Saturday, March 5, 2011

Not Subtle

I went to Borders yesterday. The store closest to my house is closing. I feel bad buying books at a reduced price because I wonder if the authors still get their royalties. But who can afford new books all the time. Well, not me, and it had been a little over a year since I'd purchased a new novel. The reason that I stopped buying new books is because I went through a phase where I bought and read a lot of books, just not books that were healthy for me.
See, I'm a research scientist, so when I was part of a writing group I did as much research on writing and how to write as possible. Let me just say, reading a book about writing is as close to reading beauty magazines as I'll ever get. I just can't handle the way those books make me feel. I've compared it to buying a book on walking, then finding out that all these years you've been walking all wrong! Who knew! For me this is the moment when I try to change how I walk, carefully following the instructions in my 'walking' book. Then I fall flat on my face, usually in front of someone important. Instead of going back to walking the way I walked before, I buy another book on how to walk. This cycle continues until I can't even walk down the street. Then I stop and say "What the hell is wrong with me? I know how to walk!" This is what writing books do to me. But I can't stay away from them.
I have to admit that eventually, reading all those books on writing I've learned the one thing that has helped me: process. Mine is, sadly, redundant (us science types prefer efficiency). It turns out that I have to write my first draft full of to be, adverbs and cliches. Then I have to edit for plot issues. Then typos. Then I have to go through and clean up my prose. Then I have to clean up the prose again. Then it's the cliche edit, and lastly an edit just for typos at the end. After that, well, it's starting to seem like a pretty good manuscript.
So as I'm closing in on my final (ha! what a laugh, final) edits I perused the writing section at Borders. I've been down that road before, and I knew as I stood there that no book in that section should make its way home with me. Then a book stood out from the others. One I'd never seen there before: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mastering Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I blinked, really? I mean really?
I know writers are a little... off, but really, that's just mean. Yes we obsess, but we obsess because we love writing. And seriously, in a process that involves going through a manuscript seven times (cutting my very favorite line mind you--it was out of character *sigh*), how can writers not be a bit OCD.  Sometimes I loose sleep over whether my opening chapter has too much dialogue or too much exposition (everyone recommends something different in all those books on walking). 

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if I'm OCD, but I'm definitely a perfectionist. And I've had the same problem with writing books as you. Years ago, I bought a book on how to write a book in 30 days, and when I couldn't do it like the book said, I thought I sucked. I finally figured out that there are many roads to Oz and not every technique will work for every writer. In fact, I don't even think my process from 5 years ago would work for me now.

    I used to be the kind of person who couldn't start a book without a scene-by-scene outline, synopsis, character worksheets, etc., already worked out. I wrote from beginning to end, edited while I wrote, and ended up with a relatively clean (but uber-boring) first draft. Now I go with the flow and leave the clean-up for later. And there's LOTS of clean up. I'm pretty sure my main character was "protagonist" until halfway through the manuscript. But anything to get to done, right?


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