a smooth transition; filler is therefore not something to freak out about – it’s something to learn from, and not just to the point of ‘don’t do it’, because you can’t just take it out and expect the story to work, and that is something that I’ve never thought of. SOMETHING needs to go there, and you know that intuitively as a writer, and when you don’t have anything except for that intuition, no specifics of what exactly needs to ‘go there’, you get this ugly, random, unpredictable, uncomfortable, often distracting and aimless and amorphous goop that we call ‘filler’, because the story needs that space, that vacuum between its key moments, to be plugged up – and it needs to be plugged up with storytelling. filler is what happens when parts of your story are missing; and rather than just resolving to take the filler out, I’ve realised that I need to actually start becoming aware of why it’s there in the first place, and what it is that makes sense to go there in order for the story to be a story. filler is what comes about as a result of having the right intention, and simply lacking in an appropriate solution.
I, like most people I guess, don’t remember a story for the specificity of how each key moment is threaded together; I remember the key moments, and I remember other moments that stood out, and I remember whether or not I thought the story had good pacing or a consistent tone, and that is all symptomatic of this ‘bridging’ thing – it’s the transition from one narrative hub to the next, and if it doesn’t make sense, then when you get to the next one, that won’t make sense, either – if you never cross the bridge, then it makes no sense to suddenly be on the other side.
it means that I have a lot more work to do.
and that’s exciting, actually, because it’s work that I’ve been made aware of by learning something new about how to tell a good story. it feels like I’m getting somewhere.
not a bad way to wrap up my year of writing. well, six months of writing; but as a whole, this year has been the most generative and educational in terms of my writing skill that I’ve ever had. there have been years when I’ve written more words more consistently, but never when I’ve learnt more about how I tell a story, about what I focus on and where my blind-spots are.
writing about writing, it turns out, is really useful.
Have a good one, gentle readers – I have no idea who it is that reads this blog, but thanks whoever you are – and I hope you have plenty of stories to tell in the coming year.