Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Process

For me, the creation of a story, from first ideas to putting it on the paper to final review, seems to move through a distinct emotional arc.

In the first stage, when I'm playing with the ideas, everything is possible and everything is perfect. Nothing is work, and I may chew over the same section three or four times ... never coming up with anything quite like what I'll end up putting on the page.

When I'm actually writing, the story is a mess. The infodumps are too long, the references too oblique, the plotholes fall out of the sky mounted on giant eagles. Sometimes, I want to trash it. On the extreme end, occasionally I want to trash my hard drive. But at the same time, there is just enough fire to keep me burning.

The editing process is easier on me than the writing. I find something soothing about it. I usually spend a lot of my time cutting bits of phrases and slimming down my verbiage. Often I find I've made leaps in my haste; I bridge gaps and fix fences.

Then when I'm done, in rushes the sense of achievement again, a weird echo of where I started: the story in ideal, not necessarily what is on the page - I'm not sure that I, personally, can ever really see what is on the page and not all the mental structure behind it - but an abstract sense of the completed product.

I just went through this process in compression. I recently finished a short story tentatively entitled Left Eye, Right Eye, which I wrote in a rush - a couple hundred words Saturday, and then the rest of 7500ish between Sunday and Monday. Throughout, I felt like I was on a bad rollercoaster. I knew something was crazily off-kilter, but I couldn't stop. It was a compulsion.

Now it's done; it hasn't had enough time to cool off for editing, but at a tentative look ... it isn't as bad as I thought. Something about the actual process of writing gets me so absorbed in the minute flaws that I can't see the forest for the trees. Somehow, they don't bother me as much when I'm editing. I think it's because when I'm moving from idea to write, I'm trying desperately to translate the ineffable; when I'm moving from write to edit, I'm honing the known.

Between the two extremes is this awkward, ungainly child, too old to be an idea, too young to be a mature story. It is this teenager phase that comprises the writing of the thing.

No wonder I'm crazy.

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