Writing in Public… definitions?
Dean Wesley Smith has been doing a blog series called Writing in Public. It has a wickedly deceptive title, to me, as the images that creep up in my head after reading it all include a writer at a cafe or bar or in a park, trying to keep focus while he is distracted by the world around him and by the people who approach him and ask what he’s doing. My own brain-bias may be in effect here, because that image pretty much sums-up what should be a nightmare for a writer with ADD. What’s the blog really about? Dean Wesley Smith exposing what goes on behind his curtain. Some of it can be mundane, some of it can be interesting, and most of it is damn impressive.
Writing in Public… nemesis?
But back to the title thought, as it is relevant to this post and my own writing experience: I’ve spent the last two mornings in coffee shops, writing. While I might have expected to get nothing done due to all the distractions, the opposite has proved true. I’ve been whizzing through work, whereas during the past month or so I’ve struggled at home, distracted by the wonders of the refrigerator, making more coffee, the squirrels playing outside, my phone, internet, games, movies, musical instruments… and not getting much done, nor very quickly.
Writing in Public… false positive?
Now, this seemingly backwards development may have something to do with the fact that I’ve done some heavy organizational labour for Book Two of the Panachrest. This involved scrapping a plot line and developing others, the purpose being to give the story more focus and resolution. My reasoning for all this work was two-fold:
- Two criticisms of Book One have become repetitive: The sense of no climax, and lack of focus (POV spread too thin, characters spread too thin, etc.). I’ll be the first to say that Summons was a set-up book. There was a pretty subtle climax, to the point that some have said there is no climax. It could only possibly stand alone alright by virtue of being Book One. If it was in any other position in the series, it would not fly. So I knew going into Book Two that a truer, more traditional climax needed to happen, and I’m aiming for that. I also tried to set-up some significant climaxes in Book One, which would be played out in later books. All this to say, I feel ya critics, and I’m working to give you what you want (which is also what I want). On the ‘lack of focus’ level, I’ve made a choice to keep the POVs limited in Book Two, though not to one character, as I personally find that choice less fun. Essentially I see it as having 3 primary characters, 2 or 3 secondaries who get a scene now and then, and the usual bunch of tertiaries that don’t get a say at all. Hopefully this will satisfy myself and readers.
- I was writing along with a loosy-goosy sense of the plot and found I was just painting walls that weren’t even up yet. I needed – at the very least – the frame of the house. I used Dramatica software to help me focus and shape things, and immediately strayed from its suggested paths. I think this is good, as Dramatica is a formula, and I am not designed for formulaic writing (hello ADD!). But I am indebted to the makers of Dramatica because the software gets me to think about my plot and characters, and reminds me that they need to develop, they need to have purpose. Believe it or not, it is very easy for a writer to produce characters without purpose. Why? Because that’s normal. While writing workshops and gurus stress active characters with clear goals and motivations, how many of us experience that on a daily basis? Not many! Most of us live fairly passive lives, our goals are not dramatic, our motivations are basic. Our days aren’t spent thinking, “How am I going to get revenge on my uncle for putting my four year-old sister on a snowmobile that crashed through the ice via mental and physical manipulations?” We think, “Hmm… I’ve got a craving for ice cream.” And only some of us get off our ass and go to the store to get some. At least in my mind, I have trouble with fictions in which every character has a grand goal and motivation. For believability’s sake, I want some people to be rather aimless, to have passive goals, and to just have stuff happen to them. To hell with what the gurus say. I like a nice mix.
Where was I going with this? Hell, I don’t know. I just felt like I should write something. A blog is a terrible thing to waste. Oh yes… Writing in Public. Whatever the reason, I took Dean Wesley Smith’s title literally. In a funk, against seemingly better judgement, I gave it a shot. So far, writing in public seems like a success, but maybe that’s because of other important changes. Maybe I could write just as well at home… but I’m not silly enough to fix what isn’t broken. I’ll be right back here at this coffee shop tomorrow.