Focus

The worst thing that can happen to me when I’m writing is to get an idea.  An idea for a project I’m not working on, that is.  I’ve been so immersed in the final, substantive edit of my first novel that when an idea came to me for a change in a novel that I’ve been developing many years, I was surprised and disappointed.  Surprised that my brain had any more juice, and disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to use it in the immediate future.  It’s difficult, especially since the two are in completely different genres, and all the characters are near and dear to my heart.

I’m working on a contemporary fantasy that I have to admit was not my favorite story.  My favorite story, which sparked the idea that led to this post, is science fiction.  Over the last year of working on the fantasy, I’ve connected much more with it than I did at first.  That seems like a no-brainer, now that I type it out, but it wasn’t that clear before.  Other stories kept begging for my attention while I typed.

I did little to no prewriting before diving right into an exhaustive outline, a thing that was good and bad.  The positive–witnessing the evolution of my story from thought nugget to (nearly) publishable content.  It’s like when you learn anything, at first all the little steps are separate and have to be repeated to master understanding of the subject.  I feel that I’ve learned how to follow the thread of a character’s personality out into the world, perhaps to begin prodding a few story lines or to gauge their reaction when faced with a certain type of person.

The negatives of how I went about it?  I’ve read my novel so many times I can repeat large sections of text and babble on about these imaginary people I play with in my head for quite a while.  This sounds more eccentric than negative, but it comes from a bad place.  The place of endless rewrites.  I went from outline to first draft, first to first-and-a-half, on to second, and third, and fourth.  This last copy will be the fifth.  I could have done the work in two drafts if I’d known what I was doing, and I’d be working on something else instead of slaving over the same book for a year.  Alas, I wouldn’t go back and change it if I could (I rarely wish this) because I have learned so much through my mistakes.  Crow is my favorite dish.

It was important for me to dump a good idea into a story’s Scrivener file though.  Otherwise it would rattle  around in my skull until I burst with the need to write just a little bit in a project I wasn’t focusing on.  That would turn into a day’s worth of work lost as I set aside my main story to deal with the new detail in another, only to abandon it as my novel called me back.

The moral of this story is that sometimes info dump is good, just not on published pages.

~ by Rachel Francis on May 23, 2012.

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