the mechanics of writing, part 3

here is the third entry to my "mechanics of writing" series. the first two can be found here and here.
i am always surprised at how much personal experience tends to shape the way a novel comes out. i know i shouldn't be surprised by now, considering i'm now working on my 6th novel, cooler than the millions. but it is always pleasantly surprising how you start out with an idea, you start to plot out the book, but when the writing starts, it really is pretty much up in the air as to how the book will turn out.

i find that things that happen to me while i'm writing the book really impacts the writing in an almost real-time sort of way. meaning, if i'm going through a rough period, the writing tends to be more fractured and vicious. but if i'm going to a relatively bright period, the writing tends to reflect that also. and i know some writers try to fight that sort of thing, because really, that could mess up the whole novel, but i for one don't - to a point. i usually feed off whatever emotions i'm feeling at the time. yes, sometimes the writing comes out all disjointed and doesn' t make emotional sense from one page to the next, sometimes within the same sentance, but that's what editing is for afterwards.

the other effect real-time personal events have on my writing is to really effect the mood and plot of the book. i find the better i feel, the more light hearted the writing is, including deciding on the ending. happier endings are always more appealing to me when i'm happy then when i'm miserable or angry. i also find myself entering in plot elements that i would not have normally considered, depending on my mood. for example, if i've had a good week, the harsher plot elements get softened. it works the other way too though, and if i have had a shitty week, i will kill off a character. but that's the extreme side.

another major effect is on the characters. i usually start out with characters modelled after someone in my life. sometimes though, as i'm writing, a character may change from being based on one person, to someone completely different. for example, the character of sean, the only female character in cttm was originally based on an amalgamation of a couple female friends. however, i found the character changed dramatically during the last four or five months as a particular woman came into my life and subsequently drove me crazy. suddenly, sean is not the two-dimensional throw-away love interest (not that any of my friends are throw-away types by any means, but sean was meant to be a side character). instead, sean has morphed into the emotional center of the story, which drives the motivations of every other character in the book. and the amazing thing, is that cttm was supposed to be a cold, calculating, emotionless story. the changes happened so subtly over the last couple of weeks since i started to start writing novels again.

the danger you face when you let current life events effect your writing so dramatically, is that you run the risk of having the story run away from you, to develop into something you never intended. sometimes this is a good thing, and can produce something wonderful, but other times you might find that you totally fucked it up. you might have a situation where the book, emotionally, is sporadic and spastic and really doesn't make much sense in the whole scheme of things.

i have been taking a different method this time around, because of the fact that the book seems like it is running away from me. i have been taking aims to go back and re-edit portions of the book as i write. this means that half a page takes me a whole day to write now, instead of just letting it flow like my previous works. something like desert sessions and this is hardcore were both written as almost long streams of thought. this definitely showed in the style of writing, especially in tih where dense, block prose would flow from one scene to the next seemingly, sometimes in mid sentance.

with cttm, i am taking a very control approach to the writing, double checking every single word i write, because while these spontaneous changes are nice, i do want to execute a very precice piece of writing with a precice message, because my other books have sort of been all over the place in terms of themes and ideas and messages. i also want to portray a specifc emotion to the book. the first half of cttm i've tentatively labeled as "blue" while the second half is labeled as "red." pretention aside, this just means the first half the book will be emotionally cool and almost stunted, cold... while the latter half will be nothing but emotion and drama.

the bottom line, i suppose, is to embrace spontaneity, to allow your life to influence the writing, but up to a certain point. if you want to write a book where the message is sound and the emotions consistent, edit, edit, edit and then edit some more. but if you want to write something that is more of a stream of thought, a sort of grab bag of emotions, then doing less editing is the way to go, because when you edit, i find you tend to second guess. and i'm not saying a book written in the latter style wouldn't be great; far from it. i'm just saying that there is value to running with emotions, but also keeping some control when writing anything.