Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Upside of Impatience... At Least In My Writing!

I admire books that have that easy kind of narration where you go along for the ride for the character’s entire day, even the boring daily stuff. Little mini-scenes talking to parents or friends in the hallway.

Because the thing as, in my own writing, I’m horrible at this. I skip all kinds of little mundane details like, you know, setting, in my first drafts. Also I tend to skip over transitions. I’m light on descriptions. I forget what my characters supposedly look like, what color their hair is, or their eyes. I forget their last names.

And a lot of this boils down to a personality trait that is probably one of my most dominant: impatience. Okay, that and my horrible memory, lol. But basically, I want to skip over all the stuff that I, well, skip over sometimes when I read. With a lot of books I read, especially if they’re just meh-okay, I’m a skimmer. I’ll read every bit of dialogue, but long descriptions of the room or even internal thought if it goes on for more than a couple paragraphs—I want to skip to the action, to where things start happening again! Which is probably a little evil of me. After all, I know what a pain it is to make sure all those setting details are there in the first place (since I have to go in and painstakingly add them in later drafts!).

At the same time, there are some upsides to this impatience in my writing. It's nice to find the positives in a trait usually considered a negative. The upsides:
  • My novels will always be a little shorter
  • I get you to the action and the central tension of the book FAST
  • Every chapter is accomplishing some work (plot work, that is). Basically, every chapter is pushing the plot forward. My character’s generally don’t hang out just for the heck of it. I’m trying to accomplish something in every scene. If I’m really on my game, I’m doing two things at once: building the character’s emotional arc while also pushing the external plot of the story forward)
  • This ideally should make for a tight novel, where something's always happening and you have to keep flipping the pages to find out what comes next
  • I write drafts fast, because I dig into the story like a speed demon till I get it out
  • Because of my skimming habit, I consume a LOT of books each year, which, I don’t know, just seems like a good idea in general if you’re a writer ;)
As far as impatience in my real life, well… I’m working on it. That’s what’s up with me talking about Zen and meditation all the time ;) And in the meantime, I'm glad at least the impatience serves me well in my writing. What about you? Any negative traits you've turned into positives in your life?


  1. Hi, Heather -

    yes, I finally found time to check out your blog! Mainly because I am too run-down to do anything productive today ;)

    I, too, have always struggled with impatience (I never thought of looking at it from a positive perspective - love that!), but CFS has helped in that regard. Impatience and chronic illness just don't mix. I've had to learn to let go of a lot of my Type A personality traits (though my husband would say I still have a ways to go!). On a day like today, when I'm not feeling well, I have learned to just give in, rest, and be patient - not much else you can do in a crash but wait it out and rest, right?

    Great post!

    Sue Jackson

    Live with CFS

  2. Yeah Sue, being a naturally impatient person and then getting CFS made things haaaaaaard, until I finally gave in a few years ago and realized I just have to do what you're talking about-- slow it down and do a lot of what I hated: be patient. Being patient and waiting for a crash to be over. Resting up and waiting so I'd have energy for some big thing I want to do. I still hate it sometimes, but at least I'm finally better at being Zen about the down times... and it makes for lots of time for reading at least!