Jesse? Is that you?
February 13 , 2008

First: critiquers who give honest, constructive criticism are pure gold. I am grateful to have such folks in my writing life. 

Yes, that's right, I've started revising something—the novel I finished last fall.  

Sometimes being an instinctual writer makes for a painful revision process. A contributing factor: I no longer fix as I go. That means when the inevitable revision (or revisions) of plot occurs somewhere during the process of writing the first draft, I simply change horses in midstream and push forward. No circling back to make everything conform, no rounding up of stray doggies, or magnanimous rescuing of sodbusters from the evil cattle barons. This was a hard habit to break, but overall I'm glad I did. It means I can push through to the end of the ms. faster, without risk of bogging myself down by obsessing over the details. Believe me, I've been known to put the ss in obsess and have the rope burns to prove it. 

Now and again, if something really jars my psychic landscape, and if it's necessary for what I anticipate writing up ahead, I will circle back so I can re-inhabit a scene. I need a gut feeling for certain things in order to maintain a psychic imprint of the totality of the novel. I always know the endpoint of the story before I start writing, and that's usually the one thing that doesn't change. I aim myself for that ending, kick the sides of my mount, and take off hell bent for leather. But on those occasions when I feel some stranded maiden crying out back down the road apiece, if I really need to know what it feels like to wear her gingham dress, I turn Old Paint and go in for a rescue. I once stopped the forward progress of a novel in order to write a 14k novelette (based on a key scene) from another character's POV. It was essential to get inside that character's head to understand her dynamic on a gut level and how that would play out in her interactions with the hero. I wound up using almost nothing from that 14k, but I don't think I would have finished the novel without it. 

Sometimes the emotional consistency of the characters suffer from the push forward, often more than the plot itself. That's not always easy to fix, but my instincts appear to be on the job because just this morning the answer to handling a key problem popped into my brain as I drove to work. There are other issues to solve, some plot, some worldbuilding, some character. I think I see clearly what needs fixing, but you never know about these things. Sometimes as you mosey down the trail, what looks like a stranded maiden from the distance turns out to be Jesse James in drag.


Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson