On Plots and Pains

I am in the middle of writing a short story, thus far entitled Disciple of the Gauntlet. Just prior to writing this entry, I had three extremely different, half-finished drafts of it, and am completely baffled as to which one to pursue.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t worry—I would complete all of them, because there is no writing that is worthless. But this is not a normal short story. This one is important, and will define two of the most important characters to Artifice in a very deliberate way.

I’m not terribly worried about messing up. I haven’t started writing anything but short stories, yet, and so if things simply go completely wonky, I can simply scrap a few bits of text to the abandoned folder, and start anew. But, I get the feeling, that once I finish one of these drafts, the other two will become ineffective—something will have happened that I can’t take back, which seems silly because the content of the story itself is not of any great consequence.

I can’t figure out why I’m so hung up on it, but it doesn’t feel like normal writer’s bloc. I feel like this will be a point that will determine what direction this novel takes.

I’m worried about other things about the novel, too. Mostly failure.

I feel that, in the case of a single project, the novelist is the writer who risks the most. I poet can sit down, and write something of satisfaction in an afternoon. If, when she is finished, she finds she has something worthless, she has simply lost an afternoon, and can try again. The short story writer can write something in a week, and be happy. Write something bad, and all that has been lost is a week. Not so the novelist. The novelist invests years in the writing, and if, when the final words are written, what is sitting on the table isn’t good, the novelist has failed at the work of those years.

This thought terrorizes me. I am afraid to risk, because I am afraid to fail—the consequences of failure are terrible. But the terror is more than this: I fear letting the story I am telling down. You can’t re-use plots, as a novelist. Well, you can’t and still be great. If I screw this up, then Sera, Terri, Rebecca, and the others living within my mind won’t see the light. This terrifies me even more—that I won’t be able to craft the people as I see them in my mind. I fear that’ll I’ll only be able to make them into paper and words, and nothing more.

But then, I think, what can I do but try? My characters won’t become any more real for my procrastinating. If I wait until I know I’m ready, I’ll die before I touch the pen to paper. I must write and hope, and pray that I won’t fall on my upturned pen.

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2 Comments

  1. Cameron said,

    July 25, 2007 at 12:08 am

    My thoughts? Do it anyway. Take care with it, turn it into a work of love, blood, sweat and tears and all that, but ultimately do it. And this short story, that anxiety you feel? I wouldn’t dismiss it, but don’t get stuck on it. Think it over, write the one that fits. Not just to your rational mind or to your feelings (though you have to trust them a bit more than I know you do), but… well, call me a nutjob or an idealist or a hopeless romantic idiot, but write the one that resonates. With… something. I’m no philosopher, I can’t describe what I mean here. Still, above and beyond all this chatter, write it anyway. Whatever direction your characters take, follow them through, let them take you where they want to take you.

    You and your stupid words of wisdom. Well, I suppose it’s sound advice. If I knew where my characters were going to take me, the writing wouldn’t be as fun, would it?
    *sigh*
    Well, I had best get to work.
    ~DK

  2. chughes said,

    July 28, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    i agree with Cameron.
    Not writing it would be infinately worse than writing something you’re not sure of or may have to re-work.

    Write a chapter at a time and have someone you trust to be honest and constructive read it over so that while writing you can smooth it out as you go.

    i think most writers are terrified of failure. i definately am, but we have to go for it if it is our passion and calling.

    True dat.
    It’s too bad we can’t go to God, and get writer’s insurance—“Fail miserably, and we’ll refund the full number of years you’ve been working on the failed work!” That would be nice.
    ~DK


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