Monday, February 11, 2008

The Story So Far

When we last left off our idea-generating exercise (see November 29), it’d been remarkably fruitful. Frankly, after having completely run out of ideas, feeling like the well was dry, etc., for a long time, the euphoria of kicking out the sides of the box went straight to my head. Which was a good place for it to go, me being the cerebral-type (as opposed to SOTP) writer that I am! That’s the good news; the not so good news is…the execution of said ideas is harder than “getting” them ever is, and especially in this case. So it’s only right that at this point in time, a couple of months later, I take some stock and assess the status of this idea blast. I have, in fact, completely revamped an old book and turned it on its head—at least in my head. I’ve written the new synopsis and have done some bursts of writing of actual text…but it’s coming in bursts, not in organized, methodical fashion. It’s written in a voice I hardly recognize as my own, one way different from even the language and treatment I give aforementioned Book of My Heart. This is mind-boggling on many level—and scary to boot. More on that in a bit. I am in the process of coming up with three delightfully ditzy possibilities for heroines for future books, each with a special “gift” of her own that I can put into a “woo woo” story. So far I’m to the “name” stage with them, and mulling in my mind what can be each heroine’s particular gift and raison d’être. That is going way slower than I anticipated. I have begun to mull a synopsis for “completing” a story that will spring from a short-short I’ve already written, but thought would be a great “root” in itself for another book…but only begun it, as this item is connected with the three ditzy possibilities listed above. I have hatched a totally different character idea from the first book, which will take a spinoff book that was going nowhere and set it on its head, as least as far as remaking a character into something he wasn’t before. He’ll have infinitely more possibilities and need of “redemption” in his own story later, but that’s on a far back burner at the moment. I did come up with a crazy fantasy/parallel universe idea that I won’t be using myself, unless the author I suggested it to declines to do so—which’ll mean I could then morph it into something “woo woo” but not fantasy, but still have a horking good story beginning. The author I proposed it to said it sounded like something I could write better than he could—which I don’t believe! But, at any rate, this idea is on hold for the moment. It’s only the vaguest scenario, and it’s an idea whose time has not yet come. I did just about bounce off the walls writing a new synop and 12 pages of the first story listed above, “wrote” the next two to three chapters verbally (i.e., worked them out in the car while driving to and from choir), and thought I had the fourth one ready to start, and just merely had to transfer them to the keyboard. That’s when things got interesting. Because, you see, what I “wrote” in the car, I did transcribe to a point. But only to a point. Suddenly, the characters began bantering, and the careful direction I was going to take the dialogue flew out the window. In its place were sparks of a different kind, material that came out of my fingers so fast I was typing like the wind. (And I normally type obscenely fast to begin with, so you can imagine how fast this was.) In word count terms, I wrote 2000 words in one day without feeling it—something that would have normally taken me 10-12 hours before, but took me less than half that time this go ‘round. Then, I ran the stuff by my crit partner…and stopped cold. For two weeks. Then three. And I felt an awful insecurity start to creep over me, a pernicious fear that the “same old thing was going to happen again”—I’d have a great start, then run dry. And, in fact, for days and days in there, I was dry. I had no idea what to write next; I knew where I wanted my characters to be, but I had no faith that they were even my characters anymore, much less how to get them there. I was at least partly convinced that what I had written was dreck, that it was going to all have to be redone so I was “telling the story right.” I didn’t know how to get these people to rein in and behave, how to get the book back into my “real voice” again…and so I didn’t write for awhile. I wasn’t even in the mood to do it. And then, just as I was beginning to go into a major funk and think about quitting entirely… The muse came back. As capriciously as she left, she returned, cup of tea in hand, and said, “Let’s get back to this.” That’s the only way I can explain it—because for no other reason I could ascertain, and with nothing else having changed, I suddenly got in the mood to do some more on the book. I even housecleaned in two evenings, rather than three, because I knew I was going to be writing at the end of the week and I wanted to leave lots of time “free” to do that in. And that’s how I sat down on Saturday afternoon and literally, in the space of less than three hours, wrote nine pages. Or…about 2000 words. In three hours. Now, I’m still not sure if this is any good. I’m still not sure this book is written in “my voice.” But it might be written in something else even better…in that the characters are literally taking over this thing, in a way characters haven’t taken over anything I’ve written in years. I still feel like what I’m doing is nothing more than having fun, not writing a book. I still feel that it’s self-indulgent, that it’s just “playing.” Or at least I did, until I went back and reread what I did…and discovered that through this magical banter the characters are doing, the story is getting told a whole ‘nuther way. A way I hadn’t imagined it was going to be told. And that is scary to the max. Because I truly don’t know if it’s going to work. I’m going to run this new material past my crit partner sooner rather than later, and let her tell me what she thinks. I know what I think already. I’m not even sure it’s me writing this anymore. And I don’t know when the next “burst” will happen…but somehow, now, I’m beginning to think I don’t need to worry about it. Somehow, as frightening as this is, I’m beginning to think that this book will write itself, in its own time, at its own pace, and in creative bursts that get done precisely what needs to be done at the stage it’s ready to be written. Just looking at what I’ve written trying to explain this creative process looks completely off the wall to me. Maybe flying off the walls is exactly what I need to do. Maybe this is truly breaking me out of the box…and teaching me to write in a whole new way. And the only way I’m going to know if that’s true is by sitting by and watching it happen. But you talk about frightening? So that’s part II of the idea-generation experiment…so far. Not what I expected in the least. Not at all like anything I’ve done in recent years. But it may turn out to be the best I’ve ever done. Thoughts? Janny


Deb said...

1) Do sit by and "watch it happen." This is an aspect of faith.

2) Do accept it as "my voice." I've had an inkling for years that you have many voices and you've just told some of 'em, "Back in the box!" and won't let 'em out. YOU wrote this...therefore it IS your voice, and none other's.

3) Do accept, most of us work in spurts. I set down 9 pages on the new book, since Friday. Today I did niente, nada, zilch. It happens. You don't have a word quota that says, "Once you start, you must produce."

4) Do enjoy! This is certainly a scary time for you, as it requires you to jettison many of the presupposed data you owned about your writing. But the characters are SUPPOSED to take over! It's SUPPOSED to be fun! Do you suppose the first caveman who painted his handprint on a wall did it because he felt obligated?

Just some thoughts,

Donna Alice said...

Don't you love it though when the characters become so real they tell US how to write? You're right though, it is scary.

My friend, Patty, is doing a little project called FEBO
to get some of use generating ideas and moving on. It's funny how much I've been able to accomplish knowing someone is keeping track.

Any chance you'll do a post on finding and keeping a GOOD crit partner? I'm just about bummed out on the process having lost about a year to a totally disastrous crit.