Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Rubbish!

Is any writing wasted? I’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the past few days trying turn an idea into a short story. It began well, on Friday, with the germ of the idea and an opening line. It was the sort of story I was sure I could sell to a magazine. On Saturday I spent the morning working on it in some detail over a large café latte or two in a coffee bar in Broadstairs. I completely rewrote in yesterday, after a day’s reflection, and improved the opening line and beefed up the ending. But today I can see it just doesn’t work. The whole story is based on an idea that seemed brilliant on Friday but that now seems a bit dull. I feel I’ve been wasting my time working on it.

But really I don’t think any writing is a waste. The struggles I’ve had over the past few days trying to convey a certain emotion, or sketch out a sense of time and place, have if nothing else been good mental exercise. There’s an analogy to be drawn with running, but I’m constantly boring people with my running analogies so I won’t labour the point. Other than to say that I feel I’m in a more fit state to tackle my next writing project.

It’s not rubbish. It’s an investment . . .

7 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

It is funny that you wrote this, because I have just deleted twenty pages worth of a novel and I had to comfort myself by telling myself it was for the best. I sweated blood over writing those pages, but they were awful and did not work at all.

I taught English for almost ten years, and when we taught writing, we always had to convince students that the process was more important than the product. Which is to say that the time you spend writing even something that you eventually have to discard is, in fact, an investment in your overall development as a writer. But it still hurts.

Sometimes, though, what strikes you as bad one day will look good after a significant period of time has passed, say three months. I started the novel I am currently writing three times, then got discouraged and left it alone for three months. When I came back to it, one version struck me as being much better than the others. I have kept that and added 50,000 words, and that is the one that was chosen as one of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 100 novel excerpts. Of course I wasn't one of those lucky (i.e. talented) three, but I am still amazed and delighted that I got picked as one of the 100.

And that is how I found your blog!

Paul said...

Hi Mary. You're right - and it's so good to find a piece you wrote a while ago and read it thinking, 'Wow, this is GOOD!' (It's also soul destroying to find something you remember as being good, only to find that, in fact, it's quite awful!)

Well done, Mary, for being one of the 100 Writers' & Artists' Yearbook winners. Did you find the TLC critique helpful? I knew as soon as I read mine that I wasn't going to be one of the 'lucky three' - and I also knew that the TLC feedback was absolutely on the button. Really helpful, I thought.

I see (thanks to Google!) that you and I have entered similar competitions (e.g. Wells Lit) in the past with similar results. You may like to know I compile a list of forthcoming competitions on the Deal Writers website (www.dealwriters.co.uk) - I need to bring it up to date but you might find it helpful.

Mary Witzl said...

I was bowled over by my TLC critique and how perceptive my reviewer was. She pointed out every awful fault my manuscript has (plot that is somewhat thin, bits that were over-written, etc.)and praised the parts that others whose opinion I trust have liked. I am thinking of sending my completed manuscript to them. Initially, £150 seemed like a lot of money, but I can now see the value of an in-depth critique.

When I first decided to enter the A & CB Competition, I showed my sample chapters and synopsis to my husband and he tried to discourage me from submitting it. He is my harshest (and usually most perceptive) critic, and he didn't feel it was up to scratch. But that critique was well worth it, and now he has to admit that it was a good idea for me to enter. And getting him to eat his words is almost as satisfying as winning a free critique.

Now I will check out your competition list, and thank you for telling me about it! Take a look at Michael Shenton's Prize Magic Writing Competition site if you haven't already. He has quite a number of interesting competitions listed there.

Paul said...

Hey Mary, thanks for pointing me towards Michael Shenton's website. It looks a lot more comprehensive than Mine!

Kanani said...

I find this photograph re-assuring. I thought I was the only one who killed off forests as I edit through my scenes!

I've purchased a paper shredder. It's my favorite tool. I even shred the junk mail that comes in!

Paul said...

I'm often tempted to purchase a shredder, but there's always another book to buy instead . . .

:o)

Mary Witzl said...

And thank you for pointing me towards your list which has a few competitions that even Michael has managed to miss!