Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BMM: The Big X



May I ask you a question?

Have you ever put one of these guys in your manuscript?




Honest moment: I used to mentally balk at people who would do that. My elitist self would think, Just work through it, people!  I mean, that’s the motivation for me. I know where I want to go and I want to get there and usually that’s what pushes me through the hazy, unclear spots.

That was before Franken-novel. Before I became a nonlinear writer. Before the days when I wrote my black moment before the midpoint. Let’s just say Alison had a few a lot of Xs in her first draft of the current WIP.

But I even rationalized that as a first draft occurrence. No way was I leaving Xs in the second third draft. I was going to push through difficult scenes. I was going to work on them until my brain bled. I was not leaving any scene unfinished!

*cough* whatever *cough*

Rewind to January—Alison’s broken through several barriers, climbing over walls that had been overwhelming obstacles. Massive wall number one was a poem that occurred early on in my story. The girl who knows she’s not a poet slaved over lines and entire stanzas, making sure the meter was just right. Making sure it made sense. I sent countless versions to a critique partner, revised, sent again. I finally got what I wanted and moved on. Then, I hit a standstill at chapter eight, worked on it for a week before I was happy with it. Moved on.

No Xs for me! I thought. I’m going to beast this, er…beast.

But then I got to a scene I knew I needed to write. I knew what it would entail. I knew the conflict and the resolution. I had a beginning and an end. I just had to write the middle.

And I couldn’t do it.

You see, it involved poetry—not just me writing a poem— but interpretation of poetry. And I needed to choose the perfect lines from a poem that would be perfect for what my characters needed and wanted to do.

The scene also involved something else that I knew would be, um…extremely challenging to write.

I felt overwhelmed. I can’t do this. The scene was too big for me.

And after weeks of staring at the screen, after frustration and self-loathing, after sorting through countless stanzas of Paradise Lost. After five different documents of brain spew and back and forth emails with a critique partner, I just…I just had to move on.

And guess what went in my manuscript?




Yep. *hides head in shame*

But really. I look at it this way. I can get hung up for two months over one scene or I can move on and chink away at it when I’m mentally and writerly* strong enough. And that’s what I did. I worked on a stanza here, an uncomfortable moment there. And finally, by the beginning of March, I was able to take that X out of my manuscript.

And put a new one in two weeks ago. J

And I’m totally cool with that. Because, you know what? Eventually that big X will come out. When I'm writerly ready.

So, how about YOU? Ever put the big X in your manuscript?

* writerly is totally a word. Well, it is now. ;)

28 comments:

  1. I read about using the X from someone's blog post. I started using it on my current manuscript. It does help to keep moving the manuscript along though I haven't had to use it for a whole scene yet. But I agree with you that it's okay to use it for that too when you're stuck to keep moving on. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was so afraid that once I started using it, I would put Xs in every time I got stuck, but I've been pretty vigilant to only use in extreme cases.

      Delete
  2. I've never used an x before. But I have written things like "guy with a hat" or a vague description, thenforget to take it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh gosh - I've done that too! I do make sure now that if I do that, I highlight it with a comment.

      Delete
  3. I haven't used an X but sometimes I do write "EXPAND THIS LATER" in huge read letters. This is moreso now because I am revising/editing and sometimes I can't think of the scene right away.
    What poetry did you end up using, Alison? Just curious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used lines from Book Five and Nine of Paradise Lost for the big X scene, but I did actually write my own poem for an earlier chapter. It still needs tweaking, but it's in there!

      Delete
  4. I have put this in the middle of an MS: [Need to find someone smarter than me to figure this problem out.] Oh, the problems that pop up when you write characters who are supposed to be way smarter than you are.
    I haven't skipped scenes before, but definitely write short, temporary placeholder scenes to get the story moving forward. There's no shame in it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually did have the beginning and end of the scene written (along with a shoddy middle), so it wasn't totally an Xed scene, but close enough. I didn't like having to do it, but it was what worked for me at the time. And I have some of those "find someone smarter" notes too!

      Delete
  5. Ha! I spent the first part of this post wondering if you meant X as in Ex-boyfriend (I have written in a few of those).

    But there haven't been any skipped parts of my books...revised and rewritten parts...many, many of those.

    My biggest shame is not feeling ready for a whole book. I've even written over half a rough of it and still feel that way:(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no! Hopefully that feeling will pass!

      Delete
  6. Right now the end of my WiP is a giant X. I have no idea exactly how to approach it. Yikes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My second project was like that and I did a lot of brainstorming with the husband. He actually sort of came up with the idea for the end and it was pretty amazing, IMHO. Talking it out really helps!

      Delete
  7. i have never done this--but now it sounds like a good idea sometimes haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really don't recommend it - only as a last resort. I feel like I'm cheating when I don't push through. But sometimes, you have to go around the wall rather than through it. :)

      Delete
  8. I've never used the X, but I do use general notes as reminders to myself when I don't want to deal with something in my manuscript immediately (as you may have noticed!). :) I might have to make use of the X one of these days, though I think I'll try to reserve it only for the most extreme cases. Great question, Alison!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, this was definitely a last resort. And I do the note thing too - I call those docs "Chapter ___ WITH Alison's neurotic comments" :)

      Delete
  9. I've never used an X, but I do leave myself notes when I get stuck and then try to move on from there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha - I do the note thing too. My doc is full of them.

      Delete
  10. *knocking on wood* So far I haven't had to resort to the X and have forced myself to push on...sometimes after much procrastination. Never say never, though! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really don't recommend Xs for anyone and I hope you never have to use one! But I knew my subconscious needed to stew on that particular scene for longer than I could possibly be patient. :)

      Delete
  11. I had a big one in every single draft. It was literally the last scene I wrote before I sent the query because I was so intimidated by it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) I've actually done that too, with my first project. Wrote the query and THEN wrote that last chapter.

      Delete
  12. I can't. I'm too obsessively a linear writer. Sometimes I'll get inspired for lines for a future scene, but I write those in a different document until I get there, so they don't count toward my word count yet :) So if I have to stew over a scene for weeks? I do. Which SUCKS. But... I just find it nearly impossible to move forward without filling in the gaps. Even if those scenes are suckily written, I'll just redo them in revision. Which I've been doing a LOT of in this revision, ha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still do that - save lines that pop into my head. I actually have notebooks full of that "stuff for later," but this was just one of those times I couldn't wait. Hopefully I won't have to do this too much. It feels like cheating.

      Delete
  13. No big Xs, but I use the word BLANK and leave all kinds of bubble comments, like "fix this", "research this" and the like. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  14. I just vomit my first draft and get it as best I can and THEN come back and worry about the blanks and/or X's. In that way I don't hit the proverbial wall.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I definitely do this... Sometimes I'm ready to write one scene but not another. A lot can be said for slogging through, but it's more pleasurable to write the scene I'm psyched about at the given time.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Haha! YES! I have used the big X. Well, not exactly like that. Normally it's something like [mc needs to do something that will cause ...], but basically it's an X. I think it's really the only way to move forward sometimes. And often, as you move forward, the idea for X comes to you.

    ReplyDelete

Yay! I LOVE comments!