Thursday, May 8, 2014

Retooling in a nutshell

Have realized I don't know where I'm going with this story, and am not even really sure where I'm at right now. It's become a sort of octopus with a multitude of arms flailing around. Or --

What am I talking about? The story I started writing for NaNoWriMo 2013, working title Night Shift. I've discussed before that I got an idea two weeks before NaNo began, lost the outline I'd started when my laptop imploded, and had to plunge in typing for a solid week on the touch-screen of my iPad. Lousy way to start one's first NaNo, but hey, I was on fire with an idea so I ran with it.

How the hell did I write 51,000 words that month, without hitting this brick wall?? The upshot is that without having planned out the plot, I've been basically grabbing whatever idea comes into my head that doesn't conflict with what I already wrote. I'm sure some people can pull a coherent novel out of that but I can't. Nope, sadly, pantsing does not work for me. Too bad, because I could bang out 100,000 words a lot faster without having to plan anything first.

So, still hoping I could save my really big pile of words without too much surgery, I went to the good people at Scribophile for help. Only about four pages into the thread I realized that nope, the fix did not have anything to do with using more figurative glue, it had to do with all those unanswered questions that popped up as I wrote to which I would answer, I don't need to know that now, maybe not at all.

Silly me. You'd think I'd have learned to fully trust my gut about stuff like this. If I'm not sure about how or why somebody did something, I cannot gloss over it. Even if it's a secondary character. Because secondary characters affect the plot too, so if I don't know why they do certain things, that represents a hole in my plot. I do not like plot holes, I much prefer donut holes.

So, I'm going to do what I wish I'd had time for last October: ask myself a bunch of questions till I've figured out everybody's motives for starting the story in the first place. I'm going to understand the characters' backstories going back to when they were born, if I have to. Then I'm going understand why they -- all of them -- did certain things that set the plot in motion. I'm going to uncover exactly what they want, short and long term, and what's stopping them from getting it.

And, I'm going to discover what they do to try to knock down that wall, why it won't fall down (or why it falls on their heads), what they do then and why, and a whole long series of whys and hows until I'm confident I've reached The End.

I've got some coffee, chocolate-covered almonds, wine when it becomes necessary, a computer, and some time. I'll still post bits from the project. Wish me luck :-D

Image courtesy of Flickr CC

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