Whew! Clink your champagne glasses with me, my lovelies, because I just completed my second big, big revision of this draft! Yayness all around, please…I feel like Odysseus just come home! (Of course, he came home to a bunch of dudes trying to cruise his lady and pillage his home, so maybe that’s actually an apt simile.)
I’m behind schedule in the timeline that exists inside my mind: I originally wanted to be done with this mid-month, but I got so frustrated because the words just didn’t come. Well, to clarify: the words were there, but the new ones that I wanted to replace them with just refused to make their way from my head through my fingers and onto the page.
I’d sit there stubbornly for hours, staring at my screen, reaching into my bag of tricks. I changed cafes, ate chocolate, called friends, went shopping, took walks, talked in my head to my characters. Nada, niente, rien. How frustrating! And how even more frustrating because my stuck-age always occurs in the same freaking spot: that bit of story before what some screenwriters call the act break between act two and three. Crucial, momentous, intense: the bit where an old-fashioned story breaks off and lets itself be carried away by the currents of the actions you’ve so carefully structured to happen.
But I got through. And I have to say, I’m bubbling over, because although I’m terribly superstitious to say it, I think I’ve cracked the damn case. MY BOOK’S ALMOST TRULY DONE!
Of course, I may be regretting saying that once I read my new words next week and realize that it could just be a crazy pile of merde. But let’s pretend it’s true, so I can squirrel away my most recent lessons from this round of revision, and share them here with myself just in case I forgot for the next go-round.
1. EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM = SAD BUT TRUE
The biggest breakthrough I made was actually because I began getting up before work to work on my novel. This normally isn’t a problem — that’s how I finished all my film school applications ages ago. (A part-time job in itself, I assure you, applying for film school.) But lately I’ve been beginning at 7AM, so this means getting up at 5:30AM. I am a night owl, so this was excruciatingly hard. I know I sound like a baby when I say it, but coming from a recovering insomniac who realizes how precious and beautiful sleep is, it’s a huge thing to shift. Something about devoting the freshest part of my energy to writing, though, really held true. I wasn’t giving my labor of love the scraps of my energy and attention, when I was tired after a day’s labor; I was giving the best of it instead. Early morning, plus the Pomodoro technique I told you about here, helped me focus and be highly efficient, and it made a huge difference. You truly cannot underestimate your physical condition as a factor, even when doing something so mental and imaginative as writing.
2. SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO BRING THE CRAZY
This may make sense only to writers, but sometimes you get to a point where you have an idea for where your big massive story could go, and you think it, and then there’s a tiny part of you that goes: Oh, no, that is too freaking crazy. You can’t go there. That is just too nuts! So you talk yourself out of it, because it’s a big risk: it upends your careful planning, takes you in an unpredictable direction, and what if it’s wrong? Then you’ve probably wasted at least one month on the mistake! I came to that point during writing this go-round, where I was just like, Hmmmm, okay, I’m a little stuck here, what can I do? (That actually sounds a lot calmer than I felt. I was more like, “FUCKING SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME? WHY CAN’T I FUCKING WRITE?!!!!”)
At first I thought it was a problem of craft, and I did all my little tricks to spook myself out of it. And some of them helped a lot, but then I got stuck again. I realized the problem went deeper: I wanted to do something super-outlandish in the story, but then it would bring me into Crazy Fantasy Novel territory, and I had kind of unresolved feelings about that.
Part of you may be thinking, “Duh, Kat! You’re writing about freakin’ werewolf skater boys! That’s total Crazy Fantasy Novel! Why are you tripping?” I mean, I love those books. That’s why I’m writing them, right?
But no, friends, I had to enter some Heart of Darkness territory here, mostly to do with a strange internal pressure I feel to be more “literary.” It’s kind of exemplified by an encounter I had during film school, when I ran into an old creative writing prof I studied under in undergrad. This person is a poet; I had been mostly a poetry writer as an undergrad and frankly, I had been very good, got published, won awards, etc. I was happy to see Professor and we caught up happily on a bustling sidewalk in New York, and when we got to me being in film school, this person kind of wrinkled their nose and expressed a little disappointment that I left the craft of poetry. “You had such promise!” was the phrase that I remembered most.
Ever since then, it’s just been haunting me in this subterranean way that I was barely aware of, like a little virus nagging at me in the operating system that is Kat. I had to wrestle with it, with the tension between what I “should” be doing and what I really wanted to do. Could I have been a good poet? I’m sure, actually; I was pretty confident of my talent in that area. So if I have all this talent, shouldn’t I be being more literary? Am I really wasting my potential? Am I wasting my time? Shouldn’t I be doing something more legit? Why am I writing such a ridiculous book anyway?
But the answer is so simple, really: Because it’s always been something I wanted to read.
It really just boils down to that for me. I’ve always wanted to read a really romantic, dark, sexy love story when I was a teenage girl, about a girl who was made stronger and more fully herself from love and romance, not weakened by it. One where desire and sex are liberation, not a way to diminish and disempower yourself. I like stories with clear, strong lines, heroic feelings, epic romances and mysterious boys. And yes, I love the supernatural: ghosts, fairy tales, dragons, battles, Tolkien, King Arthur, werewolves, demons, angels, all that stuff. Those stories are the ones that stay with me the most — why wouldn’t I want to aspire to that? And come on — stuff like “Buffy” are my favorite shows and characters ever. Let me be true to my heart!
So basically, I had to tell my inner Poetry Writing Prof to shove off and just roll with it. It was a bit like being my own literary therapist. And truth is, I’m still telling inner Poetry Writing Prof to shove off. But I do it enough to let the crazy happen, storywise, and boom! Energy, momentum, fire in the belly: exactly what my story needed at that moment. The story zipped along nicely, and now I’m gearing up to give it a read and hopefully one more polish before I stick a fork in it and call it done. Because, yay, it’s almost done, and I got to slay my inner literary snob for the time being.