Friday, February 19, 2010

Still Thinking, Maybe

I am about 9,000 words from the end of the first draft of "Cocke & Bull." I've been at this stage since Tuesday afternoon, I think. I can write a thousand words a day with no problem, so really I should be looking at finishing this thing up by the end of February, especially if I take a couple of hours and get down to real work sometime this weekend. But, you know, I'm sort of not getting down to real work. The reason I am not is because I'm still thinking about the scene I'm writing.

Oh, I know what I want to do. I pretty much know the next sentence I want to write, and the one after that, and I have the chapter I'm in fairly well mapped out so it's not like I have writer's block or a failure of the imagination or anything like that. No, it's something more basic than that. I am worried that the scene I'm writing is going to be embarrassingly dumb. Because it will either be "OHMYGOD that is so amazing" or "huh?" and this close to the end of the book when I'm writing the climax of the whole thing, I suddenly find myself second-guessing my decisions. Not just my idea about the climax, but everything leading up to it as well.

I have felt this way for days, and I haven't written about it because I like to present myself as a confident, competent writer who moves boldly and writes bravely. But right now, I'm being a coward and I sit here at the edge of a precipice and don't even dare myself to jump. So now that I've said all of this, I am going to finish this scene when I go to lunch in about an hour. That'll show me.

And in the interest of full disclosure, the scene I am writing is landfall of a hurricane on the coastal plain of Virginia, October 19th 1749. I have cheated and moved the event from after midnight to late afternoon but it's my book so back off. The point of view is about to switch from that of William Bull (protagonist) to that of God (omnipotent and omniscient Christian deity). God is going to sum up Bull's actions and make some pronouncements about theme. We'll see how it goes.

18 comments:

  1. Good luck, Scott! I'm always very comforted by the fact that we can hit delete (or in your case, cross out) what we have written. So, we're allowed to be completely stupid. There are take-backs.

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  2. Davin: This is exactly why I write longhand. Suppose I write the scene and think it's stupid. Suppose I cross it all out. Suppose a week later I realize that it wasn't stupid at all, and was mostly just what I wanted. Had I deleted it all from a Word(tm) doc, I'd have to reconstruct it from scratch. Even if I cross it out, I still have every word of it. This isn't just a hypothetical; I've done this on plenty of occasions, and gone back to things I orginally rejected.

    Anyway, thanks for the luck! I'll let you know what happens.

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  3. Oh Mr. Bailey, what mortal men (and women) we all are. I'm on the brink of the precipice every single day and although I don't write longhand (very much) I have thousands of scraps of 'junk' in extra documents littering my computer screen. Sometimes they do come in handy.

    As for the hurricane, I'm sure you must know, even if it makes landfall after midnight, the hours preceding it are full of rain and winds. Birds and beasts alike are trying to move out of its path of destruction. Having lived through two of them on the beach, when it struck Cape Hatteras, I had 6 hours in which to pack all my worldly possessions and get the blazes out of there. So, that being said, you may play 'God' however you wish and I will never tell.

    Good luck!

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  4. Hmm, I didn't know you wrote long hand. I do that sometimes myself; it changes the way I think about certain situations. And I never truly delete anything. I have a "deletes" document for each of the novels I have in progress. When I decide something doesn't fit, I cut and paste it to its specific delete doc and leave it there. Sometimes I retrieve those deletes and use them in another novel - different characters or situations - and sometimes I refine the scene so it fits the right way. I moved a prologue around the first novel that way, until I finally got all the info in an appropriate manner integrated in the book. The prologue is still in the delete document though; you never know when it might come in handy for something.

    I think the really bold, brave move is to just write the scene - however it turns out. You might like it more than you think once you start writing; and then you can move on and determine the worthiness of the scene in revision.

    Sometimes, you just got to due the stupid scene! At least you'll give yourself a much needed laugh if nothing else.

    Good luck.

    ........dhole

    Uh Oh; it logged me in under my son's account. I'll have to fix that somehow.

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  5. Maybe God should send in an elephant with the storm. That should throw Bull for a loop. I'm just saying...

    Hey did you read my post today? Experiments are a good thing. Here's hoping yours ends up freaking amazing.

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  6. Anne and Donna: I know that I could save stuff to a "deletes" document or whatever, but I know that I'd never ever go back and look at that file. It's just the way I am. I like seeing exactly what I was thinking, exactly which words I changed and crossed out, exactly what the original structure of a passage was when I go back to look. On the other hand, when I've actually put things into Word and I mess with the text there, I don't use the "track changes" function. Though I will only edit by printing the MS out, working by hand, and then typing all the changes up into the master document. And then I save all the marked-up printouts. So, you see, it's madness and a need to work with paper and pens.

    I did in fact go off to lunch and write the stupid scene! It was a bit shorter than I thought it would be, but I realized that I wanted to have God's comments on the story to be subtle, so I found myself backing off from a lot of things He was going to think. Still, it seems okay to me. I'll read it again on the bus ride home tonight and if it works, I'll just write the next scene in the chapter and the one after that and then I'll be onto Chapter 23 and that will be a fine thing indeed. I just have the feeling that I need something more, something very pointed that changes the story, in God's segment. So I'll think about it.

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  7. Lois: I have no idea how I'm going to do it, but I absolutely must go back and add an elephant to this scene! I'll let you know how it goes, but I'm going to do it!

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  8. Scott, I have a spare elephant scene from Rooster if you need one. I upset some people when I cut it, so I'd be happy to put it to good use!

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  9. I'll dig it up and send it to you. It's probably back in draft 23 or something.

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  10. Big D, that'd be very cool if you could find it. In the meanwhile, I'm thinking about the book of Maccabees and elephants trained for battle and pushing around the idea of an elephant metaphor more than an actual living elephant. But if I could get a real, live elephant in the scene, I will so rule. But it has to meet my standards of realism and believability. So, huh. We'll see. Interesting challenge.

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  11. My tip, give the elephant a flaw. That's the best way to create a believable character. Perhaps he never does his taxes on time.

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  12. Big D: You make me laugh, you!

    "I liked the book, but the elephant's not compelling. He seemed too perfect. There was no conflict."

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  13. The elephant escaped from the traveling circus when the hurricane struck. Just a thought.

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  14. Anne: The first elephant didn't come to America until 1796, so if I want a real elephant, I have to find a way for the storm to have picked it up in the Caribbean and carried it to Virginia. But then I have to have a compelling reason for an elephant to have been in the Caribbean. I'll keep thinking about it, but unless I have a brilliant idea, it's back to metaphor, which is fine, especially if I can use the phrase "bull elephant."

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  15. Mr. Bailey, You are either a walking encyclopedia or a very persnickety writer. And if I may be so bold as to ask you, what is an elephant doing in the Caribbean? It is my understanding they are from Africa & India -- no wait, they captured elephants along with the slaves and brought them there to work in the sugar plantations.

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  16. Wow, lots of comments here. I'm totally late to the game, sorry. I think you're still a brave, bold writer even if you have moments of doubt and fear and cowardice. All writers feel that way at some points, I hope. I'm feeling that way right now with my revisions. It changes from day to day. Today is cowardice.

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  17. Anne: That's just the problem, isn't it? Why would there be an elephant in the Caribbean? There wouldn't be. So I have found another solution.

    Michelle: The God POV has turned out pretty well, I think, and even surprised me in a couple of pleasing ways. So yes, we're all craven now and then but we have to keep going into the breach. Don't be afraid. Or, even if you are, don't stop working!

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