Friday, August 08, 2014


    I love writing. It's much more than a pass-time or hobby for me. Yes, you could call it a drive, or obsession. But even more than that, it is sustenance, nourishment to me. When I haven't written in a day or two, the urge to do so is much like starving.

Man pulling his hair.

    On the other hand there are some things I downright hate about writing! Things that drive me bat-shit crazy and make me want to throw my typewriter across the room (if I wrote on a typewriter instead of a laptop.) Here are some things I hate about writing.

    I hate it when the final sentence of a chapter ends up, through coincidence, alone at the top of an otherwise blank page, all by itself! Since much of what I write involves adventure and action, most if not all of my chapters end in some sort of cliff-hanger. That means generally the single most important sentence in a chapter is the very last one. I can't just cut it! But leaving a single sentence alone on a page is a formatting nightmare - it doesn't just waste space, it looks stupid! And you would think, given the literally tens of thousands of words I write in a book that this would have to be rare, but you'd be surprised how often it happens! Argh!

    I hate cutting! Removing parts of my blood from the page, whether for space or just because it doesn't contribute to the overall narrative. I have no trouble adding more story, but I hate cutting. The words I write are like my children. What if someone told you one of your kids didn't fit in with the rest of the family and you had to get rid of her?

    I hate the swamp! You know it. It's that stretch of the book somewhere just past the middle where you suddenly find yourself stuck for story. You've worked hard and done an admirable job of writing the beginning of the story, setting up great conflict and plot, characters and events, and even carried them forward toward a phenomenal climax and denouement. You know in your head how you want things to come together at the end. But you're not there yet. If you ended things here the book would be too short. You need to carry the story forward more, ratchet up the tension, bring the readers along toward the climax. But you're stuck. You can't think of what to add to prolong the conflict and enrich the plot. The swamp. Grrr!

    Sex scenes. I know I'm not alone in this. The search for metaphors and similes and imagery and subtext for sex is exhausting and frankly not very sexy. Just about everything has already been used as a metaphor for sex in literature: from automobile racing to cooking; from rock-climbing to cliff-diving; from horseback riding to, of all things, golf! The movie Ghost found a way to make pottery-throwing sexy. Go figure. Trying to find new and fresh ways to say "they fucked" without being so crude and abrupt about it is work, not fun!

    Meta-choreography. Choreography, in writing, is placing each character on stage where he needs to be for the scene to work, and being sure the reader can envision that. What I call meta-choreography is bringing all of the characters into place for the final conflict and resolution. Sometimes it's hard: he's just boarded a plane in Baltimore but you need him to be in Los Angeles sooner in order to be in place on time; she needs to be at the arena before the bus explodes, but it is essential she take a shower first so she doesn't show up smelling like teargas; the hero must be knocked unconcious in order to have the final vision that explains everything, but he can't still be unconscious when the aliens arrive or he'll miss the final battle, in which he plays a pivotal role; etc. Sometimes meta-choreography can be a bitch.

    So what are some things about writing you find frustrating?

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Blogger Patricia Stoltey said...

I think we all have a love/hate relationship with our writing, Kevin. The part I hate the most is making sure I don't screw up my timeline. Luckily, there's a timeline hawk in my critique group and she swoops in for the kill when I mess up.

9:02 AM  

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