Thursday, August 5, 2010

Will You Let Me Back In?

Distance can be a good thing when it comes to writing. It is for me. I get so deep into a novel when I'm writing it that it becomes like a puzzle that can only fit together one way.

There is always a little bit of time between turning in a draft and when the revision ideas come from an editor. I used to dread this time, worried that I would never be able to get back into the story. I don't worry about that so much anymore. I've proven to myself over and over that it's not a problem. So now I welcome the time to gain some new perspective. However, I can't expect my main character to always simply allow me right back in their head.

"You think you can just leave me here? I've been in these pages for months with no one to talk to and I don't know if I should be angry or grateful that you've come back," I imagine them saying to me. Then the dreaded question, "Are you going to leave me again if I do?"

"Yes. In a way," I tell them. (It's never a good idea to lie to your characters even in your borderline institutional conversations.)

So there's always this process of trying to regain their confidence and story. I never dive right in like the drunk crashing a party. Instead, I spend some time thinking about the changes I could make. Then I make a lists. Lots of lists. Things that could go. Things that could be added. Then I spend time trying to figure out where these transplants fit into the whole story. I find this approach brings me back into the fold easier. Then working on the actual revised draft feels more like a good get together with an old friend rather than an awkward run in at the pharmacy with someone you'd hoped to avoid for the rest of your life.


  1. The last paragraph interested me Brian. I at least would be interested if you plan a book in detail before writing or whether it develops as you go along and the characters become so alive to you that they start to dictate the plot?

  2. I love that you see your main characters as real people--they're not just written words on the page. And your description of how it feels to try to dive back into your writing is great.

  3. I fall somewhere inbetween planning in detail and letting the characters guide me. I typically have a good idea about where the whole book is going. But I never start writing until I get the character's voice down. Then they usually lead me to places I hadn't planned.

    I've always felt like the main character is nearly a real person. You get so involved in their head that it's impossible for me to treat them any other way.