I solved an enormous problem with the WIP yesterday. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I diagnosed precisely what was wrong with it and why it wasn’t working on Sunday night; making the executive decision to start spending more time with the characters yesterday morning–I had a terrible sinus headache, went to the office, and wound up coming back home–and after I took a second Claritin (don’t tell anyone) and some antibiotics, I started brainstorming with the characters in my journal and suddenly everything made sense to me. I knew not only what was wrong with it, but also realized my own stubborn clinging to the original idea and form and style and voice that I’d envisioned was, yet again with yet another manuscript, the primary problem. Once I took what was, sadly, cliched about the manuscript out of it, changed some things, and came up with another concept for how to explore the chilling theme I’d originally wanted to explore–again, the only person tying me to that original concept was ME–then I was able to open up my mind to the possibilities. Why did it have to be late in the season? Why not the beginning of the season? Something happens during the summer that drives the narrative of the story, but by pushing it back to Halloween, I’d weakened the story. If the summer incident happens after school starts but before football season starts, and then the night of the first football game, having the second tragedy start makes the stakes higher and puts my main character into more of a difficult place. Plus, it gives me the chance to cut even more out and add even more in.
GOD I AM SO THRILLED CONSTANT READER YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
Now, if I were only to have such a breakthrough on the Scotty book, my month would be made.
Anything can happen, right, peeps?
But this is, quite frankly, an excellent example of two things: one, how reading a great writer can help you with your own work (in this case, Lori Roy’s The Disappearing) and how going back to your old habits–despite the risk of appearing like a Luddite–can bring back creativity. I know it’s lame, and old-school, and all that, but in the early days of my writing career I did everything by hand. Even with the advent of computers, when I started writing on screen rather than in a notebook, I always brainstormed on paper, and that always worked for me. Keeping a journal–and finding a new brand of pen I absolutely love–has made such an enormous difference, Constant Reader. I was sitting at my desk yesterday afternoon, the antibiotics racing through my body to clear up the sinus infection, making color-coded index cards about the characters and the plots, and it all just felt so good and organic; like I was really onto something with the manuscript.
I also realized (thank you, Lori Roy) precisely how the story needed to be told; the voice and point of view and tense was all wrong. So, sure enough, as I revised the first chapter to change the voice and so forth, it started working beautifully.
So, so happy.
And now, back to the spice mines.