God interviews Tony Noland: “Are you writing or not?”
(Back from commercial. The Music of the Spheres comes to a crescendo as the Choir Celestial sings a final, ringing chord. APPLAUSE sign lights. Audience applauds. APPLAUSE sign flashes. Audience applauds wildly, with hoots and cheers.)
God Almighty (speaking over the applause): Hello… (APPLAUSE sign cuts out. Audience quiets.) Hello, and welcome back to God Talk. I’m your host, God Almighty, and we have with us a very special guest, a talented guy and one of my favorite writers, Tony Noland.
(God Almighty waves His hand as the side curtain parts. Band plays walking music. APPLAUSE sign lights. Audience applauds. Tony Noland walks on stage, waves awkwardly to the audience before sitting in the guest chair by God’s desk. APPLAUSE sign cuts out. Audience quiets.)
God: Tony, welcome to God Talk, it’s good to finally have you on the show.
Tony Noland: Uh, thanks. It’s good to be here… I think.
God: Don’t worry, Tony, you’re not dead. Although I guess all the first timers think that’s how you get on the show, am I right?
God: So, Tony. How’s it going? How’s things? How’s the writing?
Tony: Fine. I mean, things are good. Really good. You know, the poems and flash fiction and stuff. The Write Anything blog posts. It’s all really good.
God: Yeah? That’s great! Fantastic, really, that’s fantastic. How’s that novel coming along?
Tony: Uh, it’s good. I’m still editing. It’s going well.
God (wagging His finger) : Now, now, Tony… remember, this is God you’re talking to!
(LAUGHTER sign flashes once. Audience laughs at the show’s tag line.)
Tony: Uh, right. So… my novel.
God: Yes, Tony, your novel. Your work in progress. You know, “Goodbye Grammarian”, the superhero-looking-for-love story? How’s that coming?
Tony: It’s… slow. It’s coming slowly.
God: But are you making progress? Have you added to the 50,000 words you got written for NaNoWriMo?
Tony: Not added words exactly, but…
(Audience noise, mixture of laughter, cautionary sounds and one shout of “this is God you’re talking to!”)
God (waving the audience down): Hang on, hang on, let him finish. Go on, Tony, you were saying that you haven’t added any words to the novel, but…?
Tony: But I’ve made progress in the editing. I’ve made a lot of notes, really good ones. One scene that was basically just a big infodump, I cut entirely, along with a do-nothing walk-on character. For another set of scenes, I clarified the role and motivation of a different character, fleshed him out and took him from a walk-on buffoon for comic relief and made him an integral part of the villain’s plan. There’s a whole plot twist associated with him now, and a motivation that makes sense, that the reader would believe.
God: Which you haven’t actually written.
Tony: Well, no. But there’s another character who had nothing much to do, just be a background prop in a couple of scenes. I set her up to do one of the things that unwittingly initiate the major plot development for the love interest. Not only that, I even left a bit of plot and motivation hanging on that minor character to set her up as a potential villain in the sequel.
God: A sequel for this book… which you haven’t actually written yet.
Tony: No, but look, you know the older superhero, the main character’s mentor? In the NaNoWriMo draft, he just had one scene. It was a good one, but that’s all there was. In the rewrite, he’s gonna get a lot more. I’m not exactly sure how, but I’m gonna make it so that he’s the one who convinces the hero to take a chance on love, to open himself up and take a leap of faith with the love interest. You see? He’s always been the guy who’s shown the hero how to be strong and how to win, but now he’s going to show him how to surrender and to lose himself in love. The juxtaposition of male/female, strong/soft will be great!
God: But you haven’t actually written it.
Tony (irritated): No, I haven’t actually written it. Why do you keep saying that? You’re God Almighty, you know I haven’t. Doesn’t planning count for anything? Doesn’t editing? I’m taking a crappy, thin, slapped together mish-mash of a first draft and fleshing it out, making the characters compelling, making the plot fresh and interesting, finding the depth and meaning to their motivations and actions. Aren’t those part of writing?
God: You tell me, Tony. Are they?
Tony: You’re damned right they are! What’s the difference if I’m sitting at my computer, hammering this stuff out on the document file or if I’m organizing my thoughts with notes on paper? I’ve got a three-ring binder printout that’s 50,000 words of typed prose and half covered in handwritten notes. I’m figuring out what’s good and what’s bad, what it needs and what needs to be cut. That’s part of writing, isn’t it? So what if I’m not just typing along blindly, putting in a bunch of random stuff I’ll just have to cut anyway. I’m making the story better, and making it easier to write something good when I do *actually* write it.
God: So, even though you aren’t adding new prose, you’re convinced that this still counts as writing?
God: Then why are you beating yourself up?
Tony: Uh… what?
God: I said, why are you beating yourself up about it? Whenever you think about your work in progress, you feel bad because you haven’t written anything in it since NaNoWriMo. Why is that?
God: The story is improving, the characters are improving. You’re not using the longhand revisions as an excuse NOT to write new prose. Every time you work on the draft, you get excited about the story all over again. So if you’re doing structural writing things that are making the book better, why don’t you feel better about the progress you’re making?
Tony: Well… I… I guess it’s because…
God: Because your first novel also got the “notes for revision” treatment, but you never finished it?
Tony: … I guess.
God: But, if I recall correctly, and (to the audience) I *always* recall correctly… (audience laughs)… you came to the conclusion that your first novel was so flawed that it needed a complete re-write, not revisions. Your second novel was even worse than the first in that respect. In fact, your second novel was so bad, that was what prompted you to study the mechanics of plotting and character development. Isn’t that right?
Tony: Yes, that’s right.
God: Lessons that you’re putting to good use in this current work in progress?
Tony: … y-yes…
God: In that case, I think you need to lighten up, recognize the creative value in the effort you’re putting into this book, and quit being so hard on yourself! What do you think, folks, am I right? Should Tony just relax and write the book? (APPLAUSE sign lights. Audience applause is thunderous. God speaks over the applause.) We”ll be right back with Tony Noland–more God Talk after the break! (APPLAUSE sign flashes. Audience cheers, whistles and hoots.)
(Camera pans back. Music erupts from the bandstand, a fast jazz riff as the show goes to commercial.)