Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Moving Backward, Making Progress

I wrote myself into a corner a week ago.

It didn't stop me, though. I plowed on, adding to the scene, deepening it, changing and tweaking it. I followed it down a dark, halting path that grew progressively harder to continue. The scene had gained a life of its own, independent of the story.

Still, I didn't stop. I kept adding to the scene, not completely out of stubbornness, but out of self-doubt, so many layers of self-doubt. I've had days I would swear my writing was terrible, where I doubted every word and every line, only to read it the next day and realize it was exactly what the story needed. I've learned to doubt that negative voice that says my writing is crap. I've learned that it's better to have something on paper to edit later than nothing, and it's especially better to have something on paper than to have deleted it and later realize it's exactly what I needed. Doubting my doubts is why I now save large chunks of text to other files before deleting it from the main manuscript.

It's hard to determine the difference between doubting my own doubt and knowing that the writing is off the rails.

I've never had a story go so far off the rails so quickly, either. Not like this. Over the last seven days, I've struggled to force this scene to happen, and each day that I've written, it's been harder, the words coming to me slower.

Yesterday, I finally listened the voice in my head that said I needed to backtrack, get rid of some text. I cut 18 pages. I started the scene again, changing it drastically. It felt like it might be working.

Today, I sat down to the same scene, wrote for an hour, and realized again that it had gone wrong. I finally pinpointed why: I didn't need the scene. It was interesting for me. It was building character, changing the relationship between my protagonists, but it wasn't working for the whole story. It was making a middle I already suspect is lagging droop lifelessly.

I deleted another 13 pages.

I've cut scenes from stories before, and almost every time, it's been with regret and, honestly, a great deal of whining. It usually feels like wasted time, wasted story. Like I'm backpedaling even when I know the cuts are good for the story.

This time, it felt like I'd lifted a weight from my story. The scene is completely gone. The action is going to happen much different, and oddly, a little delayed rather than faster. But it's right. It's what I needed to do. All 31 pages needed to go. Even though I lost day's worth of text, I made more progress today than I've made all week.
76123 / 90000 84.58% Done!

76123 / 90000 84.58% Done!

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