Saturday, May 21, 2005

When Does Studying Become Counter-productive?

As any follower of my blog knows, I haven't been writing much lately. In all honesty, I haven't written much at all since the completion of my first novel, and at the same time, my discovery of RWA and the realization of how clueless I was. The revisions on that one completed novel are HUGE and daunting, because NOW I know exactly how many problems the manuscript holds. So what do I do with it? Nothing.

There are a lot of writers out there that write that first novel and then it's forever tucked in a drawer or hidden under their bed, trading gossip with the off-season clothings and the occasional dust bunnies, and every now and then chattin' it up with the sex toys hidden under there in the hopes that the children never delve in the darkness as their mother perpetuates the myth of monsters under the bed.

But not my first novel. The book is good. The premise is unique. But it was written by an amateur SO green that her olive skin damn near glowed. Although I've started several other stories since then, none of them are more than a chapter in length. The ideas are there, the stories showing promises and fun in the revelation of plot and character, but yet I don't pick them up and work on them.

Also, if you read this blog, you know that I plan on writing fulltime come the end of August, when my youngest of the four heathens starts school. I will have all day to write, to plot and plan and kill the darlings in my books. And if you read the PASSION thread here, you'll see why I'm postponing. Because I know once I open the door where the stories live, they'll flood out and the damn will be very hard to stop back up again. I become consumed, and it's a bit frightening. As much as JBM wants to implement a schedule, I just don't work that way. I'm left-handed, to begin with, and he's SO anally right-handed (and thus, left-brained) that he can't understand my fears and my trepidation. And now Foster is up my ass too, pushing and pushing, wanting me to produce results and "work on my gift". Well, I WILL. Someday...

With the plan that I'm going to start writing full time in the fall (late summer), I've decided to spend that time reading anything and everything. My TBR (To Be Read) shelf is literally overflowing, and that's just "my line". That has nothing to do with the crapload of craft books I've gotten. As posted, I've finished King's ON WRITING and I've moved on to Lukeman's FIRST FIVE PAGES. Up next will be Maass's WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. While reading these on the craft of writing, I'm able to read fiction for the fun of it. I just started Kathleen O'Reilley's THE DIVA'S GUIDE TO SELLING HER SOUL and on page 11, I'm already in love with it and the concept. Thankfully, I can read a non-fiction at the same time as fiction, the only way I can absorb two books at the same time.

My reasoning is thus: Why write, or revise, when there's SO MUCH for me to learn? I don't want my next book to have such wicked revisions looking at me, mocking my fear and my time and everything else on the freakin' planet. I want to do my best the first time, to have a first draft with only one re-write. So I need to finish SELF-EDITING by by Browne & King and NO MORE REJECTIONS by Orr before I even begin to look at my next idea and committ to paper. Does that make sense?

But when will enough be enough? At what point does the idea of studying the craft of writing replace the precious time to actually WRITE? I don't know. I really don't. I'd like to think I could study in the mornings then write at night, but my tenacious personality just doesn't work like that. So I'm doing things in typical Brenda-style. All or nothing. So I'll continue to consume the craft books while ideas float in and out of my mind. I am noting things as they come to me: Witty stories, quirky personalities and even fabulous titles, and making note of them so that when the time comes to sit down and PRODUCE, I have an arsenal to pull from.

On a writing note, rather than study/craft, I do have a goal: I plan on entering the Always the Bride contest with my first book (the first three chapters have been revised to hell and back) from when I finaled in The Merritt. I've been absorbing the feedback of judges, and I've already got huge plans for changing the first part yet again. So by the time Nationals is over, I should have a firm gasp on reworking THE HAUNTING OF ELIZABETH.

In the meantime, Liz is just gonna have to do with bumpin' uglies with Alex and wait her turn to get to the revisions. I'm sure she's miserable at the idea, but she'll live.


Christine Keach said...

But remember, you can read all the craft books you want, but you MUST put what you're learning into practice. I firmly believe you can only get better if you keep writing. Reading your line, studying craft books, getting advice and chatting with other writers is all well and good. But the bottom line is even if you have the coolest ideas, characters and plot twists in mind, you won't sell if you don't write.

Karyn Lyndon said...

Write one page a day...that's 7 pages a the end of the summer you'll have...uh...90 pages. And that's 90 more than you would have if you don't.

Kelly said...

The best way to learn, is to 'do'. I found I had to stop with the 'how to' books. I was freaking myself out too much. I joined a critique group, and my RWA chapter have educational sessions every month. That's enough for me. Otherwise I become too entwined in what I don't know. Julianne MacLean said to me at one of our chapter meetings one day that she's still learning, that it never stops. No matter how much you know, there's always more you don't.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Brown & King are the best. Saved my MS from total obscurity. I can't tell you (because I can't remember) how many total rewrites I put that thing through just to get it from 95,000 words down to the 70,000+/- it is today.
Sounds like you're on the right track! (Like I'm an expert, right? HA!)

randy said...

At some point, you'll put the "how-to" books aside (either that, or you'll puke every time you pick one up) and you'll "incorporate" what you've gleaned from them. Truly. But you may need a space in between before you start writing. When you inundate yourself with all that "how-to" stuff, you stifle your creativity. I'm not saying there's not a lot to learn, and I'm not saying there aren't great resources to help you learn but at some point, you have to JUST START WRITING and trust that every romance you ever read, every experience you've had with people in real life, every lesson you've learned about writing, will happen organically.

Mo said...

"Practice makes Perfect" right?

Personally, I agree with the others; you gotta JUST DO with any skill, you can read about it until you're an 'expert' in the how to's, but the only thing that will give you true experience & expertise, is to actually WRITE.

You've got the talent & ideas, girl, ya just gotta put them to use!!

Gena Showalter said...

I totally agree! You truly can only learn by writing. The very first book I wrote was terrible. So was the next one, but it was better. The next one was even better. The things you learn by getting all the way to the end are invaluable. Character development, how to fix a sagging middle, and so on. Write your next book, then you're next. After you've written a few, maybe go back to the first, keeping the idea but starting anew.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Well, I can't just write a page a day. My brain doesn't work that way. I become *engrossed*. I'm not exaggerating (although I am prone to exaggeration at times.)

And my plan is to write fulltime come August, which should make my CPs butts pucker big time. My goal is to have a completed manuscript every 6-8 weeks. Well, we'll see, eh? ~sigh~

Christine Keach said...

Yeah, I understand about getting engrossed, but what's your plan until the fall? You've got to do something writing related between now and then. You've come so far in the last year, don't stop now!