Thursday, May 17, 2007

If it looks like a duck...

You know the saying...

"If it looks like a duck and quacks like a's probably a duck..."

Well, it finally smacked me in the arse last week that I needed to apply this to my writing, a LOT. There have been times I've struggled with whole chapters. Sometimes, I've not struggled at all, but afterward thought "But...wait..."

So, my newest writing application is:
"If it feels like filler, and stinks like's probably filler." Very closely related to, "If it smells like crap, and sounds like's probably crap."

When I'm writing now, I know that if it's taking a long time, going very slow, or just not flowing right, I stop. I take a hard look at what I'm writing and determine if I REALLY need it. Is it REALLY moving the plot forward?

I just killed a whole chapter with this thought. I realized that while seeing what happens would be interesting, it could just as well be left to the imagination. It wasn't important enough to keep. I can think of at least one passage now back in the first 9 chapters that can be axed as well.

I'd been given this advice before, but for some reason it didn't stick until I looked at what I had left to write, and then at my deadline. I realized I didn't have time to sit there and struggle with a chapter because I, in my long-winded modus operandi, felt I needed to expound every detail. I realized just then that the chapter I was writing felt like filler.

So, I first looked at what my heart said "Keep it in. Look at THAT scene!!"
Logic interrupted and said, "But is it NEEDED?"
My heart said, " shows their interaction...and it's so precious..."
Again logic, far more stern, "But is it NEEDED?"
Heart: "But..."
Logic: "Can you find a way to work it in without a WHOLE chapter?"
Heart: "Ummmm..."

Logic won out. I realized that what I wanted to write wasn't necessary. Part of me still hurts over losing one little scene in a big long chapter of nothing...but I also know that the upcoming scenes MORE than make up for that one brief moment that did nothing for the plot. It was mere background noise.

As much as it kills my heart...I'll be listening to my logic a bit more often. I'm so much more happier with my current result with the missing chapter to ignore it any longer. The heart of the novel is still there...even without that silly scene!!


Cheryl said...

Bravo Sadie! You have just acknowledged something I bet a lot of writers struggle with. I know I sure do. And like you, when I have trouble getting the words down on paper, it usually means they weren't necessary in the first place.

The brain wins out over the least this time.

Great post!


Jean said...

You know...

One of the things I've seen most often since I've been reading for WOW! is "fluff". We've had some really nicely written pieces, but they were "more fluff than stuff" so we couldn't use them.

That fluff happens in our fiction too. It's hard to get rid of sometimes though:--)


Great post:--)

Laura said...

Hey Sadie,

I suffer those same battles all the time. Sometimes, the heart wins for a bit, until that final edit, then it's time to cut without mercy.

Good post!