Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Hurting the Characters you love

Visitors to this blog may have noticed that I've been doing the bare minimum amount of blogging for the past month, just my two most popular series Writing Wednesday and Shut-up Stupid Sunday. This isn't because I couldn't think of anything to write about, I've actually thought of tons of topics for the other things but I've got characters I need to torture.

I've been writing MIND THIEF for 6 months now. This is the longest I've spent on writing a first draft since my first novel when I had no clue what I was doing and revised each chapter right after I wrote it 2 or 3 times. In word count I'm actually falling behind that as I am at the 50,000 word mark and on my first novel I was past the 80,000 word mark at 6 months.

What has bogged me down is that I like the characters I've created. I have even started to like the one character that I couldn't stand when I started the novel. That's the odd part of writing you can hate your own creations. I wrote the first act of 30,000 words in a little over a month. Then I came to the second act where every thing goes wrong for my main character. He is a freshman in college and acts like a freshman in college, in other words he's kind of a jerk.

I had a real dread of two things. First, I had to make him far, far from a perfect gentleman. Second, I had to smash his little world to bits and give him one of the worst days I could imagine. I knew it would be a tough 10,000 words to write but I finally just forced myself to write it.

So for the last month I've been plowing through it and I've gotten through 20,000 words of the 10,000 words I forced myself to write and I am almost done (maybe 5,000 to 7,500 word more) and will be on to the grand action scene where everything gets tied together. I expect that I'll zoom through writing that.

I've dedicated two to three hours a day to this and I've been writing about 500 words a day, that's two to three words per minute. The slowest I've ever written something. I'd love to say the quality of writing makes up for the time spent, but it doesn't and I'll be doing major revisions to it.

But forcing myself write the part of the book I didn't want to has been good to me, I managed to write my main character being a jerk, but in a way you can still sympathize with him. I made the character that I hated more sympathetic so I almost feel sorry for her, almost. I made the bad guy into my true vision of a bad guy, which I will probably write about next week.

Although the last month was a tough writing month for me, once I forced myself to do it, it really wasn't as bad as I had dreaded. My characters have come to life and although I had to expose all their ugly flaws it gave me a stronger bond to them.

This month I've learned something about writing. It's an extension to the number one rule of writing: Writers write. To improve your writing it is important to write, good or bad writing, it doesn't matter just keep writing. But the extension to that is even if you dread writing something, or you think it is at level that's above your abilities, just write it. It may have be revised heavily, it may be so bad it has to be set aside for a while, at the very worst it might have to go into the recycle bin, but in the end it will probably be better than you imagined and you'll find it's not as painful as you thought it would be.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts


Stephanie Barr said...

On writer's write, I'm torn.

First, I disagree that it applies to everyone. I can't think of a writer's rule ANYWHERE that applies to everyone.

I say this because, if I'm not ready to write the next part of a a book, I can't. If I try to force it, what will come out will be not only immutable garbage that will need to be discarded later with extreme prejudice, but also, frequently, so godawful that I literally lose all interest in the book, sometimes for years, maybe forever. I disgust myself.

My subconscious does all the good writing and will punish me horribly for trying to force it when it wasn't ready.

On the other hand, if I have a segment in the book that's dull and uninteresting to me or where I know what has to happen but I just haven't worked out the details, I can force myself through it as a placeholder so I can get to the stuff I have envisioned. Either I'll go back and find out the placeholder will work, its revisable into something palatable or I'll discover I never needed it anyway.

Note that telling you what does and doesn't work for me is no indication that it would, should or will work for anyone else. I am a weird one.

Project Savior said...

I probably phrased it wrong. I didn't mean write something when your not ready, unless you want something to add to your recycle bin (meaning the pile of stuff that you'll grab later to work off on something else).
Maybe it's just me but I tend to see the whole book first and then just have to physically write it. That means there can be stuff that I wish wouldn't happen to my characters, and sometimes they act up, but it doesn't stop me from loving them. (They are like children in that respect). I don't like writing about my characters being in pain or the main character hurting some one else. But if it is necessary for the story it has to be done.
This is also a strange book for me as it is really character driven there isn't much imagery for me to fall back on, what imagery there is, is historical so I don't have my strengths to make up for weaknesses.
To add more pressure to all that, the bad guy is a collection of the traits from bad guys in a lot of my unpublishable stuff so I basically have fleshed him out over the last 3 years and finally got him right, at least in my mind. Now I have to write the heroes with an equal amount of depth or the book won't be balanced.