Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writing Through the Fog

As you probably know, I've been working on the fourth draft of my YA novel. The change in POV from 3rd person to 1st person has been a blessing in that it has done much to bring the story brilliantly to life. However, it has also been a curse.

Why a curse? Because I thought it would be a breeze, I mean, I know the story, right? What I didn't realize is that this change requires not just edits, but an entire rewrite.

Rewrites are good, right? (Try saying that fast five times!) I'm a writer - I write. What's the big deal?

And yet, it's been a very big deal. It's been difficult. I've been resisting the process. It's been harder than I thought. Wah. Wah. Wah. (Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine.)

Why? Because I'm a Type A, Control Freak. I need to know exactly how the latest rewrite is going to end, AND I thought I did. After all, I've written the story three times already, right? So, how come I'm having trouble?

Because I'm forcing it and am convinced I already "know" how it should go. I should be able to whip this baby out in no time at all. I'M NOT GIVING THE NEW REWRITE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE NEW! I'm moving forward as if I know something I don't.

And then it hit me...

I'm not "being" with the fog, with the fuzziness, with the unknown. I'm not allowing the process to continue to naturally take shape. The story is exactly where it needs to be, I'm just too stupid/control-freak-ish to realize it.

As with all writing, I need to step boldly into the uncertainty that is the creative process. Expect the unexpected. Admit defeat before I fight. That way, I may be less likely to wage an necessary war.

Now that I can see the fog of resistance being lifted, I'm going to move forward and embrace the creative process again. I will no longer endeavor to put words into my character's mouths. I'm going to let them do the talking, and the acting, and whatever it is they do. I'm going to move my brilliant ass out of the way and let the real magic take place.

Just like I did with my hair recently, I'm going to let my story straighten itself out until it falls beautifully into place.

What about you? Have you had an "aha!" moment lately? Have you been forcing your character's hand because you think you know better? Are you resisting the magnificence and mystery that is the creative process?

BTW, the outdoor pictures posted here are of my backyard Wednesday morning (fog) and afternoon (no more fog - how appropriate!). The hair pics are me "before" and "after" my keratin treatment on Tuesday. ;-)

43 comments:

Julie said...

I've always felt lucky that words just flow for me, like they do for you. And the one time I did what you've been doing and tried to manhandle a story, the words dried up. To be honest, that terrified me. And in response, I took a step back, accepted the fog as you have, and then moved forward, while eliminating the deadlines I'd forced on myself.

My mom always says, "Just breathe." That's become my mantra for writing, but I've added, "Just let the characters breathe" to the mix.

Glad you are one with the fog. You're the foggiest. :)

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Very cool pics and post! That is just the best nature imitating life imitating hair.

Very creative illustrations - and very fun!

Isn't it just so true about resistance - our only "real" problem in life.

Debra L. Schubert said...

So true! I'm taking Melissa Marr's advice and letting things "simmer." I'm not good at stepping away, but I think that's what I should do for a couple of days. I'm excited to nail the "new" ending, but know I need to let it happen naturally and not force it.

I'm going to let the characters breathe. I'm afraid I've been suffocating them!

Cynthia Schuerr said...

Hi Debra,

You have a beautiful site and I have followed you on twitter for some time. I've learned so much from you. And before I start on my 'aha' moment, I just want to say that your backyard is lovely in the fog and out. :-) Also, the lighter hair in your pictures fooled me. Just a different look from what I have been seeing on twitter. I love it!

My 'aha' moment, oh yes, here we go. I started writing my novel before I knew anything. Before I started reading all of the information I could find about creativity and the rules of fiction and 'voice', etc. I only knew I wanted to write and I had a story to tell. So it's been in the making for a long time.

Somewhere along the way, I confused myself with all of the info and started re-writing my novel. In trying to keep to all of the rules, I think I've lost my 'voice'. Last night I was lurking around on #yalitchat (yes, sometimes, I lurk:-)) and I read one of your posts about writing the story that is in my heart first and then worry about the rest of it (agents, publishing, who wants what) later. So my 'aha' moment is this. I now know why I have been so frustrated with my writing. I have 'laryngitis'. It isn't me speaking anymore and I need to find MY voice, again.
So, thank you for helping me to remember that I need my heart to find my voice.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I love your hair! So pretty and straight. And I did have one of those rare "aha" moments this week. Thanks to my crit partners and a little rambling, my story came to life. There's nothing better than that!!

And your backyard pics are beautiful! I love the fog one, so eerie. ;)

Karen Walker said...

the hair and the backyard are totally beautiful - and so are you, dear Debra. Thanks for this very timely post, as I am in the fog right now and see no way out. I just have to let go let go let go let go.
Karen

Debra L. Schubert said...

Anne, You're exactly right. What we resist, persists. Glad you enjoyed the post. I'll be meditating until further notice. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Cynthia, Wow! I'm so happy I could be of help. (Pats self on back.)

I love what you said about having laryngitis - great metaphor. Finding your own voice is key. The next step is to let your characters find theirs.

When your heart opens up, the voices on the page will sing to their hearts content. Enjoy the music. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kim, Good for you! The "aha" moments are the magic of writing. The rest is all BIC. (Butt In Chair)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Karen, Why do we find it so hard to let go? And yet, we do. Over and over again. This being human stuff is tricky. ;-)

paulgreci said...

Deb, I recently rewrote my WIP, changing from 3rd to 1st person and after several first person drafts finally sent it to some readers.

For me, it did change the book in so many ways that really it is a new book. And it'll probably change some more before I give it to my agent.

I totally experienced that fog, and continually had to step away from the old story, the one I knew so well, to let the new one in.

cgbarbeau said...

I enjoyed your post and I understand where you are.
Try a new way of looking at the story. Rewrites are like trying to create dams to stop the waves from filling your sand castle. Read the next four pages you are working out loud and record it- play it back and the sound will clear the particulate the tiny clogs of moisture will rise or dry up and you will work around the fog..
caroline gerardo

Debra L. Schubert said...

Paul, OMG, thank you! That's EXACTLY it! I will read your comment over and over again as I work my way through. It's so awesome to know others have experienced the same thing, and that there's a light at the end of the foggy tunnel. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Caroline, I always go back and read out loud - I agree with you that it is one of the best tools a writer has. And, I'll do my best not to let my beautiful sand castle get knocked over. ;-)

Laura Marcella said...

I'm a control-freak, too. I get it in my head that whatever I'm working on has to turn out a certain way- MY way! And of course that's how it is since I'm the writer, but sometimes the story needs to go in a different direction. It's hard to relinquish control and let the story go on its own!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Laura, Relinquishing control and letting the story lead you instead of you leading the story is one of the greatest and most difficult things we writers can do. That's why it's important for us to remind each other of it on a near-daily basis!!!

Sybir St. John said...

Deb,
When my characters started giving me too much grief, or even the entire book, I created my Muse stuff. Guided meditations to help get back in touch with the process and the characters.

I've found meditation to be one of the biggest helps in getting out of my own way (and out of the book's way). I meditate, then I step away...and then it hits me and I'm up writing frantically through the wee hours.

Anonymous said...

I totally needed to hear this today. Thank you!

Carolin Seidenkranz said...

It scares me sometimes how very similar your posts are to what I'm going through. Lost brain twin? LOL

Anyway, I'm in rewrites and I'm a complete CONTROL FREAK. I'm annoying myself a little with that trait. I'm afraid, that if I change something, it'll have implications for the whole book and mess EVERYTHING up forever and I'll never have a good book on my hands. So I've been fighting the change, which I know is stupid, but we all know that our feelings while writing are never entirely rational. I really want to trust in my characters and let things flow, but instead I'm obsessing over making the 'right' decision - and in effect not making one at all.

Here's hoping, that eventually I'll pull through and it'll turn out the book I want it to be. :D

Debra L. Schubert said...

Stacia, Meditation is a wonderful way to clear our heads of the nonsense we tend to fill them with. Thanks for reminding me - I haven't meditated in a while. Time to change that. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Anon, Glad to help!;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Carolin, Sometimes I think we put a little too much "thought" into our work instead of letting the words flow onto the page in their desired direction. Stop fighting with your book. That's not a fight you want to "win." ;-)

Voidwalker said...

Cool fog pic. Also, I like the new straight hair :) Looks good.

As for the Aha! moment, I haven't quite had any recently. I had some in my previous WIP, but I had to set that one aside, as mentioned in yesterday's post.

Anyway, I'm glad you'll be able to move forward with the POV transition. I've been contemplating doing a 1st to 3rd POV with my WIP right now, but I know it'll be a pain in the A$$ :)

Good luck!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

wow! Gorgeous fog pict.
And yay for keratin!
Nice writing advice.

Debra L. Schubert said...

VW, I imagine changing from 1st to 3rd is even trickier than 3rd to 1st. Now you'll have many POV's to "add" to the mix. I'm sorry, did you think I'd say something encouraging? Oh, yeah - GO FOR IT!

Glad you like the pics, btw. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Terry, I know, I love keratin! The fog was so beautiful - we don't get it here much, so I knew I had to snap that picture while I could. ;-)

Lynda Young said...

I like this because it's the way I write generally, but whenever I try to be too strict with the story it fails. The characters will sometimes insist on having a life of their own.

Jon Paul said...

Great post!

I'm tussling with a 1st/3rd person decision in my new WIP. I'm only a few chapters in on a first draft, so still early enough to make changes, but I'm going to bookmark this post and come back when I'm arm-wrestling with draft 4.

Since I'm Type A like you, a grudge match is a certainty.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Ruthanne Reid said...

Fantastic backyard pics - I hope you don't have to mow all that. :D (And very nice hair, too)

I have had such a moment, actually, and it meant deleting three chapters I've had since the beginning draft of this book. Ouch.

But the result... soooo much better. You go, girl. Listen to that muse!

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the photos - just gorgeous!

I had tried writing my ending several times - it never worked. I finally realized the previous chapters were WRONG and needed to be deleted. After that it was much easier :)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Lynda, Don't you hate it when the characters want to have their own way? Don't they realize we're the boss? (NOT!!!!!!)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jon Paul, So glad you liked the post. Just remember, whether you're arm wrestling or having a grudge match, YOU WON'T WIN! Or, if you do, the story will lose. Does that make sense?

Feel free to pop in anytime you need some positive reinforcement. That's what we writers do for each other - help to ease the pain inflicted upon us by our characters. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Ruthanne, Sometimes that is indeed the key - to stop placating what we've already written. I know that's a big one for me. Sometimes the time we spend figuring out how to make what's already there work would be much better spent rewriting.

And, yes we do have someone mow the 1.3 acres once a week!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jemi, Realizing what we've already written isn't necessarily the best thing for the story is more than half the battle. Good for you for deleting three chaps - never an easy task, yet often quite a fulfilling one.

And, so glad you like the pics. ;-)

linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla said...

First time on your blog and enjoying the conversation!

I write memoir but I can get in just as big of a bind because there's still structure and arc and characters (even if they're real) and dialogue (even if remembered), etc.

There are two things that work very well for me, though I always forget to do them until, by accident, I find myself doing them again: 1) talking about where I'm at with someone. Somehow the verbalizing makes me see the problems and the solutions; and 2) letting my subconscious work on it. Amazingly enough, sometimes I wake up refreshed the next day.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Linda, First of all, hi! I'm so glad we connected (I found you via the lovely Aidan Rowley). Secondly, I totally agree w/both of your suggestions. I always read everything back out loud and I've been doing my best to let the story "simmer." After all, it needs to cook long enough for the seasonings to blend just right!

nsiyer said...

It is all in the flow.Seamlessly moving forward and discovering and unfolding. That is the beauty of uncertainty and ambiguity which most of us do not want to confront.

Debra L. Schubert said...

nsiyer, You're a poet, do you know that? The things you do with words and concepts is art. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

Anita said...

OK, I could ask all sorts of writing stuff here, but what I'm really wondering is if this was a home keratin treatment and, if so, where do I get the stuff?

Debra L. Schubert said...

Anita, I love how you skip straight to the important stuff. ;-)

No, it wasn't a home thing. I'm not nearly that talented. It was a costly salon thing. (Sorry to disappoint.)

steve said...

Great stuff, Debra. I have experienced a little of what you're talking about, "the letting go". I think of it as literary inverse judo. Pivot, let the novel use my energy against me, so to speak. Cuz I'm a real control freak. It will paralyze me, as you know, if I let it.

Keep up the great work. We're all reading!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Steve, "literary inverse judo" Thanks - at least, now I know the proper name for it! ;-)

Mollie said...

What in the hell is a Keratin treatment.

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