Sunday, August 19, 2012


Patience is one of the hardest things to truly employ as a writer.  We have so much we want to tell that we feel we'll just burst if we don't get it all out right away.  Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of very bad stories out there that are either incoherent or just plain lacking in "oomph."

When I'm telling a story, I want everyone to enjoy hearing it just as much as I enjoyed dreaming it up.  In my zeal to press this in on them, I'll leave out crucial elements and will take for granted certain things that I know(since I'm the one who invented the story) but which the reader won't yet get.

This is one of the places an outline helps out.  Besides helping me figure out where a story is going, using it correctly helps me apply the brakes in the right spots.  Assuming it's detailed enough, there'll be spots in it that'll virtually shout, "DON'T FORGET TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!"

A good outline also makes you take a breath if you consult it the way you should.  I get caught up in my story from time to time, yet just having the outline in front of me makes me look at it and take a deep breath.  It reminds me of the points I wanted to make, and if there's something I skip over, the outline at least lets me make that a deliberate process.

Another thing that helps out with writing patience is reminding myself that the novel doesn't have to be complete in a single day.  There aren't a lot of novels I've read in a single day(only two come to mind), so why would my novel be written in that time?  Creating a daily word count works in two ways - it gives you a goal to work towards so that you maintain steady progress, but it also acts as a natural speed limit if you let it.  Yes, I've previously said I don't like to stop if I'm on a roll, but sticking to your word limit can help you create patience even if you don't ordinarily have it.  By stopping when you say you will, it prevents you from randomly spewing out things that you haven't taken the time to let properly bake.

Again, balance is key here.  That fight scene you just wrote - should you gloss over its brutality, or is a blow by blow analysis something that will let the audience empathize with the main character?  When you envision a scene, you may know what it looks like, but does the reader know that the sun setting over the Kopet Dag mountains washes over the main character's face in a way that shows his age, and is that important?

Bottom line is that a writer must temper his or her enthusiasm for the story if the reader is to appreciate it as well as the author.  If you don't remove yourself from the situation and allow for a deep breath from time to time, you may finish your book more quickly, but what should be an 80,000 word mystery will turn into a 40,000 word disaster because no one will be able to envision the story the way you have.

No comments:

Post a Comment