No doubt about it, writing is hard.
First off, it’s not easy to make the time to sit down in front of the computer. Life — in the form of work commitments and family time — so often gets in the way. Yet we do it week in and week out. Why? Because we love what we do, hard or not.
Getting the characters in your head to behave on paper can be even more of a challenge. My characters, at least, have a penchant for doing exactly what they want instead of what I’d like them to do. I implore, beg, plead and sometimes resort to trickery and still they take off in their own, often unexpected direction.
But the hardest part of writing, by far, is revising.
I know, I know. Plotters will argue that having a road map before writing would eliminate the need for so much rewriting. That may well be true. Alas, I am a pantster through and through. More than half the time, I start scenes with no clear idea where they’re going. They begin as a way to work in a particular line of dialogue or funny situation.
That’s how I wrote my first manuscript — and is no doubt why it’s giving me fits in this, its fourth revision. As I go back in to beef up the “scandal at the hero’s school” conflict (completely nonexistent in the first draft), I’m finding entire scenes that no longer have a point and will have to be excised. Good scenes … funny scenes … but they just don’t fit.
You know what they say: If it does not fit, you must —
Wait a minute. How’d OJ’s lawyer get in here?
But seriously, folks: A scene that doesn’t work anymore simply must go. On Saturday, while sitting at a table in Starbucks, I ended up hacking two scenes — about 2,000 words total. Hence the “ye-ouch” in the title of this post.
It’s painful — really and truly grueling, to strip moments I love from my story … to “kill the darlings,” as it were.
But if it strengthens the story and leads to a publishing contract, I’ll get over the hurt. (Don’t tell Brad and Erin, my hero and heroine, I said this, but it’s even kind of fun to torture them a little bit.)
I’m afflicted — cursed, if you will — with being that most heinous of attributes: Nice.
Some people — normal people — might think nice is a good thing. And that is, indeed, the case when you’re dealing with fellow human beings. A little kindness can go a long, long way.
But when you’re an author trying to make life difficult for your hero and heroine, a nice streak as wide as the mighty Mississippi just gets in the way.
Trust me, I know. That’s my CP’s main complaint with the MS she’s reading for me right now — and it was the main point of one of the agents who gave me detailed feedback on my 2011 Golden Heart finalist.
Obviously, it’s a problem for me.
I think it boils down to this: My characters are like old friends (some of them very old, having been knocking around my head since the mid-1990s). As I wrote in a guest post on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood last spring, they’re folks I’d enjoy meeting for coffee or dinner.
And because I like these people, the last thing I want is to see them suffer.
But suffer they must. In the words of my CP, I need to “Make them wiggle. Make them squirm. Make them unhappy. Uncomfortable. Put roadblocks in their way. Conflict is what drives a book and keeps the reader wondering how they will ever end up together.”
I can see her point. There’s not much keeping someone reading if they know the hero and heroine are meant for each other halfway through the story, is there?
That means I have to accept that torturing my characters — as much as I hate to do it — will make the story stronger in the end.
So I’m taking off the gloves. Now I just need to figure out how to channel the meanest person I know.
In my other life (my day job), I’m a page designer and sometimes writer. I used to write a weekly column called “Adventures in Cooking,” which eventually became the basis for my weight-loss blog, Adventures in Weight Loss, Cooking and Life.
My job duties have shifted and I don’t have as much time for column writing anymore, so “Adventures in Cooking” fell by the wayside. But after reading our features editor’s eloquent defense of the printed page a couple of weeks ago, I was compelled to craft a response.
That response, headlined “In defense of the e-reader,” ran Sunday in the Arts & Living section of the Arizona Daily Sun.
1. Easy access. I carry my Nook — and phone — with me everywhere, so I can read anywhere, anytime.
2. Endless variety. I can read anything — anything at all. Romance dominates my collection, but I also have other options, like the Klingon Dictionary (downloaded for research, not because I’m a geek).
3. Saved space. When I traveled to New York City for RWA Nationals last summer, my e-reader — loaded with a bunch of reading material — went with me. Having several books on one compact device eliminated the need to pack five or six tomes to keep me occupied during the flight. This both lightened my bag and freed up more luggage space for the important things: clothes and shoes. (As a GH finalist, I needed a fancy gown. Being indecisive — and unsure how many other fancy events I’d be attending, I packed three.)
4. Price. While the device itself wasn’t cheap, there are a lot of low-cost books in cyberspace, available with a simple click.
5. Privacy. I can be in the middle of a steamy scene without anyone being the wiser. (That’s a huge perk, since some of my favorite books are super-steamy.)
Perhaps the column explains the huge bump in page views for this blog today? Otherwise, I’m at a loss. Why did I get 97 hits when I usually get about 10? My site stats page is no help at all.