Time for another draft touch-up! This one is from back in January, but is relevant to my current struggle to keep my impulses under control concerning my current WIP novel.
As part of the application for a paper I want to take on broadcast writing, I have to submit two ideas for a short film. I spent about two hours doing that yesterday and I’ve grown quite attached to them.
Both of them involve a focus on gender dynamics, something that fascinates me to no end, and I couldn’t help but imagine how it might go if I ended up filming them, hiring an actress and feeling really insecure about the lines I’d have given her to read, and then one day during filming she gets really into it and improvs something a billion times more true and to-the-point than I was even capable of doing, and then realised, hang on, I just thought of it myself so that means …
And of course that got me to wondering just what I am capable of, if what I imagined this hypothetical actress improvising was any ‘truer’ than what I might have written to begin with, the extent to which my limits of getting into somebody else’s head are self-imposed – all the existential chaos that makes being a writer so much fun, and so much effort.
And for the rest of the day I felt really … not angry, but the catharsis that comes from getting it out in the open. I really liked it.
And I like the proposals I made, to the point where even if I don’t get into this paper I will still probably take them and do something with them.
Characters are really interesting. They’re more interesting when you’re a writer, I feel, when you’re the one creating the character than when you’re witnessing their story as an audience, because you know and don’t know what they mean, where they come from, and that self-imposed barrier to entry into a different perspective really starts to rear its head as you grapple with all of the meanings and intentions vested in the creation and trajectory of these fictive selves. I got to the point a little while ago where all of the issues with Tallulah that have to do with its titular character are issues of justification for her actions and worldview – namely, that a lot of how she looks at the world comes from my own life experience, but it doesn’t make sense for her because her life experience is totally different to mine. And that wasn’t something that I caught onto until almost two years into the telling of the story.
Which is why you have to read your own stuff, and read it a lot. I’ve slipped in and out of the modes of conjecture and speculating many times during the drafting of Tallulah, and the vast majority of the potential ideas for where the story could go just end up meaning next to nothing when I go back and read it over again, because conjecture and speculation is not the same as analysis and planning. You can only make a plan when you have information to hand, or at least a good plan. Thus I propose that, in order to be a good and constantly-improving writer, not only must you read a lot, but you must read your own stuff a lot. Because that’s something that you can actually make better.
Having said that – eight months ago – I know that if I read my manuscript again I’m liable to find it very difficult to care about what’s actually happening.
I think that may be why I’m so compelled to take the first 50% or so and then run with it in an entirely different direction toward a new second half: it’ll be new, it’ll be something that I’m not expecting. I seriously just want some fucking novelty at this point, and I’m worried that if I follow this heedless urge I’ll end up ruining my progress.
Well, no, not really. As long as I keep everything saved – really the worst that could happen is I learn that it’s the wrong thing to do, and lament having spent however long it took me to come to that realisation to … come to that realisation.
I wonder if I should do it.
I try not to use the word “should”, because it’s incredibly contingent, and right now my “should” is contingent on pretty much nothing at all. I don’t have a plan I’m supposed to be sticking to; I have no fucking idea what the best way for me to write this novel is, if there is a best way for me to write it that I’m just unaware of, which I rather doubt – so “should” is utterly irrelevant.
What if I do do it? That’s a better question.
If I do it, I’ll be dealing with the exact same issues I had when I was drafting it the first time: trying to motivate myself to write, trying to keep control of what it is that I write when I do get around to it, trying to keep from going off in all sorts of spontaneous directions in the torrent of flowing ideas that grows stronger the more I write … I know all that.
That’s going to be bad.
So no. What I need is a clear plan of how I want this story to play out.
And in order to create that plan …
I dunno. I need something really simple, really straightforward. Like … maybe do chapter summaries again, only this time make a point of noting down what I wish was happening in the parts where I wish something else were happening.
Hmm. Wishes actually seem like the way to go. I need to make a list of wishes, and then set about fulfilling them.
Okay. I like that idea. The next phase of writing my novel is going to be wish-fulfillment.
I do think I’ll have to read it again.
Better get ready for that.