Writing Down the Crap

I’m sure he doesn’t like to admit it, but about a million years ago I participated in Max Apple’s short fiction workshop at Rice. He had a saying: “Writers are the most sentimental people in the world.” I always figured this was just his way of saying that people attempting fiction have a tendency to write sentimental crap.

It seems to me that there is truth in this, but that it’s slightly off the mark: most of the writers I know are not so much sentimentalists as closet drama queens. The closet part, you see, is why we *write* rather than acting out.

Yesterday, I had a reasonably good cut (so I felt) at the first 90% of a rather information-packed scene. That last 10%, of course, is the part for which the reader shows up at the page — and today, in between continued nursing of the ailing princess, I took a shot at bringing that scene in for a landing. In short order I found myself writing crap. (This is much of why my page count only went up by 3.)

I mean, it was bad, this crap coming out the ends of my fingers. I knew it was bad. It set off my crap detector right away. To add insult to injury, I discovered I was writing a page-and-a-half of exposition…stuff that felt like one of those film-noir voice-overs. But the muse wanted to stay with it, so I just let him have his head. Information-heavy scenes are always the most difficult for me to carry off, I felt I’d lost my sense of direction now that the *information* part of the scene was out there, and I was just waiting to see what he was getting at. Finally, after I wrote to the end of that godawful expository lump, I condemned it as drivelly drama, got up, and walked away. Fortunately there was an ailing princess to take care of.

About two hours later, I came back in and looked at it again. I rescued paragraphs I thought might be useful later and fussed with some other elements of the scene. Gradually I realized that the scene was ailing, too: while I’d known what my conflict was for the scene when I sat down to write it, I’d lost track of it in the sea of information. The muse, in his godawful page-and-a-half of exposition, had been trying to sneak the conflict in around back.

Ooooooohhhhhhhhh. ::smacks forehead::

This is why information-heavy scenes always take me at least three drafts.

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