Now for the bad news. While there are those who will tell you they simply start writing and keep going wherever the story takes them (Stephen King and James Clavell are just two), for us lesser mortals we need a bit more help.
~ Steve Manning
After having such a great day writing last Saturday, I was haunted about whether or not this is the novel I should be writing at this time. While trying to put a finger on the reasons I felt this way, I created a list of reasons this might be the case. I thought others may benefit from my experience, and soooooooo I created the following:
The Top 10 5 Signs You Shouldn’t Be Writing This Book
- You are not in the mood to write this happy/sad/inspiring/depressing novel. In my case, I have been writing a tragic story, but I’m wondering if I can really do this. Tragedies in my life are minimal – some wouldn’t even consider the dramas as tragic. I am basically a “good-mood” girl. Rarely am I grumpy, sad, or pessimistic. In fact, many think I am pretty funny, and so if you should write what you know, shouldn’t I really be writing something in the realm of good natured, optimistic happiness? But who wants to read that?
- You can’t find the forest for the trees. (Sorry about the cliche’.) Your mind is filled with dozens of details, but they don’t add up to the picture you imagine – or in this case, the story you want to create. You love the details, but you get lost in them, and the next thing you’re asking is, “Now, what is the point?”
- The more you write, the more you don’t like the story, the characters, the setting, etc. While I love my character, she’s not moving in the direction I envision. Maybe that’s because I haven’t created character bios or developed the character’s arch. But I don’t know what a character’s arch is! I asked another novice writer to define that term for me via a blog comment, but she didn’t respond. So I’ll Google it, and figure it out, but I’m afraid after I go to all that trouble, I’ll still feel uncomfortable with this story.
- You find yourself thinking about another possible character/plot line/idea. While some writers are strong enough to put aside these invasions, others (like me) consider them as possible hints that you’re engaged to the wrong guy, or in this case, engaged in the wrong project. So rather than 2-time your significant other, you’re thinking of giving the “let’s just be friends” speech in hopes that later on you’ll pick up the relationship again. In the meantime, you can “play the field” by experimenting with other relationships/genres. (Okay, I think I’ve beaten this metaphor into the ground. Moving on.)
- You’d rather be blogging/napping/cleaning/shopping/fill in the blank __________________. While every writer gets distracted at times – at least that’s what I’ve been told – it is another thing to LOOK for distractions. This was a biggie. Even though ideas for this book swam around my brain before falling to sleep and throughout the day, I didn’t feel excited to sit down at the computer and weave them into the latest chapter. Instead, I decided I really better organize that closet or search for that missing tube of make-up. By the time I finished all the items on this “must-do” list, I had either forgotten about the inspired ideas I’d been mulling over OR convinced myself that they weren’t all that great in the first place.
I talked with Ann Cannon once after reading that she decided she needed to change the viewpoint of a book she was writing. I asked if she had done that, and she said no. I can’t remember why, but I do know she decided to abandon it – at least for the moment. I know that many writers abandon partial AND whole manuscripts, and so I don’t really feel too bad about dumping the 3 chapters I’ve written. But I sort of feel like the girl who breaks up with her boyfriend without having another possibility in sight, and she’s one of those chickies who HAS to have a guy in her life.
Oh well, I guess I’ll play around until something surprises me. In the meantime, I have 2 partial novels waiting in the wings until I make up my mind.
I would love to hear how others of you know you’re going down the wrong path or following the wrong plot line or spending too much time with a dead-end character. Please tell me your story! 😀
July 21, 2010 at 10:26 AM
The book I’m writing now is the first one that I’ve seriously pursued, so I don’t have the exact experience, but when I started writing this story, I had elements that I really liked but that just didn’t fit this book. I think sometimes we have to put aside great elements, great characters, etc and just wait for them to find where they fit. You may find later on that your character belongs in another story completely. 🙂
Oh, and as for the character arc…I’m not sure if I know the “textbook” definition, but I can give you what I define it as. 🙂 I see it as the progression your character makes from start to finish. Who is X at the beginning and what changes about X in the end? Umm…example…a character starts out hating the world because her parents died and by the end she has opened up and can care for people again. Crappy example, but hopefully it makes the point. A character doesn’t stay the same through a whole book (otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a story), so the character arc is just how your character changes. That’s my definition anyway. 🙂 Hope that helps!
July 21, 2010 at 3:31 PM
Karen, Thanks again for being a blogging/writing buddy. As you defined character arc, I did remember discussing that in Cheri Pray Earl’s class at WIFYR. I looked through my notes earlier and couldn’t find what was said about it; and so I appreciate the reminder.
Have you started any other works? Or is this your first attempt?
I greatly appreciate your input!
July 21, 2010 at 6:29 PM
Oh fun, you went to WIFYR? This year? I was in Alane Ferguson’s class. 🙂
Not counting the retelling of Beauty & the Beast that I started in 8th grade, this is the first novel I’ve really pursued. But I’ve been working on it for about 2 and a half years now. So close! 🙂
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