(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bogging up holes...and Pulling Teeth

I had the beginnings of a perfectly good  short story. The liked the idea. I was reasonably happy with the prose, I had another thousand words before I hit the maximum limit for this project. I had a beginning, part of the middle and a definite end. But it lacked a scene in the middle. 

My usual method of writing is to conjure up a main character, devise a reason for their being (at least in the story) and envisage a place for them to inhabit. Sometimes this was detailed. Sometimes this was very sketchy. For one story, this actually involved a complete family tree. 

Once this was achieved, I would have at least a vague idea of the ending I would like, or a twist or concept that I wanted to weave into the story. Then I would have to wait for those initial words. If they spilled out easily onto the page, I could write easily and have at least half of the story done. But there was no real plan. It just happened. The danger was always looming... that I would run out of words or write myself into a hole and have to do a total rewrite which costs a lot of time.

Recently, I have been experimenting with more organisation, attempting to plan at least the basic skeleton of the entire story (from the beginning) in an effort to reduce potential writers' block. However, there are always teething problems with starting a new method. I have just finished and posted a short story called Pieces of Time using this new criteria. 

For a while, I doubted that I would be able to finish this story using an unfamiliar approach to the writing. The first thousand words came easily, as usual; when it came to the crucial middle section, where we learnt more of the two main characters, it all fell quickly into a heap... and a week of frustration. Technically, I had the basics worked out but no words came. I could not follow the set structure. What did fall onto the page were more appropriately called Pieces of Crap. I wanted to go off on a tangent, but decided to try to stick to the plan. 

Eventually, I remember the number one mantra: Write anything. Even if it is crap. Six hundred words, four hours and well after midnight later, I crawled into bed feeling quite annoyed and ineffective. In the morning I surveyed the damage. While I was not happy with the construction of many sentences, I had at least got the intention down on the page. I spent the entire day re-writing, editing and grumbling. 

Finally, this morning Pieces of Time was finished, printed and in the post. While I was reasonably satisfied (though not overjoyed) with the outcome, this story involved the most unenjoyable writing process I have ever tried. I decided that writing to a completely set out rigid structure is not really how my brain works. It is not for me.

Where to now? Well, I can't just keep spewing out stories and hoping that it will all fall into place with absolutely no structure to follow. Conversely, after such a bad experience, I have realised (even though I get anal with the background and descriptions on occasion) that planning the structure of every part of my stories is also not conducive to my best work, nor to my stress levels so I have decided to try to land somewhere in the middle... hopefully.

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