Thursday, February 18, 2010

Practice Makes Perfectionist?

When I wrote CONFLUENCE, my first novel that wasn't fan fiction, I was so proud every step of the way. I adored all my characters. I thought each chapter was fabulous. Every twist and turn made me feel like I really knew what I was doing. I was a writer!!!!

The editing went smoothly, the writer's group was mostly happy, then I started to query... ACK! Very basic things I didn't know I needed to know... like word ranges for specific genres (say what?). Word limits overall. The nevers and alwayses of the field. So I started in on that particular cycle, but also kept writing.

And it felt good—it felt like I’d learned a lot and I was applying it. I wrote a book (fast, amazingly enough) that I felt was FABULOUS. I started another, then I started my NaNo and both seemed to go okay. In 3 months I went from having written 1 book to having written 4 (though knowing they all needed cleaning)

But I am currently in process of getting feedback on the first of those and typing on the second, and keep thinking WHAT THE HELL WAS I TRYING TO SAY?

I’m having a hard time thinking I’ve suddenly forgotten sentence level writing, but to look at ILLUSIONS as I type, it seems like maybe I have.

Crap, crap, crap.

I don’t think the whole thing is ACTUALLY crap. I think the story is pretty decent. I am just not feeling nearly as solid in my execution of the thing. Why?

The Rush Philosophy

LEGACY was written faster, but LEGACY nearly wrote itself. There are definitely improvements that need to be made, but I’ve gotten feedback from two people so far, and their recommendations are concrete and doable, not vague, like “what the hell were you thinking?”

ILLUSIONS though, I forced out quickly for two reasons—the first is that I love LEGACY and feel strongly I can’t finish and do the real rewrite until the WHOLE 3 book story is done. The second is I sort of bought into the NaNo thing where getting the story out is the goal of draft one, and rewrites are for fixing… but it is the first book I worked on in which I was thinking that way, so it really DOESN’T have the same level of care—it really WILL be a bigger rewrite job…

The Distraction Philosophy

It is the only one I wrote while writing another, completely separate work. Though honestly, the part I am typing right now was written before I started NaNo—I think I tried to finish ten chapters before NaNo started so I would have a solid chunk behind me… still, I was thinking about NaNo…

The Perfectionist Philosophy

Or maybe, as my skill, experience, and eye are trained, I AM LEARNING. There is a novel idea for an over-40. Old dog, meet new trick. And I have no problem at all being tricksey… I just wasn’t really prepared for my change in analysis.

I’ve written a lot in the last six months. I’ve also done some first reader reviewing, which has been almost as helpful. I’ve spent a lot of time revising, reading about publishing… Possibly I’ve grown more discerning.

Hopefully what it means is I’ve also learned how to FIX problems. The sentence level stuff I can fix as I type, or at least begin to fix. But I suspect there are bigger issues, too… we’ll have to see how it all pans out, but I will keep my fingers crossed that it is just me getting pickier, and not my writing getting worse.


Terry Odell said...

The more you learn, the more you find out you need to learn. If it was easy, everyone could do it. Keep plugging away.

Watery Tart said...

Thank you, Terry! So true. At my last job (a research branch of the Oregon Health Division) we used to have a sign that said,

"we regret that we have not answered your questions. In fact what we present to you is more questions, but we hope these questions are on a higher plane, and will lead to greater understanding."

(or something like that... I suppose this is like that... when you master something, you notice a bunch of others that you didn't know you should be looking for.

Liz said...

and of course you branched out into the First Reader Reviewing of Genres you Didn't Know you Liked. . . . and my characters and I thank you profusely for that.
hey-stop eating into my own personal blogging time will ya?
I gotta go add some stuff to mine about how that Edward Cullen guy is allergic to Vaginas. . . now that I'm done with Borders hotties for today (one more tomorrow!)

TreeX said...

He isn't. He spent 12 hours surrounded by them without any visible rash... It's just standard Brit tongue-in-cheek :P

Wendy Sparrow said...

You know... each story I write teaches me something through practice that I wouldn't have learned by just reading about it. My manuscripts this year are WORLDS better than my manuscripts last year.

Watery Tart said...

*giggles* ET-if you check back in, check out Joris's comment below you about Edward's alleged allergies.

Wendy-I don't think you've commented before (unless I'm having brain issues, which is not impossible) but WELCOME! I notice you're from Washington (which annoyingly in Michigan they refer to as Washington STATE--puh!)--I have lived in both of your border states and miss the PNW badly!

Jan Morrison said...

oh tartlett - we are twins separated at birth. that's all I'm going to say...

Watery Tart said...

We do seem to be very like minds, Jan... and I like that. It's nice to notice my thought processes are like someone I think is so groovy.

Anonymous said...

truly insightful and shows your progression in mind and in body (my heart goes out to your PNW aside - me too & I'm not even FROM there)... We, your groupies, or rather your group - have watched over the past year and been part of the development that is inching inching its way out of your brain - which hasn't got ANY issues as far as I can see... it's been a journey for us all. You don't know how central you are to this whole thing - I know you're not going to lose momentum. God, no. But don't lose sight of your perfectionist either. She's the one that's dragging you kicking & screaming thru.... <3

Liz said...

yeah, he was TRYING to be funny. . . didn't work 'cause everybody just thinks he's stupid--Americans don't really get Brit humor no matter how many people claim to watch Monty Python and really understand the comedy! I know I know most of we witty and charming blog sluts do actually watch and get it--I'm speaking of the general unwashed masses.
"Doctor, I'm allergic to vaginas---they make my (a certain part of my body I won't say here for fear of offending anyone) swell up every time."
he's lame--but that's just me!

Watery Tart said...

Marian, you are such a fabulous support--you really are. Groupies? *snort* Oh, man... but yes... got to keep learning...

*snicker* ET, I was thinking somebody had said it ABOUT him, but I actually think it's cute to hear the story. I don't have any issues with Robbie OR Edward (it is Bella I think is lame). Robbie can be my boy toy though... he's sort of precious if I don't think about the fact that he's prettier than me.