Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Yesterday my daughter suggested that a good way to tell if I was over-analyzing something was to check whether the thing I was analyzing was something that had actually happened. 

In this particular case I was analyzing a prospective new scene for the novel I'm working on (It would be less cumbersome if 'the novel I'm working on' had a title, but it doesn't.  I trust it eventually will.)  I'm on Major Draft #3 of this particular work and I've been caught off guard a bit by how much new stuff I'm putting in.  Now, unlike about 90% of authors, I tend to add material, not cut it, with every draft, so this should be good, not worrisome.  But last Friday, all of a sudden, one of my characters received an invitation to tea.  The book's set in England in 1939-1940, so not unusual.  When I say "all of a sudden" I'm playing with that little fantasy or fallacy or whatever you call it that writers have, where our characters seem to start taking on a life of their own.  They don't really, of course.  They're fictional and I can make them do and say whatever I like.  But if I'm really paying attention, and I've set up the situation well, I sometimes bypass the part of my brain that consciously says, "You know, if Ada went to tea with the Colonel, it would give her an experience of not being judged, because since he's blind he can't see her clubfoot."  (You all think I'm making that up.  I'm not.  At least, I made it up for the novel, not the blog post.)  Instead I just write the scene.

But this time my conscious brain got all ahoo about the invitation.  What would Ada wear?  What would she and Stephen talk about?  Where was all this extra stuff about Stephen coming from, and what was I supposed to do with it, and did I really need this scene from a structure point of view, and what did I need to have happen to advance the plot?

I got all wound up about it, and I didn't feel ready to sit in my chair at all.  (Writing Rule #1--the only universal rule:  Butt in chair.)  I started to explain my angst to my daughter as I drove her to school.  She's 15, she reads a lot, and lately I've started handing her pages I want her opinion on.  Yesterday she just groaned.  "You're over-analyzing," she said.  Usually I only hear that from my riding coaches.  "Go home," my daughter said, "put your butt in the chair, quit thinking, and write."

So I did.  My lovely character Ada got the invitation in the mail.  And she flatly refused to go to tea.  And I got a really good scene out of her refusal to go, her reasons for refusing, and her guardian's reaction.  I didn't have to worry about what the Colonel would say at all.

Meanwhile, I'm halfway through a novel called The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, which is set in a dystopian version of England in the 1980s, where literature and art attract the sort of fandom that professional sports get in the real world, and there's a character named Jack Schitt.

Jack Schitt.  At first I was sure I wasn't reading that right.  But then the Schitt jokes started falling from the sky.

Lord, I love being a writer.