Monday, July 26, 2010

Cover the Canvas: At What Cost?

Covering the canvas, in writing terms, means to get the words down on the paper: don't think about them too much, don't try and craft them, then go back and make revision after revision. Instead, just get them down and fix them later.

I covered this in an earlier post and since then, I've been trying to follow my own advice.

But I'm realizing there may be a rather large pitfall associated with this method.

What is that pitfall?

My current work-in-progress, a World War II thriller, has lots of twists and turns. And as I cater to the "pantser" method (i.e. I don't do an extensive outline, but rather wait to see where the writing takes me), this means there is a lot I don't know going into it. This also means that I can come up with some pretty darn brilliant ideas. However, at the end of the day, all of that means one thing: a lot more work.

I have another novel in the works right now that isn't nearly so difficult. I have the bare minimum outline done, I know the major plot points, and it should be fairly smooth sailing to the end. Plus, I won't have a lot of editing and revising to do as far as changing the plot structure. This is not so with the current novel.

Which leads me to beg the question: in this instance, is "covering the canvas" worth it? Because let's face it: at the rate I'm going now, with all the fixing this novel needs, it's probably going to take me as long to edit it as it will to write it. In the end, is it worth it? Now this isn't to say that I should abandon every project that is hard work. But in reality, some novels are easier to write than others.

This is something I really need to mull. I love this story. I love the characters and their conflicts and how it all works so well. Unfortunately, my plotting is all over the place, something I've never experienced before. So. Do I just go ahead, push through, and finish the darn thing, set it aside for awhile, then pick it back up with fresh eyes and get to work? Or should I stop now and finish hacking out the plot? Or do I just go to my other, much-easier work-in-progress and finish it while leaving the thriller for a few months? My only fear with that is trying to get back "into" the story as much as I'm "in" it now.

Decisions, decisions...

Thoughts? Opinions?


  1. I'm currently using, First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner which is helping me pull my WIP together. Maybe it could help you too. I got it cheap on Amazon. Yeah, being a 'pantser' is a HUGE chore when tackling anything over 10,000 words.

  2. I love your new look!
    I had to do so many huge revisions on this last novel that I decided to lay it out more for the next one. It's a lot of work going back and making major plot revisions!

  3. I'm normally a "pantser" too, but my current WIP is a lot more plot-dependent than my other novels. So I've been thinking out each chapter before I write, getting a handle on where the characters are emotionally, what each of them knows (or doesn't), and where I need the chapter to get to. It has helped a LOT. The first draft is a hot mess, but I have a handle on how the revisions will go.

    Maybe you're at the wall--that place in the first draft where it all seems like too much work to be worth it. My advice would be if you still have passion for this book--if your vision is still exciting--keep going. If you're at the wall, you'll break through it pretty soon.

    If you don't feel that passion for the work--if you're not compelled to figure out what happens to your characters, and how they overcome their obstacles--then that's a different story. That's why I ended up putting aside my last WIP. It was a good idea, but I just didn't have the passion for it. I realized it just wasn't a book I would read. So why write it?

  4. In all honesty I'm doing this now and am not liking what I see so far. I only have another 10K before this novel is done but it feels like the revisions are going to take until kingdom come. I wrote a novel once quite slowly and thought through each sentence. It still required editing but not so much. I might try that again next time.

  5. The book that Rebecca mentioned sounds good. I'm wondering if it applies to other works besides novels, such as memoir?

  6. Ah this is a dilemma. I am also facing this but I've decided to push through and get my first draft finished on my first every WIP. After that I will take a look with fresh eyes to rewrite,edit etc. I do get distracted with other ideas which I scope out briefly and save for later. I find once I get that idea out of my head then I can get back to my main WIP. Good luck and happy writing!! ;)

  7. I love the new look around here! Very nice.

  8. Edits and revisions usually take longer than writing the first draft. The first draft gets it out of your head and onto the page so that there IS something to work on. The real "writing", shaping, making it into a book other people fall in love with - happens once that first draft is down, during the edits and revisions.

    The longer I earn my living doing this, the more I realize that outlines save a huge amount of time and energy and stress -- the more detailed the better. But an outline is a roadmap, not a prison. You can still do whatever you want as you write.

    And the real writing of the book comes in the edits and revisions.

  9. I spend tons of time revising and editing, usually as long if not longer than it took me to write it. I wish I had the answer for you, but I'm still trying to figure it out myself!


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