Sunday, April 3, 2011

The difference between writing and reading

We stayed up till 4:00 am last night. 

Twenty years ago, I would've responded with, "Yeah, so what?"  Now that I'm a bit older, though, and somewhat more frayed around the edges, I respect the more measured pace my body needs.  A 4:00 am night, nowadays, is only for something really, really special.  Like, say, getting to the final scene in the book I crafted. 

I've been reading the book (now the first half-book) that I wrote because, as pointed out earlier in the blog, the dialog and story are different when you read them from when you write them.  I've been galloping along through roughly 68K words, speaking them out loud to my wife, my two dogs, and myself, and whenever something doesn't "sound right" to any of the four of us, I scribble that fact with a detail or two about why in the margins.  The grander issues I've marked on the blank facing pages, and I have quite a few of those built up by now. 

Add one more after last night: the final battle scene sucks. 

That one really surprised me, to be honest.  I went through writing the book, thinking I was drawing it out too much, and then when I finally decided to push to the end I wrote what I thought was an epic battle.  I mean, there's a god, a goddess, a dragon, three large swords (one of them a flaming ten foot long sword), a battle horse...what else do you need?  Writing it, the scene screamed "epic" in my head.  This would be, I believed, a battle that readers would look back on fondly once it was done carrying them over the literary mountain peak and crashing into the valley of plot arc completion. 

"Epic!", I wanted the reader to say at the end.

Then I read it.  I didn't say "Epic."  Neither did Heide.  I think my Chihuahua baby, who's still less than a year old, did, but that was just because I put down the binder, an action that gave her access to my hands for the licking. 

Truth be told, I committed a blunder that Stephen King warned against in his memoir on the craft of writing.  Specifically, I got so focused on the plot and plot arc, topics he shunts off as secondary considerations for a storyteller, that I forgot about wrapping the reader up in the action of the story. 

I saw it coming, really.  As I was reading along at a magnificent clip, I got to the scene before the scene before the final scene--which was the point in the writing where I'd decided to bring the plot arc back down--and then I noticed that there really weren't all that many more pages left.  Uh, oh.  The reading was just the proof.  The epic battle filled a mere two pages.  It was like I'd gotten to the end of the writing and said, "Ah, screw it.  He attacks, she attacks, he attacks, she attacks, battle over.  Done."

Hell, I've written blog posts longer.  This one, in fact, is nearly the same length. 

On the facing page of the first half of the battle, there are now three words: "Battle too short."  Short is underlined a couple of times.  Yes, I meant it. 

And now, off to revise.  As I've said before, it's such a good thing I decided to read it critically before I sent this mess to anybody.  Now my job is to uncrappify it, one page at a time.  Oh, and write the second half, but...later. 


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1 comment:

  1. “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson

    Allow yourself to enjoy the journey...