Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spiders in your brain

I've used up my word quote for the day and might even forget how to speak English by the end of the night, but, luckily, Laini has said it all for me:

"Really it would have been nice for everyone involved if I had finished this book some time ago, but that is not what happened. The thing that happened is what usually happens to me to some degree or other: I kept starting over. I would get, say, 30- or 40,000 words in and think it was YAY! and then I'd have a little break going to some event like BEA or book tour and get home and read it fresh and go: UN-YAY! YAY-retraction! I would see it wasn't quite right yet, and it's a horrible spiders-in-your-brain feeling. So I'd think about how to make it YAY! again and then I'd start from scratch - only I never really start from scratch. I'll patchwork in a lot of stuff that I loved from previous drafts, but change a lot of things too. And I did this again and again, I'm sure I've written hundreds of thousands of words on this book all told and the craziest part of all is this:

For all that drastic rewriting, it has not changed in essentials. Every step of the way, it matched right up with my idea, my concept, my plot. Even the major beats - the happenings of the story - have remained the same. So: what changed?

EVERYTHING."

"I was emailing with a writing friend the other day who has a similar process as me, and we both confessed to not really discovering what a book is "about" until it is almost done. I sometimes think of this as finding the "axis," the pivot point around which the whole story turns. At which point it must be revised, restructured. This might sound drastic and terrible but it is not. I have done it with every book and story, and it is actually a fun and comfortable procedure for me, the "embettering" of the manuscript, once the light switches on in my attic. I mean, the pieces are mostly there, but they need jiggering. The suspense threads need tightening, the character arcs need tweaking, the whole thing could stand a general awesome-izing. Which is kind of a fun name for a procedure."

4 comments:

madeleineforbes said...

Thanks for this: it's so reassuring to know that even proper, published authors still get to this stage! I think part of me imagines that once you get past the agent/publisher/deal stage, books just pop out in their shiny covers fully-formed, with no effort whatsoever. And that would clearly be no fun at all. I love the way Laini calls this stage a 'fun and comfortable' procedure, which is the exact opposite of how I so often feel. It's given me some food for thought about letting go and embracing the chaos.

I guess a lot comes down to how much you feel you can trust yourself to get through the chaos, and find that clarity again on the other side.

Andrea Eames said...

Very true, Madeleine!

Jayne said...

This is very reassuring to know. I have had so many yay-retractions (love that description) with my novel (the same one, Andrea! The same one I've been working on forever!) but essentially it is the same story. I'm hoping there will be a yay cut-off point, though. There has to be, right?

Andrea Eames said...

There hasn't been one with my book yet either, Amanda! Gah. Writing can be a beast. :)