I haven’t put up a new post here in a long time. Partly, it is the fault of Twitter, and partly, it is the fault of me. Anyway, I was looking at the great gap here between posts, and I realised that the gap is pretty representative of what I’ve been wrestling with in my writing lately.
I’m a chronological writer; I construct my stories cumulatively. The emotions, the events, the language all builds up as I write, and I could never, for example, write the climax of the novel before I’d written most of the middle. I might (and probably do) know what happens, but I couldn’t write it properly, without having to change it a lot after I’d written the middle, because I tend to add little objects and secondary characters and jokes and themes and just general *stuff* that I like to use again and tie up loose ends.
In my opinion, the advantage of this is that I’m able to build up the significance of events in an organic way. There’s a certain resonance of language and I know that the characters are following a coherent and reasonable sequence of behaviour. I know that I’ve got the character arc in the right order, and I know that my scenes are going to be relatively varied in setting, tone, etc because I can see what’s come before and plan what comes next.
The disadvantage of this is that it can lead to plodding.
I hate to skip stuff when I write. I find myself a horrible pedant when describing action and when a character enters a house, for example, I have to physically restrain myself from describing how she finds her keys, unlocks the door, opens the door, walks in but only a step or two, closes the door, takes off her shoes, hangs up her coat, puts her keys on the table, walks down the hall to the kitchen, etc etc forever and ever to the point of infinite boredom.
So you can imagine how difficult it is for me to write a story about a pregnancy, say, without documenting EVERY SINGLE twinge, ache, puke, test, scan, appointment, and stretch mark.
Non-writers think that the hardest part of writing must be making the stuff up, but we writers know that’s not hard at all. We make up stuff as easily as breathing (sometimes, in hay fever season, it’s much easier to make stuff up than to breathe). We make stuff up about the people we pass on the street, about the lost sock on the pavement, about the bee that’s landed on the rim of our coffee cup, about that weird noise we heard at 3.23 am this morning.
The hard part is selecting what’s good and necessary. Knowing what’s okay to skip because it’s not important. Knowing when it’s okay to skip something that’s quite important but sum it up later, because it is important but not so important that it needs a whole scene to itself. Knowing when to combine two or three important things together into one scene because alone they’re not so important but together, they’re dynamite.
Skipping things drives me crazy, but it has to be done. So much of writing is selection and shaping of the big messy story that’s in the writer’s brain. And however much it pains the anal, pedantic part of me to leave big gaps in my story—if it’s done well, the reader never notices the big gaps at all.