Non-Euclidean Writing

The shortest distance between two points is a line, unless you’re going in the wrong direction.

I’ve been working on a novel for the last two years. I think it’s a good book. It won’t win a Booker prize, but I’m hoping it’s the kind of book you pass to your friend and they pass it to another friend and eventually no one can remember who it belongs to.

I’ve had some friends read it, hired an editor to review it, and have some structural issues I need to deal with before I can start to query it.  I thought I would be ready to query it last spring. Each revision creates a better book. I am becoming a stronger writer. But at the moment, I’m stuck.

I’m at a pivot point in the plot, where Act 1 becomes Act 2. If I can set this up right, I think, I hope, the rest will fall into place. I’ve written, deleted, rewritten, moved, moved again, gone back to the original, but it’s still not quite right yet.  I’m getting tired of looking at it.

I discussed it with some other writers, and one woman gave me an interesting insight. Sometimes the fastest way to get to the finish line is to stop running and rest for a moment.

Her point was that I needed some space and distance from my writing to better see what I needed to fix.  I’ve been feeling that a lot lately–even with my music. I’m nose deep in my mistakes to the point where that is all that I see.

So I’m breaking it down into components, and then pulling back so I can see how the puzzle pieces fit together, so I can see the overall picture, how the colors and lines connect.

I’m used to powering through problems. I’m a fixer. But perhaps this stage of writing is like flying a plane. The story wants to fly straight, but can’t until I ease up on the controls. Yesterday, I told another writer friend that the world needed to chillax.  Sounds like a plan. Pull up a chair, I have coffee and pie. Let’s watch the stories bloom.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Elycefeliz © 2010 Creative Commons

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9 comments on “Non-Euclidean Writing

  1. Just the other day, I was lamenting to my husband about not having time to write and being out of touch with the writing world and I felt it was slipping away. He said, “Cindy, just maybe, something is happening in the background while you’re away from it,” and it gave me pause to appreciate my pause. I will partake of coffee and pie with you, then regroup and get back on the writing horse, my friend. Keep on keepin’ on, I always say…

  2. Gerry Wilson says:

    Jeannine, I like what Cindy’s husband said–that maybe something’s happening in the background while we’re away! Sometimes we’re forced to be away by other demands. Sometimes, we just need some distance, so take that break, if you need it. I’m wondering, though, what might be waiting in the wings. Is there a character who intrigues you, a scene down the road (that has nothing to do with where you are in the book right now) that nags you and wants to be written? You might have a written conversation with your main character and see what he or she reveals. Work on something else. We never know what may breach the dam and open things up again. I hate feeling stuck, but sometimes, the work stalls and “simmers” for a while and nags at me like a dream that seems important but I can’t quite recall. Eventually (at least so far!), something comes. I wish you luck and hope that breakthrough will come for you soon!

    • Thanks Gerry – I’m viewing this as an opportunity to explore some other projects that will help me grow as a writer–submitting some short fiction, delving into poetry, querying Momaiku. I am going to finish this book, I just have to recognize that it will come in its own time. When I force it, the words don’t ring as true. I really like your idea of exploring the characters through some sketches. Perhaps there are some things they need to tell me that they’ve been holding back!

  3. Lara Britt says:

    Of course this resonates with me in a big way. And your advice is always welcome in my world. I have a 10-day retreat planned for later in the month. No emails, FaceBook, phone calls, no reading, no writing, no talking…it will be my third time doing this with the first one at a structured retreat near Mt St Helens, Washington and the last one a few years ago near the Illinois Wisconsin border. This time it is self-constructed setting it up in my own home. Dramatic…I don’t recommend this to others who haven’t done it with the support I received the first to go rounds. But for me…it wasn’t difficult. I’m a fixer like you, Jeannine. Sometimes it is incredibly essential for us to step back and let the problems fix themselves. I’m guessing you are introverted like me as well. Not shy in the least, mind you. But if I don’t get time by myself to recharge, things can get ugly. Recharge. And renew. And prepare for a lovely winter. The book knows it’s day of birth. I know that you trust that process too. Sign me up for an advanced copy.

    • The term I use is “vehemently introverted.” Your idea of a silent retreat sounds heavenly to me. I think I have to figure out how to fit that into my life — at least a little each day… While my novel is being stubborn I have another little book I’m looking to query… 🙂

  4. I did this with my book. I planned on working on it this summer, but wound up not having the time. Then a new idea popped into my head and I’m off and running again. All that relaxing and enjoying the world outside the one in my book really helped. 🙂

  5. Jeannine, I think you’re on the right track. Many novelists advise taking a break, even between drafts. You sometimes have to get enough “space” between you and your WIP so you can see it with fresh eyes. Working on other creative projects is a great idea. It will keep your skills sharp and you’ll likely have an idea right in the middle of something completely unrelated 🙂 It’s how the brain, and the heart, work. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
    Mind you, doing something completely different can also help. During one break, I helped my husband renovate my office. When I got back to my novel, I realized how much I missed it and the next draft resulted in a lot of change for the better.
    Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  6. Veronica Roth says:

    I so get that. When I can’t see a way with a painting I turn it upside down and walk away. Coming back to it and seeing it upside down, the mistakes are more obvious. Guess you can’t turn your writing upside down…or can you? 🙂

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