Friday, March 22, 2013

False Starts or New Beginnings? It's All in Your Attitude (Patty Blount)




“New beginnings” -- an appropriate theme for this time of year. We just set the clocks ahead, which is my favorite day – it means Spring is here! I love spring, when the planet undergoes rebirth and everything gets a fresh new start. Fresh new starts used to bother me. I thought having to restart a project indicated my failure. Redo. Do over. Go back to Start. It was a punishment; a clear indicator that I’d been unsuccessful.

But then, I changed my attitude. *laughs* I guess you could say I got a fresh new start on fresh new starts. It started with SEND. After an agent I’d queried suggested I rewrite the entire story as a YA, I nearly quit, too consumed by thoughts of ‘failure’ to see what was actually an opportunity. Eventually, fortunately, I did come to see the opportunity and rewrote the story, which later sold and debuted last summer. I haven’t forgotten that lesson. Today, while I still track word count progress, I’m less chained to the words I commit to screen or paper.

I’ve got this idea for a paranormal trilogy. It’s a project I’ve been mulling over for months now. I have about 100,000 words in a draft I won’t use because the POV is wrong. I have another 40,000 words in a second draft that I may or may not use – it depends. And I’ve got about 10,000 words in a third draft that I really like.

I think this may be The One.

This is my process. I’ve learned never to delete anything; I just move cut scenes to a new file in case I want to use them later. I’ve learned to trust that writing isn’t a race, it’s an endurance test. I’ve learned that a false start usually means I haven’t gotten to know my characters well enough to know what motivates them, what they want, or what they’re afraid of. Or it could mean I don’t yet know where the story is going. But I know this – without my false starts, I couldn’t have pinpointed the problems that led to new beginnings. Sometimes, I need to see it wrong so I can recognize it when it’s right.

I now give myself permission to write stuff I know I’ll probably never use. It’s a practice run, a dress rehearsal. When it’s on screen, I can sit back, squint at it, and nudge the stuff that’s out of place back into line or trim it altogether.

Another technique I use is to write in chunks. Scenes, chapters, set-pieces, etc. What you call them isn’t important; how you attack them is. I start new files because I’m one of those bizarre people who gets inspired by the blank page. I can’t wait to fill it up whether it’s a journal, a computer screen, or a legal pad. When I’m happy with it, I paste it into the main manuscript file or just use that file as the new main file from that date forward.

I’ve learned this isn’t concrete; it’s fiction. Fiction is fickle and moody and capricious and so am I, which is probably why I love writing it so much. I can shape the words, bend them, mold them, cut them. Nothing’s done until I say it’s done and even then, I can always start again.

It’s amazing how much a tiny attitude adjustment can help.


7 comments:

  1. that is a great attitude, Patty! I need to get it when it comes to daylight savings time, which I see as only of the many boons of my existence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love driving home from work in the sunlight!

      Delete
  2. I love doing rewrites! I used to hate having to rewrite, because it was proof that I hadn't gotten it right the first time. But now I think of them differently. Think of all the times in life where we say the wrong thing. Where someone is mean to us and we just stand there and sputter, only to come up with the perfect come back hour or days later. Rewrites are like having the chance to fix that. They're a gift. No one has to get it right all the time. But if you have the chance to fix it and you don't, then that's just silly. Rewrites are a rare second chance. I love that!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Totally agree with everything you've said Patty. I keep a cut file too. I hate throwing anything out and it makes me feel better to know that the deleted stuff is there if I need it. Here's something funny: I have NEVER needed it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Believe it or not, I HAVE used my cut file in OTHER projects :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Cut file here, too! You never know when it'll come in handy...

    ReplyDelete