Planning is occurring.
I have lamented multiple times the way in which I tend to use “planning” as a euphemism for “distract myself from commitment”. Seems counter-intuitive in a way, as if you set out to plan something then surely that’s an indication of commitment. But for writing at least, I find that planning is something that I do because I’m too anxious to actually start writing in earnest, afraid that once I start I’ll find that it’s not good enough, I’m not good enough of a storyteller, writer or human being to even attempt it, where’s the nearest bottomless ocean trench.
It’s different with a story I’ve already finished, though. Tallulah I’ve finished … I’m saying one and a half times, because the first/zero draft counts as one, but the manuscript I’m working from counts as about half because, while there is a ton of new writing in it (and tons more old writing cut out), most of the old writing – and old, scrapped continuity – is still there making a mess of things. But the point is that this is a book that I’ve already written, and have been in the process of writing over and over again for the last five years. Obviously “finished” is a contentious term for a manuscript that is still undergoing revisions, but my point is that I’m not trying to make something out of nothing with this project; I’m trying to make something new out of something old. And that’s all it takes to make my planning actually feel like planning, as opposed to procrastinating.
As for the plan itself … it’s getting there. It’s actually quite exciting, except for the prospect of all the new writing I’m going to have to do. But that’s just the prospect; the process itself will probably be fine, and perhaps even enjoyable. Though neither of those things are important right now. What’s important is that I tell this story again, better.
I had the plan of scrapping everything and just starting over from scratch, but I decided to give myself the opportunity to try and take what I had and put it together in a new way, and see if it looked like the story I needed to tell. And it’s actually kind of turning out that way. I’m finding it hard to keep myself from directing these plans back to the current structure of the plot, and that’s caused some frustration. I think I need to make a few different plans for the book as well, because there’s a huge problem with plot bloat – but at least it’s tied to certain characters, which means that at least my characters are, in fact, central to the plot, even if that plot is badly executed. I’m hoping to get one version with the problem character done (the plan I’m currently working on) and one without them (the next plan) just to see how they feel in comparison.
The very first, OG version of this story, when it was still in its conceptual infancy, I think is too removed from what I actually want to do now. At the same time, I’ve tried to cling to it and maintain it even as the story evolved and outgrew those humble beginnings, and the result is a story whose vision is incredibly compromised, contradictory, and impossible to see clearly. I think the story that I needed to tell is not the one that I need to tell now.
I am thinking probably too much, all in all.
But the planning is going well, because unlike my procrastinatory planning, this planning is clearing and ordering my thoughts in a useful and constructive manner. I’ve already drafted the plan once, and in committing to working on it as a process as opposed to trying to get it right in one go, I’ve found solutions to problems that I thought were going to kill my momentum dead.
And above all else, I do plan to get this done. This story will be told. It will be told as well as I can manage it. And it will be the story that needs to be told, rather than a bunch of ideas jammed together because I couldn’t make up my mind which ones to keep and which ones to keep for later.
I think the last time I was working this hard on Tallulah, I came to the conclusion that trying to rid myself of my bad writing habits – holding onto “darlings” instead of killing them, agonising over the perfect way to write a sentence, holding my story ransom to the demands of my censor – is futile. And also impossible – because now I realise that all of that is just an inevitable part of the writing process itself. You never “get rid” of those habits, because those habits are writing. And you “rid” yourself of those problems by writing more. By committing to the thing you’re writing until you reach the breaking-point and it’s impossible to continue without writing better than you have been – and then you do that. It’s like magic; you’ll just do it, if you stick with it, and the story – the good story – will seem to write itself.
Or that’s how it seems to happen with Tallulah. So I guess that’s a sign that I’m doing the right thing by sticking with it. Which already feels like the right thing to do.
I am here to write. I haven’t been here to write for a long time. But it’s good to be back.