August 8, 2012
Not One Word Is Wasted
I am a very wordy writer. Now when I say this I don't mean that my books are filled with lots and lots of unecessary words, pages and pages of lengthy description, reams of paragraph-long, rambling dialogue, or irrevelant scenes (at least I hope not, but I suppose you all will let me know once my book comes out if I'm delusional here *grins*). What I mean is that I have to write A LOT of words to get to the ones that will one day make it into the final draft of one of my manuscripts. I have to meander down a lot of paths that lead nowhere, write scenes that I know I'm probably going to cut even as I'm still writing them. AND I'm not even a panster type writer. I'm a dedicated outliner. For every manuscript I've managed to finish there's at least as many words I've deleted as kept, usually much, much more. That's why it takes me a minimum of seven or more months to complete one story.
I wish it wasn't true.
I wish that the first words I put to paper every day were pure gold, genius in ink form, but they are SO not. The real work for me as a writer is plodding through all of those unecessary, wrong words to get to the right ones. I HAVE to write out back story and take lots of wrong turns to get to the heart of my real story and its characters. I won't know either well enough to make them authentic otherwise. BUT it never fails to make me nervous and sometimes self critical. Some part of me will always believe that the process should be faster...if I were better organized, or more creative, or just, well, BETTER in general at what I do.
But what I'm finding is that the process is what it is. The only way to get a good book written is to write the bad version of it first--at least for me and I'm pretty sure one or more of you out there reading this.
Now I try to think of writing a story as climbing a giant staircase with an end so far into the sky that at first I can't even see it.
I can't jump to the top, it's too high. I can't skip steps because they're too widely spaced. I have to put one foot in front of the other and take EVERY single step until I get to the top.There will be lots of times when I'll be out of breath, frustrated, and sure that the top doesn't exist-- that it's a staircase with no end that leads absolutely NOWHERE--and I'll sit down and have a good cry and contemplate staying right where I am or worse, going back the way I came without ever reaching the top.
BUT then I'll think about the view all the way up there--which is panoramic and rich with landscapes I wasn't even sure were possible until I finished my first book--and I'll start climbing all over again, grateful that at least I'm not starting from the bottom. I'm halfway there. Every step forward tips the scales closer to done.
Not one word that I've written was wasted.Not one word that YOU've written was wasted.
Every word that we write, usuable or not is part of a necessary step on the staircase that leads us to our finished books. We have to place our feet on those steps, to feel their rough, uneven terrain. It's the only way to get where we're going, to reach the heights ahead. The only way our words will have been wasted is if we never use them to MOVE FORWARD.