<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
An Important Also

Sunday evening, after banging my head against the crappy 4000-word draft all afternoon (and consoling myself with Knight Rider when things got too rough), and after listening to my Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band CD at least three times on repeat, and before I ate the rotten pork roast that took me out of commission all day yesterday (and/or began feeling the effects of what could be some sort of cold/flu type thing), I found the voice of the bagpipe story. (Aka "Safe Passage," aka "Calling Her Home," aka "that stupid mutter-mutter story.") I know how it sounds and I know that now that I have two scenes that are right everything else will happily (or at least eventually) follow from there. I also know that as I write, the existing 4000 words will be deleted, overwritten or totally ignored. That's the thing about finding the real story's voice: anything written to that point becomes useless. And it doesn't matter!

Few things are quite like the thrill of finally finding the right words.

Now if only I felt like writing when I get home today, instead of curling up in my bed and trying to sleep away this dreadful yuckiness. (Ah, well. Can't have everything.)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 1:01 PM


I once threw out 37 manuscript pages -- my longest "false start" ever -- for a story for Pamela Sargent. It was when I hit page 37 that something clicked over and I realized that I had been approaching the whole damn thing the wrong way.

But for short fiction? I tend to start a story three or four times, experimenting with viewpoints, etc.; I'll go for as little as a thousand words, as many as three thousand, before I find the voice of the story.

I do this with novels as well, but at least with a novel, the excess word count is a smaller overall percentage <wry g>.

Ummm, if you updated the LJ a bit more often it would be easier to post.

By Blogger msagara, at 2:28 PM  

37 pages?! Whoa, Michelle. "Ouch" is the word that comes to mind--but then, sometimes you just do whatever it takes to get to the *real* words. It seems I have to throw out three or four potential beginnings at least before anything clicks. I'm glad I'm not alone!

And LJ ... yeah, point taken. :) I'll try to mirror a little better than I have been.

By Blogger Karina, at 10:12 PM  

I think the right start is more important than anything else, but like everything else, learned it the hard way <wry g>. On the other hand, because I tend to go a bit long on everything, my general habit is to ignore the growing word count as much as humanly possible until the story's finished.

Then, I pay more attention. It's necessary when one is going to have grovel a lot.

I have once thrown away a novel and started it over from scratch (it was the third book published, but the second book I'd finished), and have also thrown hundreds of novel pages out the window -- which, given the length of the books, probably isn't a bad thing.

But the noodling at the beginning isn't a waste of words -- it's a test of words, which is, for me, a necessary part of the process; I don't look at 37 pages and think "8500 wasted words"; I think of them as the 8500 words that made it clear what my subconscious wasn't saying loudly enough at the beginning.

By Blogger msagara, at 8:11 PM  

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