Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Monday Musing: The Annoying Little Voice

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my writing. You have to go all the way back to August 12 for anything about me and how/what/or why I write what I do. Being an egomaniac writer, this will not do. I’ll be writing a little bit more about that sort of stuff the next couple of times, unless I get distracted by something else. Since I haven’t done this in a while, it’s time for an update on my book.

Parallel Lives is like Tropical Storm Lee: stalled. I started a second (or maybe it’s a third) pass-through sometime in July and was enjoying the expansion and contraction of the book, of adding to the story while the word count shrank. It’s an interesting sensation. It’s been slow going, but satisfying. Until I hit the mid-point of the book, and the trouble started.

One of the problems I’ve had all along is keeping track of certain things in the story. I’ll be reading something (or writing it) and I’ll think, “Wait, didn’t he say this somewhere else?” At times, I know for a fact that the answer is ‘Yes’, and I’ll even know pretty accurately where in the book the duplicate passage is. Then it’s a matter of deciding whether he should say/do this thing here or there. Other times, it’s been a nagging feeling, and I can’t find it, can’t pinpoint it, but I know it’s there somewhere, like that really important piece of paper that’s buried under the mountains of other papers on my desk. At some point I give up and, thirty pages later, there it is!

This problem is exacerbated by the structure of the story. Parallel Lives unfolds in a present/past way, like Water for Elephants, for example. I was having trouble with some of the ‘present’ chapters. I’d be going over it, and I’d add something that seemed familiar, and then I’d find the same idea in the next chapter. In an effort to stop this without having to jump back and forth through the manuscript, I pulled all of the ‘present’ chapters involving the MMC and FMC into one single document and printed it out. It was great in that it made it much easier to find where I’m repeating myself, but, as I read through it, a Little Voice popped up and told me there is a problem.

I’m a big believer in the Little Voice. The Little Voice tells me I’ve typed ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’; it says ‘you’ve left the car windows open’ when I hear the first boom of thunder; it says ‘you forgot to buy cat food’ (usually it says this when I’m on my way back from the store; better late than never). Generally speaking, the Little Voice is right on–it’s like Hermione Granger: when it says something, you know it must be true. So when the Little Voice starts telling me that something’s not working in my novel, I listen. Unfortunately, the Little Voice isn’t saying ‘Hey, here’s an easy way to fix this.’ I’m on my own for that one.

The thing that most worries me about this is that this is the same area of the book that gave me trouble way back in February/March of last year. At that point I’d essentially written the entire novel (short, but the bones of the story were there); but the Little Voice didn’t like how the MC had his ‘big revelation.’ And it was right. I thought I’d fixed it. I finished it, was happy with it, let it sit, did a first revise, and still liked it. Now, on this next pass through, the Little Voice is back, and it makes me wonder if the entire story is flawed. That’s not a good feeling to have.

The book has sat untouched (but definitely thought about) since Thursday; I may or may not look at it today. I’m afraid to; it makes my brain itch as if the inside of my skull has been wallpapered with velour (remember velour? Does anyone wear it anymore, or has it been renamed to something else?). I’m hoping that part of the problem is with the general disruption to my routine that I’ve had in the last couple of weeks, what with road trips to look at colleges, the visit by Hurricane Irene, and other things. Writing over the summer has at times been difficult because I’m one of those sensitive types who hates writing when people are looking over my shoulder, and there’s been almost-constant disruptions. The kids go back to school tomorrow, and, while I love ‘em and they’re great kids, it will be nice to have the school routine re-established. And then I can get back to fixing the book and silencing that Little Voice. Or at least give it something else to gripe about.

In honor of back to school, here’s a little ditty for the parents. See you next time.

6 Responses

  1. My WIP #1 has 3 distinct parts and Part 2 has always been my problem child, so I feel your pain. Just when I think I've got the problem fixed, I read it aloud to hubby and realize it ain't fixed. Ugh.

    "Unfortunately, the Little Voice isn’t saying ‘Hey, here’s an easy way to fix this.’ I’m on my own for that one."

    Dang that Little Voice! First it's right and then it has no solution.

  2. I love velour! I related to so much in this post it was uncanny. I had to do the same thing with my book Finding Claire Fletcher with the past scenes and present scenes. It does work quite well. Also, I hate it when Little Voice does that–especially after you think you've fixed something or at the very least, come a long way. Well good luck. I love this post!

  3. "…it makes my brain itch as if the inside of my skull has been wallpapered with velour."

    I know exactly what you mean! Ugh. Here's to hoping both of our stories take a turn for the better–or, at least, the slightly less frustrating! 😉

    Great post, as always.

  4. Great post. I can definitely relate with this–my little voice keeps wanting me to 'fix' my novel's beginning, over and over again. And then I think I have it, and I read it again, and the voice comes back. I spent the weekend arguing with it about this. I feel your pain, but good luck with your revisions!

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