Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Science Of The Art

Last night I stared at a blank page on my computer screen for thirty minutes before I typed something I liked. Thirty minutes. That's an eternity for writer's block. And it's all Devan's fault.

People often ask me he we work together. Sometimes they're asking because they're honestly interested in the writing process. Sometimes they ask because they know the two of us and know how loud and pointless our arguments often get. Either way, it's an adventure.

Most of the final copy you see in just about anything Devan and I write is mine. A lot of the ideas are Devan's. The way it's worked so far is that Devan comes up with an idea and wraps a story around it. He tells me the story, writes some of it down and changes it a million times in midstream. I add in my ideas, throw in a few promising subplots and work at fleshing out the characters. Once we have an idea where we're going, he starts a draft and then I follow along behind him on another draft, adding in my characters in plots. The initial inspiration may be Devan's and the polished writing may be mine, but it very much takes to of us to tell the stories we tell. Devan goes for the big sweeping stories that take an entire series to tell. I go for the stories within the story that drive the characters toward where they're going.

I don't know if I've over simplified the process or not. It involves a lot of Pizza Hut pizza, occasionally some ribs and usually a great deal of debate, some of it loud. The differences don't always get worked out before the writing is done and sometimes it takes writing it out and seeing how it works to settle the debate. Yet the story always comes out.

But there are times when Devan just leaves me completely and totally blocked. His first drafts are more outlines than anything else, usually a lot of dialog with only a few important details thrown in. Unless it's a vital part of the story he usually leaves the scenery for me.

Take tonight for example. I have two characters going out for an evening run through the forest behind one girl's house that turns into something monumental. I have no details on any of the surroundings, no idea where I'm at except for England and absolutely no notion of what the girl's parents names are, what they're like or any idea how much of a future role they're going to have.

So I stared at a blank page and made four false starts in thirty minutes trying to bridge this gap. If Devan wasn't in Iraq right now I would've called him and yelled loudly. I'm still thinking about writing an e-mail with the Caps lock on so he gets the message anyway.

At least I made it past the writer's block in time to get a few hundred words down before calling it a night.

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