Thursday, August 23, 2007

Climbing a mountain.

Last February, in the middle of a weird (now laughable) drama, and born in a snowstorm, I started writing a story. Strange thing about stories for me - I almost always know the ending. I can see the ending in my mind, visualize it like a scene in a movie. It's the getting there that is always the mystery. In any case, I wrote a skeletal first draft to this story. Then I worked on it some more. In class, we did a couple of exercises, so I pulled things from there. Bits and pieces. It was coming together in bits and pieces. Gelling slowly. Barely gelling at all. I read my the finished ten pages I had, and though I knew everything vaguely, I knew this was barely the tip of the iceberg. But I just didn't know what was underneath.

This was during a time when I was forgoing all company, locking myself away at Starbucks every single day. Trying to bang it out.

In class, we were given a take home assignment. I labored on this assignment, a simple exercise in setting. I wrote this until one in the morning. In silence. Friday night. It was snowing outside. And it moved me.

That's when it clicked.

The next day, I just started playing around on the keyboard. Typing out dumb first lines. And this one just flew. And the more it flew, the more I started to understand that this was part of that other story, the one I just couldn't get together. I wrote it in two hours, in one sitting. When I was done, I got it. I understood.

Since then, this scene has been told to me as the best realized scene in the entire thing, the scene that makes my character sympathetic, an emotionally wrought scene. And it is among my two favorite scenes, a scene I can't do without, a scene that I need in its entirety. Sure, I've made edits, but in the end, I want the whole thing to stand.

Recently, I was told that it doesn't work in the construct of my story. That it takes up too much space. That the balance is off.

I haven't been able to come to terms with that. I don't know how to fix that. So I don't. I just put the entire thing aside, because squashing the thing is like squashing a baby. Either that, or I keep hoping I'll come up with a strategy to get around it. Or people who will tell me it's okay.

So I perfectly understand when Annie Dillard has the following to say about writers who have trouble throwing out work, scenes, bits of writing, even if it doesn't work. She uses this little anecdote that I love:

Every year the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment. Every year the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles, bad and good. Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad stack. At length he turned to the young man: "You submit this same landscape every year, and every year I put it on the bad stack. Why do you like it so much?" The young photographer said, "Because I had to climb a mountain to get it."
--[pg. 6, The Writing Life]


I 100% understand that sentiment.

I still don't know what to do with that scene or that story. It's silly, but I almost rather chuck the whole thing around it, just to salvage that scene. To me, it's what makes the story. Even if it throws off the balance. It's the heart of what it all means. And I think, that's worth fighting for. So I guess it's the story around it that needs to be fixed then?

4 drops:

writtenwyrdd said...

Willful ignorance, hahah! I understand it, oh boy do I. Thanks for stopping by my blog, too.

moonrat said...

endings are the WORST for me!!! i can never do them!!!

moonrat said...

it's true, though, about throwing out the babies. maybe the only reason for motherly love for her baby is that she suffered for it for nine months (plus XX hours of painful labor).

cyn said...

i love writing at starbucks, too 8)as for AK, no, it's not easy reading i like to alternate between brainless stuff and brainy stuff. 8)

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