Surfacing and Submerging

I just posted most of this on Jen’s blog. She was fretting over skipping a scene in her Nano novel. And since I do that all the time I was inspired to bloviate about my own process.
Anyway I said I do not start and the beginning and write to the end. I generally know the beginning and know the end and start the journey sleepwalking through a chapter or so at a time until I arrive at my destination. I once talked to Kate about this and she said she can only plan about three chapters ahead. I’m very much like that.
I often skip scenes because usually they’re too heavy to deal with. So say you have a scene where, say x murders y, and to really write that scene would take so much emotion and strain and deep mining that it would totally keep you from making any progress for days at a time. In this situation, I do what Jen did, make a quick x murders y comment, highlight it, and keep going with the first draft.
After I get a first draft, I look around, see what I’ve said and then often TRY again to go from begining to end, but my mind frequently doesn’t cooperate and I can’t save the things I think of until I reach that point in the novel to fill them in.
For example, I’ll think of a bit of dialogue in the bathtub. I try to fill that in as soon as possible or I’ll forget all the stuff that went with that snippet. See I could write down that bit of dialogue for later use but it wouldn’t be attached to the sort of dreamlike structure it came from. If I do it quickly, I can still catch some of that substance and then I end up adding a lot more to that particular scene. And then I got back to the linear revision.
Now I’ve reached the end of the linear revision of Reply All that I’m doing for Nano and I keep thinking, “Well, I’m finished.” But this stuff keeps coming to me, like I realized that A. is born in 1951 and I’ve said nothing about the historical context. So I was going to go find stuff about 1951 and fill that in in the section where they go to get A. out of the hospital.

So I say skip the bloody scene until you have the psychic energy to deal with it. No master is standing over you smacking his pointer on his palm ready to pounce if you skip a scene. WHACK! For instance, the scene in Peace where E. tries to save T. in the river was the very last scene I wrote, because I knew it would be so hard to write, and indeed I came up crying.

Title a quote from a large English woman Ginny and I met in Spain, who was describing someone swimming.

4 thoughts on “Surfacing and Submerging

  1. I guess I’ve always felt like writing beginning to end would put me inside the flow of things, so I could get the peaks and valleys right. Or I’m just hopelessly anal. But out of order I feel like I’m flailing about. I learn a lot from every book I write, so maybe one of those things for this one is to let go a bit creatively. I don’t think I will ever sit down to write a story without outlining it first, mind you, but I could probably stand to get a bit more flexible.


  2. When I read a good book I can’t imagine it lying around in imperfect little pieces but I guess many of them did at some point. Maybe it would help if I tried writing in my mother’s quilting room.


  3. Well. Trollope always just wrote 250 words a day long=hand and then went hunting. Never looked back or edited what he’d done. I hope he outlined but I don’t think he did.I have outlined the hell out of the romantic comedy screenplay and it’s different and interesting. I am trying to be whatever brain about my writing these days and not so loosey-goosey. It feels better to tell the truth.


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