Sunday, October 9, 2011

Walking off of cliffs, and climbing back up them

Having gotten bogged down in dissatisfaction with the current work in progress, I've done almost nothing on it in perhaps 10 days. Three pages, maybe, and I don't much like them. Or not that I don't much like them, but that, well, I don't much like the whole thing anymore.

In writing circles, there are those who plot out carefully, often called (surprise) plotters, and those who work best on the fly, often called pantsers (as in, seat of the pants). I fall strongly into the pantser category, preferring to just write, and thinking that everything will work out. That's usually true, but sometimes you realize partway into something that you've got it all wrong. You realize, perhaps, that the church in your world should not be just a pale shadow of the Catholic church with a few extras and accessories to make it different. Perhaps it should be vaguely modeled on that most ancient of churches, but with vast and varied changes. All of which only occurred to me 75 pages into the story, and which would require a complete reworking of almost everything to incorporate them.

Thus, I realize I've done myself a bad turn. I've rendered the story lifeless and silly in my eyes, and have walked off a cliff of my own making. Or flung myself off it, really, so that I'm now plunging into an abyss of stupid prose.

Two choices exist (three really, but the third is starting a new work, and that's out for purposes of this discussion). I can either go back and make the changes (long, tiring, liable to mistakes), or I can start all over again (frustrating to have to do, but potentially vastly liberating). I'm choosing the latter: the mothball the current WIP and leave it as is, under a drop cloth in case I need anything from it; at the same time, I'll start the new WIP, which is the old one transformed using my new ideas and knowledge. I'm casting off 20000 words, but if I do it write, they'll come back quickly enough. I have characters I enjoy, and they can come with me, as can much of the setting. But the culture, that's what I'm changing, and it needs the change to give the piece some life. Life, and internal consistency: there's no way a pale shadow of the Catholic church would be sufficient to the needs of this world, or that such a church could have even really evolved.

So, I look up from the abyss, and set to climbing out of holes of my own making. Hopefully I've got the correct gear for it. More updates as I succeed, or perhaps even fail. Failure, though, also has value. Lessons will be learned either way. But here's hoping for success all the same.

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