The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Did a little bit on my WIP today, but not as much as I should have--so am about to work some more and (we hope) achieve enough to be able to watch Robot Chicken with a clear conscience.

Yesterday I went back and worked through that "kitchen" scene more carefully. I went in with the idea that I'd figure out what one very small moment meant--but I never did figure it out. I tried, but I still have just the description of the room and the two people, basically, only with more details and a more concrete "picture" for the reader to see.

But...somehow that was enough to make me see that I needed to have a chapter/section break much earlier than I did. This part of the ms was a long series of scenes flowing into each other, with some narration/explanation/transitional stuff, and that kitchen scene, then some things that happened afterward that led into still more scenes and narration. After I got that one small "picture" clearer, I suddenly could wrap my mind around a chunk of the ms. I realized I had to lop this one section off and finish it. All that "afterward" is something new that will need to be addressed on its own.

I don't think it's coincidence that somewhere around the end of this long series of scenes is where my writing momentum petered out and I started becoming unsure where I was heading.

It makes me think about my other WIP, the swordfighting one. That's completely different, because it's a normal prose ms, not an experiment with shards of prose and white space. But I have the same confused feeling with it that I get with this ms when I lose my momentum. So if breaking into smaller, more manageable pieces helps here, maybe I can use a similar process to help with the swordfighting ms somehow. But that is for another day.

So anyway, earlier today I tied up that lopped-off section and tried to make it one basic idea. What I'm shooting for right now with this ms is that every page has one basic mini-idea (centered mid-page, with equal white space at top and bottom), and every section is a bigger idea that the individual pages add up to. Like, this section is now 16 pages, around 2600 words. The title of it (for today) is No Harm Done. One page might be a couple of paragraphs whose main point is that Helen's life is dull because her brothers are gone, and they are the only thing in her world that ever changes from one day to the next. Another page might tell about this slave boy and what his duties are. Another describes a dark, narrow staircase that Helen is going down. Etc. etc--but the overriding idea of the entire section is that she leaves her prescribed part of her world and edges out just a bit to take a peek at what lies beyond.

That's the form I'm working with right now. Why not just a regular prose novel? I don't know. All I know is, it doesn't want to be a regular prose novel. It never has. It never has come out that way, not from the very beginning. And I learned the hard way with Damage that it's a freakin' waste of time when the ms is pushing you strongly one way and you try to fight it. With Damage, I thought using second person was the stupidest thing ever. I thought, nobody can read this, and nobody will want to, and it will never sell. And I thought you're supposed to have a good literary reason to choose a pov tense. So I tried forcing the ms into first person, and when I kept losing momentum with it I tried alternating first person pov's among the characters--at one point I had three pov's--and I vaguely remember I tried third person, too. All a waste of time. Just go with it, that's what I learned from that. Otherwise you make yourself miserable and you doom yourself to failure and you're just going to end up doing the exact thing you're fighting so hard against.

The problem comes in when the ms isn't telling you strongly what it wants, or when you feel great because you're writing along in whatever way it insists on being written...and then it just stops coming. I don't have any solutions for those. But I'm trying hard to increase the number of tools in my repertoire, so maybe as I gain experience I can find solutions quicker and not spend 15+ years with a ms hanging cluelessly around.

Blog Archive