Monday, September 12, 2011

Speaking too soon again...

There I was congratulating myself on having a thoroughly reliable bus: result?  Oil all over the garage floor, skinned knuckles (my hands actually start leaking blood as soon as I touch a spanner), and just a little swearing.  It's nothing too serious, but fixing this leak still requires the removal of the exhaust which is, on these vehicles, an utter pain in the arse.  But I suppose it's good for me to keep my mechanical eye in, as it were, and on the way I'll get the chance to do a few bits of preventative maintenance that should keep her purring happily for a few more years' yet.

And there I was too, saying I was putting down my second draft and moving onto something else.  Well, I suppose that was half-right - I did put down my second draft.  I moved instead, straight to the third, without pausing to finish.  There was, as I've said previously, a spark missing, and I was never going to find a spark by mechanically flogging a dead horse.  Far better to cut the losses and proceed straight to the major surgery - a rewrite, changes of viewpoint and tense, deepening and turning of the plot.

If any one element does such a thing, then plot keeps readers turning pages: so I'm devoting more and more time to making sure I understand what's going on.  I'm not in the business of drawing up a rigid scaffold and sticking to it ruthlessly, that's an approach I've tried before and that yields the stiff, joyless results you might expect from a process that removes, at a single stroke, much of the impetus behind discovering new and interesting turns in the story - namely, language.

I'm a firm believer that language on its own can be a powerful agent of creativity.  Words suggest others, changes in tone and viewpoint suggest other words that lead, in turn, to other places and different stories.  Cutting myself off from that removes much of the fun of the creative journeying my writing takes me on. That's not to say I don't have to exercise restraint or discipline - of course I do, otherwise I'd never get anywhere.

Which, to complete the bus/writing allegory, applies to fixing oil leaks too.  Because at times like these it's restraint and discipline that keep me from smashing the thing with a sledgehammer, or worse - taking it to a mechanic.