All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” ~Gene Fowler
I had to look this quote up.
This one is very similar: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith
Basically, this is how I have been feeling of late. And, writing is hard. And, just because a scene or chapter isn’t flowing out of your brain easily does not mean that it is flawed. It just means that you realize how important it is to get that scene just right.
I had a discussion with a friend the other day. A friend who has taken writing courses (I’m learning as I go). I was struggling with a scene. After many discussions on what I could do with my characters, and how ‘because you make the rules for the story, you can change them’, I was ever so close to scrapping everything and embarking on an epic fantasy tale not unlike “The Balgariad” (which I loved as a teen, by the way). But, when I got to that point, my instincts kicked in. “Hold up!” they said. And then they went on to explain to me that if I tossed the rules that I created in order to write the story I am writing, and if I changed the histories of my characters to more fully fit this epic fantasy idea that my friend had in her head (please note, she hasn’t read any of my actual story), then I wouldn’t be writing my story, I would be writing hers… in which case, she should write it. She told me I could either stick to my ideas and write my story just for me, or I could write a story with a hope of selling… (all without reading a drop of my tale) Yeh, she did. We’re still friends, too…
It all came down to this scene that I was struggling with. She said that if it wasn’t flowing, then it must be because my idea for my story wasn’t sound. In reality, it was (is… yeah, I’m still working on it – it’s a big scene) because there is a heck of a lot that can happen in that scene. I have my protagonists meet the antagonists for the first time within the timeline that my story covers. He isn’t easily recognizable to the one protag that knows/knew him previously, so I have a decision to make… do I reveal him now, or later? I have the two main protags learning new things about each other, so I have a decision to make… do they learn about each other at the same time, or do I stagger revelations? And, if I stagger, in what order do I do it? Other decisions include: what should the other characters be doing? How involved should they be? How should my characters, esp. my protags, react to the revelations as they come out? I know there is some anger, but how long should they be angry? How fast should they “get over” things? I know I need to be true to the characters, but I also have a plan for where the story needs to go…
I have come to a conclusion: Writing is easy… if you write non-fiction. Do your research, write about it. It’s happened already. It exists already. It’s just a matter of putting it down. Fiction writing is about research and decisions. And decisions are hard! What do I call my character? Non-fiction: you call them by their name… Fiction: you have to come up with a cool name. What colour is my character’s hair? Non-ficiton: It’s whatever colour it is/was. Fiction: Do you like blonde, brunette, raven black? What about funky purple? So many possibilities. What will you choose, and why? Is the character easy-going, or have a short-temper? What happened in their history to lead to this trait?
I don’t mean to belittle non-fiction. I spent a long university career writing scientific papers. I am well-practiced at research followed by the non-fiction tale. I just want to remind people (mainly myself, actually) that good fiction is really hard!
Writing is easy… “Yeah right.”