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09 August 2012 @ 03:49 pm
rookie mistake  

For the past six weeks I’ve been working on starting a new book. Now, it often only *takes* me six weeks to write a book, and although there have been some distractions, taking six weeks to get started is really a bad sign. Usually when I don’t want to work on a new project, it means I’ve done something wrong. I *know* that, so I kept looking at it, trying to figure out what I’d done wrong. I reached 75 pages on the manuscript twice, and the first time, I threw out half of them.

This, the second time, I have realized that the book’s structure is fundamentally broken. I’ve been trying desperately to insert conflict into the story, and it just has not been working. I finally realized it’s because I’ve made things too easy for my main character, right from page one.

From where I’m sitting, that’s a rookie mistake. I haven’t done that since about my fourth published novel, and this is something like the 28th one I’ve written. So yeah, rookie mistake. A really, really aggravating one, too, because it means absolutely everything I’ve written is useless, including my synopsis. I have to throw it *all* out, and start all over again.

And this, my friends, is part of what it is to be a professional writer: looking a complete failure in the eye, tossing it, and starting anew. *mutter*

(x-posted from the essential kit)

Kate Kirbykirbyk on August 9th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
This is another case where being a professional programmer is much like being a writer. I've been doing this all day long for well over a decade, and still sometimes I'll be pretty far into a project and realize I've got the wrong architecture, and throw out everything to start over.

The good news is, I never regret it when I do that, because I've learned so much doing it wrong!

I'm pretty strongly of the belief that computer programming is mislabeled. There's a small part that's learning the grammar of a language - like learning the rules of a human language, really. But knowing not to split infinitives is not the part that makes you a good writer, and you have an editor (or compiler) to advise you on that. The parts that make you good are how you string the syntax together to be clear, expressive, understandable, appropriately thorough, and communicative.

Computer programmers who write in their spare time, in my experience, are very good programmers to work with.

I realize that I just went off on an unprompted tangent, but I'm waiting for my laundry to finish so I can pack for vacation, so there we go!
Wolf Lahti: antimonywolflahti on August 9th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)

I've become increasingly convinced over the years that professionalism is simply another word for persistence.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

—Calvin Coolidge
Flitterbyflit on August 9th, 2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
Ouch! I think it's a sign of a good writer that you were able to recognize it _and_ toss it, though still, ouch! I wonder if there's something different about this book, or this character, that incited this?
kitmizkit on August 9th, 2012 07:30 pm (UTC)
It's probably two things. One is that this is the series for my nephew, and so I have a huge emotional attachment to Getting It Right, which I'm pretty sure makes it harder to get it right. :) The other is just flat out that I had the wrong idea in my head as to how I had to make the story happen, because there is an obvious and logical lead-in from the first book...but basically I was taking it too literally. After talking with Ted I now know what I actually /need/ to do, and it's already a vastly better story, even without having written a word yet.
Flitterbyflit on August 9th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, I can really see how that adds a lot of pressure! I know that in myself, Stuff For Other People is totally different from Stuff For Me.

That's wonderful that you've been able to work it out. Also awesome that you can talk this over with Ted. I always get a squee when I can talk to Brad about his work or about his module setups/worldbuilding and be helpful, myself.
UrsulaVursulav on August 9th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
As the man once said, you never quite learn how to write a book, you just learn how to write the book you're writing. Which occasionally annoys me, because damnit, I know how to write a Dragonbreath book by now, thank you very much. But sometimes it's still true .
irishkateirishkate on August 10th, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
At least you have found it now and can move on.