Friday, February 7, 2020

A Writer's Groundhog Day

In Groundhog Day, the 1993 movie with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell (and given a short sequel with a super bowl Jeep commercial) follows a man learning to be a decent human being by living the same day over and over and over again. Until he finally gets it right for all the right reasons.

I wish I could tell you that's what happened with my books. It's not that simple. Bill Murray's character Phil has to overcome self-interest and selfishness. My books have to overcome a multi-layered set of handicaps.
  1. Thematic repetition - I write about finding your place in the world, so all my stories have that theme running through them somewhere. I keep hoping I'll move on, but it hasn't happened yet.
  2. Characters having to learn to accept themselves - I suppose this is common stuff. It's part of the character arc, right? If we accepted ourselves fully, we'd have no impetus for change and then there'd be no character arc. But still. So far, every book has this running through it, too.
  3. Repetitive phrases/gestures - this is purely a relic of my brain and my writing process. I'm trying to write fast, to get a really crappy draft down asap. That means I don't stop to think about how else I could have said something. Apparently, this is how you end up with 300+ exclamation points in a manuscript. Who knew.
  4. Dark night of this writer's soul. Every book, there comes a point where I stop dead and stare at the carcass of my draft with all the bones sticking out and the sinews attached in places that make no sense and I boggle at it wondering what the hell I was thinking. We're there now. I'll get through it, usually by rearranging points of view and raising stakes. 
But there you have it. The terrible thing about Groundhog Day, the first half of the actual movie, in fact, is the despair of realizing you have to keep repeating your mistakes and missteps over and over again, hoping to heaven you can figure out what you're supposed to learn from it all. The wonderful thing about Groundhog Day (for Phil in the movie and for me in RL) is that you learn the patterns. Once you figure those out, you know what to expect and you can start twisting them. Maybe not to your advantage right away, but eventually. 

I'm looking forward to that part.