Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Blank Page



About two months ago, I had a great idea for another novel. I made notes, I outlined, I did all the pre-writing exercises I normally do and then I sat down and started to write. I loved the idea of my protagonist, a five-hundred pound woman who runs a strip club, and I loved the back story, the plot and everything else that went with it.

20,000 words in, I stopped. I didn't like where it was going. So I started over.

20,000 words in to the second attempt, I stopped again. I didn't like where this one was going, either.

Someone once said "It's easier to edit bad writing than a blank page" and I have always said I agree with that. I actually enjoy the editing process. To me, it's the equivalent of dropping an old copper penny into a cup full of Brasso: an opportunity to make it shine. But going back over the 40,000 words I had written, I realized that editing is not always the answer. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is start over. Again.
  
The problem with my great idea was my protagonist. She is a fascinating character, someone I'd love to hang out with, but the story, it turns out, is not about her. She plays a role, and an important one, no doubt, but it's just not her story.

So instead of trying to edit all those pages, I made a new outline and new notes.

And I started with a blank page.

Last night I hit that 20,000 word mark and reread what I had written. I sat back and smiled. This is the story I wanted to tell.

True, you can't edit a blank page, and therefore, it's easier to edit poor writing than no writing at all. But sometimes, it's just not about editing written words. Sometimes, it is about the blank page---and all of the possibilities that it offers.

12 comments:

Suzanne Shumaker said...

I love this Kelly! During my term in the Oregon Writing Project, we were drilled repeatedly to hold our words in an open hand and that most of what we write is practice. The more you produce (60K on this project to get 20K you like), the more freely you can let the bad stuff go.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

The good thing is there are scenes in the first 40 that I will use in the finished product, so I'll salvage another 10K. I write fast anyway, so those numbers don't seem as large to me as they do to some. Oh, I love my editors, I can easily let the bad stuff go. :)

wendielew said...

Thank you for this. One again, you rock, lady!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Wendie.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

The feedback I once got was the story I was telling wasn't about the protagonist. Unlike your situation, it wasn't that the story I wanted to tell was about someone else, it was that the story I WAS telling was about someone else - and that wasn't the story I wanted to tell. And I was a lot more than 20,000 words in - more like 300,000! Epic fantasy, you know how it goes...

I didn't even know how to fix it. So instead of rewriting, I put it on the shelf, and started something new. And then another something new - a prequel trilogy to my original trilogy. Through writing THAT trilogy (or parts of it)I came up with a solution that I can use to tell the right story for that original book. But there won't be any editing. It'll be a straight toss and start afresh. there's no way I can edit what I've got into what I want it to be. So yeah, I hear you!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Glad I'm not alone on this one!

drleo37 said...

Great stuff, my friend. I don't think non-writers understand the courage it takes to discard words.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

They aren't actually discarded. Just put in my 'may use later' file. :)

Christopher Chik said...

So true. Sometimes you just resist because of the effort put in, not realizing it's all cumulative--that effort will shine forth in the final words even if those 40,000 never come back to life.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

They helped me understand the characters a little better, so they aren't wasted.

Lynn Hallbrooks said...

Thanks for sharing about your inspiration. I thought this blog post deserved The Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

http://callsignwreckingcrew.blogspot.com/2012/09/very-inspiring-blogger-award.html

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thank you, Lynn!