Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Do Painting & Writing Have In Common?

I'm not talking about the Mona Lisa here. No, I'm thinking in terms of rooms, specifically ceilings. After a contractor replaced a water-damaged ceiling in one of my bedrooms, it needed painting. So, yours truly purchased the supplies, and rolled up her sleeves. In the process, I learned a few things about painting and writing.

1. Don't stand directly under the paint roller. Doing so will result in painter becoming the paintee. By the time I finished, I resembled Spot in the old Dick and Jane first grade textbook.

When writing my draft, I got too close to my novel and lost objectivity. The manuscript became all wrapped up with my identity. When critique and editing began, it tore at my very being. Now, I try to hold my writing separate from who I am as a person. No more confusion between writer and work.

Keep paint on ceiling and book on page.

2. Prime a new ceiling before painting. I didn't do this. The ceiling soaked up paint like a thirsty camel. Instead of a quick primer coat and one paint coat, it took two heavy paint coats and two days of hard work to get the job done.

I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer. No matter how I try to outline or fully structure a book before writing, it doesn't work for me. Yet, even though I don't use a formal process, I do mull things over in my mind and do research for background, setting, and characters. Otherwise the first draft takes forever.

Prepare that ceiling and prepare before diving into the writing waters. 3. Visit the chiropractor AFTER painting the ceiling, not before. This one I got right. Two days of painting left me one hurting puppy. Any benefit from a previous adjustment would have been undone by this activity and required a second appointment.

I'm thankful I didn't seek out a professional editor for my first draft. I wrote and re-wrote until it was in decent shape. Friends and my writers' group pointed out some problems. I learned from workshops and craft books.

Ah yes, save the chiropractor and the editor for when you really need them.

Have you learned any writing lessons the hard way? I'd love to hear about it.


Jessica Nelson said...

Hey Susan,
I'm a pantser too. Yes, my first manuscript is a plotless, 46000 word wonder of broken rules and pointless dialogue. LOL
I love that story but don't know if I'll ever go back to revise it.
My first completed manuscript has been under revisions for two years :-) With it I've learned that if I try (emphasis on try) to plot ahead, then I won't have so many things to delete.
But this manuscript has really taught me so much about everything. Plotting, dialogue, character arc, etc.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jessica -

Yeah, writing a novel is sure a learning experience. I was so excited when I reached 55,000 words, thinking I was finished. My hopes were dashed when I was informed I needed 80,000-100,00 words for a full-length novel.

I've lost count how many revisions I've made on my first book. It's now 96,000 words and still needs work. I'm hanging in there because I'm passionate about the story.

My second effort, a sequel to the above, is languishing in my computer at the moment. Sigh.

Number three is up to 5,000 words (big deal) and is my first attempt at an inspirational romance. We'll see how that develops.

Susan :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Hi Susan,
Well, good luck with the inspirational story. You know, if you target Heartsong Presents or Love Inspired, your word count will be significantly lower. 45-60 K, depending on the imprint you choose.
I can't imagine writing 96,000 words. Wow.
Anyways, I'm going to try to think about seven things about myself and see if I can post it today.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jessica -

Thanks for the word count info. Whenever I think of how many words I need, it seems overwhelming. I guess we have to keep plugging away.

Susan :)