On Writing

by Analyn Revilla

A friend told me he’s having a hard time finishing his first book.  My comment was, “because your life is not yet finished.”  He paused.  He neither agreed nor disagreed.  He explained he didn’t want the story to end yet, because he wants to have a few sequels after the first.  I started to wonder why my first play is not yet finished done, after the multiple drafts I’ve written.  I’ve actually stopped writing for six months now; but I’m always doing research.  (And I’m laughing at myself, because research can go on for a very long time, and it’s a bad excuse.)  Today as I ponder seriously as to why the play is not done, I came up with an apt analogy.  It is not that my life is not over, it is  that “The End” is like the endless carousel of thoughts going through my mind.  The possibilities of the ending is infinite, because like a chess game each move introduces a new set of permutations.

Eventually however, probabilities will limit the possibilities.  After the players of the game have made their choices for each move, the ending does become inevitable, and its ending is also predictable.  So in writing, the only way to get to the end is to write.  As a writer makes choices as to what the characters say and what actions they do, the story unfolds.  Figuratively and literally the miracle of creation unfolds and the story writes itself – if only the writer allows the characters to act out and speak out.  I haven’t been letting my characters play at all, and so my play is not finished.  I’m in the throes of the second act which in chess is the middle game.  The middle game is my weakness.  There’s a lot of tension and I’m horrible dealing with tensions.  I like things to be neat and orderly – because it’s easier that way, but this is not life, and this is not story.  Life Story is messy messy messy.

When I have a situation that is full of possibilities because there’s a lot of tension then I have a tendency to finish the scene prematurely.  In chess terms, I make a stupid move and suddenly I’m in check mate or needing to dig myself out of a hole.  Writing about this now, I can understand how experienced writers have advised me put the play out there – have a reading.  As seasoned writers, they’ve played this game many times before, and they see my dilemma.  They know the burden of carrying the decision of when it is done.  It just takes practice to let go, perhaps.  (That was conjecture on my part.)  I’m perhaps afraid to let go because of the “unknown”.   Will others think it’s boring, stupid, or crap?  Oh well, I won’t know unless I try.  For one thing… don’t give up.

In chess games a game clock is used.  It has two face clocks with buttons to stop one while starting the other.  This enables the players to move in turn without delaying the game.  Perhaps if I used a clock like this in writing I can keep the dialogue and action going.  It’d be a fun exercise to try, and see what writing comes out of it.  Game on.  Write already!

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