Thursday, June 5, 2008

June 5, 2008: Over-analysis

I was about eight hand-written pages into today's writing session when I got that sinking feeling that tells me, "You're writing, but this stuff isn't a book." Sure enough, I'd somehow managed to miss the fact that the scene's description didn't contain conflict. More precisely, it DID, but that conflict ended up being subsumed into the previous scene, leaving this one as the "I got up, had some toast, went for a walk" sort of scene.

Which we do not write, no, we do not.

So, fine, it's just over an hour out of my life. Start again. I moved on to the next scene, which crackled along quite nicely for the rest of the two-hour writing session. But then I had a problem.

I have a tracking spreadsheet for this book, as I've had for every book, for my running, and for probably lots of other things that didn't need one. In Raoul's spreadsheet, I track how many hand-written pages I finish in the two hours, and then track how many typed words they turn into.

So what do you do when half the pages you wrote aren't going to be turned into typed words?

If you're not ridiculously obsessed with statistics, you move on with your life. If you are me, you get all weirded out and try to figure out how to fix it. "Write another hour and take those words instead!" "Figure out the stats without that hour!" (Sure, but then today's total looks ridiculously low.) "Okay, then do the first one."

So I did. Went to Starbucks and wrote... for nearly two hours. Seeing the scene clearly, struggling to find the right words to describe it so others would see it too, crossing stuff out and re-writing it and moving forward and backward, but moving.

Back home, it was time to type it in, but the issue of the first "lost" hour still bothered me. I'd done the work and I wanted the credit.

And that's where I said, "Hold up, missy. Credit?" Putting numbers into the spreadsheet doesn't matter a fig. Not even half a fig. Word count in the first draft file counts. And that's about it. As long as I know I've worked, that should be good enough.

And I did work. I worked damned hard, as a matter of fact. This was a crucial scene, the first time Tess really shows her skills, and I think I nailed it. So what does it matter how many words got written on the page and how much time I spent?

What matters is that scene. And, even more than just that scene, what matters is that I paid attention. I got to a better place, by far, than I would have if I hadn't recognized I'd wandered off to a no-conflict scene and fixed it. I recognized it, and I kept working until it was fixed.

That's all the credit I need.

So I took the "hand-written to typed words" page out of the spreadsheet. I will keep track of how much time I spend each day, and how many words I have at the end, and the rest just doesn't matter.

I'm harder on myself than anyone else would ever be, and to some degree that's good. At the same time, though, I need to honour and appreciate how much I DID do, even when I think I could have/should have done more.

So... I worked hard today. I put in about five hours, and came out with 2900 words. The scene binds Tess into her new job more tightly than anything else could have, which is what I needed to have happen, and also reveals her character and Forrest's as well.

You done good, kid. :)

Writing Project: Raoul's first draft
Time Planned: 2 hours plus type-in
Time Spent: 3.25 hours plus type-in of 2 hours
Favourite Part: that I didn't quit

Exercise: 40 minute interval run
One Fun Thing I Did Today: not much yet, but I'm off to see the SATC movie tonight with my lovely friend L.J. Can't wait!

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