The blog of author Harper Alexander

Pacing the Beast

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Today was one of those days where I wrote nearly 4,000 words.  One of those days where I actually had to stop myself, because I was so driven and oddly able to express myself that I realized I might just be breezing by some parts of the story that would be better off more gradually-developed.  It’s sometimes a rough call for me, though.  There are two ways to look at it: slow down and let things develop so you don’t rush/miss anything, or breeze through without caring because it’s a first draft and you ought to humor the inspiration when it comes, and worry about filling the rest in later.

Essentially, both methods work out, but, having had the pleasure of editing and seeing a few different rough drafts of stories through to completion, at this point, I’m realizing that it’s much easier (for me) if I just do everything as best I can the first time around.  As my writing has matured, I find that I write a more tight-knit story just kind of naturally, from the beginning, which means that if I get to the end and realize I want to go back and add something, it makes it increasingly difficult to find a place to stick it in.

In the past, it wasn’t so.  There were so many holes (or at the very least, simply ‘loose’ areas) throughout the story that I could essentially add whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted to.  Now, I seem to have reached a point where my brain is always trying to connect things, make things clean, follow a nice cause-and-effect formula that makes the story flow more.  It seems funny that such an approach could be counter-productive, but if I’m not careful, I don’t leave enough room for improvement.

That’s why, sometimes, I find it necessary to slow down, to pace myself, to make sure I’m thinking of all the angles and putting in all the necessary information and the extent of the scenes that are desired to flesh out a given part of the story.  But it’s easier said than done.  When I’m on a roll, I really want to just keep going.  It’s great, it’s elating, it’s invigorating when the writing just comes, and you can just let the keys fly and watch the story unfold before your very eyes.

But another thing I have to remember is that the art of writing is just as important to me as the story.  Sometimes, it is entirely more fulfilling to spend a good ten or fifteen minutes on one sentence, and see it come to stunning fruition, than it is to punch out 4,000 invigorating words in one sitting.  If I get going too swiftly, I lose a certain prose, and the poetry that I feel when I really allow myself to get into the soul of my writing is a big part of the writer that I am.  It’s a big part of why I write.  The depth that aches to get out of me, to express itself.  If I overlook that aspect of my writing, I neglect a big part of why I’m doing this.

And I’ve found that the poetry of something, for me, tends to come a little bit better as you’re first writing a thing, during its creation when you’re really feeling it, really possessed by the current idea of it.  It is difficult to go back and add prose to a thing that is already described, already put in a box.

Writing is such a learning experience.  I love that it is as much a journey for the writer as it is for the character(s) inside of a story.  I love that it can teach me things even as I am its master.  I love that, as much as I am crafting it as a piece of writing, it is crafting me as the writer.


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