Not to perpetuate the romantic notion of writerly angst and the joy of squeezing blood from one’s forehead, but for this writer at least, there seems to be two types of stories: the ones that write themselves, raining down from the heavens onto my keyboard at 60-plus words per minute, and the kind you have to excavate from stone using only your front teeth and fingernails.
Sunday I wrote both. I kicked pebbles through 200-some words of my Japanese space ninja noir during the wee hours before my writer’s meeting — I’m one of those people — before finally admitting to myself at 6:00 a.m. there was no way in Hogwarts I was going to finish it before our noon meeting.
So I set it aside and wrote a 2,700-word story from scratch, the scratch being this note on my whiteboard: Right in front of my house there’s a spot that if you stand there, you can see a parallel dimension – discovered it when I was 11 – Peeping Tom – skyline/silhouette of neighborhood shifts into Aztec jumbles.
Writing this story was just the break I needed from the old noir ball and chain. I felt recharged and accomplished and…well, superheroic. So I renewed my efforts on the first story later that evening. Easy-peasy…like force-feeding medicine to a cat. After shoving, dragging, and bullying the story forward another 200-some words, I hung up my cape and called it a day.
So what’s the deal? Why are some stories so easy and some so damn hard? Are these stories inherently different kinds of stories, or am I simply in different kinds of mindsets when I’m writing them? Or is “easy” simply a wonderful side effect of writing under pressure?
Most importantly, what’s the difference in the final result? If I bleed over a story longer than another, does that mean that particular story is better?
So I’ve got a lot more questions than I’ve got answers, but this is what I do know:
When it’s easy, usually I haven’t really developed the idea yet, the plot line is more straightforward, and I am writing to find out what the story is. Mostly these stories are written under tight time constraints, which forces me to make decisions more quickly.
But I also know that the longer I work on something, the richer the back story becomes, the more complicated the plot twists and turns, the more developed the characters become — and not in a bicep-tual way — and the harder it is to write.
Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter to the reader how painful the process was…just whether the story was good or not.
So how did my five-hour quickie fare under the scrutinizing eyes of the Third Ninjas Omniscient? Seems it did all right. Ninja S called it classic sci-fi, and NinJeff, a long-time pal who has been reading my stuff for years now, said it was his favorite of all my stories he’s read. Wow. And whew!
What about the other story, you ask? That remains to be seen.
So I’d love to hear what you guys think. Is a story better if it was birthed in pain or sneezed out? Let me know. In the meantime, I think I feel a contraction coming on. I better get to work. 🙂