Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inspiration and Decisions

One of the things I love/hate about writing is the flashes of inspiration that come when you're trying to figure out a particular portion of your story that's been pestering you for over a month (unless you can write novel in four weeks, of course).

As you all know, I finished the first draft of CALLARION AT NIGHT nearly three weeks ago. Since that time, two critiquers of two different versions have already gotten back to me (thank you both, by the way), and have presented some very interesting commentary on it. One of the big things that I'm already dealing with is the characterization of Moriah. Some additional backstory will assuage most, if not all, of those concerns, so my only concerns there are how to weave the backstory in without changing too much of the story that's already there.

That said, I've been toying with the frenetic pacing of the book as it is now. While I love fast-paced novels, and video games, and movies, there's something to be said for taking the time to build dramatic tension.

The long and short of it, folks, is that I think I'm going to drop the pacing a few notches. There's a lot of backstory and worldbuilding I have as background that, if I were to include even a touch, would make the story that much more vibrant -- and have you the reader rooting for Moriah more.

I've also been reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, so blame that book for making me think about all this. Well, that book, you fine folks, and the various mind-expanding posts I keep reading from all corners of the blogosphere. There's a lot of people blogging that are easily ten times smarter/wiser than me, and it would be silly to not take their advice to heed.

CaN might take a little longer to be declared done that I'd like ... but who am I to complain if the final product results in a home run clear over the bleachers instead of a line drive to right field?


MeganRebekah said...

Your last line is completely me! This whole process is taking longer than I'd like but it's worth it in the end if you nail it with a homerun!

And personally, I love those little moments of clarity and inspiration when the plot/characters come together with a new idea. Those are the reasons I write.

Kelly Lyman said...

I totally agree. I'm right there with you and am dealing with the same thing myself. I too have Writing the Breakout Novel and reference it all the time. I also have the workbook that goes with it and found it very helpful. In fact, quite a few of the exercises that I did in the workbook transferred into my WIP. If you don't have it, I would recommend buying it.

Stephanie Thornton said...

The baseball analogy is spot-on. I gave myself three years to write HATSHEPSUT so I've still got a year to go, but I never really thought about the revisions process. That's taking a while, but I know it's worth it.

Matthew Delman said...

Megan --

Baseball analogies are the best. Most people get what you're trying to say and you can sound deep without going into esoteric philosophy.

The more annoying part about plot inspirations is that they almost always happen when I'm doing something that means I can't write them down!

Kelly --

I might go buy that workbook now. Thanks for the recommendation. Oh, and welcome to the insanity!

Stephanie --

Since the first draft of CaN was written in eight months, I figure I can give myself at least that long to revise, revise, revise.

Heck it took me ten years to get SON OF MAGIC into the state it's in now. What's sixteen months for this story?

Joshua McCune said...

Taking more time is highly frustrating, but what most resonated w/ me was your point about Mr. Maass -- there's so much advice out there and frequently I find that it only adds to my confusion (and I'm asking myself: "What the hell do they want?").

Matthew Delman said...

Bane --

My personal rule is to only use the advice that makes sense to you. I give more weight to Mr. Maass's stuff than others because he's been representing speculative fiction for quite a few years. He's more of a genre fiction agent than a literary fiction agent, so I feel like he speaks my language better than other advice-givers might.

That's not to say my fellow writers who compose literary fiction aren't brilliant. It's just a matter of knowing which advice makes the most sense for me to use in my own work.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, you know how I love baseball!! I think I'm going to have to break down and buy the Donald Maass book - everyone seems to love it. It sounds like you have a pretty solid vision for where you want to take Callarion - that's a big part of the battle right there.

Matthew Delman said...

Shannon --

Solid vision? Umm ... yeah ... of course I do! *looks around, making sure no one notices*

I think I have a solid vision, but whether or not the final product becomes what I think it's going to become is up for grabs.

Amalia Dillin said...

Your last paragraph is identical to my own feelings, lately. I wanted to be done and querying by January. Then things got out of control and life got in the way of revisions, so I pushed it off to February... then I got some more beta feedback and some life got in the way again, and now I'm feeling like I might have to push back to MARCH, and it just kills me.

On the other hand, you're absolutely right. Better to have it done to the best of your ability than to send something out when you know it could have been better!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I have Maass' book on my shelf, uncracked. Does that count?

Seriously, it was a huge adjustment for me to discover I couldn't just set a timeline for revisions and stick to it. That the story would literally take as long as it took to get it right. A side benefit of a lengthy revision process (especially if spiced with other WIP in the middle) is some distance to see the warts more clearly. At least that's how it works for me. You definitely have to go with your gut, even when it's saying "you really need to get rid of chapter 2, it's a dog!"

L. T. Host said...

At some point, I just glaze over and stop looking at advice. That's usually the point where I just start doing things how I wanted to anyway. Not saying that works, but when it comes to being overloaded I generally just tune out and march ahead.

Best wishes getting that backstory in there!

Matthew Delman said...

Susan --

No, it doesn't count. But no worries, I won't hold that against you. :)

L.T. --

Thanks for the support! I tend to tune out the advice during the first-draft phase of the work, but really start paying attention during revisions. It's hard to get the framework down in the first place, but it's comparatively easy to revamp things to where you want them once the bare bones are ready.

L. T. Host said...

Touche. I think you expressed it perfectly. I did, of course, mean while I'm writing. Not revising.

Adam Heine said...

Well I've never liked baseball, but your final sentiment is spot-on. I think of it this way: when Future Adam is published, is he going to look back at this time and think, "Geez, I wish I had sent it out a few months sooner and saved me some time"? I'm pretty sure he won't care.