Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Write, Read, Rewrite, Repeat

I have heard about writers that write an entire story in one day and publish it/post it immediately.  This concept baffles me.  It's one thing to sit in English class and be asked to write a short story or an essay and hand it in at the end of class.  No one expects it be a masterpiece.  You make your points and support them as best you can given the time limitation, but it will never be War and Peace.  Granted, I have no interested in writing War and Peace, but I also want to write something that took time and effort to think through and compose. 

Every book starts with an idea and when we think the idea is good enough, we write it down.  One idea leads to another and suddenly you have a story.  That doesn't mean you have a good story, it just means that you have words strung together that hopefully make sense.  It doesn't mean that it's interesting, well though out or entertaining.  The problem is, sometime we think our idea is amazing and the best thing ever.  Then we leave the idea alone and come back to it only to realize it wasn't all that great.  I am reminded of Brave New World where they took hallucinogenic drugs and thought they had the most inspired and fantastic ideas while under the influence.  The speaker in the story decides to write down all his mind blowing thoughts to record them for posterity.  Once he is clear headed again he goes and reads the notes he made.  It turns out that it was complete nonsense and sounded more like a rhyming jumble of words, most of which weren't real worlds.  So, as you can see, it's important to leave the idea to rest for a little while and go back to it with a clear head and new perspective.

There have been many times when I'm on a roll and I'm furiously writing because I have so many thoughts in my head.  I think that it's the most brilliant writing to date and I am proud of it when I'm done.  I will walk away for a day, a week, a month and work on other sections or books.  When I return to my brilliant work I often find mistakes or sentences that are unclear.  That is why editing it paramount.  An idea can always be improved and expanded.  So many times I have a simple frame work that originally seemed epic, so I have to go back and add detail or descriptive words.  Other times I will have come up with an even better idea and have to make changes along the way.  The more that you put into your story the better it will be.

I love examples, so here we go.  My main heroine has a hall within the castle in the underworld, the Hall of Mirrors.  I never questioned why she had it, she simply did.  I decided that it was given to her along the way.  It was an abandoned hall before her.  I went back to the idea and wondered why it existed.  Did someone own it before?  Yes, one of Lucifer's previous lovers had it, though sadly she was absolutely insane.  Well why the mirrors?  Oh, well she was a punisher and used them to punish people.  Well, the hall wasn't built for her, so who was the original owner.  Tabbris.  There were three angels who fell from Heaven to reign over the underworld.  The hall in the tower was created for him but he hated being in the underworld and wanted to go back home.  No one liked him and he didn't trust anyone, so he installed the mirrors so that he could thwart the attacks on him and see his enemies coming for his back.  My simple thought of my heroine residing in the Hall of Mirrors turned into a much more interesting and elaborate story after many rewrites and additional ideas.  Mind you, that's only a fraction of the story, more of a side note, but it I had published my story after my original thought, it would have been very two dimensional.  I managed to create two entirely new characters because I had a simple thought of, who owned a hall.  Both characters have become full blown leads and are heavily featured throughout the series...oh and one of them is dead.

In the end, no matter how brilliant our idea is, there is always room to make it exceptional.  I find that it helps me to read and reread and read again so that I can fill in the spaces within the story and build something that is more interesting and detailed.  I also find it helpful to talk through some of my ideas with people I know so that I can get their perspective and see if it makes sense.  Often one of them will find a problem with my logic or train of thought and I will have to made adjustments.  If you don't go back and read what you have written, you will never go forward and finish your amazing story.

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