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, March 14, 2009

I pulled up the ms and was going to pick up where I left off, but I'm not in the mood for that.

What I would like to do is back up and clarify/start to nail down certain ideas/scenes, but I can't seem to settle on what to do or how to do it. Right now I have a list of scenes that I know I need, both emotionally and plotwise. However, the specifics of the part I feel like working on are eluding me at the moment, and I'm a little gun shy about digging in and trying to reason it out. I don't want to start pushing the story according to plot again. But in my head a small part of the list--the part I now feel a need clarify--devolves into a blurry mess. This part is maybe two or three items, but it's not clear to me what I need to do with them or even what order they really need to be in. It's just occurred to me that two of these items need to contrast sharply with each other; I need to show two places, two sets of people, and make the reader feel the contrast and maybe start to be outraged. But even as I know this, I'm not feeling it. I can feel myself thinking too much craftwise. I know I could do this thing technically by sheer word choice. But then at the end of the day's writing I am pretty sure it would be dead on the page, because that's how everything else in this ms that I've done by craft and technique has come off. Things that technically ought to work, don't.

One interesting thing about all this is that nobody can really help me. Even other writers can't see what to do. Writers, editors, agents--nobody can pinpoint what is wrong with this thing. They can point--they may even think they know--but the things that they point to are symptoms and not the disease. I think that's why, when people start pointing at problems in this ms, they can say opposite things and still be right. One person can say, "The world is not developed enough" and another can say "Wow, I love the world-building" and they're both right. The world is there in detail, but it only exists where the reader is in scene. A well-built world (in my writing; this does not always hold true for other writers) is not a play or movie set, it extends beyond the scenes the reader sees, and it's about more than just seeing. I can describe what's in front of the reader till I'm blue in the face, but I also have to know (often just subconsciously) what's over to the side where we aren't looking, what's beyond this room, this house, this village--and what's important about it, what it means to the characters. And the important thing I must remember--the most pertinent part to me--is that I can't impose any of that onto the story. Some other writers can say, "Okay, they're in the mill; what is that like? Hmm, well, the place would look like so-and-so." It seems that for some reason I have to feel from my gut what has driven everybody to be in the mill in the first place. I have to let myself be driven there along with them--or it's just a cardboard set. Maybe being driven along with the characters means that I know what to focus on, and have a sense of emotional pacing so that it's more than just description. Maybe I'm such a character-driven author that it pervades every word I write, and if I step away from being character-driven, the words die. I don't know.

All I know is that there must be a way to use my strengths, to use what draws me to write, and to put that together with a strong storyline. It's important to me to be able to do this, because it's a reflection of real life. In real life, things are not always character driven. Things happen--"plot points" happen--and they change our lives, and we must react to them, adapt or fight back or accept.

Anyway, other writers, editors, agents can't help much because they see symptoms when the disease is insidious and subtle. The cure for the disease is that I have to teach myself how to take a reasonable plot and write a character-driven story from it. If I can conquer this problem, most of the symptoms should disappear very nicely. I know this because I was thinking back about a thorough editorial letter I got from Agent pointing out X, Y, and Z as problems. I'm sure Agent was thinking, "go back and fix X, Y, and Z." That's what I was thinking, too, and as soon as it was pointed out, I realized that X, Y, and Z are indeed things that need to be fixed. But lately I also realized that my current from-the-ground-up rethinking of approach automatically means that X, Y, and Z will be fixed. The problems will disappear without being patched on. And I know that if I tried to go back and patch them on to the old story, it wouldn't fix them at heart and it wouldn't make the story any less dead.

So, anyhoo. I can't figure out where to start today, what to do. There are maybe three or four scenes that could be as long or as short as I want them to be, but they are mushy in my head, not sharp. I can't sort out which point needs to be made in each scene. I'm not sure how to even figure it out. I think it would be a mistake to just dig in and start writing. I think I will pull a spiral out of the mess on my desk and open it up and sit over it with a pen and maybe just try to think.

Above I said that I need to make the reader feel the contrast and maybe start to be outraged. But that's just plain wrong; what I need to do is let the characters feel the contrast and be outraged. I can't impose that on them. It needs to arise on its own, naturally. And I'm not feeling it. Somehow the story itself and the characters themselves need to lead me to that place.

Well, this is all very long and rambling, but it's not meant to make sense or be helpful to anyone but me, so I'll just let it go at that.

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