Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1" Picture Frame

I haven't been blogging much lately because I've been knee-deep in revisions to my novel.  Blogging is something I've been doing while procrastinating from the real work, and since I've found my momentum on the real work, other things (family, friends, basic hygiene) have taken a back seat.  But today, I ran right up against a wall when I opened my file and saw that I was set to revise (ominous drum beat here) THAT chapter, the chapter that reveals much that had previously been hidden or hinted at, the chapter that propels the last third of the book forward to its conclusion.

The thing is, I've made a lot of changes on this go-round to the previous 14 chapters, changes that mean this chapter needs some major re-thinking.  So, I'm re-thinking this afternoon.  I'm returning to my tried and true method of freewriting whereby I type furiously everything that comes into my brain (e.g. "What if she was surprised and came into the meeting but then who would be there oh that's going to be stupid no one will believe that but she has to not know about it or else the guy who talked to her about the thing at the end will be there outside and bring her in not knowing she's not supposed to be there...").  As you can see, there's no danger of my giving away any of my plot to anyone reading my blog.

My problem is that I keep thinking ahead to how the changes I'm making today are going to affect the next chapters.  These are important things to think about, but not right now.  Right now, I need to just write the one scene that will bridge me to the next, and to get me through it, I'm thinking of Anne Lamott's amazing book "Bird by Bird" (if you have not read this, whether you are a writer or not, do so immediately). 

When Lamott (or her students) is stuck, she pictures a 1" picture frame and imagines that all she has to do is write the itty bitty part of the story that could fit in that frame.  The idea is to keep narrowing in on your writing task until it becomes manageable.  So, I'm not writing a chapter today.  I'm writing one scene.  And I don't have to write the whole scene.  I can write about how my protagonist gets into the room.  I can even do nothing more than write the description of the box of tissues on the coffee table.  Just the tissues.  (Lamott's example is writing about school lunches; she focuses only on the sandwich.) 

Nine times out of ten, you'll write that little bit, but won't stop.  You might find yourself frantically typing out the entire scene.  Or not.  The point is to get started.  Because if the book is an entire album, it's made up of a whole bunch of eensy weensy snapshots.  Write one today.  Write one tomorrow.  Before you know it, it's filled.

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