And is still teaching me, I might add. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’ll give you an idea of some of the ah-ha moments I’ve had lately.
First drafts are made to be destroyed. The first way I write something down is never the only way, and rarely the best. I’d be embarrassed to show you the first draft and query draft of some of my other projects, because they are remarkably similar. Sure, I streamlined the prose, even shuffled some scenes around, but in the end, chapter one is chapter one is chapter one. And I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to write it now.
Good writing is all about good decision-making. And when I say good decision-making, I mean making A decision, any decision, about every scene, every character action and reaction, every word. It doesn’t matter when I make those decisions (now that I’m an outliner, I make more decisions earlier, but pantsers tend to make their decisions later and everything works out all right), but sooner or later, I should be able to justify every word on the page.
Which is not to say you can artificially control your story or your characters. Even though I have to make decisions as a writer, they shouldn’t come across as manufactured. They should grow naturally out of the story world I’ve created.
Case in point: In one of Bob’s closing scenes, I thought it would be really sweet if my MC, Seth, picked up my secondary MC, Adair, and carried her back to her (hospital) bed. It sounded like a good idea in my outline, but when I got to the actual writing of the scene, it just didn’t work. Seth is way too geeky/awkward/clumsy to pull off all that knight-in-shining-armor stuff. So he puts his arm around her waist and helps her hobble across the room instead.
Every project will have its low points, but those points do NOT define the project. A few weeks ago, I was stuck. (And a few months ago, same thing.) My second draft was foundering/floundering (I never know which of those words to use), I was only getting through about six hundred words a day, and every night I went to bed feeling like I’d spent the past hour and a half reworking the same stupid sentence over, and over, and over again. I didn’t want to quit, but I didn’t want to keep going, either. I thought about switching over to my other project and coming back to Bob.
But I didn’t. I forced myself to stick it out. And now I’m back up on my board and feeling good about where this wave is taking me. (Not that I know what I’m talking about, at all, because I don’t surf, at all. But I still stand behind the principle.) I fully expect to hit another dip, and I fully expect to climb back out of that one. Writing, like life, has its ups and downs--the trick is not to take myself too seriously, especially during those downs.
Well, that’s all I’ve got, but I’m sure you have a few more. What lessons have your projects taught you lately?