Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trusting your gut

A confluence of things have made me ruminate about writers trusting their gut instincts, so here goes.

The other night, a scene miscarried at a relatively late stage -- 250 words in. That puzzled me at the time, because I'd thought I had a decent handle on what was driving it. The MC in the scene was going to try again to convince his father to let him lead the cavalry charge. I was going to lay out the plan for the battle (which will fall apart quickly, of course) the next day. There were world-building elements I would be able to work out with regards to religious practice.

250 words in, my gut said: no, MC already made one attempt to convince his father and was denied. The battle plan is simple and watching it fall apart will work just as well. Go straight to the following scene of MC angsting over his father's bait and switch (pushing him to lead, then telling him no.) It's more important and there will be religious details there too.

So I stopped and went to the next scene. 770 words gush out, nice and angsty. Threw the aborted scene into the REJECTS folder (I never delete anything.)

I've read about trusting your gut as much as anybody else, but I'll be the first to admit I'm reluctant to trust my gut. I argue with it and get led astray. Clothes I shouldn't have bought, trips that were a waste of time, food that turned out to be a disappointment. Those rollerblades that have been in the closet for ten years now. Bigger stuff, too. Am I the only one who looks at her wedding gown and rolls her eyes?

So how does your gut earn your trust when it comes to writing? I suspect that if I figured that out and bottled it, I'd become a millionaire.

Pile of tripe. Did I write this?
Because we all have that fear, deep down, that we will look at some hackneyed pile of tripe we wrote and our gut will say "Great! Love it!"

Well, I worry about it. I worry about everything. And I take shelter in facts, so here's a little about tripe: it's the stomach of a ruminant, usually a cow. Tripe that you find in the grocery store has been heavily brined and stinks. It's got a texture like a sheet of rubber band elastic. Green tripe is the ruminant stomach with the last meal still inside, and is hard to find. It smells sort of like cow manure, which isn't great but it's not the worst smell out there. Dogs love the stuff and if you suffer through the finding and the serving of green tripe for your dog, you will be the Bestest Human Evar for at least a few days.

Weapon of choice
I trust my gut because I know it's fussy. My gut lives in a little concrete bunker with an anti-aircraft gun and infinite ammo for shooting ideas down. It shoots down my ideas. It shoots down other people's ideas (but I keep my mouth shut, mostly.) It shoots down book blurbs that I read. I've been trying to find self-published books that I want to read (Indie Snippets posts samples, God bless them) and my gut is merciless. The bastard will shoot down anything.

They make medication for this, I know, but it's better to have a cruel inner critic than a rubber-stamper.

Do you trust your gut? What has it shot down recently?


Breanna said...

Sigh. My gut shot down a beautiful world-building, religious beginning sequence. Well, actually, I mistrusted my gut and wrote the thing anyway. Only to have confirmed later by the spouse and crit group that yes, that sequence is in the way. Blarg.

L. said...

Here's hoping you find the right place for that sequence. Never throw anything away! :)

Ready, Aim, Hook Me said...

I trust my gut, for the most part, but there are times when I need a bit of help from my critique partners to give me a nudge. Good post.

Anonymous said...

I trust my gut because both it and my mind have a pretty businesslike attitude toward my writing. There was a time when I fell in love with sentences, paragraphs, and scenes, but somehow I got over that fairly early. Killing my darlings has never been too difficult for me.

What I generally fall prey to is random attacks of no confidence. The kind where I look at something that both my gut AND my brain have agreed is good, but some other organ has blown a gasket and hit the panic button about it. So that's when I show it to a trusted reader and ask, "Tell me the truth - is this crap?"

Interestingly, the answer has never been "yes." So I'm finding it easier and easier to ignore whatever organ is responsible for this nonsense.

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