Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to unstick your Gladiator

I got stuck on my last novel because I kept trying to figure out what would happens before it actually happened.

Then I read a post today on Christine's Journey that mentioned revisions.

I read through some of the links on her site, commented on a couple, but this one stuck with me: Guide to Literary Agents.

I'm not sure the link works, but let me give you the gist: The author wrote a story, found an agent, the agent shredded the story and insisted on a near-complete rewrite, whereby the author obliged and wrote a novel that resulted in a three-way bidding war between publishing houses.

How's that for success!

But it tickled my revision bone, which has been tingling and tickling these past few months as I challenge my method.

Here is my short-story method: Write it out, fast, go with the flow. Re-read, and rewrite. Often, I nuke the entire story and write from scratch. The end result is almost never what I began with. I have a ton of short stories, some of them pretty good.

My novel method: Agonize over the plot. Write the first chapter. Rewrite it. Eventually find a hook and agonize through the middle and on to the end. Revision is limited.

See the difference here?

My short-story method is the one that ~works~. The novel method is the one that ~fails~.

Remember that in the olden days, writers used pen and ink, or a typewriter, and a draft was a draft, while a revision was a rewrite.

In other words, there were no revisions. No cut-n-paste, no delete, no spellcheck and modify. You had to rewrite and retype the whole damned thing!

I am going to try this on my latest work. I am going on a backpacking trip tomorrow and won't be writing. I'll ponder my story in the Arkansas mountains (Ouachita Park), and then when I get back, I'll plug out my first draft, non-stop, as if on a typewriter or handwritten, and then rewrite the whole dang thing, all 60kw.

You are my witnesses. This is how I will unstick The Gladiator's Son

If you're stuck, how will you unstick yourself?

- Eric
PS: Post responses will be delayed as I will be playing the banjo in the AR backwoods.


Jemi Fraser said...

Enjoy your camping trip - sounds awesome!! :)

I tend to reread when I'm stuck. Thankfully this doesn't happen too often. I tend to write straight through for the first draft too and that works.

Unknown said...

Why am I suddenly hearing the first few notes of Dueling Banjos? Just don't go paddling down the river with some creepy looking guys.;-)

I pretty much wrote straight through, but I had a beta who followed along via Google docs, from about the halfway point on. That meant I did do revisions as I went.

With my WIP, I'm writing straight through so far, but I do edit before my writing sessions to get myself into writing mode.

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

I need the ocean, a big strong draft of salt air, and some dry inland SoCal heat. But since that ain't gonna be happening any time soon, I'll have to settle for pushing through.

Because I'm stuck too.

Time to get Sammy (my MC) home to Piedmont and in to more trouble.

~That Rebel, Olivia

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

BTW, if you have time before you go, check out Roland's post about the Secrets of Seven Ghosts...

~TaTa, Olivia

Lola Sharp said...

Sooooowweeeee! (that's the squealing like a pig sound) I'm with Mary, visions of banjo's and very bad things happening in the deep woods. If you said you were rafting, I'd really be scared for you. ;)

Oh, and I live by the 'write fast, edit slow' mantra.
And the classic, 'writing IS rewriting'.
To unstick (and I always get stuck on plots...usually connecting them and not leaving any holes), well, I have no one way. And, usually the solution hits me at a very inopportune moment. Often while driving and/or in mid-conversation. (I don't mean to be rude).

Happy Weekend! Be careful out there. :)

MBW aka Olleymae said...

backpacking sounds awesome!!

I'm debating a rewrite as well. It seems daunting, but i think it will help my story. I've learned so much since I started it!!!

Jai Joshi said...

You've asked the age old writer's question and I can't think how to answer it this early in the morning. I guess my secret is that I plan everything ahead of time so I already know where the story is going and what I have to do with it to get it where I want it. That works well for me.


dolorah said...

Dang blogger; it ate my comment last night.

Well, hope you're having fun on your trip - and not thinking too hard about your writing methods. Seems to me you pretty much go with your flow at the moment. Not bad, when you can do it. I'm envious. I'm definitely not a plotter, but I have to go back and re-write constantly. I do so much word vomit just to get something written I wouldn't dare send anything out without several revisions.

Some people are pretty good at getting down what they want to say on the first couple tries. If that works for you - kudos, and congrats.

Don't get eaten by THE BLOB out there. Can't wait to hear all about your adventures, and the conclusions you came to about your novel over the campfire.

Ah; you didn't take it with you for kindling, did you?


dolorah said...

Eric; I didn't really read the location of you backpacking trip. I see the Caddo Gap flooding is real near the Park.

I will anxiously await your next post and the news that you did not suffer in the flooding. Safe return, dear blog friend. I will worry about you.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your honesty. I think a lot of writers are concerned about whether the way they do things is the right way and its great to get ideas from people. I have written some ideas on this in my post Solving your plotting problems which is info from a course I went to recently. I tend to agonise over a paragraph, writing, rewriting and rewriting it again and again only to decide later that I will not need that paragraph after all. I think this is where planning your plot in advance can really help. Thanks again for the tips!

Lola Sharp said...

Eric, I just saw on the news that there was a big flood in the mountains of Arkansas...I'm worried about you.

I will check back tomorrow and Monday...eagerly awaiting a post letting us know you are okay.


Eric W. Trant said...

All, Thanks for the concern regarding our Arkansas trip. We missed the flooding by about 12 hours and 11 miles. Terrible thing, that.

- Eric

Nighfala said...

Just saw this post. Trying not to blog too much this week, but I can't resist "Worms."

I am planning to cut and paste stuff together from all my versions until I get to the part that needs major rewriting. Start from there, finish rewriting, then go back and polish it up.