Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

hitting a wall

There is a point in the drafting of a novel where, just like a marathon run, you hit a wall (aka 'the bonk'). In running, it's the point where your body stalls mid-run. Taking another step involves finding new energy, usually morsels of carbohydrate rich food/drink. In writing, it's the point where your mind stalls mid-write. Writing the next line involves finding new energy, though the sources are less obvious.

I usually encounter several smaller walls during the early drafting (first three chapters) when the story is still evolving. These are more like steeple-chase hedges than a full blown ten foot high brick wall. In those early stages, I let the story evolve. So, I will happily leap over the hedge without necessarily knowing what is on the other side. In a way, the energy source comes from within - having faith as a writer to allow the story to lead me forward. Sometimes the new path forged works, sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't, there's always editorial.

The brick wall for me is a bit over the half way point in the story. At roughly 60,000 words, I am more committed to the direction of the plot and characters. I have every single scene mapped out from start to finish. This is so at the start of the writing process, and I add and remove scenes (sometimes whole chapters) right through the process. But, by chapter 6, the choice between possible story paths narrows.

Suddenly there is a wall so high - it represents the leap required to take the story somewhere new if the plot is not quite working. I hit that wall at such a pace, I would probably knock myself out cold. Taking the next step with that level of commitment to the existing plot is really difficult.

How do I know I'm facing that wall? Obvious signs are the time it is taking me to write one scene. I am up to my third week of procrastination with the second scene of chapter six.

How do I climb over, break through, or walk around that wall? I have two strategies.

The first is simply an extension of how I handle the hedges. Go with the flow, see where the story takes you. There is ALWAYS editorial. Generally speaking, the final publication bears so little resemblance to the first draft that it makes no sense to be wedded to any aspect of the story. It means ANYTHING that isn't quite working can always be fixed later.

The second is to stay within the parameters of the mapped out plot. When you are closer to the finish line than where you started, better to keep on writing, get the words on paper, and then rely much more on editing efforts to work through the abomination that is 'dumped' on a page to match the map.

You probably have a sense that I prefer the first approach over the second. I prefer a story to evolve. I prefer to throw out a map if the path it leads me down takes me to a dead end. Sure it might mean I will need more time to explore new paths on the other side of the wall that I had not even imagined when I started my journey. A path less travelled can be enlightening!

ps I am relying on my older brother for the marathon lingo.


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