Novel Update: knowing when to be concise

September 27, 2009 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

golf cartoon-thumb

As I broke through the 130,000 word barrier yesterday on my WIP fantasy novel, I started to wonder why the heck it is taking me so long to make any decent progress.  I mean, the story is flying by in my mind, and when I’m imagining how the scene is going to pan out, it’s always just quick flashes, like a well-edited movie.  That’s the way I want to convey the story.

But when I actually sit down to write it, it never turns out the way I want it to.  I don’t know when to wrap up a scene.  They always end up being significantly longer than what I first imagined, and often a whole lot different too.

I liken writing one of my scenes to playing golf.  When I write a short scene, it’s supposedly like a par 3, with a straight, wide fairway right down the middle with no obstacles on it.  I tee off and the ball goes sideways into the bushes.  My next shot soars across into the bunker on the other side of the fairway.  The shot after that torpedoes back into the bushes on the other side, and so on and so forth.  Each shot I take, I’m getting it closer to the hole, but I’m zig-zagging over and across the fairway, creating obstacles for myself when one simple iron shot would have done the trick.  And when I finally get the ball on the green, I need a three-putt to seal the deal.  (Sadly, this also happens when I’m on the golf course for real).

As a result, I’m taking three or four hours to write a scene that should really take one or two.  A short flashback turns into an elaborate back story.  A quick chat becomes the mother of all conversations.  A simple thought which ought to take a couple of lines becomes a freakin’ Hamlet-esque soliloquy.

Brevity really is a virtue.  Sure, I can finish the novel this way, but it’s going to take me a lot longer than I anticipated and re-writes and edits (when I finally get to them) are going to be nightmarish.  What’s wrong with me?  Am I just not skilled enough?  Not experienced enough?  Or is it something other first-time writers go through too?

Ahh…back to writing…