Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Act Blues

I am fed up with writing this week. Right up to my back teeth. So I’m recycling a post from my old blog, Paris Empire. It kinda sums up the hole I’ve fallen into with my revisions. Sigh. Why, oh why, do I never learn?!

My dear, perpetually half-finished, First Act,

This has been on my mind a while now, so I'm just going to come right out and say it ...

We have a toxic relationship, a sick co-dependency, you and I. Like that of enabler/enablee, or drug addict/dealer ... yes, yes, I can hear you tutting beneath your breath; but whatever psycho-babble label might apply, it is clear that you are my addiction and my vice and that for the sake of the manuscript, not to mention my sanity, I must break free of your seductive clutches.

Oh, but you're a hard habit to break. The intoxication of finishing you for the first time is still such a sweet memory. You were complete, you were just as I had envisioned you would be ...

You were perfect.

Thus it was time for us to part. I felt a pang at letting you go, but you were strong, and I had every confidence you could stand on your own two feet without me.

But you would not let me go. You hounded me, day and night, with frantic whispers … you'd fallen apart, your meticulously woven tapestry of elegant prose now resembled a moth-eaten dish rag, your plot, once water-tight in its logic, now leaked credibility like a sieve. You would be so, so much better if only I'd come back, you sobbed. If only I'd re-write you. Again.

Ego stroked, I dumped poor Act Two without even a farewell kiss and back I went to you. I could not ignore you - you are, after all, my first love.

So I tinkered once more with your opening chapters. Started in medias res, started with dialogue, started on a train, started with a fight, started in Paris, started in London, started with my villain doing his evil worst ... Every time I'd come close to finishing, convinced that this time I'd got you exactly right, you'd lay on the guilt - "Don't leave me! I'm a much better First Act when you're around. Stay, and make me perfect."

I re-wrote you, again and again and again, adding and subtracting scenes like a woman possessed. And maybe I was. Possessed with the notion that I must write the perfect first act before I could move on.

But now, after weeks of chasing after you, round and round and round, I ... I ... I just can’t do it any more. The scales have fallen from my eyes, and I see you for what you are - my needy, whining, sanity-destroying, writing-crutch.

I will never move forward, into Act Two, if I keep working on you.

I will never finish this manuscript if I keep working on you.

I will never, ever, discover whether I can actually finish - properly finish - a whole damn novel, if I keep working on you.

So I'm breaking up with you until the book is done.

Aw, don't cry. It's not you - it's me.

You'll be fine, my brilliantly flawed First Act. You're stronger than you think. And I'll be back when it's time for the next round of revisions.

But for now, it's a definite "adieu".


[ETA: Well, it’s not all bad news. I spent today making myself learn Scrivener (I did so two months ago, then did nothing with it and forgot everything), and all I can say is that it is AWESOME. With it, I’m confident I’ll be busting out of Act One, and out of this slump, by the end of the week. Of course, sorting out a few little issues, such as finally deciding I have to change POV – from first to limited third – has also helped with the slump-busting, but that’s a post for another day ... :-)]


  1. Oh, Rach, oh Rach, I feel your pain! I laughed my butt off reading this, but it was a slightly deranged laugh. In my little Scrivener-based novel world, my first chapter has more little sub-file babies than any other bit of the novel. I come back to it again, and again, and again. I thought I'd broken the habit, but these last couple of weeks- nope. The closer I get to the end, the more I hear perfection calling me. And every time I work on it, I come away disillusioned and sad, and I'm convinced none of it is going to work because I haven't hit on that perfect first chapter.

    But never fear! Let's start our own First Chapters Anonymous :) I've just convinced myself to let it go (again) and I'm working on another part of the story today.

    And Scrivener- I'm going to write all about it tomorrow, because I think I'm finally using it to its full amazing potential. I keep turning to DH and saying, "Look! Look what else it can do!". I've received a lot of eye rolls. It's like another baby. I can't live without it. *Snuggles Scrivener*. So glad you've got it worked out, too.

  2. Argh! I know exactly how you feel! I tried reread my first draft and cut even more chapters from the beginning yesterday - at the rate I'm going I;ll cut the gangplanks down so far that Rose's entire story will take place in Constantinople. Ridiculous!

  3. Well, I'm a wee bit jealous. I have yet to write the first chapter for mine. Everything I come up with is so... not it. I've got a bunch of false starts. Does that count?

    Claire, wish I could take a couple of tutoring lessons from you on Scriv. I love it, but have much to learn.

  4. Sing it, sista! Ack. I now have a first half blues. The very same as you, only it is a rewrite hell! My head is spinning. I'm dizzy with indecision.

    But as to first chapters, specifically, you know -YOU KNOW- I had issues with the first chapter of PETAL. Gah! How many versions did I write? Ten thousand? But when I finally finished, it was like some sort of trial by fire. And never again did I wonder what my first chapter should be. Now I've started, oh, five other books and the first chapter is always (I should knock on wood here) easy peas.

    As for Scrivener... *cries* my sister bought me Scrivener for Christmas. I decided not to use it until I started something new. Many months went by and then I gave it a whirl. Only now the &$%@%!! software is asking for a license number, which I DON'T HAVE!!! The CD simply came in an envelope -no numbers, no nothing! And my sister doesn't have the receipt. So I have this awesome software and no way to get it on my computer!!! Ahhhh!!! And Claire has made it look SOOO awesome.

    Okay, end rant. I'm going to have a glass of wine now. :)

  5. Claire - "First Chapters Anonymous" - LOL, I like it. Can we bring wine to the meetings? (g) And can I join in the Scrivener love-fest? Ah, how I adore it, especially the side box into which I can cram the half a squillion notes I have about each chapter, and read said notes on screen while working on the chapter. Love it.

    Deniz - ah, the more gangplanks that go, the better! Keep at it. :-)

    Susan - A bunch of false starts certainly counts - it's exactly what I have. :-)

    Kristen - Oh, man, I can't wait to finish this book just so I can start the next one properly (ie, OUTLINE before I write, which this little black duck NEEDS to do) and hopefully nail the opening much more quickly than I am right now. And Scrivener ... that sucks. I downloaded my copy for about $30 (I think), so you might be able to get it that way ...