Thursday, June 12, 2008

Substance over style

The best way to write something -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- is to sit down and write something. It's really pretty simple.

Many times in my life I've gone through long periods of-- Well, I wouldn't really call it writer's block, which is a condition wherein one finds one has lost (hopefully temporarily) the ability to write. What I had was more like "writer's ennui" or something like that, which shall be defined as "the temporary loss of giving a damn."

One such period I remember, for example, lasted several years. I just didn't feel like writing. I was discouraged; I was busy; I didn't think I'd be able to come up with anything good. Etc. And, as always, utter crap.

You sit down at your computer or your typewriter or your pad of paper, and you write something. That's it. Make yourself write something, if that's what it takes. Force yourself do do something you simply haven't felt like doing lately. It will work. It always works.

Yes, what you write could stink. It happens. Sometimes it happens a lot. But writing something suboptimally excellent is still better than writing nothing, because the bad thing, for all you know, could contain the seeds of a good thing. It can be fixed. It can be polished. There's not much you can do with nothing. With something, if nothing else, you have a head start.

Until recently I had 2 things chugging away in the background: the magnum opus, and the Wee Vampire Story. The MO is the thing I've been working on, in one form or another, since I was in high school. (No, not Firestarter 2.) It's gone through many revisions, and many extended periods of dormancy -- right now, for instance.

The WVS is relatively recent (some day I'll have to relate how I dislike vampire stories, and how I ended up writing one anyway), and actually was finished to a degree within about six months. After that, when it came time to fix things, is when the ennui began.

That was probably, wow, five years ago? Something like that. Five years of little tweaks, and fixing words and phrases, and re-reading it once in a while to remind myself that, hey, lots of this really need a re-write. (Because that's often what happens when you write a whole book in six months.)

But then the New Thing came along, inspired when I finished a new book by one of my own favorite authors (that list will be its own post one day). Inspired again -- nay, excited! -- I pushed out 6 really good chapters in about a month and a half. Wow, yay me! But then Superwife and I went on vacation, and after that two more months went by. It didn't help that, at the point where I'd halted before we left for Arizona, I had written myself into a minor stylistic corner: the narration had taken a zig, as is its wont, and I had no idea how to zag it back on track. It took those two months for me to figure out how to continue; but mostly it took me that long to work up the kick in the pants I needed to do something as simple as sitting in front of my computer and just doing it.

Funny how that works sometimes.

No: funny how it works every time.

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