I haven't blogged in a while because I was swept up in a rush of rewriting. Reconstruction, actually, of the novel-in-progress.
This burst of intense focus was caused by an observation from a writer's best friend
Critiquer Leslie enjoyed the chapter and offered insightful line edits, as she usually does. But then came the big insight
I'll confess that it had always nagged at me that this new element
came in at chapter 11. Yeah, 11. But I never thought of moving it
earlier in the narrative
Once she opened my eyes, I couldn't wait to look at it, and I did so with a real sense of excitement. She had nailed it. She'd even suggested a place for it to go, and she was right there, too. She had a good eye and I a blind one. The curse of the author.
But her intuition was just the beginning. My blinders gone, I saw a way to split the long chapter into three parts and blend them in over the span of several chapters. It was very cool. Thanks to those other eyes I think the story now has greater suspense and a more involving storyline.
You'd think I'd be able to switch to the editing side of my brain and do that for myself by now. I'm also a writer who also scrapped the first 2 chapters of his coming-of-age novel after a critique group member said, upon coming to chapter 3, "Your story begins here."
I'm gettin' better at it
I have no difficulty seeing structural problems and opportunities in others' writing. Dislocated narrative stands out like broken bones on an X-ray to me. Because I hold the whole story in my mind, I see where things work best to support and move the story. But it's not so easy with my own stuff.
I'm thinking this has to do with differences between an organic writer and one who outlines a plot. I'm the organic kind, who has a broad sense of direction (I know the ending) and grows the story along the way. So my authorial nose snuffles along the ground, following the scent, too focused on the moment to see the wide view. But an outliner soars above the terrain, able to see the journey as a whole. I don't think I'd be as susceptible to my mild cases of structure myopia if I were an outliner.
It's not that I can't do the outline thing. In developing my screenwriting skills, I followed the method of one guru and thoroughly outlined a screenplay, a romantic-fantasy-adventure-comedy called Once Upon a Wimp. I think I wrote the actual screenplay in a week.
But then I still had to do a bunch of rewriting. Why? Because my understanding of the characters had deepened and evolved, and the storyline didn't fit them as well as it should. Which leads me to another thing: developing characters.
For me, my characters develop in the same way the story does
But I don't think it would help me to do that up front. Character is defined by action and reaction, by what a character does. A bio doesn't involve those key elements. In the current work in progress, I only just now discovered the key, vital character element in one of the two primary protagonists that will motivate him to do some fairly unseemly stuff before his character arc turns around. It was his "ghost." I needed it, he needed it, but his character's deepest need didn't come to me until after 30,000 words of the story had been told and over a year of thinking on the story had passed (due to other projects, this novel has been start-and-stop).
But it was with another rush that it came to me. Now I can see further ahead and follow what the character does with more confidence. I've gone back and planted the appropriate seeds and now look forward to writing sections that I had once dreaded.
I've read that Elmore Leonard creates characters and then starts writing, and that his story sometimes doesn't emerge until after 100 pages have been written. And that sometimes the character he thought the story was about is cast aside when another character emerges and takes over. I've had that experience, too. I guess that if grow-it-as-you-go works for someone like Leonard, it can't be all bad.
So what's your modus operandi? Have you tried more than one before finding your best route?
For what it's worth.
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© 2005 Ray Rhamey