Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Specific Gravity of Manuscripts

Yeah, I'm probably not using the term 'specific gravity' anywhere close to right, but I'm a writer, not a scientist, Jim*.

This morning as I was surfing through the blogosphere a friend mentioned that she dropped her 30K WIP to start something new and sparkly.  She also wondered whether it was the right thing to do and whether this happens to any of the rest of us.  In my comment to her, I said something about how you have to go with what's pulling at you the hardest, which of course led me to think about how, in our world, each manuscript seems to have its own gravitational pull.  And since you can't defy gravity, you have to go with whichever story is pulling at you the hardest.

Think about it.  Here we all are, swirling around in our own little universes - drifting this way and that until some story pulls at us hard enough to make us want to sit down and write it out.  If it's an awesome idea, it eclipses every other idea.  We have no choice but to stick with that manuscript until we either finish it, in which case it loses it's gravity.  Or for some reason the story's pull weakens enough to let something else's gravity pull us away.

Now I could go totally geeky and come up with some kind of formula to show how this manuscript has more gravity than that manuscript.  (X cubed time Y squared minus I is greater than Z).  But I always sucked at math.  

You can fight the pull, of course.  It takes a lot of work.  It takes more than a fair bit of belief that no matter how much another story is pulling, the one you're currently in orbit around is worth finishing.  And then also tenacity and sheer stubbornness help.  Basically, in this business, your engines have to be strong enough to hold you in place when you need them to, or to let you break free when the situation calls for it. 

Still, sometimes you're stuck screaming "I'm givin' her all she's got, Cap'n!**" and still get sucked into the black hole that is a new, but scary and unknown, idea.

And that's okay, too.  Who knows what wonders you might find in there.  ;o)

One thing I have learned, though.  The longer I do this, the easier it is for me to note the new and sparkly ideas on my star chart and promise myself to explore them later so I can finish what I'm already working on.  Even then, though, the stars call to me and sometimes they whisk me away.

How about you? 

*Gratuitous Star Trek reference since I'm going all scientific on your asses.
** Yeah, there's another one.  If you didn't know I was a geek before, you do now.  Geeks of the World UNITE!


  1. You are so very, very good at analogies. And thanks to The Husband's love of all things Star Trek, I got all your references ;)

    New and sparkly always seem to be better than dull and dragging it's ass! But new and sparkly over and over again does not a manuscript make - something I need to remind myself of over and over again. Thanks for the reminder.

    Oh, and your "Nerds of the world UNITE" reminds me of a t-shirt The Husband has that says: Bad Spellers of the World UNTIE!

  2. LOL, fun post!

    There are some writers (King and Gaiman come to mind) who insist that you finish everything you start.

    Personally I've done both....slogged through to the end of a WIP ignoring the sparkly new idea...AND following the new idea through the proverbial wormhole. I think it's a matter with going what feels right....as opposed to
    going with what seems easy.

    May all of your ideas L,L, and P!

  3. I'd fall in with the finish what you start crowd. In the first place, there will *always* be a new shiny, especially when you're hitting that middle 30K. It's like the seven-year itch - you have to outlast it. In the second place, when you get to the point of writing under contract *cough*, you HAVE to finish the book. No new shiny for you! Might as well practice the skill!

  4. I really relate to this post... I have done this. It was a HUGE obsticle for me over the last ten years. (Confession: I have Banker's Boxes FULL of 1/2 and 3/4 finished novels... and a few completed first drafts that never made it past edits.) *hangs head in shame*

    The last year I have curbed it more than I ever have been able to in the past... here to hoping I can keep it up!

  5. Jeffe has the truth of the matter. We all love the "shiny"! I swear writers have to have some form of ADD to be able to do what we do. I've learned to use the "squirrels" in my imagination as carrots to keep me on the straight and narrow, no matter how much I want to yell, "Beam me up, Scotty!"

    Great topic today, B.E.!

  6. Great post! Awesome analogy.

    I get the feeling I'm wrong in going after the other idea, then! lol. Jeffe has a good point about contracts and not being able to chase that new idea forever. And about finishing what you start. But so does JB! Feels right to chase this start. She's SO PRETTY after all...;)

    Hmm...your post and comments and mine give me a lot to consider...Need to convene w the crit partners, me thinks.

    This was great, Be!

  7. WOW, everyone was thoughtful and chatty while I was off being busy. Coolness.

    I am the Analogy Queen, Janet! Oh yeah, shiny pretty ideas don't make full manuscripts, but that's what the work part is for. ;o)

    Thanks, JB! I do try to finish everything I start - even to the point of going back years later - but the stuff gets done faster if it keeps its pull.

    And that may be the difference, Jeffe. I'm still floating through space on my own with no contracts adding their own weight into the gravity mix.

    We've all been there, Casey. Good for you for curbing it!

    Thanks, Silver! I agree. Jeffe's got it right - especially for contracted work and for getting ready to someday be under contract.

    I don't think you're in the wrong, Colene. As with all this mess, you have to do what feels right for your work. I'm glad we gave you ideas to mull over, but in the end, it's your work. :hugs:

  8. Great post =)

    I also got your Star Trek references ;) My parents watched it when I was a child. I also ADORE the newest movie and I can't wait for INTO DARKNESS! Looks so good!

  9. LOL, I suck at math, too. I try to jot down the basics of the new idea and keep on my current course. Sometimes letting the new story build up makes it even better when I do finally give in. Kind of like romantic chemistry :)

  10. Great post. I've done both but try to stick with the book I'm working on. Sometimes I succeed, whereas at other times...

  11. Yay, Nat! LOL, I had to ask The Kid what 'Into Darkness' was. I'm still stuck in the older Star Trek versions.

    Good to know I'm not alone, Alexia. Too true about giving a new story time to ferment before you tackle it.

    Thanks, Debs! You sound like me. I try, but sometimes I don't succeed. ;o)