Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Exciting Bit About Writing

Okay, let's admit it: writing isn't terribly exciting as a whole enterprise.  We sit for hours, we look at our computer screens, we let our minds wander into whatever scene we're doing, and we try to make sure our fingers capture whatever it is that the neurons (the creative ones) come up with.  Meanwhile people all over the world are watching Doctor Who, or football, or they're playing frisbee golf in the park that's just a mile from my home.

What keeps drawing me back to it?

Money, right?  No.  I've sold a few books, made a little money, but overall it hasn't been a tremendous financial boon to the family.  Not yet, anyway, and though I certainly hope to some day be another James Patterson making millions of dollars a year, there's only one of him and there are hundreds of thousands of me.  I recognize that reality.  It's like winning the lottery, with just barely better odds.

Still, I play the lottery.  I play it despite the fact that I used to give my mother a hard time because "lottery is a tax on people who don't know math."  She'd smile and play anyway, and now that I'm older, and she's gone, I smile and play anyway, knowing math as well as I do or not.  I mean, compared to the other (real) taxes I pay, a ticket per drawing is minimal, and the potential payoff is huge, and so why not?

But playing the lottery isn't exciting.  It's just the lottery.

Writing for money isn't exciting.  It's just the literary equivalent of the lottery.

I'll tell you what's exciting, though.  What's exciting--what got me jumping out of bed this morning looking forward to starting my first cup of coffee and writing my first paragraph of the day--is the promise of worlds unknown.  Yeah, I know, that's what we say about reading.  The thing is, when I read something, it's a world unknown only to me (and to anybody else who hasn't read the book).  The writer already knows it--even more than I ever will, in fact.  The other readers already know it, at least to within a certain tolerance that is our personal imaginations. 

When I write, though, nobody knows it before me.  Heck, I don't even know it before me.  Nobody experiences that scene before I do.  I'm the first.

"You mean you don't know what you're going to write?"  Well, yes, pretty much.  Shocking as that may be to someone who's not done a novel-sized work before, it's the nature of the beast.  Even if you outline every scene, that's not the same as writing it word by word, sentence by sentence.  Writing it is learning it, experiencing it in every little detail.

Writing it is even more detailed, in fact, than reading it. 

For example, I woke up needing to finish a flight scene in the Elf Queen book.  The intrepid band of adventurers is in a tight spot (otherwise the book would be pretty dang boring, right?) and is rushing to get somewhere before they're cut off by the horde of bad guys.  Now, I know where they're going.  I know whether or not they're going to get there safely.  I know, for the most part, where all of the bad guys are and what they're capable of. 

Knowing all that I do about the scene as it unfolds is fun, but I also have to pick and choose.  I blogged a long time ago about "describiness," a trait some authors get into where they want to tell you about every blade of grass the heroes trod upon.  This isn't just scenery, though; it's action.  As the heroes in my scene rush to get to where they're going, how much action do I include, and how much do I leave in the wings? 

That's a constantly moving string of decisions the writer makes.

And the writer knows it all, but isn't revealing it.  At the same time, as the word count increments one at a time (as word counts always do), and sentences are formed (and sometimes partially erased to be re-formed) and paragraphs come out of sentences, the picture is drafted and re-drafted, moving along with the party through the greater storyline that I alone know. 

There.  That's the exciting bit about writing. 

In the words of the Tenth Doctor: Allons-y!


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