Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Fiefdom" out now. "Dangerous Games" due for release in December, Tomb Raider: Ten Thousand Immortals due for release in October

Friday, 4 May 2012

When Writing is like Making a Porn Movie


I have good days and I have less good days when it comes to writing, and some days I don’t write anything at all, and that’s OK too.
The worst days are when things move slowly, when I have to drag the sentences, one at a time, kicking and screaming out of my head, when I backspace over phrases, changing them laboriously as I go, when it feels like one paragraph can take an hour to write, and then an hour later I’m back to it making more changes.
I’m not big on word counts. I know that a lot of writers use them to assess progress, but I don’t. Being able to write X number of words a day doesn’t prove a damned thing, but writing fluidly and with ease, perhaps, does.
Here’s the thing, though, the reader can’t tell the difference. Spending more time on a chapter might not make it any better, and I’ve read plenty of things that scream of laborious hours of re-writing and overworking. On the other hand, it takes what it takes.
I often find that big action scenes take much less writing than linking sections. I find that, when my head is deep in the action, the writing often comes easily to me, because I can literally reach out and touch the characters in my mind’s eye. Things get more difficult when I have to get information across to the reader seamlessly and without dumping it on them in wholesale exposition. Then, I find the head struggles and the words come more slowly, I feel like I’m losing the pace or rhythm of the thing, and I worry that the reader will become bored.
It takes no longer for the reader to tackle one paragraph than another. What took me a day, or two, or even a week to write might take them only a minute or two to read, and that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing, because, if I got it right, the reader doesn’t agonise over the reading, he agonises over the plights of the characters. If I’ve done it right, she doesn’t notice my struggle or wonder why I’ve slowed her down.
How do I know this? I know this because I don’t hold books in my head. I’m one of the lucky ones. I can come back to a book, even one of my own, with a clear and empty head, and I can read a book, even one of my own, as if I’d never seen it before.
In the end, it’s rather like the pizza delivery boy in the porn movie: You need him there, because two people have got to meet in order to have sex; you need him there to set up the action. I’m willing to bet, though, that it takes much more work to get those little linking scenes on film, that more of that footage hits the cutting room floor, that more takes are required for those few minutes than for any amount of sex, but no one’s going to leave him on screen in his cap and t-shirt longer than they absolutely have to.

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