Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Seeing Red

After six weeks of writing, my story idea morphed from short into novella. I made peace with the bloating before I began, when I was still in the storyboarding stage. Even then, I could tell it wasn't going to be a simple 12-page piece. But I liked all the elements, and the goal of this project was to give myself some creative freedom while keeping the writing crisp and tight.

It sounds like a conflict of intention, but it worked. I wrote slower than I've ever written, but it was good writing. In fact, those passages that took the longest to write, where I was the most careful in my wording, have been the lightest to edit.

Other pages, well, they've had me seeing red.

Despite my best efforts, passive phrases, weak verbs, and those pesky "ly" words crept in again and again. A few scenes ballooned as I got caught up in the action and had to be slashed back down to size. Even dialog, which I often rewrote in the first draft, needed further tightening and an infusion of personality.

It came as little surprise to me, too, to find problems in the third act. I avoided earlier third-act pitfalls (for instance, I actually included it), but I fell into a new one: When writing, I was struck by a compelling twist on my idea, and I followed it, veering from the outline.

While I fully endorse my actions, not every inspiration is great, and this one made the final conflict far too easy for my main character. It also added several unnecessary pages and brought up an internal conflict that, while compelling and a theme I would like to explore, was not right for this story.

I've since rewritten the scene, and the story flows better, but it served as a reminder to not get completely caught up in the inspiration of the moment. Had I assessed the full impact of the story's change, followed it mentally to the end, I would have seen the flaw before I finished writing. Now, I've got at least three extra days of work ahead of me. Had this been a novel, I could be looking at a month of extra work. I'm glad I'm learning on something short.

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