Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Triggers the Pie Fight? An ROW80 Update post

Going back to work is not fun. I am, indeed rather tired. However, in this first leg of the dare I sat and thought about about how I was going to make use of the prep work. I want to find what works well for me -- and I find that partly depends on how tired I am. (Check out the goals for this writing dare.)

To whit: Sometimes all I need to do is stop and make those "blank page" decisions (i.e. what scene am I working on, what do I want to get done in this session, how does the pie fight actually start?). Then it's off to the races. It really works great....

But when my brain is dull, I write dull at first. "The pie fight starts with, um, um, with um, well somebody throws a pie, right?" Sometimes I have to go at it for a while -- letting the characters move around the stage like not-very-good actors, blocking things out -- before something finally clicks and I can then start over and just let the scene play out.

So I'm still working out the efficiency of the prep work. For now the rule is that I don't start (and the clock doesn't start) until I know what my goal is for the next writing session. However, I'm thinking that I need to change that to knowing what the trigger is for the fun stuff in the scene.

So from here on in, the question I need to answer before each session is: What Triggers The Pie Fight?

So here's the progress for the first couple of days:

Sunday, Day 0 - I did some prep work, mainly gathering up what I've done and listing the scenes and turns. I discovered that a lot of it -- as with any mystery -- is discussing and speculating on the turns of plot. Since that will change, a lot of the text I have now really is useless. However, there are a lot of jokes and "turns" which I'll keep around for reference.

Monday, Day 1 - 105 minutes. I think. I had a phone call while I was working and I forgot to stop the clock.

I started today thinking up the rules, and then I got on to the first chapter. Although I have a bunch of stuff written, I decided to type it in from scratch, only taking what I like, and moving on from there. This is a great way to begin with an old story -- it gets you back into the voice of the story.

Tuesday, Day 2 - 65 minutes. Today I was as dull as dishwater. (Old used dishwater -- not freshly drawn dishwater with spiffy sparkling detergent in it. I was definitely not lemon scented today.) Had to get up a little earlier for work, and also the cat is going through an acute boredom phase, and therefore has been tap-dancing on my head all night.

Interestingly, out of those sixty-five minutes, it took me forty to scratch out the dull stuff, until I finally got the scene trigger, and then I drove right through about 600 words in 20 minutes. So I ended up getting 1000 words done in that time.

And in honor of my epiphany, I give you a highly edited version of what is probably the greatest pie fight in movie history. It isn't just pies flying, of course. It's Laurel and Hardy, who are very clever and deliberate about these things. (The clip comes from is The Battle Of The Century, from 1927). Note how helpful Stan Laurel is throughout the sequence, and also the cute little tribute to Charlie Chaplin at the end.

See you in the funny papers.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm the same way sometimes...I wrote a scene yesterday without totally grasping what I was trying to accomplish, or who even was really on-stage at the time. It's going to have to be edited later. :)

I remember that scene...think I studied it in film class at college!

The Daring Novelist said...

You know, I think that for me, it's all about emotional trajectory. Getting things moving, and then recognizing what keeps it moving.

I woke up with a better understanding of that 1000 words I wrote yesterday. They didn't take me quite where I needed to go, but now I'm getting up some steam and seeing the connections that drive the sequence from one scene to another.

Part of this is moving from "short story" mindset to "novel" mindset. I needed a couple more layers, so to speak.

S.J. Noir said...

I've been having dishwater days myself. Perhaps I need to take a lesson from you and decide what I'm actually trying to accomplish with my scene before I write it.

Great progress so far! Keep up the good work. :)

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks, S.J. Prep work changes from person to person, but it does seem to be the biggest factor in increasing many people's productivity.

I think the whole dishwater thing has to do with going back to day job, and getting into a new project. Some times you just have to start slow and build momentum.