Troy Kirby

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vomiting all over the logic train


I’ve been seeing the “logic train” quite a bit during my drafts of my new novel. This is a good thing, and although it can be frustrating at the time to have to redraft something, it is very necessary. How many times have you heard that the hard thing to do is often the right thing as well? It stinks because you want to pound those keys, have it turn out perfect. But the more you know yourself as a writer, the more likely you will come to terms with the fact that you will not be one on a vomit draft.

Maybe I’m wrong on this. Perhaps Shakespeare was a vomit draft type of guy and never edited a word or never wrote a sonnet if you watch the new movie Anonymous (keep in mind it’s written and directed by the guy who did Independence Day).

I doubt that Ernest Hemingway sat at his typewriter in Ketchum, Idaho (among other places such as Paris and Key West) and wrote A Farewell To Arms on a single draft. Things, if they happen in that form, are outliers not exact principles.

I took a writing class in 1997 from an Olympia writer named Steve Charak (1953-2004). Steve was a great teacher, good friend and I do think about his instructions. He edited and ran Young Voices Magazine out of Olympia (way before the internet was cool) and loved teaching children. I enjoyed having someone who would actually read what a young person wrote, work with them, instead of dismissing it or patronizing the writer because they were “too young to understand.” He always said that if it was important to be seen, it must be quality. That only happens when you rewrite something. Over and over again. Until you can’t stand the text, know the story WAY too intimately, and are convinced that it is the best result you can get. (And still someone will find an editing mistake).

That comes back to the logic train statement. It’s that imaginary metal beast on tracks that rip-roars through the country of your mind. Those quirky ideas showing you patterns and plots; things that make your stories different from everyone else. Without that hubris of plotting or logic, there is no real story. If anyone could do it, everyone would, and it wouldn’t be art, or a skill, or something you could sell to someone who can’t.

But the logic train sometimes is self-defeating. It shows you errors out of that vomit draft that by draft three you are kicking yourself for not correcting prior.

Those are the little nuances where you ask yourself why you wrote a character to do this, instead of that. Why, if a family is being robbed, would you have the husband so chatty, friendly? Why make the wife withdraw money from a bank account right before having her husband killed? The vampire talking his victim to death, when all he has to do is bite the victim, make them a damn vampire, then can talk until the sun rises.

Absurdity is found in the vomit draft. It usually takes a lot of logic train routes to get from draft one to draft five. Or draft eleven. Yes, even though it may take you a few drafts to understand, it doesn’t matter. The reader is all that matters. Even after that point, if the reader is having difficulty with something, that’s on you as the writer. Tough lessons even I have to learn from time to time.

The good thing about logic trains is that they frequently avoid vomit drafts. There is no reasoning for a logic train to be scheduled to come through your first draft. A vomit draft serves the purpose of puking out whatever comes to mind. And if you write like I do (even if you don’t), you probably need that. All of the different ideas crushing the page for me is the only way to determine what works and what doesn’t. I’ve had several ideas that I’ve written down as notes, only to see them become failures when expanded on the page.

But I wouldn’t have known that without getting to that point with a vomit draft.

There is no emotion to a vomit draft, which is why it works. No wall preventing you from putting out more information, getting more facts into the story. Sometimes, it contradicts other things you’ve already written.

The only thing I don’t do is develop different names for the same person in the same draft. While I may change a name for a specific reason, if I did it in the same draft, I would worry it would lead to confusion for the readers. If by some accident, the editing process of draft two or three did not make the same character utilize the same name, this would be bad

My vomit drafts do illicit some great dialogue. Stuff I keep throughout. But it is also gets mundane, to the point dialogue. Sometimes two characters will just talk, say obvious, stupid stuff in the vomit draft. It’s a way of advancing the story.

Everything in a vomit draft gets puked out. By draft two or three, there should be less vomit. Things should be cleaned up.

The goal is to get less vomit each time. Clean it up with better results. So you can get to that point in the story where everything hums. Once you have that going, you have a good story. And then, nothing looks like the mess you initially created.

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