The Lost Battles

DefeatThere comes a point in every long pursuit where the hunter must ask if she still remembers the reason the hunt began. It can be the same thing with writing. There comes a point when you’ve “hunted” that story for so long that it turns you into Ahab. In my opinion, there are few writers that struggle with that hunt successfully. For those that do succeed, some make the process look effortless. An example of this would be J. R. R. Tolkien. For a work like The Dark Tower series, the length of time it took to get from the first novel to the final illustrates an author who never gave up the long pursuit and saw the hunt to the bitter end, for better or worse.

I have my own “white whale”, my own prey of this nature. While I’ve actually finished the novel eight separate times, I’ve actually begun it closer to fifteen. Her story is epic in my mind, spanning an incredibly (and unnaturally) long life. She is strong, powerful, an amazing leader (well, after a fashion), yet she is not perfect, and has glaring, horrible personal faults. She is at once a hero and an antihero.

That she is so complex a subject brought me to the downfall, and the oddest of all peculiarities, to a lesson that shaped my current writing style. I came to an amazing epiphany within the last year that I didn’t have to write in sequence for any particular work. Of course, I had heard for years that the best way to start a mystery, for example, was to start at the end and work your way back. However, I never applied that to anything else in my writing. Hence, I would get incredibly frustrated when a scene would work itself out so completely in my mind that my senses were keyed to the experience, as if living the scene. I would begin to desire to write that scene so bad it would become an obsession, yet I’d still be chapters away. Instead of simply writing the scene out of sequence, I would languish to writer’s block or rush through details. Thus, I would end up with a mixed bag of rushed, glossed over spots and deeply descriptive, passionately written scenes.

Mistakes and flaws in writing are like anything else. More often than not, you can learn from the mistakes you’ve made, no matter how painful they are. In my case, I’ve learned, albeit slowly, that I can write as ideas and scenes come to me. This might have me, some day, writing the novel of that character, continuing the pursuit of my white whale. Perhaps even to a completion I am satisfied with. However, I think I am bereft of a good, solid (waterproof) coffin, and I might just have to admit the defeat.

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