Friday, February 20, 2009

Inch By Inch

Did anyone used to sing this song in school? Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow...

The song popped into my head today when I hit 33k words on Happiest Days of My Life. I've mentioned here before that this book hasn't come as easily to me as Time of My Life or The Department, and I'll be honest that this fact has had me worried. I've always thought that my "process" was fully digesting my characters and regurgiating them back on the page. Quickly. With the words flying out of my fingers.

But it just hasn't been the case this time around. So...imagine my delight when I looked at my word count and discovered that I'd actually created something substantial. My 700 word days, though I much prefer 2k word days, had actually stacked together and yielded something pretty okay. And I sort of like this perspective: building the ms brick by brick rather than floor by floor, which is sort of what I've done in the past. It's okay to switch things up, to have your process shift as your writing style evolves. Sure, I figured that I'd actually be done with the ms by now, but I'm not, and as long as I keep chugging along, I'll get to The End long before my deadline.

I've been struggling with whether or not this slower process means somehow the ms isn't as good or is doomed for suckage, but in rereading the pages, I don't think so. I just think this one, this book feels different, and hey, as long as the end product is as strong as I want it to be, it really doesn't matter how I get there.

Anyone else write a book in a different manner than an earlier one? Did it yield better or worse results?

8 comments:

DebraLSchubert said...

I'm encountering that very thing right now! Exactly as you described. I'm usually like lightening, rarely having less than a 2k day. And, now it's like I'm creeping along. Also, same experience feeling this can't be as good, but reading back through and feeling otherwise. The mystery of creativity works in strange ways...

sarah pekkanen said...

I'm so glad you brought this up. I was just reading Tess Gerritsen's blog, and she was all happy because her book is flying onto the page, and she still has ten months before her deadline -- and she already passed the 100 page mark. I think some books come easier than others, and it's not a linear process (speaking from my vast knowledge -- I'm only on my second book!) But this one is coming a little slower for me, partly because I have a newborn, and partly because I'm being more thoughtful and conscious about the structure of my novel. From what I've heard from other writers, some days the words practically write themselves, and other days, it's like pulling your own teeth to get them out -- but when you go back and read the pages, you can't tell a real difference. I'm sure your third book will be just as wonderful, Allison.
xo
Sarah

Jolie said...

"Inch By Inch" was sort of our theme song in my high school concert choir. We'd sing it at the end of year party, at the last rehearsal before a performance, etc. I have a real soft spot for it.

Stephanie said...

This is SUCH good advice, Allison. Remembering that each little brick adds up can mean the difference between feeling good about the writing process, or spending several months in anguish while you berate yourself for not getting "enough" done.

It's good perspective to have!

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Sarah-

That is my situation exactly: this book isn't entirely linear, and it requires a lot of serious contemplation, in terms of structure and how everything plays into and builds on each other...and I just can't rush it. I'm stuck right now b/c I HAVE to write a critical scene but am not 100% sure how to tackle it. And I'd rather marinate the various angles and write it right the first time than put something down that really isn't going to work.

Still though, it would have been nice to have completed the ms. :)

Allison

anniegirl1138 said...

I always worry when the words come slowly, but fingers flying or just moseying along, it usually all good.

LarramieG said...

Although it probably has nothing to do with your flow of writing, Allison, the fact is you're off-schedule with this book. If memory serves, you wrote TDLF and ToML in late spring/early summer. Who knows, winter might make a difference, but slow and steady still wins the race.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Larr-

You know, I actually think you are on to something there. Because I often do my best creative thinking when I go running, and I rarely run outdoors (if at all) in the winter, I do feel like my creative juices have been stunted a bit. Interesting realization!

Allison