Recently, our chapter moved the venue for our monthly meetings. The new place is larger to help accommodate our growing membership, and it’s free. Did the move go off without a hitch? That would be a big “nope”, but I still have confidence that the issues can be addresses. The move and the resulting issues did bring to mind the difficulty of change – for all of us, in a variety of different areas of our lives.
Marriage, a new baby, a change of jobs, purchasing a home – some big examples of major changes in our lives. But change comes along in smaller packages, too. A new meeting place, road construction causing a detours, daylight savings.
Change can also happen to our writing process. We may move more from pantsing to plotting. Perhaps we change genres, try first person narrative rather than third person. For me, change is still in flux. Before I explain that, let me offer up a bit of background.
My critique group has taken a small hiatus from our weekly meetings – reasons not important, only that we took off three weeks. Ostensibly, I was to use the time to incorporate weeks’ worth of comments from my crit partners into my manuscript. I was a wee bit behind on that, and was beginning to feel discombobulated.
So, yeah. I did that. I went through my marked up pages and made the small changes (typos, missed commas, etc.). Anything that would require more thought and more work to correct, I simply added a note to my MS with the intension of fixing it later.
So, that should have been the end to it. Once that was completed, I should have begun tip-tapping away on my next new chapter. But change lured me like a siren. I started convincing myself that I really needed to nail the first third of my story, especially the plot. I mean, how could I be expected to forge ahead if I was on shaky foundational ground? Is not the first third of any story the foundation of the story? Or, in my case, of the series.
So, here’s where I address the flux. George R. R. Martin summed up very succinctly my view on writing: “Some writers enjoy writing, I am told. Not me. I enjoy having written.”
More precisely, the “having written” part for me is editing, where my true writing enjoyment lies. During the crit group break and after incorporating crit partner changes in my MS, the editor in me was anxious to get into the real meat of the story. This was a pitfall I was anticipating.
No, no, no, I told myself. I would NOT fall into this trap. I would NOT get bogged down in useless editing. Why? Because it is my contention that this endless editing of mine is the PRIMARY reason why I remain in the ranks of the unpublished.
Again, I turn to George R. R. Martin, who said: “One of the big breakthroughs, I think for me, was reading Robert A. Heinlein’s four rules of writing, one of which was, ‘You must finish what you write.’ I never had any problem with the first one, ‘You must write’ – I was writing since I was a kid. But I never finished what I was writing.”
Yeah – I NEVER finish what I’m writing, either. I feel his pain. I had determined that my writing process had to CHANGE.
Here’s what else you need to know about me. I’m a plotter needtabe. Because of that, when I reach a point in my novel where I’m not sure what happens next – I stop writing. Another super excellent way to finish a story. Yeah, right.
Let’s return to that editing siren’s song. After making the changes to my MS, I was (quite predictably) burning with the desire to do some hard core editing. Damn the forward progress. I NEEDED to make sure the first third of my story was rock solid. I told myself, “To thine own self be true.”
Screw the advocates of forward progression. I should recognize and appreciate that I’m a different kind of writer. I shouldn’t try to buck my natural inclinations, but go with them. Let the writing flow naturally. Seemed a solid rationalization, in my mind.
I went so far as to begin deep editing on my current WIP. Then, in the car, my son was chatting about . . . you guessed it, George R. R. Martin. He told me (and I’m paraphrasing them both here) that Martin believed it didn’t matter how badly your story was initially written. It mattered more that you finished it. You could always go back and tighten prose, correct grammar, and deepen POV.
And that’s when it hit me. The change I was trying to incorporate into my writing process was not born of my organic storytelling process, but rather it was hatched because of fear.
Anne Lamott said: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
On face value, change can be positive influence when that change has come about from honest reflection. When the change is a reaction to fear (fear of a shitty first draft; fear of failure; fear, fear, fear) then it is an avoidance mechanism or perhaps delusion.
Change is hard. Not changing can be hard as well.
So, I’m casting aside my fears and I have decide to keep on with my forward progress. The change I made was not to change.
Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.
Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.
Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.