Writing

About Time

I’ve been having trouble with my work-in-progress. Not the end-of-the-world problems I’ve experienced in the past, but some annoyances with plot holes that have had me spinning my writing wheels, waiting for a perfect solution to drop magically out of the sky and into my laptop. Or onto my legal pad among all my scribbling.

Naturally, it didn’t happen quite that way.

But a solution did appear, and I had one of my rewriting phases where I had to go back and work on earlier chapters when what I really wanted to do was to keep moving forward with newer chapters. And just when it looked like I was going to have to add a chapter in between the second and third chapters, which would have thrown off a lot of my file numbering and made my few OCD tendencies go off the deep end, I found a way to accomplish everything an extra chapter would have accomplished with the addition of only a few sentences to my newly-rewritten second chapter.

So now I am ready to move forward again, with a foundation of loose ends that will be far easier to tie up as I approach the proper time for that. The writing process, for me, is both pleasing and painful. I write a page or two, decide that it’s not going anywhere near where I want it to go, or that it’s forcing me in a different direction I hadn’t planned for, which then makes me want to stop and re-plot a few details.

It’s a lot easier, when I’m in the overly-critical mood, to just not write. But no one ever got published that way, did they?

My biggest weakness as a novelist — an as-yet unpublished novelist, thank you — is not being able to easily overcome the desire to stop writing when I hit a road block in my plot. There are other writers, some successful, some not, who are able to just keep writing with the confidence that they will be able to easily remedy whatever ails their manuscript when they get to “The End.” Maybe I could do the same thing…but I don’t think so. Once I know I’m headed for a plot hole, if I try to keep on plodding away, I tend to overcompensate, creating a situation that makes the manuscript worse; when I do eventually solve the problem, I have to go back and rewrite everything past the original roadblock, anyway. So I figure that I’m no worse off putting the writing on hold to rethink a problem, and I actually think I’m sometimes better off by not trying to pretend the problem wasn’t there.

There are those writers — ones who, in my opinion, come off as “snobs” at times — who might suggest that if I can’t just sit down at the keyboard and pound out a first draft without stopping, or if I can’t complete a novel within a fixed amount of time, (and that length of time varies from person to person) I will never be a success at writing.

As I get older, I worry less and less about those opinions. I respect them, because that mentality has apparently worked for them. But all writers are different. And until I find myself on some publisher’s deadline, I find that I produce a better effort when I don’t force myself to stick to a deadline of my own design.

Maybe they’re right: maybe I’ll never get published that way. But if I get more enjoyment out of writing at a slower pace, solving problems as I go rather than after I have compiled such a heap of crap that I have to end up rewriting from the beginning, I think that’s a pretty good trade-off.

3 Comments

  1. If you’ve got a plot, three chapters in the can and an outline where you want to go, why aren’t you farming this around to agents?

    I started this novel without any firm outline in place because my experience writing the first novel WITH a firm outline was murder. So I have ended up making changes in the direction I’ve headed as this novel has been going along.

    I want to make sure there are no more unexpected detours that happen between now and the remaining third or so. Once I have a first draft done, I’ll start farming it around…I just want to get there first.

  2. If you’ve got a plot, three chapters in the can and an outline where you want to go, why aren’t you farming this around to agents?

    Unless you’re doing this as a labor of love, no sense in working on a novel with no commercial future. Time to see if you can get a nibble — it’s an amazing plot sharpener to have someone in the wings who wants you to get it done so they can sell it for you.

    Just my two cents. Of course, I *AM* a snob. 😉

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.