No, I haven’t decided to open a restaurant. Or write a cookbook, for that matter.
As you might recall, I was trying to make a choice over the past week or two about something very major in Where The Ether Flows. The whole Point of View thing. And I did give it a go, really. I started out very carefully trying to write this as first-person, as I had talked about and many of you encouraged me to at least try. I spent almost two hours wrestling with it, managing to accomplish an anemic less than 400 words in those two hours as my brain started shrieking that it didn’t want to write all of the sudden. For those of you who read my last post and saw how eager I was to start, this might seem odd, but I know what it means from past experience.
These days, the only time I feel like I don’t want to write is when I have something fundamentally wrong going on in whatever I’m working on. Writing a draft only feels like wrestling a thousand-pound gator when I’m stumbling over something major that just will not work. I’ve had the problem before, and even blogged about it here when it’s happened. I always pay attention to it these days because the result of not acting on that feeling is the same every time. Pages and pages of work that I have to throw out because it’s entirely unusable. So now I stop and try to figure out what the problem is before I engage in those hours of wasted effort.
The main reason I spent two hours banging my head into that wall is that I wanted to be sure. First person is something I’ve virtually never done, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just chickening out because it was new and therefor difficult. But I wasn’t. It was more like I was trying to swim upstream against a very strong current. Yes, I probably could have gotten through the whole novel writing it like that, but I would have been exhausted and probably unhappy at the end, and what’s the point of that?
First person isn’t easy to do right, though it can be amazing when done well. One of my favourite authors, Carol Berg, writes her stories in first person and she’s brilliant. I cannot tell you how much I look forward to every book of hers. I’m all caught up on her back catalogue, have reread all of her books more times than I care to admit, and it makes me sad only in the sense that this voracious reader wants more. She’s that good at it.
I, on the other hand, am clearly more comfortable in limited third person. And that’s okay. Each writer has to make their own journey, to write in the way that comes naturally to them, right? So yeah, I guess this is my way of saying that I’ve decided to stick with what I know works for me. The first person thing seems to be a good tool for me in pre-writing, character exploration exercises, things like that, because it gets me right in their skin, and it’s short usually. I can and will keep using it that way, but I won’t try to force myself to use it for novels when it feels like this did.
How do I know that I’ve made the right decision? That’s easy. After I switched (and made the required changes in the part I’d already done), my productivity increased dramatically. I banged out 2,033 words before reaching a good point slightly before midnight and calling it a night. Just over 2k, most of it in about 2 hours. That’s a clear sign that it’s the right way for me to write this. And it’s a good start too, grading on the appropriate first-draft-quality curve of course.
I’m trying to let myself go at my own pace this time, as long as I meet my goals, rather than demanding big numbers out of myself. There’s good reason for this. It’s a new world to me, and new characters. I feel like I need to give myself time to get to know them, to think about who they are and what they want. I could crank out the big numbers during the first drafts of both Possession and The Nine because I knew Tavis and Fay at that point, as well as their supporting cast. I knew them well enough that I didn’t need to think every second if it was how they would do something, how they would say it or if it was what they really wanted. I just knew. Devan, on the other hand, is fairly new to me and, despite his months of whispering to me, is still fully revealing these things to me. That’s okay though, as it’s all part of the process.
This picture seems appropriate for the state of Ether Flows somehow. Both are just beginning to open up and bloom.