Monday, May 05, 2008

Writing: The Third Quarter

Let it be said that the Third Quarter is to stories as Cape Horn is to sailors or Upriver is to colonial philosophies of cultural soundness.
This is not the first time I’ve been to the Third Quarter. It may not even be the most intense; I remember on a previous visit, I had to vow to just STOP THINKING about my story for a day because it was doing my head in and making me feel ill. However I do believe this is the deepest into the Third Quarter I have been.
The air in the Third Quarter gets to your brain; this may be some sort of nootropic effect or even a parasitical infection. What the air does is it focuses your brain on particular angles, particular modes of thinking about your writing.
In the Third Quarter, deficiencies permeate so loudly as to be uncatalogueable, let alone insurmountable. There are many, many things that are wrong with your story, and in the Third Quarter, you are aware that there are THINGS wrong, but you are not aware what those things ARE, because IDENTIFYING a problem is the first step toward SOLVING it, and the Third Quarter is not about solving problems, just about having them.
In the Third Quarter you can see back but never forward. That’s a strange sort of polymorphic, volumetric mist that permeates. You can see what you WANTED the story to be. You can see what you WANTED to learn from it, where you IMAGED it ending up and where that could take you and your abilities. You can see all those things, and the further you feel from them, the clearer they seem. But you can’t see two feet in front of your face to go FORWARD, because again, the Third Quarter is about HAVING problems, but not SOLVING them.
About the best thing that can be said of the Third Quarter is, any story you have ever read is proof that it can be navigated. Because the Third Quarter is IMMENSELY damaging to stories, but not in the way that it erodes their quality. I cannot think of a story that I know of having been damaged by the Third Quarter. Because it’s not interested in taking chunks off your story; it just wants to swallow it whole.
Which I would reckon it has done to a majority of stories.

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