The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Absence Makes

Well hello, CWC! It sure has been awhile since my last post. Life and work barged in, and while I enjoy my writing, I’m not yet at the do-some-writing-everyday-or-else stage of my life. Writing everyday seems too much like a regime and I don’t deal well with regimes or schedules, unless it’s scheduled downtime. Downtime is a key for me, and I’ve discovered it’s also a key for my writing.

In fact, downtime works so well for my writing that I’ve instituted a rule for myself: all new work sits on the shelf (or the hard drive) for at least two months before I come back to it. It’s been a good system for me. Immediate revision pressures are taken off. I get to delay those nagging refinements and move on for awhile, start something fresh, and recharge with the excitement that those first couple of pages inevitably bring. Letting stories sit also helps me figure out what the story is about. Theme is hard for me. I have a terrible time pinning down what I’m trying to say, let alone subtly weaving theme in with plot and tone and characterization and all the other writerly concerns that paralyze creativity. I like to build the body first, then come back and open it up, drop the heart in, and wait for lightning to strike and make the story breathe.

I’m currently revising a sci-fi short that I first typed up a few months ago. The language and characters were good but something was missing. The story had no point, no pop. So I mothballed it. Moved on. Let my head fill up with mortgage rates, work, and a couple of flashes that went nowhere (for now). My fledgling short percolated and distilled in my head until I finally gave it a reread three weeks ago, and kapow! The theme. There it was. Staring me in the face, smacking me upside the head, shaking…you get the idea. I’d let my ideas of what I wanted the story to be get in the way of what the story was. In my early attempts to jam home a heart, I nearly killed what the story was trying to become.

I’m trying to save it now. Stitching together the disparate elements, putting arms where I had legs, eyes where I had ears (yes, I can carry a simile way too far). I’ve also realized that this particular story needs a love scene. I’ve never written a love scene. So I face it with a little trepidation. I’m against explicit sex in fiction, so I’m fairly certain my love scene will be of the fade-to-morning, PG-13 type. I’ll let you know how it turns out, and feel free to share any advice on love scenes you may have.


Anonymous redpen said...

Hey Stevie,

Long time no see...

Not quite a love scene, but deliciously off the wall: Read me

Just rememeber you promised to change the events to protect the innocent :-)

Wed Jun 25, 10:34:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Thanks Redpen, I'll check it out.

Wed Jun 25, 03:25:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous ruth taylor said...


Your writing process sounds a lot like mine: the theme declaring itself only after I've written the first draft; filling out and pulling back. But I've yet to learn to leave the thing alone for a good while before coming back to it. I tend to fiddle myself into a muddle, and I no longer have any sense of the whole and whether it is working or no. Sigh. So I think I learn something from you.

Fri Jun 27, 06:58:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I wish I had your patience, Steve, because I think most writing could benefit from a cooling off period. he only trouble is, for me, I have a hard time getting back into a character's head if I've left the story for too long.

Sat Jun 28, 03:07:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Oh, I'm all for the cooling off period. In fact, so much so, sometimes the off overtakes the cooling and then a whole different set of problems result. But I do produce some good results this way, too.

Mon Jun 30, 01:05:00 pm GMT-4  
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Thu Oct 28, 02:28:00 pm GMT-4  

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