Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sprints Vs Marathons

A few years back my husband read Murakami's non-fiction running memoir, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running."

I'm guessing since he runs long distances and has learned how to pace himself, he probably doesn't have pacing problems with his novels. I don't run. I have serious pacing problems.

Then again, what do I know? Maybe Murakami is excellent at running marathons but shitty at pacing his writing.

My entire writing life to date has been spent writing essays and short stories. Those, I can do. A quick burst of creativity, some editing, and done. Writing an entire novel is a whole other can of worms. For those of you who think it's easy, I'm here to say: it is not. It's damn hard.

How much information do I give away in chapter 1? How do I slowly unravel the thread of the plot without losing readers' interest? How do I keep tension without making every scene over the top? I just don't know.

The other night at the super fabulous Mice At Play event, "Martinis, Mad Men, and Role Play," I had a great conversation with a former teacher turned sculptural artist. We talked about how we are both visual learners, and I mentioned that whenever my husband asks me to tell him how to do something on the computer I can't just tell him - I have to come over and show him. (To his great annoyance. "Just tell me!" he'll shout as I tell him I'll be right there. "I can't!" is my reply.) She totally understood that, but then asked how I can be a writer if I'm so visual?

There's the rub.

I can watch the story unfold in my mind's eye, but getting it on paper is an enormous challenge to me. A good challenge, for sure, but still quite difficult. I imagine this is what is must be like, sort of, to climb Mount Everest: you don't just attack the mountain, you have to pace yourself. Like, really pace yourself. (Trust me, I've seen enough documentaries on this. I'm a little bit obsessed with Everest. I own the Everest IMAX movie on DVD, and have three books about the 1996 disaster.) You go up to Camp 1, acclimate, then climb back down. Then you go up to Camp 2, acclimate again, then come back down. Reaching the peak, if you do it at all, can take a month or longer.

And yes, I just compared my dinky little historical urban fantasy novel to climbing Mount Everest. WHAT?!?!

Why can't I just take the little movie I have in my mind and barf it into a novel? Why can't you all see the story in my head? If I've been writing most of my life, why is this so hard for me?

This is why so many writers are also alcoholics.

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