But here I am, just having decided to plow forward rather than go back to revise, and here’s Alyx Dellamonica, with this keen little article about this exact decision.
I hadn’t heard of Dellamonica before, either, so I dropped over to Amazon and checked to see what she’d written. Turns out it’s a couple of books that sound interesting but maybe not like my cup of tea: INDIGO SPRING and BLUE MAGIC. I love the title INDIGO SPRING, but I dunno. Booklist says:
“When Astrid returns to [the town of] Indigo Spring, she discovers her father has been using the magic that flows in a blue stream underneath the family house. Following suit, she starts enchanting everyday objects, with at first harmless results. But when she shows the vitagua to some less stable and more selfish friends, the results then are less benign, and the true potential of the water’s magic begins to emerge. The theme here—the problems of power in irresponsible hands—is archetypal, but Dellamonica realizes it very well through characters you wouldn’t want in your neighborhood but who certainly hold your attention in what becomes an edge-of-the-seat thriller.”
And I don’t know if I’m crazy about the idea of watching unstable, selfish people screw everything up. Especially because the rest of the reviews of this book imply that things definitely do not get straightened out again, except maybe in the sequel. But that gives you at least a rough idea of what Alyx Dellamonica is doing, in case like me you hadn’t heard of her before.
And I like her post.
“If you are truly a pantser and you try to force yourself to outline–because you feel you should, or because you have a proposal due, or because some element of pantser writing seems really hard or frustrating on any given day–you may end up investing a lot of energy in trying to embrace something that just isn’t part of who you are. If that’s the case and you’re sure of it, you might be better off trying to find a… well, a pants way to address the tough stuff.
By the same token, if you truly are a polish-as-you-go writer, if you simply can’t go forward to page 2 until page 1 is perfect, so be it. Accept that your day to day writing speed may seem slower than that of the people who routinely toss off Nanowrimo novels in thirty days. Tell yourself you’re saving yourself the time that I’ll be spending in rewrite.”
Seems like good advice to me. Compared to Dellamonica, I have a considerably more finished first draft — I hardly ever leave holes in a rough draft — not that it can’t happen — but although I polish at the sentence level as I go, there is so much to do later. Like address pacing issues by combining two chapters while cutting half the combined length of those chapters. Or writing out a character I introduced who wound up never taking on an important role. And always, always, always working to deepen characterization throughout. (I never feel like I’ve done that enough.)
“However — if you aren’t sure —
I recommend making the experiment: just once, push on to the end.
I can’t stress enough how valuable it can be to have a whole draft assembled before you as you buckle down to tweaking.
There is danger in perfectionism. Trying to retool every sentence and story development before you have a whole story can simply mean not finishing it.”
And I wholeheartedly agree. Because I have met several people — really more than “several” — who have told me they’re working on a novel. And they can’t finish it. And this is exactly the problem they describe.
So that’s advice which I, too, pass along when I happen to be taking part in a writing workshop or whatever, even though I get that everyone works in a different way. Even though I get that, I still say: For heaven’s sake, once you’ve got something that’s starting to resemble a novel? Finish it. Just get words in a row until you can type THE END. And then polish.
And it’s also advice I’m taking myself, this time around. Moving ahead!
Though maybe not tonight. Because tonight I need to pick apricots — I wonder if I can find the extendable fruit picker? — and the rest of the plucots. And water some young trees and shrubs, because WE ARE HAVING A LATE SUMMER DROUGHT EVEN THOUGH IT IS NOT LATE SUMMER, which is a bummer and I hope very much does not mean we are going to have a nonstop six-month drought this year. Watering takes up lots and lots of time, and yet I can’t just let my babies all burn up.
Screwed up weather really does feel personal, like some god is doing it to you on purpose. Someday I will write a story where, rather than placating the weather gods, the main character will HUNT THEM DOWN AND DESTROY THEM. A year like this makes me want to get started on that story.
But not till I finish this one.