Toing and Froing Again, Part 1

Writing chapter 3 of The Alibi (my current work in progress which I’ll start posting in August 2022) challenged me and some good learning came from it.

Usually I sit down to write and have at it. A few hours later I realize I need a bio break of one kind or another and toddle off for a bit.

This time, it was like squeezing electrons out of a vacuum (and Hoover wasn’t happy, I can tell you!). It took an hour to get two paragraphs.

I wrote something, immediately realized it was deeply flawed, erased and rewrote, ditto.

What was going on? I could sensate what was happening in the story, how come it wasn’t getting down on paper (or the screen, in this case)?

Recognizing Toing and Froing
I defined Toing and Froing in Toing and Froing (yeah, I know. I have a way with words, don’t I?):

Toing and Froing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.

Part of my writing exercises involves removing Toing and Froing from my writing during the first draft process. As this post indicates, I’m currently developing tools to make myself aware I’m Toing and Froing as I do it. My next step will be to catch myself before I do it. Hopefully I’ll get to a place where I no longer do it at all.

Here are the tools I’ve developed so far. Don’t know if these’ll work for you and they’re siren blasts to me:

  • I get bored with what I’m writing. – Of course, you’d never get bored with your writing because duh! it’s yours, right?
    That’s a common mistake writers make.
    You may read a passage all the way through but it doesn’t really hold your interest. You’re reading it just to get through it (think that amazingly boring subject you had to take in college where the prof said “if you don’t show up, you don’t pass.” You’re bored but you’re still there.
    Being bored with your writing is just like that, except you still get a failing grade because nobody – including you yourself – will read your work.
  • I skim when reading what I just wrote. – People skim when they’re looking for something to happen.
    Susan and I have this joke about “twenty-minute movies.” These are movies you’ve seen more than twice and watch again only to get to the good scenes. We call them our “Hulk” movies; fast-forward fast-forward fast-forward then okay, wait. His eyes are turning green so watch this part, it’s the good stuff. Then, what? His eyes go back to normal? Fast-forward fast-forward fast-forward okay, his eyes are turning green again…
    The moment you notice you’re fast-forwarding until your story’s eyes turn green is when you’ve skimmed a section and probably due to Toing and Froing.
  • My writing speed slows down (covered in Toing and Froing Again, Part 2).