Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Toughest Part of the Book

People always ask me, what's the toughest part of writing a book. My usual answer, "The part where I have to sit down and do it," isn't quite true. There are sections where my fingers fly, where I'm simply transcribing the moving pictures in my head. These are often action scenes, and many times they're so sharply-drawn, they require very little editing.

And then there are those other parts, the parts where I struggle for each word and end up rewriting the scene a minimum of four times, adding layer after layer like watercolor paints. For me, the toughest of all are the love scenes, probably because self-consciousness arm-wrestles with my muse. I worry about purple prose. I fret over anatomical impossibilities (or at least unlikelihoods) and the difficulty of making this union between these two characters fresh and unique when the act I'm describing is as old as, well, sexual reproduction. Then I think about my mother-in-law, who's sure to scold me once the book comes out. And everybody knows, sex and shrewish m-i-l commentary don't mix!

Finally, after a Herculean struggle that takes many times longer than any other section of the book, I'm finished. And mightily relieved.

So am I alone? If there are other writers out there, which part of a manuscript do you find the toughest?


JoAnn Ross said...

The toughest part? Trying not to be jealous of those writers who actually see moving pictures in their heads. :)

I hear voices, but have to make everything else up.

Allison Brennan said...

Hmmm . . . other than finding more time to write, I think the toughest part for me is not imposing my will on the characters.

Also, letting the love scene stem naturally from the plot in a place both physically and emotionally that fits the characters, and where they shouldn't be out chasing down the bad guys. This means that they're usually exhausted and it's 2 in the morning and they can't be on the manhunt, or something . . .

Candice Gilmer said...

The hardest part for me is trying to maintain conflict in a book. I've always been a person that absolutely HATES when I read a book and there's something important that the main female protag doesn't tell the main male protag that would MAKE EVERYTHING EASIER, but she won't do it.

So when I write, I find my characters telling everything they know. Which kills the whole conflict thing.

SO, for me the hardest part is remembering that the characters have their reasons for not telling everything they know, and I have to remember to respect that as I write. Easier doesn't always mean better in a story.

JoAnn Ross said...

Candice -- Although I'll go out of my way to avoid conflict in my real life, I've always believed that without internal conflict, our characters have no depth, and without external conflict, we don't have any plot. Weaving them together makes up our story.

That was one of the most difficult tightrope walking acts for me to learn and even after a lot of years and a bunch of books, it seldom comes easy.

Another thing I have to work on, partly because I wrote so many shorter category books, is not to tell -- or have my characters tell -- too much early on. You're so right about respecting our characters, who, at least in my case, always have a much clearer idea of where their story's going than I do. LOL

Patti O'Shea said...

There are several areas that are hard for me, but I find fight scenes particularly difficult. It's like trying to be a choreographer. I tend to write them in layers, like I write my love scenes--action first time through, internal thoughts on the second time through, emotional response on the third time through.

Candice Gilmer said...

Pattie, have you ever tried physically choreographing the actual fight? My husband and I act out scenes that are especially difficult to envision.

Patti O'Shea said...


I haven't tried physically choreographing a fight scene. What I do tend to do is try to find a TV show or movie on TV with a scene or two and watch that for inspiration. I also have some books and a DVD on self-defense.