Monday, October 4, 2010

A Potpouri of things.

By Terri Rocovich

OK, since Alison got us on the subject of writing I thought I would continue the theme. As you all know I juggle keeping up with my training barn, my own competitive career, writing non-fiction projects for clients (to help pay the bills) and trying to finish my novel. I now think I have broken the Guinness book of world records for the number of years a novel has been in the works. I try to set a few hours a side several days a week, but often my best laid plans go array.

So my question to the group is: How do you keep plot lines straight and consistent when you have sometimes long breaks in between writing sessions? I find myself sometimes in an endless cycle of rewriting and rehashing plot lines rather than just moving the story forward. It is driving me crazy. It is the little details of dates and names of minor characters and other little details that I worry will be inconsistent but I think I am also wasting a lot of time by constantly rereading what I have done. I do tend to be overly anal about details, (gee does that sound like a horsewoman) but also don't want to get far down the line and discover that I have really screwed up some of the details.

I keep telling myself that I am going to take a week or two off and go away somewhere and just write, but so far this year it has not been possible. This book is one very important item on my bucket list and I am very frustrated at my progress. Please any advise would be greatly appreciated.

And another concern - do any of you worry about too much of your personal experiences creeping into your plot lines? I know that each writer puts much of their own soul and personality into each book, but how and where do you draw the line? Much of my plot has very little to do with my own life, but some of it sounds a lot like me or people I know. Am I worrying for nothing?

OK, now that I have lamented about my writing troubles, I also wanted to add my endorsement to the air vests. I primarily ride in dressage and eventing and especially for the sport of eventing, I think that the air vests are the most significant safety improvement since ASTM/SEI helmets and the standard safety vests. Yes I have seen several riders forget to unhook, but as mentioned in Jami's post, most rider's only forget once and the replacement canisters are only around $20. I am in the process of buying one, and am requiring them for all of my students riding at Preliminary and I strongly recommend them at any level. When the parents of my students complain I reply, "what is cheaper, the air vest or a trip to the emergency room". That usually ends the complaint. I am going to start wearing them even when I am just starting a young horse over fences. There are 2 brands on the market, one more expensive than the other, and both are endorsed by top riders. I have not decided which one I am going to buy but I think you can't go wrong with either.

I was at Rolex this past April when Oliver Towend took at horrible fall at the double down bank. I am convinced that the fall could have been a fatality, or at very least a significant head and neck injury, had he not had on his airjacket. As we all know, riding horses has its risks no matter what discipline and yes, eventing is one of more high risk, so why not take advantage of safety advances when they come along.

Now if we can just get everyone, western, dressage, trails, etc. to wear a helmet, and make their kids wear them, every time!

What do you think? Safe riding and writing to all.


Linda Benson said...

Terri - That is a potpourri of things, so I will address keeping a story going when you have to set the manuscript aside for a time. I actually keep a separate document where I write down all the character names, ages, pertinent details about each one. And I keep a journal where I often write out my ideas on plot and where the story might be going. This not only keeps me on track in those times when I'm not actually writing, but gives me something to reread to refresh my memory on where I left off. These are just a couple of tricks that work for me. And I have also learned to not revise, forever, what I've already written (no matter how tempting) but I'll leave a sticky note on places to fix or make better, and then just keep going, which really helps to push ahead and finish the book! Good luck!

Francesca Prescott said...

Terri: I'm probably a tough contender for you as far as the Guiness Book of World Records goes. I wrote my first book, "Mucho Caliente!", in 18 months, but have yet to complete my second manuscript. Actually, that's not quite true: I've completed it about three times (!!), but have yet to feel totally satisfied with what I've written. The project has been nagging me for years now; I just can't seem to "honour the story" I have in my head. Also, I've rewritten it so many times that I tend to forget which version goes with which altered plotline. My neurotic fussing over details has turned the book into a big quilted mess! Like you, I juggle all sorts of other things in my life, and, at the moment, certain "things" (such as my horse's health and well-being) have become a priority.

I know from writing my previous book that in order to produce decent work and get "into the zone" I require long, uninterrupted hours in front of the computer. Lately I simply can't seem to find those hours, but I know from the chattering "voices in my head" that I will. Well, eventually anyway!

As for personal experiences creeping into my plot lines, I don't worry about it too much, because even the ones I do use are always blown out of proportion and/or modified to fit the needs of the story.

Alison said...

Practical ideas, Linda, that all writers can use. Writing is so individual that what works for me may not work for other writers. I DO reread constantly, especially if there is a break. It may seem like a huge waste of time, but for me it's necessary to catch things that DO need changing in what I have already written, plus get my mind in gear for the next chapter. I can also then catch errors in dates, etc. Mysteries particulary need tweaking to ensure a tight plot and I have created timelines and taken notes (like Linda) of important details.

Good luck finding time. My thoughts are when you allot those two hours a week for writing and then don't get to the writing, its more of an 'artful' avoidance. Having only two or so hours a week doesn't allow you to get in that writing 'flow' which is the rewarding part, so you are stuck with the anxious part we all have when tackling it anew, and so find other things more important. At least that happens to me! (as in right now, I am writing comments instead of working on the book!) Does that make sense?

Laura Crum said...

Terri--I makes notes as I go along; as I'm writing chapter five, I'll make notes about what needs to happen in chapters six and seven. I also start with a (very sketchy) outline of the book, which involves a sentence or so saying what is to happen in each chapter. Though this gets modified as the book is written, it helps to remind me of where I meant to go with the story.

And I definitely use much from my own life as background for my books. I don't see this as a problem. Some writers do more of this than others--its just what you feel comfortable with. There's no right or wrong, unless you annoy some real person by painting a recognizable and unflattering portrait of them in your work of fiction(!)

As for revising, I do it, too, but I keep my mind firmly on progressing forward with the first draft, which is the hardest part (I think). After completing eleven books, I am pretty clear that if I just push forward and get the raw material out there, I can revise and perfect it later (not that any of my work is all so perfect). I do think its important to just forge ahead as best you can and not get trapped into endless re-writing before you have completed the ms.

Hope this helps.

Terri Rocovich said...

Thank you sooooo much for your comments. They mean a lot and make me feel like I am not just crazy and just not worthy, if you know what I mean. Your suggestions are fabulous and I very much appreciate your honesty. Allison I do think I am guilty of the nervous avoidance and I am going to work at scheduling more uninterrupted righting time and use little bouts of time for my journal and notes on my outline.