I've been away from here, putting my writing principles into practice on the sequel to Rise Again.  It's a short deadline, so I've actually got to pay attention.

The subject of drafts, however, continues to fascinate me.

In this case, I had a general outline to start with -- less than a page long.  But with it came several dozen scenes and situations, some written entirely, some just bullet points or scribbles on 3x5 cards.  So I decided to begin the first draft by writing what I knew.  To that end I wrote the finale of the book, chunks of the middle, scenes from the beginning: none connected, initially.
Now I'm joining them together.

This isn't how I typically write, but it seems to be working.  It means the second draft will be more work than usual, because I'll have to go back and forth reworking things for continuity, probably removing a lot of redundancies and so forth.  But writing scenes in isolation has been instructive.  They're almost like short stories.  Pre-writing the stuff I understood clearly has helped illuminate things I didn't get, casting a little light to either side and revealing what was hidden.

Which brings up the question of whether a story is something to be excavated, a complete entity buried underfoot that reveals itself through the writing, or whether it's a construction that is assembled from materials gathered at the site.  Certainly, I'm assembling this one from parts.  But the parts seem to be fragments of a whole.  They feel inevitable once joined together, like pieces of a puzzle.  I don't know.  It's one of the mysteries of storytelling.

A number of my friends are actors.  Writers like to have friends who are actors because it means they know at least one person in worse financial shape than themselves.  In observing actors at work, I see the same phenomenon in action: when they become a character, are they assuming the shape of someone who is already there, or are they assembling the character from bits and pieces of their experience?  A character performed skillfully will seem inevitable, born and raised to be who they are, shaped by a lifetime as that person.  In the same way, a story well-written seems as if it only needed to be told -- as if the story was always there, waiting to be voiced.

I don't have an answer to this, but I also don't have an answer for my editor if he asks me when the manuscript will be done, so excuse me.  I'd better keep digging, or sticking bits together, or whatever it is.  Storytelling, at any rate.
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Published on December 30, 2011 11:21 • 37 views

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