Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Inspiration Vs Perspiration

A thought occurred to me as I was writing late the other night, working on my new WIP. How much of what we write is inspired and how much is damn hard work? 

It took me a while, but I eventually got my answer. For me, anyway; every writer is different. Like zebras. I decided that whilst writing my first draft for anything, I pretty much rely on inspiration. 

When I first started taking my writing seriously I became greedy, and sought out writers everywhere. In blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, Verla Kay's...the list is endless. I was fascinated by how others work and I was amazed at all the different techniques writers have. Of course, in seeking out fellow writers, I got the crap scared out of me.  All I saw was people agonizing over detailed chapter outlines and blow by blow movements of every scene before they even put pen to paper. (Or, more likely, finger to keyboard!) 

I freaked out because I don't do anything like that - ever. Usually when I get an idea or I wake from a crazy dream and know my subconscious has served me up something delicious to write about, I let it stay in my head for awhile. That way, the story solidifies itself and I get a great feel for it. Then maybe I'll do a list of characters and that will be the start of my character bible for that project. But as for planning...the only planning I really do is maybe a paragraph or two of what the general gist of the story is.

Usually while writing the first draft, I'll note down a brief description of what goes on in each chapter on index cards after I've actually wrote it. See? No planning. Just a reminder. This is useful to me later on in a variety of ways: it helps with a time line; it can be saved later to help with a synopsis; it can even help me decide if I want to shuffle the course of events around, maybe have one event take place before another. It also keeps me straight and not stray around all over the place. 

I'm a firm believer of letting the story take control of you, not the other way around. I still remember the first time I was shocked by something my MC said or did, wondering how in the hell, as the creator, I could be shocked. So for the first draft at least, I just go with it, and have confidence my inspiration will get me to the end in one piece. 

The same goes for research. Depending on how much I need to do, I tend to do it as I go. One of my completed works features heavily around Greek mythology. But, I already knew a ton as it is a passion of mine, so it was only the odd thing I needed to research. For another, it was based during WW2 and my protag's love interest enlisted after the attack at Pearl Harbour, being sent to the Pacific. That took a lot of research. I wrote maybe two hundred pages before I stopped so I could seriously research the heck out of it. 

Having said all of this, and probably branding myself a lazy writer to anyone who may read this, when I get to the second draft and however many after that, I get down to business. I go through every chapter and think about what could be done to make it better. In some cases taking the whole thing out is the only option. 

The good thing about relying on inspiration for the first draft, is it leaves the road more open later on. More often than not, my final draft rarely resembles the first. If anything, the first draft is a skeleton for me to add muscle and tendons and eventually a smooth and clear skin to polish it all off. 

Without the inspiration of the first draft, there would be very little for me to work with later on. And without the hard work that goes into the later drafts, the finished product would resemble a cake half baked. You know it's supposed to be a cake, but you wouldn't really fancy having a taste. I rely on inspiration and perspiration in equal measures. You can't deny the glow you get from inspiration and knowing that when you write something great, it came from a part of you that you have no idea where it came from or how to explain it. And when you work hard on something, and there is nothing harder to work on than a manuscript, that satisfied breath at the finish line is so worth it because you know you worked your butt off and the end result is amazing. 

But this is all just me. What about you guys? How much is inspiration, and how much is perspiration? 


Gladys Hobson 1 October 2010 at 10:37  

Well, I have written a number of books and I have to admit I work like you. I can't corset myself in a designed, pattern-cut, machined perfect plan. Like you some arrangement needs to take place as work proceeds but inspiration keeps me writing, not certain how things turn out until the end.
Many years ago I was a dress designer. The design would come first and I knew exactly in my mind how the garment would look after the process of pattern cutting, laying out, cutting, machining and finishing. I can't work like that as a writer. I would get bored with the hard work of writing. I like to be surprised by the little nuances along the way, as my characters lead me along.
But that's me!

Medeia Sharif 5 October 2010 at 15:53  

I think it's mostly perspiration. Ideas come easily to me, but craft is what I struggle with (even though it gets easier as time goes by).

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