Friday, September 08, 2006
["persnickity" : overly particular about trivial details]
I caught myself yesterday in persnickity writing mode and I had to use all my sneaky arts to drag myself out of it. There IS a time for persnickitiness, and I LOVE that time. I love to futz with sentences and I do so with all the delight of a little old lady trying ribbons on her poodle. I just don’t get tired of it and when I get a paragraph just right I want to pick it up and kiss its little wet nose.
I love to futz. I love to “persnick.”
But as I said, there’s a time for it, and that time is AFTER there’s a story to “persnick” with! Not while the document on my computer is a clean and endless white scroll without a living breathing story on it yet. Not when I’m still trying on ideas like new wigs, keeping an open mind and giving them all a chance, every color, every shape. To be too persnickity at this point would be like spending hours styling one wig only to decide the color’s wrong and toss it out the window. What a waste of time!
Oh God, I can see I’m Metaphor Millie today. I get like that. I’ll try to shake off the poodles and wigs!
The thing is, I’m back into Silksinger, my second novel, after the sidetrack of revisions on Blackbringer (though I’m expecting to receive the copyedits today, so... holding my breath!), and it’s glorious to be following a new story along. I love the way a whole world falls open and ideas swarm out, and there are a million choices to make, and serendipities are born between your fingertips and the computer keys and amazing, unexpected things happen and you let them, you follow them like interesting strangers and see what they’ll do, and after a while, they’re not strangers any more but part of your world. And all the while you know that at any point the story could go in a million other directions. And that can be paralyzing, wondering if you’ve chosen the right direction out of millions -- how can you know?
But the thing is, there isn’t one right direction. A novel isn’t a labyrinth with one way out and a dragon waiting to kill you if you turn the wrong way. It’s like a life in miniature, an organic thing that sasses back and screws up and backtracks and tries again. And again. And again. You’ve just got to keep moving, which doesn’t really happen in persnickity mode.
So, to get out of there and into... er... wig-trying-on mode, I have to be stern with myself, and I have to be tricky. Sometimes it’s as simple as opening a new document called something un-overwhelming like “Silksinger temp doc” and writing there where I can hide it from the characters in my REAL draft so they won’t see how much I suck and start to despise me.
And I force myself to free-write. This is something I never want to do, like going to the gym (which I already did today), or painting the new doors (which I have to do later. ARG!). I groan. I panic, a little. I consider a tantrum. I look up something in the dictionary and end up writing twelve exciting new words down in my notebook. I pet the dog with my foot. I dawdle.
But yesterday, I looked at the little clock in the upper corner of my computer and said, free write for ten minutes on this scene. Go! And I went, even though it was naptime and I could have wrangled my way out of it. And ten minutes flew past, and before I knew it, I had written as much as I had in the previous four hours. The panic was gone, and I had remembered that when I free write like this, I don’t actually have to READ what I’ve written after, but usually some little twist in the story will pop up and I’ll follow it and it will turn out to be the one choice out of the millions that seems right for that moment.
Maybe it’s the one idea in the crowd wearing Christmas lights and jumping up and down, and maybe it’s the one in the back, not raising its hand and not making eye contact because it didn’t do the reading and maybe it doesn’t even speak English but that’s okay, because it can sing, baby, it can sing.
Think about this: as a writer, you’re the team captain and there are a million-trillion ideas you can pick for your team, and there are no limits and no rules. That’s pretty cool.
And the story inches onward.
And tomorrow, you try on another wig. And another.
Posted by Laini Taylor at 12:18 PM