Saturday, March 13, 2010

Speed Typing

         I used to write fast.  You have to when you write news and deadlines loom.
         But with fiction, I tend to wallow. This is a bad habit. Everyone who knows will tell you to plow a straight furrow from Once upon a time to to ...happily ever after without looking back.
         I can't do this.
         I go back to the beginning over and over, like the last line of The Great Gatsby,  a boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. I caress. I stroke. I coddle.
         Often this procedure leads to more words.  More words are not always good words. Sometimes it is hard to pick and choose the best word. Mark Twain, who always chose correctly, had this to say about that: The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. 
         I scrabble about for the right word. Sometimes there are too many applicants for the job.
         Lately, I have been trying my hand at shorter pieces of fiction, novella length.  It's been an interesting and entertaining exercise. I focus better. I indulge myself less. I play fewer games.
         This is not to say I write quicker. I don't.
         I still return to the starting gate time and again. Not always a bad thing for me.
         In my current story, I'd given my heroine a broken heel on her designer boots and put her into a sweatshirt belonging to the hero. But if I hadn't gone back before moving on, I might not have realized that she couldn't go racing across an icy parking lot. Or enter a public place with certain telltale initials emblazoned across her chest.  The concealment of the sweatshirt took the story in an unexpected direction. 
        Never saw that coming.
        And I wouldn't have without a return to the starting blocks.
       The good thing about the shorter length, though, is that I get to the finish line a helluva lot faster.

12 comments:

JL Walters said...

Terri, You and I write in totally different ways. Until I reach the end in a draft I can't look at the beginning. I'm not sure I write fast or slow. Shorter pieces bother me because I think of things that could expand the story. Writing short is good discipline though and this is the way I began my writing career. Good luck Janet

Wendy Marcus said...

Hi Terri!
I, too, have a habit of going back to the beginning of a scene and re-writing and re-writing until I think it's perfect (or until I re-write it some more!) It's not very productive, and now I limit myself to once when I first sit down to write, and once when I'm done for the day. (Until the next day when I'll read it over and maybe re-write it again!)

Kat Attalla said...

I go back to the beginning so many times that I can recite the opening of each of my books from memory.

Wendy Marcus said...

You know, the problem with continuing to go back and re-read your work is that, for me at least, after a while I get sick of what I've writen and think it's terrible.

Terri said...

Well, different strokes and all that. I'm always amazed when I hear of people writing 30 pages in a day. I'm with Kathy and Wendy on this, clearly. By the time I can recite the opening, I'm sick of it. OTOH, the process does tend to steer me where the story seems to want to go. It's like, hey, wait, what if....Sometimes I really enjoy the surprise.

Liz said...

I go back and re-write when I can not seem to write the next scene in the story - which is often....and is why I'm stuck at 23,ooo words.

Terri said...

Sometimes you need to take a step back, listen to your characters, ask them what they want to do, where they want to go. How they'd really react under the circumstances.
In GMC, Debra Dixon talks about interviewing her hero. When she asked him if he went to his prom, his answers surprised her. No, he didn't go. Why not? Because he didn't like crowds -- he could feel the emotions of the people around him. It shocked her to learn he was empathic. But that became a critical element.
My new thing... throw in a ticking clock. Doesn't always work. But sometimes it compels your people to race from Point A to Point B.

Carly Phillips said...

There's going back, and there's going back, going back, going back, ad nauseum in an attempt not to finish. Going back is FINE. Going back, going forward ... realizing you need to go back again also FINE. I now give myself a limited window of time to write. The most amount of pages the better. I'll then go back, clean up, print, read, make sure I like it before I go forward. But I don't never not go back. How's that for grammar? ;)
Hey I just got power and heat again after 48 hours!

Terri said...

Glad to see you're still with us. Have power here, but streets are a mess. Power spotty to say the least. On here, off there. Trees, wires, mess, mess, mess.
Glad to hear you still go back. Writing short forces me not to go back ad nauseam, I'm finding. Not too much there to tinker with...and tinker with...and tinker with...you have to move along. Nothing to see here.

Wendy Marcus said...

Congrats on your upcoming RWA presidency!

Terri said...

Um... that would be HVRWA presidency. It's ridiculous enough without getting SUPER nationally ridiculous.

Wendy Marcus said...

Maybe someday.......

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