Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quantity vs. Quality

I'm teaching a novel writing class and we are using the No Plot? No Problem! philosophy of shooting for the word count, quality be damned. It's also a kind of variation on Anne Lamott's idea of Shitty First Drafts. Just get it down, you can fix/revise/cut it later.
However.
However, yesterday as I speed-typed my way to 20,000 words (even I, the teacher, am about 4,000 words behind), my novel took a turn for the weird. And by weird, I mean paranormal, maybe, but it could just be first-person delusion. Or, it could have been a weird coincidence. But, my question to you, oh wise and worldly readers, is: do I go with this weird turn? I'm afraid it might mean that when I reach the 50,000 word mark (the goal), that I will have to cut the last half the book and rewrite that.
Or, I could just say, okay, that's weird, but I can rewrite that little chunk later, and go on with the book as if that weird/paranormal/delusional part never happened. (Except I got a good section of description and I could go back and revise it so it's not so important in the overall plot of the book).
My normal philosophy of writing would be to go with it and see where it takes me. I'm worried, however, that this weird turn will make what I am trying to do (an artsy/noir/mystery type thing) into something else (a paranormal mystery/young adult series). Not that the something else is BAD (though it could be terrible) it's just not what I set out to do.
What to do? What to do?
Please help. For now, I'm stuck.

11 comments:

ErinAlice said...

Even though I am not a "writer"- I do write and teach writing so I say go with it. You never know. Your bad/weird turn could turn out to be the next big thing since Twilight...and no one said that was any good.

Nate Martin said...

Never have a road map. Let language lead you to places you could have never thought to plan to go.

susansinclair said...

Breathe, meditate, walk the dog--then trust your gut.

Nik said...

Hmmm. A conundrum. I argue that even with a small paranormal event, the book can still be arsty/noiry/literary. Strange things happen. I say go with it. Maybe you'll find a reason later to explain why it's paranormal, maybe you won't but I like what Nate said, let the language guide you.

Pamela J. Balluck said...

Read it out loud to someone (or two, different age brackets), beginning somewhere pre the weird turn . . . In the meantime, keep writing.

Ariane said...

GG Marquez does a bang-up job of incorporating what I think is called "magic realism" into his novels.....so not necessarily a bad way to go!

Lisa B. said...

I agree with both Nate and Pam. Nothing wrong with seeing where it takes you . . . but also, you could just pick a point and try doing what you were setting out to do. Maybe the two parallel strands will inform each other in interesting ways.

Ryan Hollist said...

It comes down to how much you may have to force the plot to go in the bizarre way. In one way, you could turn the plot back to where you were trying to go in the first place and later just remove the offending section.

Of course I'm also seeing the other direction, as I experienced it first hand as a reader, where the weirdness overtakes your entire plot and makes it all intolerable garbage in the end. Have you ever read Piers Anthony's novels?

rae said...

I am a word count/page slave, regardless of what the words are, strange turns included. (latest novel: 2 pages a day, 2 pages a day, no outline) I say go with it. Don't worry about where the book will fit. Your subconscious is working too. I, for one, can't wait to read it!

Aligates said...

If it was a work of visual art, my first question to myself would be, is this the same piece, or have I started a second piece here? I work on several things at once pretty frequently (okay, not pretty frequently, but when I'm lucky enough to have 2 or 3 good ideas simultaneously.) I don't think you can decide if it's "good" or "bad" based upon the rules of word count. It's possible that the word-count challenge just woke you up to some latent novel waiting in line in your mental idea queue. Would it be "your book" if the names were changed? Are you "allowed" to write 2 books? I imagine you are allowed to. Plus, pardon my punk rock, but what are these "rules" you're following, Bikini Kilpatrick?

Condiment said...

TAKE THE WEIRD TURN... if it interests you, which it sounds like it does. That is the whole point of writing like this, I thought. Plus, if you take the turn now, that'll save the time of endless rewriting later or having to abandon the project later because things feel flat or spend years wishing you had taken that turn. If it is unexpected to you, the writer, then it will be unexpected to the reader. Unexpected is good.