Saturday, October 23, 2010


I love writing, in spite of some of things I occasionally express here. I hate revisions when a document is finished to my satisfaction, but I really love the process of getting the document constructed.

A friend of mine who was also a writer at the time once got annoyed with me for the fact that I seem to "whip off" writing. The fact is that before anyone sees a chapter, it goes through a lot of permutations.

Case in point #1: In Lest Ye Be Judged, the central storyline is a war crimes trial. When it came time to write the verdict, I couldn't tell whose perspective to tell it from. I tried from the defense attorney's perspective, the defendant's, the judge's or the defendant's wife. In the end, I did something that really worked for me but I wouldn't have thought of it at first. I wrote the entire scene leading up to the verdict from the defense attorney's husband's perspective, then halted it, wrote the judge's perspective and closed the scene on the actual verdict.

Case in point #2: One of the weirder projects I've ever undertaken is what is called the PU. A few years ago, I wrote 100 vignettes in 100 days. Vignette #64 (counting down, not up) was a farcical Jedi Spaghetti Western. For #63, I was still in a silly mood, so I turned my muse loose on my favorite fanfilm: Pink 5. I wrote the main character applying for a job in Rogue Squadron. It was utter crack but in the midst of the reviews were two comments from the co-writer and the director. Eventually, the director offered me a 'job' as the first official backstory writer of the series. I've written several stories in that universe, all with his editorial help and extreme kindness, but one that I remember most clearly writing is Stacey convincing Han Solo to go to the awards ceremony. It took me four different complete drafts that I hated before I tried to write the whole thing from Chewbacca's point of view. That was the one I needed.

I love finding the exact approach to a scene that I have been blind to up to that point. In a way, I'm reminded of a project I had to do for my 12th-grade European Civilization class. For whatever reason, my teacher Mr. Watts assigned all of us to draw a complete map of the world. It had to have all countries, oceans, major topographical features such as rivers and mountain ranges. And it had to be done by memory. We had several weeks to complete the project, but it had to be done in the classroom. The only "studying" we could do was when we got home and could see our atlases. Then we would get back to class the next day and try to remember if we had mismatched anything. At one point, I discovered that I'd gotten my latitude lines mixed up and had to redraw the entire Western half of Europe and most of Africa. Over that minor detail, I walked into choir rehearsal, got through three songs for an upcoming tour and then started sobbing uncontrollably at my inability to do anything right on that project. The reason the project makes me laugh when I think about it is that I came up with a very clever mnemonic device to remember the names of the African countries in counter-clockwise inward spiral order. Well, I got done with Chad, sat back to review my work and discovered that I had a small section of the continent that had no name and I had no countries left to assign to a space. I was so frustrated by that stupid project that I colored it in blue and left it unlabeled and my teacher still gave me a B+ on the project.

So, at the end of that long story, the thing that reminds me of writing is that trying to get the story from my head to the Microsoft Word document feels a lot like trying to draw that map. I know exactly how it's supposed to turn out overall, but I'm inadequate to the task of getting it right the first few times I have to put it down. No matter what, I'm always going to have to figuratively redraw Western Europe. I might have a blue spot that's not assigned to any country. No matter how many permutations it goes through, it really will never turn out as picture-perfect as it did in my head.

But I can still try. I can still find ways to let the Wookiee be the narrator and I can leave that one blank space in Africa. I can get it as perfect as possible and the fun part is getting to that point.

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